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Reading this report from a local news source, a cold shiver ran down my spine. Read on, and see if you understand why.

“A man was shot by a sheriff’s deputy Thursday evening after he severely injured another deputy with a Samurai sword, according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies were called to a home on Quail Roost Drive in Navarre [Florida] about 5:40 p.m. for a report of a man with a knife trying to break in a door, according to Sheriff’s Capt. Bob Johnson.

When they arrived, they found a man armed with what was described as a Samurai sword and tried to use non-lethal force to subdue him, Johnson said . . .

But the man swung the sword and cut Deputy Matthew Ray [apparently several times]. Ray was severely injured and was taken to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola. As of 8:45 p.m., he was in surgery and his condition was unknown, Johnson said.

Another deputy [Sgt. Brian Miller] then shot the assailant ‘several times,’ Johnson said.

The man also was taken to an area hospital. His name and medical condition had not been released as of 8:45 p.m.

9:50 a.m. UPDATE: Deputy Matthew Ray is doing well after he was severely injured Thursday evening by a suspect wielding a samurai sword, according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.”

Good grief. I am absolutely dumbstruck. Other news accounts identify the suspect as 22 year-old Gordon Talmage Kimbrell Jr. Some new accounts suggest Kimbrell was off his medication, had been drinking, and threatened family members with knives, causing them to call for help.

I’m dumbstruck because a Japanese sword—commonly known as a katana—is among the most deadly weapons ever devised. Anyone holding such a weapon and demonstrating the intention to use it, is a deadly threat at distances of as much as 30 feet/ten yards, and perhaps more depending on their skill level.

Genuine katanas are very expensive, but even a cheap knock off, commonly available for only a few hundred dollars, is nearly as deadly, though not nearly as durable in the long term. Such weapons can easily, and with a single cut, amputate limbs or heads, or with a single cut virtually anywhere on the body, cause maiming, crippling, even death. In many ways, being cut by a Katana is more debilitating and potentially deadly than being shot. An effective cut can and will sever not only flesh and muscle, but tendons, ligaments and even bone, penetrating to and severing internal organs. A thrust by a Katana can be more damaging or deadly than being shot.

Even idiots with no formal training in swordsmanship can easily mutilate or kill others with a single, poorly executed cut. Those that are trained and practiced are fully as deadly, perhaps even more so, than a well-trained handgun shooter within the engagement range of the sword, which again, is easily within 30 feet.

How does a police officer—or anyone—recognize that a person wielding a katana poses an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death? The mere sight of someone carrying a sheathed katana should be sufficient to cause an escalation beyond code yellow, but when their hand touches the grip of the weapon–just as with someone gripping a handgun–any officer should immediately draw their handgun and at the very least go to ready (weapon pointed in the direction of the threat, muzzle pointed downward, somewhat below the sightline). “Ready” is important, particularly at close range, because holding one’s handgun up so the sights are in use makes it difficult or impossible to see anything below that weapon. Drawing the weapon—drawing any sword—from its sheath/scabbard should immediately invoke an escalation to code red, and the slightest movement toward the officer must cause him to immediately shoot to stop the threat.

This is particularly important if the swordsman is skilled. Movie fencing has little to do with reality. In the movies, katanas are flung about in wild arcs and with aggressive abandon, edge against edge in noisy, spark producing cacophony. This may look impressive, but in reality, edge to edge contact is avoided; it will destroy a very valuable sword. Those with genuine skill draw, cut, flick blood from the blade, and return the weapon to the sheath. Their movements are economical, precise, and very smooth. As with shooting, smooth is fast.

It should never be forgotten that a sword can be thrown as well, and that due to its long, razor-sharp edge and its inherent weight, it is a particularly dangerous missile, capable of producing massively ugly wounds even if its point does not enter the body of the intended target.

How can one tell if a swordsman is skilled? Few police officers or citizens have that knowledge, so all must act as though anyone with a sword represents a deadly danger.

To those well trained in Japanese swordsmanship, skill is easily recognized. It’s not only a matter of body language, stance and attitude, but the way that the swordsman uses distance and timing, the two vital variables in fencing and in all physical combat. There are other visual clues as well. One does not quickly jerk a sword from the scabbard, but uses a subtle squeeze of the off hand to first break the friction between sword and scabbard (Considering the audience, I am not using the correct terminology for the parts of the Katana and scabbard), making possible a smooth draw. The strong hand guides the weapon from the scabbard, aided by movement of the off hand on the scabbard. This must be done with great care and skill because a katana can easily cut through a scabbard and the swordsman’s hand. A katana is not gripped like a baseball bat or axe, but in a very specific manner, and the wrists are not rigid, but flexible and poised.

There are specific stances and attitudes of the blade that may indicate the swordsman’s preferred means of defense or attack, or may be a way of concealing those means from an opponent. Such matters as the placement of the feet and the way the swordsman shifts his balance and center of gravity may also be important cues, but much of this is subtle and most people, police officer or citizen, would be oblivious to it, thus the necessity of treating such things as a deadly threat.

The fact that both officers survived, though one was seriously injured, suggests that the suspect was not a skilled swordsman, likely that he had no real training at all. A skilled fencer in range of two officers foolishly trying to use non-deadly means to disarm and subdue him could easily have killed both and escaped unharmed.

There is a bizarre 1997 incident in Seattle that is illustrative of the issues. A man named Tony Allison, wielding what was obviously a cheap katana, held police at bay for eleven hours. A video of the incident is available here, and a good, contemporary account is available here. 

