Touching the Katana blade... Do's and Dont's

by Ethan
(Belfast, N.I.)

I have just purchased my first Japanese sword, a Shirasaya (just to start me off as a basic first sword, something pleasing to the eye to display above my fire place ATM) and as I plan on training in Kenjutsu and purchasing more Katana in the future, I would be grateful for some professional feedback on sword maintenance and specifically touching the blade itself.

My sword is 1090 carbon steel, I clean it with lint free cloths and camellia oil every 3-4 days, and have been told that I should never under any circumstances touch the blade.

However I have seen practitioners of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu perform moves where they contradict this and indeed do touch the blade, notably a move where they use their left hand underneath the Katana and cut from daijodan (apologies as I do not yet know the full correct terminology of Kenjusu moves lol) I would be grateful for any info/advice you could provide on this, thank you.

Kind regards,

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You Can But..
by: Paul

Hi Ethan,

The general rule of not touching the blade applies more to the etiquette surrounding inspecting a Katana owned by someone else. There are quite a few formalities that should be observed when handling and inspecting a Japanese sword in the traditional manner and applies especially to Nihonto made in Japan.

One of these rules is not to touch the blade with your bare fingers as the acids in your hands will cause corrosion unless it is cleaned up soon afterwards. Another rule is not to 'speak' over the top of a blade as you will probably accidently spit on it a little and this too will cause corrosion.

If it is your own sword or iaito (unsharpened training sword) you can touch the mune (spine) of the sword if the technique calls for it and it is no issue as you will clean the sword after practice.

Naturally touching the ha (edge) of a sharpened sword is a really bad idea in general, but otherwise - you can touch your own, but it is rude to touch the blade of another person without their express permission as they would then need to clean up after you.

Hope this helps!

- Paul

Touch that blade!
by: Anonymous

Oh please! I own 4 katanas, from the 1060 274$ practice blade to my best the praying mantis katana over 1,500$. Aside from handling other people's blades which then is just a matter of courtesy, I "handle" my blades every day, touch them, rubthem, feel the razor sharpness of one of them, (only one do I keep shaving sharp as I believe that is excessive and just wears away steel). They are a lovely and amazing thing of beauty, but they are also FUN, they are a delight to hold and feel, AND they are yours!! Touch all you want, just wipe it down with a very lightly oiled cloth when your done as I do after every time I touch them, EASY! Remember, they are a tool, made to be held!

Don't be so touchy!
by: Steven

Hi Ethan,

My first "non-wall hanging" katana was nothing special. It was a Musashi Bamboo Warrior Sword (1060) and let me tell you, I treated that thing like it was the Seven Branch Sword itself! Till I learned better I oiled, wiped, and powdered that thing down every couple of days cause I had heard conflicting stories online about sword maintenance and how quickly rust could form on a REAL high carbon sword.

Suffice it to say, whenever friends came over they HAD to play with the only "real" katana any of us owned.....each acting out their own versions of scenes from whatever old Japanese Ronin samurai movie/anime was their favorite. Even though I relaxed over the course of time, I had a pair of rubber-palmed, soft textured "mechanics" gloves from when I used to work on cars, that EVERYONE who touched that sword had to wear. Not only did it keep greasy, filthy, booger picking fingers off of the blade, but the rubber palm also insured that my friends wouldn't have any "whoops" moments culminating in a launched (VERY sharp) katana sailing across the room.....the result of a movie "learned" kata gone wrong.

Everyone's different, I am by no means saying that ANYONE you know or live with has to wear gloves of any sort, I just knew the meatheads I was dealing with personally. To go along with what Paul said, body fluids (of ANY kind) can be like "sword cancer" to your hard worked for katana or Jian, or even medieval blade. A fellow sword collector I knew from online had rust form on the dull katana he used for his Iaido katas, and he couldn't figure out how it happened until his wife pointed out that he sweated, quite a bit, while he worked out and he was unintentionally dripping on his blade without meaning to. Because he also wore gloves whole preforming his katas he didn't think to wipe down the blade before he sheathed it. Nuff said ; )

I hope that anything I said can be of help to you while you begin to embark on the fantastic journey of martial arts, and the very "addicting" hobby of sword collecting. May you enjoy it for YEARS to come, and if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask us old warriors!!

Sword care
by: Zorba

G'day Ethan-Paul's advice is on the mark mate-also,regards withdrawing the blade and replacing it,the ha(cutting edge must be facing up! Regard oiling,I have it on good advice (John Grasso-Nihonto Australia. com & Aoiart Japan,, that Singer sewing machine oil is your best bet(better even than choking oil. I would suggest both these sights for any inquiries regarding anything you wish to know regarding Nihonto. Good luck

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