Posts Tagged ‘Throwing’

The hollywood glamour of the Ninja throwing star…

Friday, January 18th, 2008

As a great fan of Ninja lore, I’ve always loved the Hira-Shuriken, or throwing star. It was a very useful tool for the Japanese Ninja, but simply not as lethal or as universally effective as Hollywood has made them out to be. Nonetheless this Hollywood glorification of ninja throwing stars has spawned some rather unique variations, like the following pieces of junk “art”:

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister
[view full size]

OK, so this is hira-shuriken pocketknife hybrid design. Very cool lookin’. But of course, the first question that popped into my head was… “A ninja would not touch this with an extended length manrikgusari…”.

Folding blades are neat in concept, but even if they are cool and open in mid flight, so you don’t have to stand there for 5 minutes opening them up before you throw them, they always introduce structural weaknesses, and you can never be sure the blade locks will survive the chronic repeated impacts of throwing… I think I’m gonna pass on this one…

Shiflett Tech Twister

Shiflett Tech Twister
[view full size]

Now here I thought I was making progress. Then that little nerd in my head deigned to raise his screechy voice at me: “Buuuut why are the points all split in half? Won’t that weaken the points?” Blasted geekoid… But good question. No good answers. Save perhaps because it makes it looks a little cooler. But we all know a true Ninja craves not things like “cool”. Only strength, efficiency and functionality. So we move on…

Ninja Shuriken

Ninja Shuriken
[view full size]

AHA! What’s this!? Ninja Shuriken! Now this is a design I could see a ninja using. Simple, effective, solid, reliable, What more could a Shinobi Warrior want? Look at the thickness of this weapon. The sharp points. It would be heavy, and strong… Except for one thing. It’s cast from some cheap metal. If you look closely you can see the casting imperfections superficially covered by black paint. Dagnabbit! The points on this thing are gonna wear down to nothing, in mid air, during your first throw…

At the end of all of this, as I sit here writing my conclusion, I realize two things. First, I am torturing myself for no good reason. After all, there are actually a good number of perfectly good stainless steel hira shuriken designs available that I have chosen to totally ignore, just to rip on the stupid Hollywood and TV inspired cheap rip offs reproductions.

Second, I am anal retentive, and need to seek help about that shrill voice I keep hearing in my head that I sometimes wish I could burn out of my skull… It’s OK now though. I’m fine. No, really, I’m fine… 🙂

Ninja Shuriken – [True Swords]

Shiflett Tech Twister – [True Swords]

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister – [True Swords]

The combat spear…

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Today we have yet another treat from the infamous movie “300”. I present to you the signature polearm of the Spartan army, the long spear:

“300” Spartan Warrior Spear

300 Spartan Spear

[view full size]

Now some people underestimate the power of the spear. People look at it and say, “Well yes, it’s cool for throwing, and for distance attacks, but beyond that it’s useless. Not so. It has it’s drawbacks, yes, but in the hands of a skilled warrior, a spear can be just as deadly as a sword. People don’t realize how functionally flexible a spear can really be.

Besides the obvious advantage of being a good projectile weapon, a spear at full length is a great distance thrusting tool. the fact that a spear was usually used with both hands meant a skilled warrior could be both fast and accurate with their strikes. And while a spear was more or less it useless for slashing, depending on it’s design it could also be used much like a staff weapon. Once you got it spinning, it could be used to deliver some serious blunt trauma. And if grasped at half length it could be used like a short thrusting spear/sword.

Interestingly, in the Movie “300” we are treated to numerous sequences where the long spear is shown used to it’s maximum advantage. In large numbers, an army armed with spears could keep even mounted, well armored attackers at bay quite efficiently. And even in one on one combat, a spear can be quite the effective stand off tool, keeping an opponent at “spears length”, as it were, and making their supposedly “faster” close in weapon, like an axe or a sword, useless.

And lets not forget also, that unlike a sword, a spear is much easier to throw, and the ability to engage the enemy at long distances was a big advantage to a spear wielding combatant. Given also that the amount of steel that was needed for a spear was usually only a small fraction of that used for a sword, you could make many more spears with the same amount of steel.