Officers were alerted to the man when he was threatening passersby on a downtown street. They wisely kept their distance and called for backup, and for the next ten hours or so, kept substantial distance between him and them, and kept vehicles and other cover between them. As a major city police force, they had all the manpower they needed. They tried, repeatedly, to disarm the man by firing beanbag and baton rounds, and even enveloped him in clouds of pepper spray. All had little or no apparent effect. They finally subdued him with a torrent of water from fire hoses, and by pinning him and his sword to the ground with an aluminum extension ladder and a long pole. He was disarmed, taken into custody and no one was injured.

What is most important to understand is the police had the luxury of a favorable situation. The man was trapped and could not escape or threaten or harm innocents. The officers had more than sufficient manpower, and were able to position themselves to keep more than enough distance, primarily by placing substantial cover between Allison and themselves. Most importantly, he was continually covered by officers with firearms. While he often adopted threatening postures, he was never in range to actually attack, and did not press an actual attack. If he did, he would have been instantly shot by multiple officers, and almost certainly knew that. The police could have, entirely legitimately, shot and killed him at many points during the confrontation, but they had virtually every tactical factor in their favor, and the suspect did not push them into killing him.

There is not sufficient detail in the accounts I’ve been able to find of the two deputies to analyze it definitively. Considering that they chose to try to deal with the suspect by non-deadly means, and considering the outcome, it seems self-evident that they did not fully appreciate the danger the suspect represented.

It’s possible that because Kimbrell was a family member of the people calling the police, the deputies acted out of a misplaced sense of deference and kindness in trying to deal with Kimbrell by less than lethal means. One news account suggested they tried to use bean bag rounds, and if so, they were obviously as ineffective as they were on Tony Allison in 1997. Another account suggested only that Kimbrell attacked one officer and was shot by another, but explained in no greater detail.

Officers—and citizens—must treat any such situation as a deadly threat. Trying to use a shotgun firing bean bag rounds may not be an inherently inappropriate tactic, but in this case, it seems the officers did not have adequate cover, could not maintain adequate distance, probably didn’t have enough officers present, and may not even have been covering Kimbrell with firearms as the bean bag rounds were being employed and apparently failed rather spectacularly.

This is often a problem for sheriff’s deputies. Due to the realities of time, staffing and distance, there may be very few of them available to handle such situations, and that factor alone may force them to use tactics that they might be able to avoid with adequate manpower. However, in such situations, where time is of the essence, and deadly force is obviously legitimately reasonable, they should tend to use such force rather than lesser force.

While I am hardly a master/ high-ranking swordsman with the Katana, I have studied Kendo and Iaido for many years, and would recognize in an opponent their relative level of skill, or lack thereof. Even so, I would not willingly duel with anyone with a katana or any serious sword. I would, instead, if necessary and lawful, shoot them from a safe distance. When one fights with edged weapons, particularly swords, everyone gets cut. The Hollywood convention of a swordsman so skilled that he may kill at will and no one can touch him is, for the most part, fiction.

In any case, the primary lesson of this situation is clear, and should be taken to heart by citizen and police officer alike: within their engagement range, swords are absolutely deadly weapons.

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.

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  1. Weird — I read today on another gun blog about a “Defenisve Sword use” home owner drove away 2 Home invaders.

    Must be something in the water.

    But yeah, I practice with swords too for a number of years — Kumdo (Korean adaptation of Kendo). and yeah, they’re nasty.

    • I enjoyed the article. You’ll notice that the officers appear to have lived through the interaction, despite the grievous wounds inflicted upon them. The author is correct that a trained swordsman of any discipline would most likely have dispatched both officers rapidly.

      That said, the odds of anyone facing a trained swordsman is very poor. The real truth is that it doesn’t matter whether you have a .22 or a .45, the odds of you getting off deadly shots before being gutted by any swordsman within arms length is virtually nil. A well-trained swordsman may be able to remove your hand from your body before you can pull the trigger of a pointed gun — that’s not just Hollywood.

      Here are my minor gripes with the article:
      1. Legitimizing police force against a holstered weapon also seems a bit off to me. Be wary? Sure. Pull out your gun and aim at a holstered bladewearer? That’s a prime candidate for legal action or a very bad mistake.)

      2.The author has elevated the tool’s mystique above the user. Were I to write an article about Glocks the same way he discusses katanas, I would be called names by many in the crowd.

      Katanas are elegant and refined weapons with a defined purpose, originally designed to be used by a select group of highly-trained people. In our present-day times, it is still very effective as evidenced by the linked bloodbath examples. Japan has a rich tradition of sword-making and quality blades. So do other countries and I fear the beauty of the Japanese swords sometimes appeals to the ninja-tactical crowd a little too much.

      3. Yes, swords are scary but they are also effective. Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it is no longer effective. This article frames swords as a threat to police, but does not point out that they are just like guns and can be used for personal defense quite effectively. People have (and continue to) defend themselves with bladed weapons since times immemorial. Swords are often much more damaging than bullets.

      If one were to realistically consider a blade for home defense, a simple 18th or 19th Century-style cutlass or cavalry saber will be equally effective if not superior to a katana while being much easier to use for the average person.

