When Swords Were Tactical: A Brief History of the Sword

full dress samuraiSwords have been in existence for thousands of years. They have gone from being long daggers, to being primary weapons of kings and conquerors, until finally becoming relics of the past in the last century.

Swords first came into existence about five thousand years ago. Originally, they were simply an extended dagger. It wasn’t until the development of steel and improved heat treatment, that swords became practical combat weapons. Early swords typically had small and slender blades intended only for thrusting. Throughout history swords have been used to deliver specific physical punishments, such as non-surgical amputations, as well as decapitations. And With the Roman Empire coming into existence, the use of the sword became a privilege reserved only for skilled soldiers and upper class of society.

During the Middle Ages, sword technology improved immensely. At this time many different styles of swords were developed all over the world. In Europe, the rapier was a common weapon of choice, and in Japan different versions of the katana were quickly becoming the deadly weapon of the samurai. As steel technology improved, single edged weapons became popular all throughout Asia. Swords became more and more complex, along with the battles techniques. A number of manuscripts covering sword combat and technique dating back the thirteenth century exist in Italian, German, and English.

There have been many famous swords in the past five thousand years however, there are a few that stand out;

The Sword of Tomoyuki Yamashita is one of those swords. It’s a 17th century sword held by a General of the same name during World War 2. After the General was executed, the sword was taken to the West Point Military Museum by Douglas McArthur. The sword remains at the museum to this day.

The Sword of William Wallace is famous for two major reasons. The first, being that it was used the Scottish Knight William Wallace. The second reason being that it was five feet and eight inches long, nearly double the size of an average sword.

Joyeuse was the sword of the Emperor Charlamegne. It was later used as a coronation sword of French Empeprors.

Hanjo Manusame was regarded as the greatest sword smith of all time and his most famous sword is named after him. It’s almost 800 years old and was named a Japanese national treasure in 1939.

Different Katana Designs
Different Katana Designs


While there is no such thing as the best sword in the world, each sword is created to serve a purpose. The heavy European swords were created to represent the power of the kings who held them. The thinner and lighter, elegant samurai swords were created with speed and swift attacks in mind.

Towards the of the eighteenth century swords became more of self defense weapon. With the development of guns, swords were slowly phased out, and were no longer the primary weapon in most of the battles around the world.

Today,swords are commonly used as ceremonial items in military and naval services, and the swords with historical significance are displayed in museums. Many practitioners still train with swords for the intense workout as well as the deep connection with world history. Even if you are a tactical gear junkie you have to see how fun swords are. The primary war weapon before the firearm, swords have shown the creative personalities of many societies throughout history.

Photo credit: Joe Thomissen / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Joe Thomissen / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: BebopDesigner / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: rumpleteaser / Foter.com / CC BY

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