Posts Tagged ‘Shuriken’

The Ever So Versatile Ninjatō

Monday, September 10th, 2007

You are probably all familiar with Japanese swords. And I’m willing to bet that when someone talks about a Japanese sword, you conjure up visions of a long, shiny, curving blade. The swords of the samurai. They were ornate, and highly symbolic blades. It was said that the soul of a Samurai rested in his blade. As a result, Samurai swords were elevated to aristocratic status, and became symbols of rank and prestige.

Today, however, we aren’t going to talk about samurai swords. Nope. There was another, more pragmatic sword that probably had just as much an effect on Japanese history as did the Samurai Sword. And it was a soulless, heartless instrument indeed. None other than the spartan Ninjatō. The sword of the Ninja. The Ninjatō (or Ninjaken) were designed to play a much different role. They were neither swords of ceremony or of prestige. They were made to do one thing, and they did it very well. They were the Ninjas weapon-of-all-trades.

Ninjaken – Polished and Gold trim

Ninja Katana Polished ChromeNinj Katana 24k Gold trim
[view full size] [view full size]

Samurai swords were excellent weapons. However Ninja needed more from their weapons than just cutting excellence. They needed functional flexibility and versatility. And thus was born Ninjaken. Ninjaken differed from their high-brow cousins in many ways. First off, they were shorter. This allowed them to be used in smaller spaces, concealed much more easily, and were faster on the draw than the longer Samurai sword.

Battleready Ninja, Blk, Musashi Koga Ninja, Blk

Battle Ready Stealth NinjatoMusashi Koga Ninja Sword Black
[view full size] [view full size]

Another advantage of the shorter sword is that they were a little lighter, stiffer and less susceptible to lateral bending stresses than their longer Samurai counterparts. Ninjaken usually have a larger, square tsuba (guard). This, in conjunction with the shorter stiffer blade allowed them to be used in ways a samurai sword might not have tolerated well, such as leaning it against a wall, and using the larger, stronger square guard as a step.

They could also still be used with a full sized saya (scabbard), which would deceive an opponent into underestimating how long the sword was, and how fast it could be drawn. Then there was the added bonus that the remaining saya space could be used to hide all manner of small items, such as blinding powders and such. Between the numerous hiding places that could be engineered into a ninjaken and it’s saya, one could conceal a set of spike or star shuriken (throwing knives), tenouchi (small, hand-held impact weapons), powders, rope, tools, etc. The possibilities were endless.

Deluxe Ninja Warrior Set

Ninja Warrior Sword Kit
[view full size]

Due to the popularity of Ninjas in the media over the past two decades, Ninjaken design has been copied rather shamelessly, spawning numerous replicas, such as the weapon used by the Operative in the movie Firefly Serenity. But the basic formula has always remained the same. A medium sized, full tang, single-edged straight blade, usually with a square tsuba (quard), and a uniquely angled, tanto-like point.

Galaxy Viper, Striking Cobra

Galaxy Viper Sword SetStriking Cobra Sword Set
[view full size] [view full size]

All in all, Ninjaken fulfilled their design objectives admirably. It is truly an interesting weapon, well suited for it’s task as the versatile, multi-function, close quarters combat version of the prestigious Samurai sword, kinda like the medieval equivalent of a carbine, as opposed to a rifle… Not quite the same range, but just as deadly…

Galaxy Viper Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – 24-K Gold Trim – [True Swords]
Striking Cobra Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – Polished Chrome Trim – [True Swords]
Deluxe Ninja Warrior Sword Kit – [True Swords]
Musashi Koga Ninja Sword, Black – [True Swords]
Battle Ready Ninja Tech – [True Swords]

An Animated Glaive!

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Ok, So while I was doing posts on movie glaives, I happened to run across a folding throwing weapon from one of my oft watched animes. I thought to myself “Why not do an anime weapon?” Now this may sound crazy, but I heard myself answer: “Because that would show you up for the nerd that you really are.”

Of course, I had to I answer right back: “Hah! It’s too late for that suckah!! Not to mention it isn’t that far of a leap from the fictional hollywood action movie weapons you’ve been pimpin’ so far.” I couldn’t very well argue with this logic. Though I suspect that any logic that is a product of inane psychobabble may not be particularly reliable. Dunno whether y’all will be more disturbed by the fact that I am blogging about an animated weapon or that I talk to myself. Either way, it doesn’t matter. ‘Cause, like I’ve said many times before, I’ve never professed sanity to begin with.