      Consider the cutlass (short saber); it was adopted in wide part by seamen and cavalry for several reasons.
      – Cost: Cutlasses are less expensive and time consuming to make than katanas, hence are more affordable for a decent quality weapon.
      – Deadliness: Cutlasses are very deadly and the mix of scimitar and saber design has been refined over hundreds of years beyond the katana design.
      – You don’t have to be specially trained to swing a cutlass. Uneducated teenagers, tacticool operators and wizened old people can swing them easily.
      – Cutlasses are designed for close quarters fighting in closed spaces.
      – Cutlasses have more weight overall, and many have more toward the tip of the blade, making slashing cuts more powerful and penetrative stabs go further. The kulwar is probably the finest example of cutlass evolution.
      – Cutlasses retain the scimitar-like curvature of a slashing weapon while providing an actual hand guard to protect the wielder.
      – Cavalry cutlasses (sabers) are less prone to breaking than a katana because they’re designed to flex as the wielder charges and strikes his foe, allowing him to maintain his balance on a horse.
      – Cutlasses are not ‘pretty’ or ‘mysterious’ — the design is a proven, effective tool that, God-forbid, you should have to employ, will scare the crap out of the home invader.
      – You can easily wield a cutlass with one hand, freeing your other hand for your pistol.
      – You can joke with your friends about keeping it around to “repel boarders.”
      – You won’t weird out your significant other with a strange candle/sword display in the living room from a culture that probably is half-a-world away and entirely foreign to everything else in your existence.
      For the above reasons, specifically for the purpose of home defense, I recommend considering a quality cutlass as a prime option over a katana.

      To sum up with a final salient and entirely relevant point, cutlasses are superior to katanas, therefore pirates really are better than ninjas… or samurai for that matter. 😉

      • Excellent post.

        You can joke with your friends about keeping it around to “repel boarders.”

        That’s what I used to tell curious visitors. 😀 I’m terribly incompetent in the use of edged weapons but a naval cutlass is always my first choice in such things. If we could ever get Ohio’s knife laws sorted out, I would occasionally bear one.

      • [q]Sure. Pull out your gun and aim at a holstered bladewearer? That’s a prime candidate for legal action or a very bad mistake.)[/q]

        I’ve seen a 50 yo man pull a sword from a scabbard and cut a pumpkin in half from a relaxed position in less than 1.5s. If you are within arms reach of a belligerent with a swords, you would be well advised to have your gun drawn.

        Ren-faire folks who are minding their own business? A guy OCing a sword in a Mall (WTF)? Sure, you have a point. But someone threatening violence on you? I’m not taking chances.

  2. I did kendo (Japanese fencing) for many years as a youth, and most of the old sensei were also iaido practioners as well. A novice might ignorantly assume many of these old guys in their 60s and 70s were harmless, but decades of contact sparring (kendo) and drawing / cutting (iaido) showed in their movements. It was a magnificent display of deadly beauty watching them fight or do kata.

    The technology of guns may have superseceded swords, but both are absolutely lethal in the right hands.

    On a katana-related note: Japan has not only strict gun control, many foreigners are surprised to learn that Japan also has SWORD CONTROL. The irony is that in the spiritual and historical home of the katana, it’s actually not a legal right to own a sword:

    • In the aftermath of WW2, MacArthur disarmed the Japanese and confiscated all their swords, at the insistence of some of the Japanese themselves. Priceless swords made by some of the greatest masters in Japanese history were destroyed. The mysterious and valuable “Honjo Masamune” was thought to have been “liberated” by an American soldier, but it has never been seen since that time.

      If you happen to find it in your garage, expect an auction reserve price of, oh, $10 million or so.

    • My girlfriends Japanese professor had to smuggle a katana from Japan to America that had been in their family for hundreds of years due to their ridiculous laws. It actually broke my heart to hear that story.

    • Personally I prefer to practice iai-jutsu with a wakizashi. It’s faster to clear the saya and given its size, better in enclosed spaces. Also, it never runs out of ammo. Though, when I’m feeling lazy, I’m happy to go with hand-gun-do. 🙂

    • as a edged enthusiast, I can strait up tell you a even a budget Katana will delight and amaze you. They have beautiful convex edges and will cut like a demon. There are a variety of styles, oversize (fit us giant americans better), shorter for inside dojo practice, and even a few copies of what is thought to be a surviving sword from a ninja type clan: The “Oniyuri” (Tiger Lily (not the hollywood crap either)).

      Check out Cheness Cutlery, Hanwei Forge and Musashi Swords for a affordable copy. A aussie runs the Sword Buyers Guide, check out his opinions and tests of various blades, its worth it.

      • Had no idea you could get an “actual” katana for those kinds of prices! All the ones I had seen before in my price range were from places like the “Budk” catalog…which I wouldn’t trust.

        • I got a Katana in 9260 steel, i use it for recreation. VERY carefully, a high school chum of mine got 30-40 stitches in his leg from a cheapo $40 one. The home shopping network has a good katana accident, don’t buy a cheapo.

  3. A katana isn’t the king of the sword world that it is made out to be, they are true marvels of swordsmithing and artistry for sure and the differential hardening techniques that make the hamon strong and spine flexible were light-years ahead of the time. But in reality, they are just very well-made swords that are designed best for slashing primarily and thrusting/stabbing if needed. It’s true that cheap or mediocre-style katana-like swords would be even less useful and would be no more deadly than a Cold Steel machete from Wal-Mart. I’m not saying someone who is coming at you even with a katana knockoff (or cold steel machete) shouldn’t be shot at a great deal of times until he’s not doing it anymore…just that the pop-culture hyperbole about the katana’s magical Glocklike abilities is wearing thin.

    I’d take a spear or gladius/xiphos-style sword anyday – very easy to use.

    • I’d love a real working reproduction gladius. Do you know of any that are made that are worth a damn?

        • Damn you, just when I was happy with my current arms selection and small want list. The list just doubled.

      • Albion Arms swordmakers here in the good ol’ USA. Among the best. My Albion Clontarf Viking sword is my first choice for shtf edged-weapon.

        • I have an Angus Trim Irish Bastard that is pretty awesome, though I understand they are hard to get, and his modern iterations do not impress me as much as his earlier reproductions.

        • I have a custom angus trim with a basket hilt that is among my very favorite sword.

          I also have a few antiques.

