what is a nodachi sword

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The Nodachi is a Japanese sword of enormous proportions. It has the same design as the famous katana; a semi-curved sword with a complex handle. But it is so heavy that, throughout history, few have been worthy of wielding it with skill.

We are talking about a sword that, it was believed, was capable of piercing a horse and its rider with a single blow. That’s how heavy and powerful this legendary samurai sword is.

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History of the Nodachi

There are records of the Nodachi that date back a long time. It is believed that the first Nodachi appeared for the first time in the fifth century.

In the past, this type of giant katana was often attributed to Japanese mythology. It is something that is still possible to see today in a different variety of art works from ancient Japan.

An example of this is the Nodachi known as “Hutsunomi-tamano-tsurugi”. This was a sword of enormous proportions that, it was believed, a god had been given to the emperor, with the aim of ending a violent revolt.

The first records we have of the physical existence of a nodachi, however, date from the Heian period. Apparently, it would have belonged to an emperor. But not because it had been given to him by a god, but because the emperor himself had asked to have it forged as a replica of the legendary swords of mythology.

Of course, to possess a sword like that, to which divine qualities were attributed, would only reinforce the figure of the emperor as a descendant of the gods. How else would he have managed to own a sword that was attributed only to the divinities?

Nodachi on the Battlefield

After the use of Nodachi became a little more popular —just a little, as it never became too common— several warriors began to use it on the battlefield. Of course, the Nodachi is a huge sword, so only the strongest and most skilled warriors had the honor of carrying it into battle. They would be in charge of fighting the cavalry, making it retreat every time it tried to attack.

A warrior with a Nodachi would try to attack the horse’s legs, either to cut them off or to hurt the animal and thus make the rider fall. It must have been a fairly efficient sword against the cavalry, since there was a saying at the time that a Nodachi could cut a horse in half with a single blow.

The Nodachi is too heavy to carry as if it were another katana. Most commonly, warriors would carry it on their backs or in their hands. In cases where they carried it on their back, they needed someone else’s help in drawing it— most likely they would ask for help from an assistant or comrade in arms.

The Legendary Warrior with a Nodachi

In Japanese history there are many samurai who stand out from the rest. These were exceptional warriors and often possessed characteristics that made them unique.

One example is Miyamoto Musashi, who had perfected a fighting style that involved the use of two swords. This had made him a lethal warrior, capable of facing multiple enemies at once.

The legendary Nodachi warrior, in fact, even fought a duel against him.

This warrior was Sasaki Kojiro, a samurai who lived during the Sengoku period and until the early Edo period.

Sasaki’s beginnings, like those of Musashi, are somewhat diffuse. It is believed that this warrior learned the art of hand combat from Seigen Toda. This was not only his teacher, but also his training partner.

The story goes that Sasaki would have chosen the Nodachi in response to his master’s excellent use of the kodachi-an especially short sword. Almost like water and oil, the two fought with swords that were polar opposites.

Sasaki Kojiro made the most of his Nodachi by keeping his distance and executing accurate strikes. On the other hand, his master used his speed to shorten the distance and attack.

With years of training, Sasaki learned to make the best of his Nodachi. He learned all his tricks, all his techniques— he understood all its advantages and disadvantages. And he became a unique warrior.

Sasaki had his own Nodachi, which he never changed. He had named it “drying stick”, and he fought with it until his last moments. It was a huge sword, with a 90cm steel blade.

Despite the enormous size of his sword, Sasaki used it with total mastery. He was able to execute unusually fast and precise strikes, making him a worthy opponent for any samurai master.

In time Sasaki began to make a name for himself among the samurai legends. He was winning duels, perfecting his technique and gaining followers. He even perfected his own technique with the sword, known as “Swallow Cut”.

This special technique was so called because it simulated the movement of a swallow in flight when descending. The movement consisted of a fast and powerful descending cut, followed by an upward one.

Another variation of this attack consisted of pulling the sword back during the upward movement, so that later it could stab the opponent.

Sasaki’s techniques sought to reduce large movements to the minimum possible when attacking, replacing them with short, concise strikes. Thanks to this, he could use the Nodachi as easily as a normal samurai would use his katana, with the benefit of being able to take advantage of the full potential of the size of the sword; more range and more strike force.

Sasaki fought many warriors throughout his life. But of all his duels, the most famous was against Miyamoto Musashi himself.

Nodachi vs Katana: The Great Duel

Sasaki’s duel against Musashi is one of the most emblematic in Samurai history. It is nothing less than a classic in Japanese history.

