Hundreds of films, dozens of books, comics and games have accustomed us to the wonderful samurai katana sword. However, we will not ponder the "wondrousness" of the weapon but the fact that it is neither samurai nor sword, all the more katana. Shocking and against everything, what is being said today? And yet. But ab ovo ... The most important is that there are different ways of reading the same character in Japanese, namely "onyomi" - phonetic, originating in original Chinese and "kunyomi" - a meaningful one that uses the original Japanese word associated with this kanji (Japanese sign – a logogram). The sign カ, in phonetic reading - "to", and in semantic reading - "katana".
However, the word itself does not refer to melee weapons, but only a sharp object. To simplify, it can be described as a blade, but a blade of anything. Only after adding another kanji, e.g. mountain (yama), ox (gyu) or the word cut (uchi), a corresponding phrase can be created. Therefore, after adding the word "cut", an uchigatana (打 カ) will appear - a cutting blade - that is, a battle saber, the word "mountain" will be a yamagatana ax, and the word "ox" - a gyuto butchering knife (!). Noteworthy, in the flood of erroneous terminology, in the console game Dark Souls, of Japanese production, there is just the correct name - uchigatana, although it is rare.
Now let's get to the most controversial matter, namely, why not a sword but a saber, apart from the obvious issue that because of the curved blade it is a saber? The Japanese have a separate term for the sword: the character 剣 read with the meaning "ken" and phonetically "tsurugi". Therefore, the collective term "Nihon-to" does not mean Japanese sword but Japanese cold weapon (Nihon - Japanese, it - blades) although sometimes in this bag there is also a Japanese pole weapon (a yari spear and a naginata glaive also have ironmade heads / blades). Hence in Japan there is no problem in distinguishing between a sword and a saber. And why in Poland and almost all over the world the sword term is used, since in the homeland of this weapon exists the correct name - the sabre? The basic issue is the English word "sword". Commonly it is considered to mean "sword". Meanwhile, it means a long melee weapon. Despite the existence of the English word "sabre" for saber, even in serious encyclopedias of arms it is often written that a "saber" is a "sword", except that with a single-edged, slightly curved blade (!). In these works, European sabers, Hindu tulwars, and Abyssinian sickles or Persian shamshirs or Turkish kilidas are thrown into the sack called "sword". And nobody in their right mind would take them as swords!
And in Poland? Few people know that even before World War II in our country uchigatana was not called any other name but a saber. Due to the curved blade it was obvious to everyone (as a curiosity, in France, despite "world pressure", the saber name is still used for this type of Japanese melee weapon). And why is the word sword currently used in Poland? Apart from the turmoil of the word "sword", politics is the most important factor. During the Polish People's Republic, the authorities tried to fight the tradition of the Polish cavalry by making fun of it and its main weapon - a sabre (hence supporting the myth of the sabre with a "sabre" for tanks), promoted by the Germans. Therefore, when it began in Poland's interest in Japanese melee weapons, fans of this weapon preferred to promote the name of the sword, without any pejorative associations, mainly to "ennoble" their beloved weapon. And so it went for decades ... Terrible terminological confusion reigns, including the names of the basic weapons of the Jedi Knights from the Star Wars universe. Namely, in the original "light saber" is a light saber (!). Strangely, in the Polish translation, we have the correct weapon name (if you can say so about a non-existent weapon) the name of a lightsaber. Why correct? Because the energetic "blade" of the lightsaber is straight and not curved, which makes it a sword. So where does light saber originate? You can only ask about it its creator, George Lucas ... Finally, why not samurai but Japanese? Well, the myth is that the uchigatana sabre was the main battle weapon of the Japanese nobility (samurai) dressed in armor. This weapon was a tachi saber (also containing the katana sign) hanging on a pendant (like sabres in Europe). It was a heavy and longer combat sabre strapped to armor.
At that time, inserted into the belt (the cheapest solution!) uchigatana or sonnegatana ("borrowed sabre") was a weapon of the poor, peasantry, who could not afford armor. It was only in times of peace (after the period of civil wars sengoku), when the samurai gave up their armor, they began to wear shorter and lighter (no armored opponents!) uchigatanas. The peasantry itself was stripped of all weapons and banned from possessing them (this is clearly seen in the movie "Seven Samurai" by Akira Kurosawa, where the peasants in the village do not have any weapons and must rent to defend against the bandits of the seven samurai). So, in peacetime a sabre became a weapon for the nobility - samurai. In conclusion, whenever you speak of a samurai katana sword, you will know now that you mean the Japanese uchigatana sabre. But the question arises, is it so important? Regardless the fact that it is better to know than not to know whether Poles will hurt us if someone says, pointing to a drawing of a Polish girdled hussar (because in Polish tradition a nobleman would attach to a saber, not the other way around!) To a hussar saber - Oh, what a cool sword this hussar has got! But the samurai has a cooler sword! Katana!