But anyway, here I am, getting ready to talk about an interesting kind of throwing blade that makes an appearance in the anime Naruto and also in the video games Final Fantasy and Ninja Gaiden. We will be focusing primarily on the only folding version of this blade, which was used by Sasuke in the Naruto anime series. We are, of course, talking about the Fuuma Shuriken, AKA the Fūma or “Wind Demom” shuriken, more commonly known as the Shadow Windmill Shuriken.

Fuuma (aka Shadow Windmill) Shuriken

Fuuma (aka Shadow Windmill) Shuriken

Now, in spite of being an anime weapon, it actually fulfills all of the criteria for the hollyood glaive. It is a multi-bladed throwing weapon. It folds up. And it has boomerang-like qualities to boot. Lucky for you, I just so happen to have an (all too brief) clip of one in action:

Fuuma Shuriken - Opening

Fuuma Shuriken - Opening

Sweet eh? Now I will mention that the game and anime versions of these types of weapon have one major difference to their live action movie counterparts. They are huge! They are not normal hira shuriken sized by any stretch of the imagination, being quite a few orders of maginitude larger than any of the others I have mentioned so far. In fact, a single blade of this particular monstrosity is about the size of a full-sized machete. When it’s closed it’s the equivalent of holding 4 large cutlasses side by side. Heh.

Fuuma Shuriken - Partially Closed

Fuuma Shuriken - Partially Closed

Now of course I do have a couple of reservations about it. Like the fact that I don’t see a way to lock it in the open position. Not particularly confidence inspiring. Not to mention that, given it’s size and potential weight, it would almost have to be your primary (if not only) weapon. Let’s face it. If you carried one, you might be hard pressed to carry much else. I mean look at it. It’s almost as big as Sasuke. Granted he’s just a kid, (a highly trained, very skilled killer ninja kid) but still. Any weapon that is almost as large as a teen-aged boy has some serious size issues… But then again we are talking about a fictional animated weapon that routinely defies the laws of physics, so what do I know.

Sasuke's Monster Fuuma Shuriken

Sasuke's Monster Fuuma Shuriken

But given what it could do, (if it were real) the simple but robust construction, and it’s intimidating appearance, (Did I mention that it is usually portrayed as a black weapon… Yes! Bonus Points!!) it would most certainly be quite an effective, durable and lethal weapon to wield. Assuming, of course, that you are A) a highly trained animated ninja, or B) carry steel I-beam girders around for a living…

But strength requirements aside, it seems that this weapon could actually be combat worthy. Unlike most of the other glaives I’ve blogged, this weapon has ample space on each blade for a handle grip throw to be used, though it would require some serious training to get good rotation and a clean release using it.

But the truth is, this is such a beautiful and intimidating (albeit impractical) weapon, I really don’t care bout it’s shortcomings. I’d buy one in a heartbeat. I have actually been toying with the idea of designing a working one, just to see if I can overcome the challenge of inventing a strong, reliable blade locking mechanism for such a weapon. Would be pretty awesome… But that’s probably just my inner nerd talking…

Some Contemporary Glaives.

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Since I’m on a roll with the glaives, I thought I’d blog about a few more glaive designs. Today we will be looking at not one, but TWO of the more contemporary incarnations of the infamous glaive. Thats right ladies and jerks, today we will look at two modern and well publicized glaive designs, made famous by the comic vampire hunter Blade, and the resulting movies. I bring you none other than Blades Shredder and Cyclone Glaives.

Blade's Shredder Glaive

Blade's Shredder Glaive

I won’t bother to recap my previous comments about the weaknesses of a folding blade, ’cause (assuming you have been following along) you now know them all. Right? Right? Oh Come ON!!. OK. You fail. Start this class again from the beginning. The rest of us are going to continue on. Those still with us are in for a treat, because the design of Blades Glaives present a unique set of potential problems, which we will cover today in class, one by one. Woot!

Blades Cyclone Glaive

Blades Cyclone Glaive

First off, you can’t see it from the pics, but Blades glaives are centrally spring loaded. The mechanism that keeps the blades secure in both the open and closed position requires a hub mounted spring in order to keep the blades in whatever position they are locked in. Personally I think this is a risky design move, especially for a weapon that experiences high impact or G forces, because the same forces could “pop” the mechanism on impact, causing the mechanism to fail. See if you can find an abused novelty store display model of one of these and you will see what I’m talking about. Just pray that after repeated use it doesn’t decide to fold up on you while still in your hand. Strike 1.