As with much of the story, the details are somewhat fuzzy. The fight was a fact that was talked about a lot at the time, and it is normal that the history could have been somewhat deformed over time.

According to official sources, it was Musashi who challenged Sasaki to a duel. The two samurai had maintained a cold rivalry for several years and were the subject of much conjecture. So, when the duel was finally announced, the legendary fight was the focus of all the enthusiasts.

The fight was going to be something like the Khabib vs McGregor of the 17th century.

Musashi agreed to meet Sasaki on the remote island of Ganryujima. The legendary Nodachi swordsman arrived early, but Musashi did not.

In fact, Musashi intentionally took 3 hours to appear, in order to make Sasaki angry.

As expected, both the dueling officials and Sasaki himself were extremely irritated. The Nodachi warrior was furious and could not wait to fight his rival.

The cherry on top was a comment made by Musashi.

When it was time to fight, Sasaki had drawn his sheath and thrown it to the ground. Musashi, seeing this, mocked that if he didn’t need his Saya anymore it was because he was already dead.

The duel began and both fought fiercely. Sasaki attacked in anger, and Musashi exploited that anger and provoked him to make a mistake. Until finally it happened. Sasaki miscalculated a blow, and Musashi took the opportunity to kill his rival.

After that duel, Musashi made a vow never to hold another duel to death. However, the damage was done, and the best Nodachi warrior in the world would never fight again.

Despite his death, Sasaki’s mark remains on history as one of the greatest warriors in history.

And, without a doubt, the best Nodachi fighter history has ever seen.

In fact, it is because of the popularity that warriors like Sasaki gave to this massive sword that today we can offer you the opportunity to customize your own 100% Nodachi online and have it delivered to your doorstep.

The Decline of the Nodachi

Although not a very popular weapon, the Nodachi was used by a wide variety of warriors on the battlefield. Sasaki, after all, had left a legacy of hundreds of warriors who worshipped the Nodachi.

After the battle of Osaka-Natsuno-Jin, who pitted Ieyasu Tokugawa’s side against Mitsunari Ishida, the popularity of the Nodachi gradually declined. This legendary sword was seen less and less on the battlefield. The Nodachi was gradually moved from its position as a weapon of combat, and was relegated to rites and ceremonies.

In other words, little by little the Nodachi met the same fate as the tanto. Taking a look at history, we can find two main factors that were responsible for this.

On the one hand, battles in the open were becoming increasingly rare. It was more and more common for battles to take place in other contexts; either in the form of guerrilla warfare or fighting within villages.

Little by little, this idea of gigantic armies in an open field, about to fight to the death in a bloodbath, was disappearing. The conflict became more complex. More strategic. But no less brutal.

This made the Nodachi lose almost all its usefulness in war. Little by little, those who used Nodachis were replacing them with katanas; smaller and more versatile.

The second cause was a new law dictated by the Bakuhu government. This had strictly prohibited the use of large swords. This made the Nodachi literally an illegal weapon. In order to comply with the regulation, many had to cut down the size of their Nodachi swords.

This is also the main reason why it is so rare to find ancient Nodachis. Many of them had to be cut down by law, transforming them into katanas. The few that survived were those destined to worship the gods— in a sense, a return to the roots of the Nodachi as a divine sword.

Uses of the Nodachi Sword

The Nodachi is a colossal sword, which can measure almost twice as long as its bearer. Therefore, it is not a sword for just anyone. To use a Nodachi properly, you need to have the strength to wield it without problem.

The most common use of the Nodachi in the past was as a weapon against the cavalry. Like the nagamaki, it was an exceptional sword when it came to bringing down a rider.

On the battlefield, the Nodachi was also a symbol of the army’s strength. Like a banner or any other symbol used on the battlefield, this massive sword encouraged the troops. The mere presence of this huge sword imposed respect and injected fear into the hearts of the enemy army.

The Nodachi Today

Today the Nodachi is still as striking and imposing as it was in feudal Japan. This is why many people today choose to have one hanging in their living room, as it is a sword that inspires both respect and admiration— as well as being an excellent conversation piece if you know stories like Sasaki’s.

The Nodachi is also a powerful weapon in the right hands. Many martial arts schools today practice with Nodachis, keeping the legacy of this huge sword alive.

Sometimes practitioners, seeing the weight of these swords, opt for a katana or other lighter sword. However, the few who decide to follow the path of the Nodachi come to discover a powerful weapon, which in the right hands can do things that no other sword can.