Chisa Katana

Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by Shinobi Teikiatsu, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. Shinobi Teikiatsu

    Shinobi Teikiatsu Green Belt

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    A chisakatana (小さ刀, chisakatana?) is a shortened katana. A katana was two shaku or longer in length (one shaku = about 11.93 inches, roughly rounded up to approximately one foot). However, a chisakatana is longer than the wakizashi, which was somewhere in between one and two shaku in length. The common blade length for a chisakatana was approximately eighteen to twenty-four inches (or two feet). The most common definition of a chisakatana is a shortened katana that does not have a companion blade. They were most commonly made in the Buke-Zukuri mounting (which is generally what is seen on katana and wakizashi). The chisakatana was able to be used with one or two hands like a katana (with a small gap in between the hands). The hilt was usually around ten to eleven inches in length.

    This is my sword of choice when it comes to drawing anime figures, and I am interested in buying a 24 inch shinai to train as a chisakatana. I have but one question, however.

    What, exactly, is a chisakatana? Why was it made? Who often used it, and what was the difference between the kodachi and the chisakatana?

    I'd also like to know if anyone else here uses one, and what the difference between using a katana, chisakatana and wakizashi is.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    Hi Shinobi

    I am by no means certain that the chisa katana is any more real than the ninja-to. I'll do some research but from what I've seen over the years it is a fictional weapon.

    You do get katana that have been shortened because of damage but most of these are shortened to wakizashi length with furniture to match.

    kodachi is a term used as an analogue to wakizashi but, to the limits of my knowledge, it is actually a differently designed short-blade that was used by non-Samurai classes (particularly merchants).
     
  3. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    I have to say that I have found no reference to chisakatana in my, admittedly limited, reading on the subject. I have found somethings about kodachi. They were a shortened version of the older tachi sword form and about the same size as a wakizashi. At the very beginning of the 17th century many tachi were cut down to katana length (on average about 8-10cm was taken off) and I guess some may have been made shorter.


    Just as an aside the longest tachi, odachi, is a disturbing 3.7m long with 2.2m of blade!!
     
  4. kroh

    kroh Brown Belt

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    Just out of curiosity, what martial art do you study where they let you use whatever sword that you want? You say in THIS thread that you use a "chisa" katana because of your height... have you seen the height of the average Japanese?

    Just wondering,
    Regards,
    Walt
     
  5. rjhb

    rjhb White Belt

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    Teikiaku,

    This weapon is a favorite of mine aswell. Im on Bujinkan from what I can tell - from books and talking to people - the ninja-to would be no more than a chisa katana on a longer saya.
    And it didnt had a much long tsuka like on some mass produced Shinobi katanas out there.

    On the other hand I heard from a Iaijutsu/Kenjutsu Sensei that the chisa was a favorite to civilians: they were not allowed to have a long sword, but the chisa would be better than the wakizashi as it can be used two-handed.
     
  6. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    I'm not being disputive here, rjhb, when I ask if you could tell me which sources you read that gave credence to the actual historical existence of the ninja-to? I've been studying Japanese history since I was at university the first time round and have not come across convincing evidence.

    The same applies to the Chisa-katana, which, as far as my own researches have lead me, has reality mainly within anime - in fact I haven't turned up any reliable sources which point to anything other than anime :eek:.
     
  7. rjhb

    rjhb White Belt

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    That´s from Hatsumi´s Ninjutsu: history and tradition. On page 94 one can see a sword that has no diferences from a chisa katana. it just has a longer saya.

    Also, on this Bujinkan site the owner posted the pic of his sword with a wakizashi and a long sword for comparison.

    http://www001.upp.so-net.ne.jp/bujinkan/snapshots/080109-063542.jpg

    It´s all reference from within Bujinkan and one can say it´s not impartial information.

    Im also trying to find exemples among nihonto sites and perhaps its more comon to call chisa katana O-wakizashi (I´ve found a couple for sale even).
    Again, those O-wakizashi had a slightly bigger blade than the average wakizashis and a handle for 2 handed grip.
    That makes them chisa katana?