      • I’ve bought a couple items from (they have a good selection of stuff to piece together like a arms buffet) the last few years that were scratch/dent refurbs that people had either returned with blemishes or had custom stuff done and sent them back – very nice weapons for under 1/2 the price…which for one of them was a savings of almost $125. When I get something like these things I don’t get them for their looks and I’m not shy on modifying whatever I need to to make sure that they would be “usable”. One time I got an item that was trashed and all but the blade itself was junk, but all I wanted anyway…a well shaped, full tang, heat-treated piece of 1090 carbon steel is a great, economical DIY “project”.

    • Falcata is a better slicer than the katana, plus it has more weight behind it due to the blade shape. I want to get a custom one made eventually. I really do like katanas though, closest I have is my Kingfisher Woodworks resin infused yagyu bokken. Figure an unbreakable bokken will work better against zombies than a cheap blade.

      • Falcata is like a falchion – they’re both basically sword shaped axes. They do massive damage but don’t cut the same as a katana.

        When a katana cuts, it actually draws a bit during the cut.

        • Everything “draws a bit during the cut”. A sword is a sword is a sword.
          Stop being an ignoramus.

          If I chop at you with a falcata, I will draw during the cut. Unless you are a log. Are you a log?

    • I like spears as well. When it comes to stand off distance, spears beat swords. Swords beat short swords and machetes. And big knives beat little knives. There are all sorts of wonderful edged weapons available. Bows and crossbows are also very cool. I’m looking forward to tuning up my Barnett Ghost 410.

      Although the deadliest weapons inside of 10 feet – or 100 yards – is a semi auto 12 gauge shotgun.

      • A Mosin Nagant with a bayonet attached may not be quite so elegant as a purpose-made spear, but I feel it will still be quite effective should a highwayman burst into my apartment on horseback.

  4. “The mere sight of someone carrying a sheathed katana should be sufficient to cause an escalation beyond code yellow..”

    I take umbrage to this statement. Replace ‘sheathed katana’ with ‘holstered handgun’ and you have officially made bad guys out of all the open carriers. The guy carrying the sword might be a cosplyer or a historical re enactor, or he might be prohibited from carrying a gun but still need lawful self defense. Unless he’s acting suspicious the sword itself should not be the problem. I agree with the rest of the article.

    • Most states have laws against carrying blades of any considerable length. A handgun or rifle is within the law ( where legal). Yellow isn’t red; if I saw a guy with a hammer and I wasn’t at a construction site I’d spike from green to yellow.

      • and Honestly all those Knife length laws are obscene under the 2nd Amendment and should be overturned as well. If we have the right to carry a gun- we should have the right to carry a sword. Why anyone would want to over course other than to make a statement is beyond me; but that’s not relevant to a Constitutionally protected right.

        • Unless I am mistaken, all branches of the military have dress uniforms which include swords. I know I loved to play with my Dad’s as a kid, which he got as a cadet at the Naval Academy. And I see pictures yearly of graduating cadets getting married and emerging to a tunnel of crossed swords by their classmates. I wonder at the idea of laws forbidding swords, maybe these are just “look the other way” instances.

          I do think if many people carried swords, carrying guns would get WAY more popular. Someone carrying a sword would scare the p1ss out of me.

        • There is an official sword for AF officers but no uniform that authorizes it’s wear. Outside of special color guard/honor guard uniforms that is. Very sad but not surprising given the way my service fails at certain aspects of appreciating our military heritage.

      • Strangely enough, it is legal to openly carry a sword in California–except in Los Angeles (unless you are in a movie).

      • Yeah – the article wasn’t entirely factual either concerning the lethality of a katana either.

        A lot of people fetishize Japanese swords but a big sharp piece of steel is a big sharp piece of steel. Warriors would not have carried various styles of swords if they didn’t work.

        Swords and edged weapons are a serious hobby of mine and I think a lot of folks would be surprised how lethal a bronze short sword can be.

    • exactly. The mere sight of someone carrying a sheathed katana should be sufficient to cause an escalation beyond code yellow, is mis leading.

      i have walked through NYC and NJ both in costume and out with swords for years. buying yhem selling them snd carrying them. is long they are NOT concealed, they are not an issue. at many store i ask them to hold it for me as i shop. dozens of cops ask stop ask a few questions and then act like kids wanting to know where they can buy one. lol to bad all mine are one of a kind. i made them all.

      have sold them to cops on the spot, most at events. no joke one cop went for cash while i waited at a coffee shop down in soho. he came back with cash n 5 other cops asked how much for me to make more. oh yeah those mean old NYC Cops.

      but never draw your sword in public. have it tied down and secured and your safe. most cities its required. plus best to leave it at home unless your going to/from an event, a sale/purchase, or the place made/repaired the weapon. Never Conceal them other then a case. unless you want to talk to cops every other block … leave the sword at home.

      any business can deny you service if your armed in anyway.

    • Agreed … this was also the first thing I thought of too when I read it. Disappointing to see in the article.

    • I think it’s ridiculous that in most states we can carry guns but in very few can we carry swords. WTF over?

    • Dear Vhyrus:

      Consider please, the context of the article. Obviously, there are many circumstances where the mere open carrying of a sword is not a cause for alarm. In this context, however, the weapon, sheathed or drawn, represent an imminent deadly danger, a danger which, according to media accounts (they’re often lacking in accurate details), the officers failed to appreciate, causing one of them to be seriously injured.

      • The contextual situation that your writing left in this reader’s mind was anytime, making yours a general blanket statement. That might not have been your intent but how is a reader to know that?

        How does a police officer—or anyone—recognize that a person wielding a katana poses an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death?

        Your paragraph’s opening sentence set the context as general and not tied to a specific incident or circumstance.

