A Guide To Tanto Knives

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Dating back to the samurai era, the tanto knife is a weapon that is used for the purpose of close combat situations. It stands out from many other similar knives because of the highly detailed folding and forging process, the heat treatment that it is subject to, and the polishing methods that are used on it. This goes to show that the tanto knife is more than a weapon and is actually more like a piece of art.

Forms of tanto knives

Over the past 700 – 800 years, the Tanto has seen many different shapes and sizes of blades. Nowadays they come in three different forms. The traditional tanto has a guard on it that is known as a tsuba, then there is the aikuchi that has no guard on it, and then there is the hamadashi and this has a small guard on it. The size of the blade length ranges from around 5 inches up to 12 inches. Those with blades that are any longer than this are not considered to be tanto knives and are instead short swords or ko wakizashi.

The two most popular forms are the hamadashi and aikuchi knives. This is because they can be easily and discreetly carried, whilst being quickly deployed with the guard (tsuba) getting in the way. With tanto knives are typically used in close quarters combat a guard is not really something that is needed. 

When it comes to the shape of the actual blade, hira zukuri is one of the most common ones. This form is pretty much flat all the way from the spine of the knife, all the way through to the edge of it. Thanks to this unique shape, the knife has a much greater ability to slash through its target, including being able to pierce through armor. The blade is both super thick and narrow at the same time, meaning that it was strong when penetrating the desired target.

Another common shape is shobu zukuri, which has no yokote but does have a ridgeline on it. 

Combat uses

In close quarters combat situations, tanto knives are used for the purpose of penetrating armor that was made during the time of the feudal era. Thanks to the very unique shape (narrow, long, and thick) it was able to easily make its way through even the toughest of armor. Japanese art depicts the use of tanto knives in many of these close quartered combat situations. 

This type of combat happened regularly, which is why samurai soldiers practised in it so much. Other weapons and swords that these warriors, such as tatchis and katanas, were not designed to be able to pierce their way through armor. 

Although tanto knives do have some slashing ability, stabbing is where they are most effective and can be used to bring down the enemy. Whether it is being used for stabbing or slashing, there are actually a number of different ways that you can grip a tanto knife depending on your preference. 

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