    Here´s one: http://www.antiqueswords.com/bq153.htm

    This guy is really untrustable, but his statement make sense.

    Hope someone can shed more light regarding this weapon which seems to be favorite to a few guys out there
     
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  8. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    Cheers for the quick reply, rjhb :tup:.

    It's never going to be easy to pin down for certain what is fact and what is myth and what is somewhere in between when dealing with the history of the "Ninja".

    I have some strong views on some areas of the subject that I have had to learn to temper over the years because upsetting people hardly ever leads to increasing anyones knowledge; so sincere "well dones" to your goodself for the good-practise of assessing your sources.

    So often, when we're looking into something, there is a tendency to seize on the first source we find that has a hint of corroboration and taking that to be 'The Truth' (especially with the Net Myth-machine at our fingertips these days :D). For example, it is the case that the now much-respected Hatusmi has arrived at an age where he is difficult to gainsay within his own culture as people do not want to contradict him. In itself that is no bad thing (we should properly venerate our seniors) but it does mean that everything he writes is now seen as 'Gospel Truth' and that is just laying up problems for the future when it comes to historical accuracy :(.

    Ah well, it'll all come out in the wash, as the saying goes.

    On to specifics. With regard to the ninja-to, the most significant evidence against there having been such a weapon in antiquity is probably the fact that there are no (to my knowledge) authenticated physical examples extant.

    To clarify on the subject of Ko-dachi, further to it being a differently purposed blade than the wakizashi, it is more properly described as an older design that predates katana mounts (but co-existed with them) and is often termed a short tachi.

    Here is a link for some interesting background flavour on what sort of blades were being produced when by a specific school of smiths:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/bizen.htm

    On Chisa katana, I think the answer I gave before was misleading. I was speaking to the shortbladed-large-tsuka'd swords seen in fiction that are often put forward as a 'real' class of sword, despite that they again lack physical historical evidence (usual proviso of "as far as I know" :)).

    What chisa means in this context is "Short" i.e. rather than a different sort of sword it is a term of reference for a sword that is shorter than the norm for a katana but mounted in the same way. A long wakizashi is almost indistinguishable but C.U. guido Schiller has a good attempt at descibing the distinction:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/koshirae/koshirae.htm

    Slightly unrelated but I'll add it just in case it's new to people (I found it very useful myself) is this breakdown of terminology:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/glossary.htm

    http://home.earthlink.net/~steinrl/measure.htm
     
  9. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    This isn't really my field but I do find it interesting, so forgive me if I come at this from a rather strange angle.

    Recently I have been watching a lot of very old Japanese movies and TV series from the Chambara genre. These are products producede in Japan for a purely Japanese audience. Two things stand out in regard to this thread.

    There are no ninja-to. All the ninja portrayed use katana or some exotic weapon.
    When ko-dachi is referred to, it is with reference to a sword of about wakizashi length but with no fittings at all. You know, one of those swords that when scabbarded looks like a bokken.

    Now, I know this is not real evidence but it does present something of a view as to the Japanese perception of such weapons. It also calls to mind the many Japanese paintings I have seen from middle and late medieval Japan. All those warriors who use a sword are portrayed with katana.

    Just a different perspective.
     
  10. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    Nothing to forgive, ST all viewpoints are welcome when they're constructive :tup:.

    You do have to be careful as there is more than enough evidence that Japanese fiction is no better than Western fodder when it comes to accuracy.

    Two answers here, one flippant, one not. The weaponry of "Ninja" in the movies can be referenced either because the film-maker was aware that Ninja were not some seperate social class but were Samurai with specialised duties or because the film-maker was enamoured of 'Okinawan' weaponry :D.

    That is simple inaccuracy. For some reason the film-makers like the shirasaya look and make a lot of use of it. I don't know why, as such are simply storage fittings for a blade that is not currently expected to be used (the wood being specially chosen because of its non-corrosive properties).
     
  11. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    You see, not my area at all (if you want to talk Aztec weapons that's another thing :lol:).123
     

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