  5. Back in the day, swords, when they were the common side arm of the soldier and state enforcer were outlawed to the common people.

    Only those vetted by and paid as government agents trained in there use could be trusted with such a lethal weapon.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • That’s one reason Sam Colt was called the equalizer. Suddenly ordinary people, without time for much practice or expensive edged weapons, could make trouble for nobles, who had the time to become experts and the money to buy good ones.

      That’s my guess why statists hate guns so much — it lets ordinary people defend themselves and assert their independence.

  6. I’m more a fan of the northern European greatsword. Not as fast, but has a definite advantage in shear reach and raw force. Good for knocking around somebody trying to hide behind a shield. Something Japanese were not known for.

    I am however looking into something like the odachi sword. An extra long and thick katana. I think cold steel makes one.

    • your looking for a O-Katana, cheness cutlery makes a few. Larger and longer, cause lots of us americans are taller with longer arms than the typical asian.

    • Have you ever held a Katana? They are slow, tip heavy and brittle. I would take a western sword over on of those any day.

      • Viking Ulfberht sword, twisted vs folded sword. same steel quality but far more flexible and more versatile sword.

        this comes from someone trained all the major styles. all have their bonuses. but Japanese style in Japanese armor vs knight it vikings….. Japanese loose by big margins.

        japanese style is also limited and good vs unarmed or non steel armored combat. simple chain mail is more flexible and better than Japanese version of fullplate. very few Japanese only the lords and highest samurai could afford true plate armor even close to Europeans.

        with out writing a short book. the best vs the best were pretty even. common soldiers east meets west… the east have little chance.

        in comes Crossbow then guns and armor becomes a hazzard for all. cutlass, the short katana and rapiers for speed win out. gun in one hand, sword in other. 2handers become a liability unless your amazing with one.

        • The true Ulfberht–and there are many fakes even in the age they were famous–were most remarkable for the quality of the steel as opposed to the manner of production. The true swords are made of a relatively pure crucible steel, probably imported, as the manner of its production was unknown to the Norse. Because of their exceptional steel, there were unlikely to fracture or bend in half during battle, unlike the home-grown swords.

        • the mythical efficacy of the samurai is one of the most annoying myths in history. try slicing through European medievel armor with a katana and see where that gets you.

          I’ve held a real katana, and it would be deadly against UNARMORED foes in a one-on-one fight. No match, though, for a combined arms assault of even Roman legionairres with gladius, shields, and team work,

          In fact, one on one in a “cage match”, I’d bet on an armored European knight with a shield and a mace to kill a samurai with a katana 99% of the time.

        • Samurai wore armor. There is a reason why the katana was a side arm and not the main weapon of battle, which were spears and bows.

          It wasn’t until the Edo period when a bunch of Samurai were sitting around getting paid for basically just being born as Samurai (and very, very bored) that the “soul in the sword” and other nonsensical beliefs started asserting themselves.

        • What people don’t realize is that Japanese were saddled with a severe shortage of quality iron to make steel out of, so all their weapons are compromises designed to deal with that issue. On one hand, it means that the average quality of what they did was better (because you wouldn’t waste valuable steel on something subpar), but on the other hand, it meant fewer swords and armor on the battlefield in general, which leads to somewhat different tactics. Whereas European (and Middle Eastern) smiths didn’t have to deal with such problems, and so their designs are more broadly utilitarian.

      • Obviously you’ve never held one. Not a genuine example anyway. They’re not slow, front-heavy, or brittle.

        • The cheap Chinese knockoffs are. Usually made of stainless steel, they are brittle. They are not typically tapered in width from hilt to tip, as real swords, which throws off the balance and weight. Katanas are mostly brittle in the tips, as that portion of the blade is entirely of the hardened outer stee, which is more brittle than the inner core made of a softer flexible steel. Many authentic katanas have been shortened over time to regrind the broken off tip. For those not familiar, a katana is constructed as a sandwich, with the outer layers (the bread) being made of a very hard steel that has been folded many time, while the inner core (the meat) is only folded twice to retain its flexibility. Otherwise the swords would indeed be brittle.

        • Well they are brittle along the edge, western swords like low 50’s (Rockwell C scale) and spring like quality’s, and Japanese swords that are differential treated have hardness in the high 50’s and a very soft spine (comes from the clay on the spine when quenching). High Rockwell ratings of 58-61 produce a brittle edge when subjected to large forces such as when a sword hits armor or any of the metal objects that soldiers carry. There are many accounts of a katana being “Saw toothed” after a battle for this very reason. Western swords fared better against armor, but like all edged weapons also suffered battle damage, many accounts of a sword being notched…

        • I’ve held antiques and cut with a good amount of quality production swords.

          Katanas are not all equal, which makes sense as some Japanese swords schools teach completely different styles and techniques.

  7. This is something that is often lost among people now, not just the antis, is how deadly a human can be even with primitive weaponry. Though I would not call a true katana primitive. I would certainly love to have one if the SHTF, as it is probably the best hand to hand weapon there ever was.

      • You said that like the 1911 is not the best weapon, or .45 acp the best round…. I never thought I would see a caliber debate in an article about swords!

        Besides .40 is better, and 9mm you can just have a lot more of it.

        • 😛

          I used that particular firearm and caliber on purpose because because that it is /good/ there is no doubt. Calling it the best ever is going to vary from person to person, though.

    • And how is it these guys went to all the trouble of creating a faux katana and failed to notice/realize that a great deal of the katana’s utility comes from its slightly curved blade?

      • Lynn is the real deal practitioner of many weapons based martial arts. He’s huge supporter of the the 2A and no doubt would destroy the poor SOB that messed with him. You have to give him some respect for actually training and advocating training. Something more than most internet commandos can’t understand.