Blade's Bloodbath Shredder Glaive

Blade's Bloodbath Shredder Glaive

The second point to note on both blades, is the exaggerated size of the central hub around which the blades rotate to close. No doubt this is a direct result of the requirements of the centralized blade locking mechanism and the spring thereof. The resulting hub is large, unwieldy and eats up a huge section of the real estate that might otherwise have been used to hold it. Wheeee! Strike 2.

Blade's Bloodbath Shredder Glaive - Closed

Blade's Bloodbath Shredder Glaive - Closed

Which brings us to yet the third problem. That huge hub means that these glaives have no real handle. The Shredder glaive design does allow for a bit more hand room in the middle, but between the huge hub and the short blades, you would be hard pressed to throw this cleanly while still imparting enough rotation to make it stick in anything more solid than the seat of yer pappy’s overstuffed wing-backed chair. And it’d probably still bounce off that.

Blades Shredder Glaive

Blades Shredder Glaive

And just forget about trying the palm grip throw with one of these puppies, like Blade does in the movies. Much like the Beastmaster Glaive, it would very likely hang up in your hand or on your fingers on departure. Though unlike the Beastmasters Glaive, (if it’s any consolation), it probably remain open while it does so. Probably perform a 180° in your hand too, resulting in an “incident” that your idiotic friends may think hilarious at the time, but you might not find too humorous. Steeeeeerike 3! Yer Out!

All of this leads me to one undeniable conclusion. For any and all practical intents and purposes, the average hollywood glaive stinks! These particular designs, especially the Cyclone, are possibly some of the most impractical designs ever in the history of glaivedom. (Yes, I said “Glaivedom”. This is my glaivesphere, and I can use whatever glaivey word I want. Glaiveify at will, if you will. Now back to the Glaivespiel at hand. Glaiveisms Rule!! Ha!)

But practical considerations aside, these glaives (heh, heh, heh, I said “Glaives”…) do appear quite menacing, and that is a quality that can stand on it’s own merits. They look… mean. Especially the Shredder. Just don’t go confusing them for athletes when they are really just runway models… Doing so could literally come back to bite you in the proverbial ol’ hiney…

Blades Shredder Glaive – [The Armory]
Blades Bloodbath Shredder Glaive – [Blade Hut]
Blades Cyclone Glaive – [Awesome Anime Action Figures]

Introducing: The Glaive

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

While pointing out the pitfalls of folding throwing stars, it occurred to me that there was another class of folding throwers that might make more effective folding throwing weapons than folding shuriken. Now they are all fictional weapons, but then again, many of the swords I have blogged about began as fictional weapons, so I thought, “Why Not?” I’d like to introduce you to the imaginary big Hollywood brothers, of the folding shuriken: the “Glaive”.

The Hollywood “glaive”, is easily described. It is a multi-bladed throwing implement whose blades could be folded into itself in order to give it a smaller form factor, presumably for easier transportation. They also seem to have a boomerang-like (even mystical) ability to come back to their wielder. I know of 3 movies featuring “glaive ” weapons. The Beastmaster, Krull, and one of my all time favorites, Blade. Today we will look at the very first example (that I know of) of the Hollywood “Glaive”. Namely the “glaive” featured in the movie “The Beastmaster

Beastmaster Caber - Glaive

Beastmaster Caber - Glaive

In the Beastmaster movie, the protagonist (our friend the Beast Master) is given a throwing weapon called a “caber” (Which I have hopefully spelled correctly). It consisted of a 4 bladed weapon, which folded in half, scissor fashion, so that each half blade set back to back against each other. A fairly standard “glaive” design. But this “glaive” has some serious issues.

Before I go off on a rant about this so called “glaive” I thought it would be interesting to know that real cabers and glaives do actually exist. However they are nothing like what is portrayed on the big screen. Cabers are commonly found in the unlikely sport of… Scottish log tossing. In fact, the competition is called the Caber Toss, and the logs are called (you guessed it!) cabers.

And glaives, far from being the hand held throwers portrayed in the movies, were actually medieval polearms. Like, lessee, big spears. Ya know, big broad headed spears. Machetes on a stick if you will. Go figure. Somehow I can’t really visualize a humongous blade on a spear shaft spinning “gracefully” *ahem* through the air… But back to hollywood Glaives.

