Ninjato

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The ninjato (????), also known as ninjaken (????) or shinobi katana (???), is the most common name for the reputed sword a ninja would have carried. According to the book Ninjutsu History and Tradition by Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, Ph.D, Soke or Ninja Grandmaster of the Bujinkan Ninja organization, these swords came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Often, however, they were much shorter than the traditional daito katana used by the samurai of feudal Japan. The straight bladed, square guard sword (as seen in the image) is a product of the modern imaginative conception.

The typical ninjato carried by a ninja would most likely have been a wakizashi or shortsword fitted with a katana-length handle and placed in a katana-length saya (scabbard). This may have been used to deceive one’s opponents into miscalculating how quickly it could be drawn allowing one to use a battoujutsu strike faster than expected. It also disguises the weapon (that would easily identify them as a ninja) as a common sword. The extra space in the saya may also be used to store or hide other equipment or goods, such as tubes which act as snorkels or shiruken. Another advantage to using such a short sword was the increased ease of fighting at close quarters, an irrevocable requirement of an assassin or intelligence gatherer.

Modern ninjato are often straight with a square tsuba (hand guard), but this is not historically accurate. According to the same book by Masaaki Hatsumi, the ninja ken was straight, but only in contrast to the average sword of the period which were much more curved. The ninja ken still had a slight curve to the sword.

The Bujinkan dojo currently contains one school, the Togakure-ryu, which teaches the use of the ninja ken. Typically, this is a sword of wakizashi-length (slightly longer swords have been know to be allowed) that has been outfitted with katana sized koshirae (fittings).