        Cold Steel now makes a curved tactical katana machete, new for 2015.

        • I’ve actually been curious about the Cold Steel blades. They claim to be combat quality on the one hand. Yet reading the description sounds like they are over-sharpened. Plus the fact that they are apparently made in India.

          I’d love to hear from someone that’s got firsthand experience with them.

        • I’m a knifeaholic and own pretty much every major brand of knife. I own just about as much Cold Steel knives as the collective of all my other brands. I appreciate their sharpness and design in regards to defense and outdoor utility task. They have lots of affordable product lines. I have not experienced a knife too sharp from them or any brand. There lines are affordable because they have companies in foreign markets, Japan, Taiwan, and South Africa making their tools. They haven’t had a American made blade for many years but recently they’re 4-Max Folder is 100 percent made in America. They are also using Carpenter CTS XHP and Carpenter CTS BDI (an American made alloy steel) in a good deal of their folders and fixed blades. So you have some options there. I would sell just about every other knife before I’d give up the few Cold Steels that make up a crucial part of my EDC and Outdoor kits. Hope you decide to take a chance on them. – AJ

  8. I don’t mess around with edged weapons, per se, but can attest that having seen and handled a Japanese samurai sword/katana that my wife’s uncle had brought back from his WWII Pacific service 60 years earlier was still as sharp as a razor blade and clearly had the weight to easily whack somebody in half with a single stroke. Anyone waving one of those around near me is destined for shark chum toot-sweet.

  9. As the owner of a number of swords, I also disagree with the notion that the mere sight of a sheathed sword should be cause for alarm. Yes, they can be deadly weapons. No, they don’t magically jump across the room and slaughter people. A reasonably trained swordsman can make a mess of the unwary it is true – nor does it need to be a Japanese style sword: most sword patterns are purpose built to fulfill a task, used within that style of combat they perform well. Viking era blades were not efficient for stabbing, but do well at slice and hack work. Even the 1863 manfacture NCO sword I own bears scars from combat – although it functions best at thrusting (classic fencing’s version of stabbing) but seems to have done a fair amount of slashing – exigencies of combat I suppose.

    • True this.

      One could do quite considerable damage with a $3 Machete from Harbor Freight Tools.
      Big knives are formidable no matter what type they are..

    • I think many of you are being unnecessarily hard on Mr. McDaniel. Considering the danger presented by a sword, his thesis in the article, he only commented that the sight of the sword would raise his situational awareness to greater than yellow. I am pretty sure that if I saw someone in public with a sheathed sword where there was no good reason for that I would give a little additional attention to his demeanor until I was satisfied he posed no threat. That is mere prudence, not prejudice.

      When I occasionally see someone here in Vegas with an open carry pistol I always take a moment to assess their activity to ensure they do not pose a threat to myself or anyone else. As soon as I am satisfied, which usually does not take more than a moment, I let the matter slide.

      Open carry of a rifle in an urban setting is another thing entirely. I have to wonder at the purpose for this since there is generally speaking no particular reason to carry a rifle in the city when you could easily carry a pistol – this isn’t Texas, after all. I will definitely give this person a little bit of amber review before I decide he is just a harmless eccentric.

      Situational awareness means evaluating the environment and any potential threats. ANY visible weapon is a potential threat and until you have assessed the character of the person with the weapon to your satisfaction it would be foolish in the extreme to pretend there was no possible danger.

  10. Did I just read this right? Did TTAG just insult every open carrier by implying that a sheathed weapon is somehow an immediate threat? WTF did I just read? Is this opposite day?

    • not sure. The core fact that any stick, sword, gun or bare fists can be a deadly threat is always true. I guess how you respond emotionally to the situation is what is important. (don’t get your drawers in a bunch)

    • Have you guys never heard of CONTEXT?! A police officer who approaches a domestic violence situation must view any weapon, fun or otherwise, as a threat. Your most ardent open carry advocate should not expect his 2A rights to be honored while he’s committing other acts of violence. His rights don’t trump his wife’s desire not to get beat or the cop’s desire to return home safely (even though those rights are not enumerated in the Constitution).
      Context, people, context.

    • Dear Aerindel:

      No, you did not read the article correctly. While I do not speak for the editors of TTAG, this article takes no position at all on the open carry of weapons, sword, handgun or long gun. That’s a topic for an entirely different article. My entire purpose was merely to point out the deadly danger swords represent. Because Americans have no cultural swordsmanship tradition and little experience with them, it seemed a worthy topic.

      The officers in this case failed to recognize that danger and as a result, one was seriously injured. Beyond that, one is reading into the article that which is neither intended nor there.

  11. Damn, but I love Cold Steel, been a fan more than 25 years, I guess. Unless I’m mistaken, that fat guy is the owner/founder, near full-time martial arts for some 30-odd years. Don’t count on that fat being fat, he reminds me of my son’s karate instructor in Okinawa, short and squat in street clothes, also a 7th degree black belt, there to study under the top men in the world in her discipline (who are all in Okinawa). My son got to go along from time to time (at 14), probably for her to show him off as a student of hers, since advancing at that level is more about teaching than doing.

  12. The mere sight of someone carrying a sheathed katana should be sufficient to cause an escalation beyond code yellow, but when their hand touches the grip of the weapon–just as with someone gripping a handgun–any officer should immediately draw their handgun and at the very least go to ready (weapon pointed in the direction of the threat, muzzle pointed downward, somewhat below the sightline).

    No. Just no.

    “When their hand touches the grip of… OFFICERS should immediately draw their handgun…” That cannot be the only criteria. “The mere sight of a sheathed katana… beyond code yellow” What’s the term for irrational fear of swords?

