The Different Types of Samurai Swords

by Charles Timbang

When you hear the word “samurai,” you immediately picture out a fully armored warrior wielding a katana. But did you know that the katana is not the only samurai sword that a samurai warrior carries? Read on to learn more about the different types of samurai swords.


The sword was famous during the Heian and Kamakura periods (794 to 1333). The tachi is a long, curved sword that is usually used by samurais who are on horseback. They were worn suspended from the belt loosely with the edge downwards. The tachi is a long, curvy, and light blade. This makes it easy for the samurai to efficiently draw it and injure and kill foot soldiers on the battlefield.

The tachi is considered to be a magnificent sword that is shaped gracefully despite its ruthless edge. Samurai sword collectors consider this type of sword as one of the best swords to collect. When putting a tachi sword in display, the blade must always be downwards, so the blade looks like it is in a smiling position.


The katana is the most famous samurai sword – a lot of western movies interpret their samurai as carrying this type of sword. The katana swords are long – about 60cm. They became popular during the Muromachi period (1392 to 1573) as large-scale battles took place.

The katana is worn through the belt with its edge upwards. The samurai can draw his katana out and cut downwards immediately in one quick and smooth move in this position.

Katana swords came in different lengths, but the length was standardized during the Edo period (1600). It was also during this period that only the samurai were allowed to carry a katana sword.


The wakizashi is the samurai’s side sword – a shorter blade that they carry at all times. This sword is used indoors while the katana is used outdoors. The wakizashi is designed as a partner of a katana sword. Together, they are known as the “daisho,” which meant “big and small.”

Only a samurai were allowed to carry a daisho. The Laws of the Military Houses or Buke Shohatto edict of 1629 require a samurai carries a daisho when they are on duty.

When a samurai decides to commit seppuku, this act of ritual suicide and honorable death is done with the wakizashi sword.


The tanto is a dagger that is designed to be very sharp and tough – in fact, they can pierce through armor. Because of their size, tanto swords can be concealed easily, and they make a useful weapon during close combat. The tanto is usually designed with black handles and matching scabbards.

Women samurai warriors wore their tanto in the belt of their kimonos for good luck. This is also done for protection purposes. When a samurai marries, the bride gets a tanto as a wedding gift.


The naginata is a sword that resembles a pole and a glaive. It is a single-edged blade that is curved and broadens out towards the pointed end.

You can barely see an authentic naginata sword these days because most of them were shortened into wakizashi swords.

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