Another day, another cool sword. Today, a sword suggested by reader Heero, the Sakabato (Reverse bladed Sword) of Himura Kenshin, key protagonist of the manga and anime series Rurouni Kenshin.
Himura Kenshin, was formerly a highly skilled assassin, called “Hitokiri Battōsai”. Hitokiri literally translates to “manslayer”. And while “Battōsai” has no direct meaning, there is a Japanese art called “Battōjutsu” which teaches the correct technique for drawing, cutting with, and sheathing a sword, much like Iaidō.
However while Iaidō deals primarily with the process of correctly drawing, cutting and sheathing techniques, Battōjutsu takes it a step further and teaches techniques for *multiple cuts* before resheathing. So together, the name “Hitokiri Battōsai” is perhaps one of the most ominous combinations you could ever have.
And the name was not undeserved. During his time as an assassin, Himura Kenshin he was considered an unbeatable warrior, killing many, many people, until one day he decides that he has done enough killing.
He becomes a rurouni, a renegade former assassin, who wanders the countryside helping people in trouble, to atone for his murderous past. Hence the name: Rurouni Kenshin. Once a rurouni, Kenshin meets a renowned Japanese swords smith called Arai Shakku, who has also decided to start making weapons for protection rather than killing, and it is he who gives the Sakabato to Kenshin.
I thought it was a cool, if a little cliched, story. The sword, however differentiates this from similar stories. I present Himura Kenshins Sakabato:
Himura Kenshins Sakabato
[click image to view full size]
From the intro pic, you can see that this is a beautiful, though not particularly noteworthy sword, except for one thing. The edge is on the inside of the curve of the blade, as opposed to the outside. This is a symbolic feature, intended to externally show that it’s wielder is a pacifist, and that the sword is not intended for lethal combat.
However the Sakabato poses a rather interesting structural question. The curve on a katana is a result of differential heat treatment, that makes the front edge of the blade hard, but leaves the spine flexible. During the tempering process, the front edge expands, while the spine does not, which results in the signature curve.
Thus a traditionally heat treated Sakabato is technically a rather complex feat. Since only the heat treated edge of a blade will expand, a sword would never curve in the direction of the edge, only away from it. So the only way a sakabato could be traditionally be made would be to forge an exaggerated reverse curve into the blade, *before* heat treating.
The curve would have to be enough to not only compensate for the resulting straightening that would occur during the heat treatment of the edge, but also still have enough curve left over for it to retain it’s signature Katana curve. It would take a very experienced smith to know exactly how much curve to forge into the blade.
Perhaps that was the point. Perhaps successfully pulling off a Sakabato was the signature of a master swordsmith, and made it the ultimate pacifists weapon. Hmm. That’s cool an all, but I could think of better solutions. Like don’t use a sword at all, just use something else. Like a Louisville slugger. Maybe in steel.
But that’s just my practical side speaking.
Anyway, cool plot lines and metallurgical complexities aside, this replica is actually one of the nicer ones I’ve seen in a long while. From the simple black circular tsuba, to the gold accent on the pommel, it is a very accurate, and very well put together, sword.
With quality fittings, real ray skin and cord wrapped tsuka, full tang carbon steel blade with dual mekugi, this is not only very well crafted, but a beautiful and sturdy design, intended to be dismantled and maintained in the traditional fashion:
Sakabato - Tsuka
[click image to view full size]
But while modern metallurgy might allow us to get away with a reverse bladed sword, without any of the mechanical hassles that would be associated with traditional metal working, I still would not advise any careless swinging of such a weapon. You never know, reverse blades may still have anomalous physical properties…
It might cut a hole in the fabric of space and time, and the tip may slice through, come out the other side and whack you in the back of the head. No, seriously, you gotta be careful with these kinds of things. Trust me, I’m a Balrog, I would know.
Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m just saying… K, fine. Suit yourself. Just make sure you bequeath your Sakabato to me in your will…
Yeah, It’s Phyreblade. P-H-Y-R…
Himura Kenshins Sakabato – [True Swords]