      • katanas are not “better” in a practical sense, although the medieval katana was generally superior to a contemporaneous European sword. But I have held a European executioner’s sword, and it was really sharp. So the Europeans could put an edge on a sword when they wanted to do so. But swords were just one tool in the toolbox.

        a medieval European knight in full armor with a shield and a mace would be pretty much invulnerable to a samurai with a katana…even without any sword at all, the armored European knight could easily kill a samurai with a katana (if the samurai couldn’t or wouldn’t flee).

        but of course, Japanese knights had more weapons than just a Katana, just like European knights had more weapons than a sword, too.

        • Dear Aaron:

          I’m reminded of an edition of Mythbusters wherein various swords, including an inexpensive katana knockoff, were tested to determine which was “best.” Unsurprisingly, the katana performed poorly against chain mail. No plate armor was in evidence, but it would have performed poorly there as well.

          Just as with firearms, no single weapon is perfect for every situation, nor did I imply such. Used within its design limitations and the purposes for which it was made, a katana is an efficient and deadly weapon. It was not designed to be used against chain mail or plate armor.

    • Similar to the irrational fear of guns, hoplophobia, it would be something like sumbitchcutmyhandoffophobia.

      As with firearms, you cannot place the blame on the weapon. You MUST pay attention to the person in control of the weapon. Just as there is no such thing as “gun violence” there is no such thing as “sword violence”. It is always the person who is the problem, or not.

  13. I don’t think the breathlessness about katanas is necessary (little too weeaboish for my tastes) but of course an edged weapon like that is dangerous. But every time the police shoot someone armed with a knife\sword\etc they get sued because they “should have shot him in the arm” or some such nonsense.

    • There was an early episode of Cops where they were trying to take a disturbed man with a knife into custody so they could get him some counseling. He led them a merry, but slow, chase down a freeway, but refused to surrender. When a patrol car boxed him in against the guard rail one of the officer shot him in the leg, which resolved the situation immediately.

    • It’s not surprising that people who are not “into” swords get most of their information from movies that same as people who are not “into” guns do the same.

      I love putting a WWI era saber in someone’s hands and watching their eyes widen as they feel the inherent lethality.

  14. To those complaing of the leap to beyond yellow:

    “In condition orange, you have identified something of interest that may or may not prove to be a threat. Until you determine the true nature of whatever has piqued your interest, your “radar” is narrowed to concentrate on the possible threat and will remain so focused until you are satisfied no threat exists.

    Contacts you make throughout your shift — either dispatched or self-initiated — are obvious examples of a condition orange focus. These people are not currently a threat, or you would move swiftly and smoothly to the next higher color. Instead, these individuals simply could be a threat, so you shift from condition yellow (relaxed but alert) to condition orange (specific alert).

    You may make this harmless shift many times a day as you go about your normal routine. If someone or something looks out of place, you change from a 360 degree general awareness to a more focused concentration in a specific direction. At the same time, you can’t drop your general awareness, because a bad guy in front of you may be a distraction for another behind.”

    Sounds reasonable to me.

  15. I’ve chosen a sword before when I thought we had an intruder, my straight cavalry sabre, specifically. With the layout and and area of engagement of my apartment, it was the ideal choice. Not as well balanced as my bastard sword, but much smaller. It allows for a cleaner thrust and cut in tight quarters and it has the advantage of the heavy brass guard and knucklebow. Not a very elegant weapon, but brutally effective.

    Today, my “comfort” choice for home defense is sword and pistol.

    • let’s hope your choice was a real cavalry sword, and not a dull replica or ceremonial sword.

      God, I hate dull replica and ceremonial cavalry sabres. Only good for cutting cake at change of command ceremonies.

      • Real. Yes. Correctly edged. Sharp enough to cut and thrust, but not so much the edge is ruined if you as much as look at it sharply. Nothing fancy or expensive, but It holds its edge well. It’s strictly functional. Honestly, I think more people screw up a sword by oversharpening them than anything else. No. Not ceremonial, either. Nor is this one particularly valuable. If I ever had to use it and LE takes it, I won’t be in tears.

        It actually resides in my office now – sort of a trademark. I’ve used it as a pointer when speaking. Offered it to the CEO for “attitude adjustment” once when he needed to get someone in line.

    • Bastards are a bit long for indoor use, especially if you have 8′ ceilings. For indoors, I’ve always wanted to get my hands on an artillery short sword (20″ blade, modeled after the early Roman short sword. They were produced well into the 1860s, have plenty of reach, and enough heft for both cut and thrust).

    • Sword and pistol? You should add a couple pair of handcuffs, so you can cuff the burglar after he faints.

  16. It’s articles like this that make me bristle….. because we’re constantly hearing bitching from arm-chair quarterbacks who hate firearms, hate cops always responding about how cops should be using less than deadly force.

    If the cop had fired his weapon before getting sliced and diced there would be cries of police brutality, how the guy “only” had a sword, etc.

    • I bet the smoker was already hot and primed before they started, between each scent they shoveled the meat in, heluva BBQ that afternoon, you just had to serve yourself with a sword, come one, come all! And bring your BBQ sword!

  17. You don’t cut someone “several times” with a real sword and have them survive long enough to make it to the hospital.

    Was probably a mall sword, made from tin cans and not sharp.

    Any untrained numbskull with a real sword, European or Asian, can easily kill someone.

    I know krap about swordfighting, but have held a couple of antique good condition real European and Japanese swords, and they are really sharp to fairly sharp. In the case of European swords, have a point than will run right through somebody.

