7. The Evolution of Katanas
Katanas are the product of natural evolution. They started off as hefty “great swords” that grew thinner, lighter, and more agile over time in order to meet the demands of emerging combat styles that were increasingly reliant upon speed. They became popular with samurai because the ease and swiftness with which they could be drawn was a decided asset for the newer and faster-fighting styles. They were collectively dubbed kenjutsu, the art of sword fighting, in which the issue was often settled within seconds, and reaction time spelled the difference between life and death.
Katanas, coupled with a smaller sword, were thrust, sharp edge facing upwards, through the bearer’s obi – a sash wrapped tightly around the samurai’s waist. The configuration was known as daisho, and it identified the wearer as a samurai – the only people authorized to tote paired swords. Wearing the katana in the daisho style facilitated a speedy draw, ideally allowing samurai to draw and cut down opponents in a single fluid motion. An entire martial art, Iaido, was dedicated to the speedy retrieval of katanas from their scabbards.