Samurai Sword (Katana 刀)
The next process is to carefully select certain parts of the Tamahageny and send it off to a second forge master who will melt and beat the lumps of loose shiny steel into a single many folded square lump. The block is folded about a dozen times to produce several thousand layers in the steel making it harder on each fold. At this stage the karate-ka has mastered the rough outline of some basic forms or kataís.
On the last fold a long gap is left where a softer piece of more ordinary iron is inserted into the steel. The two parts of the metal are now heated and hit repeatedly until the rough form of something that resembles the shape of a sword is produced. The karate-ka has been training seriously for a couple of years now and has moved onto to more advanced techniques, kataís and even some free-style sparring (kumite).
Once the right length and thickness are beaten into the metal it is coated in a special clay and heated until the sword is the colour of the rising sun and then suddenly quenched in water. Due to the clay on the sword and the two different metals involved, different parts of the blade cool at different rates and the unique bend in the blade is achieved.
The blade is now given a rough polishing and checked by the forge master and then sent to a master polisher for final polishing. This level of student has just reached Shodan (1st Dan) black belt and is now just starting his path on the road to perfection in the art. He is now a novice.
The final polishing and engraving may take around ten days to complete with varying grades of expensive polishing stone that are used. The karate-ka has trained now for some eight years or so and reached 3rd Dan (Sandan). He knows pretty much all there is to know about the basics, kataís & sparring. He is now ready to put all this learning into practice and really start learning the deeper and more intricate applications of his karate and how he can apply his new knowledge in the outside world.
After the katana has received itís final polishing and engraving, itís true beauty can be witnessed and admired. Only now can the mastery of all the master forgers and polishers be appreciated. Finally the sword can be clothed in its final embellishments of a ornate handle, hilt and scabbard. Here our karate-ka is a long way down his path to the perfection of his character and has reached 4th or 5th Dan and has been a student for about twenty years or so. When he reaches 6th or 7th Dan in some six to thirteen years time he may start to hear people referring to him as a master. But probably only if he has been teaching other senior black belts for just as long. At this point the student may now be likened to the combination of the samurai with his new katana. The best and most perfect lethal weapon in the hands of a determined warrior ready to meet life and everything that it may throw at him.
page last updated on Thursday 16 September 2010