The parts and terms used in describing blades and bladed weapons.

Blade Parts

GEAR: Anatomy sword by George HernandezAnatomy of Japanese swords

Aka finger ring. One or more small loops on the grip close to the guard that protect the finger as well as aid in gripping the sword.
Mune in Japanese. The non-cutting edge of a sword. For swords with no "back", such as  a double-edge sword or some thrusting only swords (EG: Rapiers), then the back of the sword is on the thumb side, and the front of the sword is the where the fingers are. See also edge.
balance point
See BP.
The main metal of the sword. This is the sword from the point to the butt of the tang. Sometimes the blade refers to the non-tang portion of the sword, esp. when making a distinction between the "length of the sword" v the "length of the blade". In Japanese swords, the length of the blade is the nagasa, the straight line between the point (kissaki) and the false edge shoulder of the blade (munemachi).
The tempered point. The region of a Japanese sword from the yokote to the point (kissaki).
Balance Point. Aka COG (Center Of Gravity); COB (Center Of Balance). There is a point along a sword that will have the mass of the sword on either side the same. The BP is dependent upon the sword (such as weight of the blade or the pommel). For greater point control, the COG should be closer to the grip (EG: 50 mm = 2" for epees). For swinging swords, the COG will be further down the sword (EG: 150 mm = 6" for a cavalry sword). Sometimes the BP is measured in distance from hand guard/crosss or as a percentage of the overall length of the sword.
The uppermost part of the weapon. Generally knives have butts and swords have pommels.
center of gravity
See BP.
Center of Balance. See BP.
Center of Gravity. See BP.
compound guard
Aka compound hilt. More complex hilts composed of annellets or finger-rings, side-rings or ports, a knuckle-bar, and/or counter-guard or back-guard. Swept-hilts, ring-hilts, cage-hilts, and some basket-hilts are forms of complex-guard.
Center Of Percussion. The "sweet spot" of a sword. Because sword are flexible and may oscillate and vibrate, some spots on sword will vibrate less when used to hit than other spots. The COP has the least vibration of all the spots on a sword's blade. Sometimes the COP can be found by looking at the blade so the edge is toward you and tapping the pommel: The COP will vibrate the least.
Some swords have portion of the blade indented between the blade and the guard to serve as a ricasso. This is distinct from the shoulder of a blade which is usually hidden.
Pronounced "deh-boe-lay". See forte.
Filo in Italian; fili for plural. Schneide = schnyde in German. The cutting edge of a sword. Swords may have one, two, or no edges, such as, respectively, a katana, a Claymore, and a rapier.

A composite or piled sword, such as katana, uses a harder (usu. higher carbon) steel for the edge and a softer and less brittle steel for the rest of the blade.

A sword, regardless of the number of edges it has, is also said to have true edge (ha in Japanese; filo dritto = "thread straight" in Italian; langer schnyde = langen schnyde = "long edge" in German) and a false edge (mune in Japanese; filo falso = "thread false" in Italian; kurtze schneide = kurze schnyde = "short edge" in German). The true edge is the side where the knuckle/fingers are. The false edge is the thumb is. The true edge can be applied with greater strength and pressure than the false edge.

See also back.
false edge
See edge.
A collar, ring, or cap put towards the ends of the grip to strengthen it, prevent splitting and wearing, or even to fit more snuggly into a scabbard. Decorative ferrules are known as Turk's heads. A Japanese sword typically has three ferrules: the kashira metal cap on the butt (tsuka gashira) of the hilt (tsuka); the fuchi metal collar between the guard (tsuba) and the handle of a Japanese sword; the habaki metal collar at the base of the blade that helps to wedge the sword snugly in the scabbard (saya).
Flech in German. For swords with an edge or two edges, this is a side of the blade that is neither the edge or the back of the sword.
See fuller.
Debole in Italian. Schwech in German. The lower portion (mid to point) on a sword blade which is weaker (or "feeble") but has more agility and speed than the forte. Thfoible e does most of the attacking. Word derived from the Old French word feble for "feeble".
Aka prime; fort. Stark in German The upper portion (mid to hilt) of a sword blade which has more control and strength than the foible. The forte does most of the parrying. The word forte is derived from the Old French word fort for strong and not from the Italian forte a musical term for loud and forceful; thus forte is pronounced as one syllable. See also foible .
Bohi in Japanese. Xue gou in Chinese. Aka erroneously as a blood run or blood groove. A shallow groove or channel on a blade which lightens it as well as improves strength and flex. Contrary to common belief, a fuller has nothing to do with blood flow, cutting power, or a blade sticking. A blade might have one, several or no fullers running a portion of its length, on either one or both sides. Narrow deep fullers are also sometimes referred to as flukes. The opposite of a fuller is a riser, which improves rigidity.
(1) How the sword or weapon is held. See my section on Grips.