Beastmaster Caber/Glaive - Closed

Beastmaster Caber/Glaive - Closed

The design seems to be quite robust, each sub blade is fastened together by a solid looking pin. It looks like it could be made to handle a lot of torture, however one thing bothers me. The blades appear to be freely hinged. No means of fixing them in the open position.

Beastmaster Caber/Glaive - Hinged

Beastmaster Caber/Glaive - Hinged

Now I’m no expert but it seems to me that freely swinging blades would wreak untold havoc on the trajectory of this weapon. And given the geometry of the weapon, I don’t think it could be thrown in the fashion illustrated, gripping the middle of the glaive, where the hinge is. At least not without risking a few fingers (that I’m sure you want to keep) in the process. But then again, my understanding of physics might be suspect. Meh.

Beastmaster Caber/Glaive - Hinge Pin

Beastmaster Caber/Glaive - Hinge Pin

And then there is the little niggling problem of how the blades would stay open, if, by some dark mystical trick of the universe, this “glaive” were to actually hit its intended target. My physics are a little rusty, but AFAIK, a free hinge means it gonna fold on impact. it would probably still hurt (if it ever actually hit you), but that free hinge design would make it pretty freakin’ hard to make it “stick” anything. I’m just sayin’.

Perhaps with some type of lock-back mechanism in place on the blades, this “glaive” would make for an excellent weapon, but as is, it certainly wouldn’t make my armory wish list. When all is said and done however, it is actually one of the more classy designs of the few Hollywood glaives I have seen. Not so much sinister as much elegant. A little rustic but artfully designed. Not usually what I look for in a blade, but I’d make an exception for this one. It’d prolly look great in black…

Folding Throwers: Convertible Hira Shuriken?

Friday, June 8th, 2007

It is a fine Friday afternoon here in the Realm of the Dark Blade, and I thought I would write another post on the topic of small, star-shaped throwing implements. Due, in part, to an intriguing throwing star design that I have been seeing quite frequently of late. Essentially, fancy hira shuriken with folding blades. Hmm. Now the idea kinda makes sense, at least in theory, but under further examination, some fundamental weaknesses are painfully evident in the practical implementation of these weapons. Following are two examples.

Cyclone Thrower Black - Open

Cyclone Thrower Black - Open

As you can see, these throwing stars have the unique distinction of having points, (blades, in fact,) that fold. What is really kickin’ is that besides looking sleek and stealthy, the cyclone thrower can be thrown in the closed position, and will open itself in mid flight! Pretty cool. Except that both designs introduce other weaknesses and/or problems.

Dragon Twister White - Closed

Dragon Twister White - Closed

First, while folding blades allow for a smaller overall diameter, these designs are often three (or more) times thicker than a traditional throwing star. So I could store a couple of these in a smaller diameter pouch, but I’d only be able to fit 2 where I could originally fit 6, in a flatter, (albeit larger) pouch. I dunno if it’d be worth it.

Dragon Twister Black - Open

Dragon Twister Black - Open

Then of course there is the issue that more parts means more points of failure. Each hinge or blade pivot point adds another possible point of failure. Failures that would almost certainly occur under conditions of extreme duress; most likely when it would be terribly inconvenient for a failure to occur. Yeah, I agree. I hope Murphy burns in hades too. But you’d be b0ll0xed either way.

Cyclone Thrower White - Closed

Cyclone Thrower White - Closed

And most notably, in the stated scenario, with, let’s say, a Dragon Twister design where your blades don’t open by themselves mid- flight, who, on Gods green earth, would have the time to sit there and open all 5 blades before throwing it? I can just see it now, just as your determined foes are about to fall upon your pathetic little self…: “Well gosh, I’m sorry, could you hold off on killing me for a second? I just got the third blade open…” Uh huh. Brilliant survival strategy.

Nonetheless, I actually like the basic design of these throwers, especially the smooth lines of the cyclone thrower. When closed it forms a very neat little circle, no points to jab you in uncomfortable places while being carried, and the fact that it can be thrown closed and opens in mid-air just ranks it astronomically high on the cool scale. Another cool toy to add to my little black bag of tricks…

The Cyclone Thrower (Black) – [True Swords]
The Cyclone Thrower (Silver) – [True Swords]
The Dragon Twister (Black) – [True Swords]
The Dragon Twister (Silver) – [True Swords]

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