300 Spartan Warrior Spear

300 Spartan Warrior Spear
[view full size]

All of these factors combined are what made the spear such a flexible, formidable battlefield weapon. But besides all of that, I just happen to like this spear because its got that really mean looking, sharp point, it actually comes apart, and as we all know, flexibility is golden when it comes to weapons like these. And of course, being spartan, this one has that “Don’t mess with me, I’m Spartan…” look…

But ultimately, and most importantly, while most other spears are of light colored woods and chrome, this one is all black… You can’t beat that with… anything. No wonder the Spartans were so full of WIN! 🙂

“300” Spartan Warrior Spear – [True Swords]

The Dark Sai…

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

I am an ever constant lurker in a couple of martial arts and blade forums. It just so happened in one of these forums, that there was an interesting discussion about the origins and use of sai, a unique impact weapon I blogged about earlier. Many opinions were offered, but I think it is fair to say that nobody knows for sure where sai truly originated. However I thought quite a coincidence that I also happened to come across this dark beauty:

Japanese Sai Dagger

Japanese sai dagger.
[view full size]

Now this is a cool looking sai. According to the website I found it on, this sai is an “exact replica of the 16th Century fighting knife.” I dunno about all that. I mean, it’s hard enough to find any reliable documentation about the sai, let alone any documentation that would allow anyone to make an exact replica of anything.

In fact there are quite a few design features that are markedly non traditional about this sai. Like the contoured ridged grip. And very sharp point. Traditional Sai usually had a straight cylindrical grip, and a fairly blunt tip. And then there is the flared pommel. Traditional Sai pommels were either straight, had a thick squarish cylinder, or have a multifaceted ball that was used for striking. Not a flared flattened one.

And lets not forget the weird contour of the side prongs. Traditional sai have simple curved prongs, that narrow at the tip, not the complex talon like prongs that this one does. Probably more telling is the fact that this even has a sheath, while traditional sai practitioners wear their Sai in their belts, unsheathed. So I’d take their claims of exact duplicity with a grain of salt.

Thats not to say that this isn’t a beautiful weapon. I love what they’ve done to it. The scale-like contours of the grip, the complex curves of the side prongs, the rather ominous point to the tip, the black finish and even the kanji on the sai and sheath are excellently done.

Traditional sai were mostly used as truncheons rather than daggers. But as a dagger, this sai truly comes into it’s own. I love it.

Japanese Sai Dagger – [Medieval Weapon Arts]

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]

Another Fantastic Axe!

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Today I thought I’d talk about another interesting designer melee/throwing axe I ran into a while back.

Fantasy Axe

Fantasy Axe

Now the first question that popped into my head when I read the description, and then looked at the axe, was: Couldn’t anyone come up with a more fitting name than “Fantasy Axe”? Did marketing run out of fantasy weapon descriptors? Bah! Anyway, this axe has a lot of similarities to the War Shark axe I blogged about not too long ago. They may have had the same designer.

But unlike the War Shark axe, the Fantasy axe seems to have a lot more aesthetic design cues that do not appear to have any functionality beyond trying to make it look… Fantastic… At which they do a mediocre job. Not that it’s an ugly axe mind you. It looks good. Just doesn’t seem to deliver what the name promised. Freakin’ marketing…

I will say however that it does have the kind of wicked points and curviness about it that I really like. It certainly beats the snot out of the Reaver Axe I blogged about a while back. In fact with slightly more depth to the design, I think this axe would have made a better companion for the Reaver sword than that poor, butchered excuse of a battle cleaver did.

The fantasy axe does have some good things going for it, in that the spike opposite the axe blade seems like it could do some damage to armor, and is better positioned to do so than the on the War Shark. It also looks like it would be better suited for throwing, though how much so is hard to tell. But it does look cool nonetheless, and complemented by the nifty leather-wrapped handle, it seems like a nice, all around melee/throwing weapon I could see taking into battle with me, were I a medieval warlord…

Fantasy Axe – [Realm Collections]

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