    • Most wall hangers are either Pakistani pot metal (useless and will not sharpen) or stainless, which will cut well enough, but nothing like the real thing, and will break before they bend. there was a case in Baltimore a couple of years back where a house occupied by some Hopkins students was burgled. After the police report was made and the police had left, one of the kids though he heard something out in the garage, He went to investigate with his trusty wall hanger katana. And yes, the burglar was there, back for more, and he attacked the student. One hammering blow landing on the perp’s shoulder cut down far enough to rupture the aorta. No charges were filed.

  18. The words of Jack Churchill come to mind, “an officer who goes into combat without a sword is improperly dressed.”

    That being said, I’m a little burned out on the hype around the katana, I recently got my hands on a pinute and I’ve decided that Filipino blades are underrated. I realize that strictly speaking a bolo isn’t exactly a sword, but considering the real life application against the bolo battalions of WWII and Japanese troops, I consider it justified.

    • I do Filipino martial arts, and I’ve got a bunch of machetes in my house. Woe to the burglar who lets me get to one. As far as the cops go, my sparring experience tells me that a guy with a sword at typical indoor distances can launch am attack faster than they could draw and fire.

      • Agreed, I studied a number of martial arts for 3 years, but I think eskrima was my favorite. I need to start taking classes again, but I moved recently and haven’t the time or resources to Find a school

  19. I’ve been practicing fighting techniques actively with modern tomahawks for a couple years now, and I rapidly found that they have a couple of distinct advantages over traditional swords/machetes/knives. If you know what you’re doing, it is quite simple to get close in, trap an attacker’s weapon, disarm them, and/or use the beard of the blade to control their movements or puncture vital areas (neck/shoulder/elbows/knees) faster than they can strike and reset. Not only that, but I own a couple tomahawks that can be thrown and strike blade-first a majority of the time without much effort, and from a surprising distance. Not only that, but they make great entry/egress tools, and collecting wood for fires a lot easier.

  20. I remember talking to a knife sensei, I met at a gun show a few years back.
    I was intrigued, but skeptical, so later I googled him.

    Per his respected contemporaries, he was the real deal.
    Here is something he said that stuck with me;

    “The way to tell who won, in a knife-fight between two trained fighters is simple:
    The loser bleeds out in the street.
    The winner bleeds out in the ambulance on the way to the emergency room.”

    “Rush a gun. Run from a knife.” ~ Jimmy Hoffa

  21. Katanas (and cutting swords in general) aren’t as easy to use as you might think.

    Your edge alignment and followthrough need to be precise if you’re going to actually cut deep. Any sloppiness in the cut and it’s just not going to do all that well.

    Is it still deadly and terrible? Yeah, but without practice, really no more so than a $10 machete.

    • Wow, that was a effed-up video!

      When will Mr. Fisk document the dangers of firearms?

      He seems like he’s trying to do the right thing.

      I’ve emailed Shannon Watts to see if her organization will finance another video on guns and hopefully Mr. Fisk will be available.

  22. My only problem with the original video is that a Katana and a machete are two completely different swords. Putting them together in a description is ludicrous.

    The article was right on the money.

  23. A katana is a 27″ long, 2 lb. straight razor. Just gently brushing up against the edge will result in a serious cut.

  24. “…flick blood from the blade, and return the weapon to the sheath….”

    LOL. The author warns against movie cliches, yet displays movie-grade knowledge of “proper” techniques.

    You can never “flick” all the blood from a blade, and blood is highly oxidizing. Once you get blood down inside a sheath it’s virtually impossible to get out and will contaminate the blade every time it’s sheathed thereafter, so you will *never* sheath a blooded blade without a thorough cleaning. Not a “flick.” Good grief.

    • eh, who cares. i’d take medievel european armor, a shield, and just about any weapon (a mace, a baseball bat, a ditch-bank blade, whatever) over just a Katana any day.

      • I agree with you, actually. I’m not a katana fan boy. But the admonition to not sheath a bloody blade applies to any type of blade. I think European swords were, on the whole, better. But, nowadays, you might as well go with a mass market utility machete. Since nobody really gets in sword fights any more, yeah, if you’re armed with a baseball bat, a shovel, whatever, you’re way ahead of the unarmed guy. But it’s a lot more compact to carry a 9mm and spare magazine.

          • While I do love the beauty and elegance of a katana I do agree theat it’s not the pinnacle of sword making.

            One of the benefits of a broad or bastard sword is that the entire sword is a weapon. The pommel, the hilt, every inch of the weapon can be used for attack. Remember that these blades aren’t all that sharp (or shouldn’t be) so there are even medieval traing text with techniques where you take the sword by the blade and attack with the hilts. Stuff you don’t normally see at the local ten-fairs. 🙂

            • the katana might be better if combat was conducted one-on-one between unarmored or lightly armored foes who don’t carry shields. But NO sword cuts european armor – you have to penetrate with a small point driven with great force.

              • by the way, to clarify what I meant by the Katana “might” be better under those restricted circumstances, I mean it’s debatable.

                the Katana was probably better for cutting, although some European swords were very sharp. But cutting is really a limited capability on a battlefield. many times ancient team combat gave little room to swing a sword in a cutting motion.

                Roman soldiers were quite deadly using teamwork, shields, and stabbing motions against foes weilding cutting swords – in fact, the foes had no chance unless they could break up Roman teamwork. (plus Romans had combined arms, various types of javelins, archery, trebuchets, field works and fortifications, and highlyndeveloped logistics).

  25. “It should never be forgotten that a sword can be thrown as well,”

    More movie-quality commentary. Yes, by all means disarm yourself by turning your highly-evolved lethal melee weapon into an awkward, ill-balanced, unreliably-performing projectile.

    • hey, a gun can be thrown, too! Maybe a .308 rifle thrown with enough emotion can be as deadly as a .308 properly fired…no wait, never mind.

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