The Japanese katana was a very popular, and arguably the most influential type of sword in modern-day Asia. This type of sword is typically characterized by a curved blade and pointed tip as well as light weight, making it ideal for fast, agile combat. The weapon’s popularity soon spread to Europe and eventually got its own renaissance during the 15th century due to its effectiveness in combat. It was really not until the 17th century, however, that the art of sword-making influenced by the japanese katana in Europe started to truly develop. Several technological advancements were introduced and by 1700, many European swordsmiths had mastered the art of forging a blade. It is this technological development that resulted in what we now call a “rapier” or sometimes just referred to as a slender sword.
Influence of the Japanese Sword on European Sword-making Techniques
The blade length of a rapier is typically proportioned to be “between” 40 and 52 inches in length. While the exact origin of the weapon has never been determined, some scholars believe that this style of sword was introduced to Europe by Italian fencing masters during the 15th century. Other historians believe that they were actually used as cavalry weapons. Regardless, these swords became increasingly popular by the 17th century. Many weapons masters began incorporating the use of a rapier in their curriculum which eventually led to the weapon’s widespread use during 18th century England. For instance, in the case of Great Britain, England’s Royal Military Academy was established solely for the purpose of training military officers in fencing with a sword. And even at that time, there were still many other fencing schools operating throughout Europe.
Another fairly common characteristic of the rapier was its narrow blade. It is widely believed that this characteristic was initially created to make the sword more maneuverable through tight spaces. In fact, some weapons masters would even purposely create weapon with very thin blades for their students to test their reflexes and agility in battle. Interestingly enough, this narrow sword eventually became a trademark trait within the British military as well as its royal family such as Queen Victoria who personally used a “sabre” or short sword throughout her life. More specifically, it was Queen Victoria’s uniform that incorporated a narrow blade that greatly influenced the development of the military sabre which is still significantly used today.
Although, not all rapier was made using a thin blade. In fact, many swordsmiths intentionally forged their blades with thicker, meatier blades. These weapons were typically heavier and wider than rapiers and much more powerful in combat. They were very commonly used although often times in conjunction with sword-fighting techniques developed by the use of lighter, thinner rapiers.