(2) The handle of a sword or other weapon. For the sake of more precise language, I will try to use the word "handle" instead of this meaning of "grip" since it is a perfectly good  synonym. See handle.
Tsuba in Japanese. Aka cross, guard, cross-guard, lower guard. The element of the hilt between the handle and the blade. The guard often serves to protect the hand. A guard may consist of a disk, bowl, and/or quillon(s). Some swords have no guard at all. A pair of simple, straight, front and back quillons is the classic cross-guard which would give such a sword a cruciform. The guard may also be divided into inner guard (thumb side) and outer guard (knuckles/fingers side). A guard may have extensions such as annellets (finger rings) or langets. Any more and the guard would have to be classified as a compound guard. See also upper guard.
Japanese for the true edge of the sword. See also edge.
Japanese for the shoulder of the blade on the ha (front of the sword). See also shoulder.
A Japanese word for the visible line separating the harder steel of the edge from the softer steel of the rest of the blade.
Aka the grip. The part of the sword that is grasped by the hand or hands. For the sake of more precise language, I will try to use the word "handle" instead of this meaning of "grip" since it is a perfectly good  synonym.

Clearly the length of the handle is key to whether a sword is "single handed", "hand-and-a-half", or "two handed". In fact, the length of the handle is more often used to determine the "handedness" of a sword than the length of the blade.

The main portion of a handle is made of materials such as wood, bone, horn, or ivory. Most handles have shapes, coverings, or textures that are decorative as well as increase the ease of gripping. EGs: Engravings, grooves, wire wrapping, and cording wrapping.
Tsuka in Japanese. The lower portion of a sword consisting of the guard, handle, and pommel.
The surface between the ridge line (shinogi) and the hamon.
The jacket steel of a Japanese blade. The kawagane is harder and less ductile than the shinganae (core steel) which the kawagane surrounds. The kawagane is often folded a number of times to form layers of steel. The use of at least two kinds of steel in Japanese blades allows them to flex while having a razor edge.
The point of a Japanese sword.
An extension of the guard towards the blade that helps to wedge the sword snugly in the scabbard
Towards the point end of a sword. The reference is from when the sword is sheathed.
Japanese for the shoulder of the blade. See also shoulder.
A small rod or pin (usu. of bamboo) holds the tang in the hilt (tsuka) of a Japanese sword.
Decorative pieces underneath the tsuka ito (cord) on the hilt of a Japanese sword that covered the mekugi (pins which tang in the hilt) and also served to improve the grip with texture. See also saya.
Aka mezzo; medio. The middle of the blade is between the debole (weak) and the forte (strong).
The main cutting part of a Japanese blade, i.e. roughly 15 cm (6 in) from the point (kissaki).
Japanese for the false edge of the sword. See also edge.
Japanese for the shoulder of the blade on the mune (back of the sword). See also shoulder.
The length of a Japanese blade, specifically the straight line between the point (kissaki) and where false edge shoulder of the blade (munemachi).
Kissaki in Japanese. Punta in Italian. Ort = ortt in German. The non-tang end of a sword blade. The tip of a sword. The point is may be pointed or rounded but it is usually sharp except for practice swords.
The counter-weight on the uppermost end of the weapon which also secures the hilt to the blade. In many cases the hand can either rest upon or grip the pommel. The pommel is commonly a disk or knob but may be more decorative. If the hilt is permanently attached to the pommel then it is said to be peened (hammered) on. See also butt.
Pronounced "pree-may". See forte.
The individual "fingers" or "reeds" of the guard. A guard may have more one or more quillons on either the fore or front side (where the fingers or true edge is) or rear or back side (where the thumb or false edge is). A quillon may be straight (perpendicular to the blade), curve downward (towards the blade), or curve upward. A quillon may have extensions such as annellets (finger rings) or langets. Any more and the guard would have to be classified as a compound guard.
A dull portion of the blade usually just below the hilt. The ricasso may be "cutaway" (smaller than the width of the blade) or wider, but it is usually thicker than the main portion portion of the blade especially if the ricasso is truly below the hilt. Two-handed swords in particular may have long handles as well as an extended ricasso to provide another gripping area, i.e. a "false grip". Sometimes the ricaasso is within the guard if it is just below the cross-guard quillons but above the extended quillons of a compound guard as in a cage-hilt. Especially for rapiers, a finger or two may be extended to the ricasso for greater point control, i.e. "fingering".  Sometimes the sword maker will place his mark on the ricasso.
See fuller.
Shark skin, ray skin, or similar material wrapped around the wooden core of the hilt (tsuka) and under the cord (tsuka ito) in Japanese swords.
The scabbard of a Japanese sword. While Japanese women had many things that they could elaborate for display purposes, the Japanese men only had their sword to work with. This is why the hilt and saya was became elaborate. The saya had 3 midokoromono, "distinctive features", which consisted of a kozuka (pocket knife), a kogai (a multi-purpose grooming tool), and a pair of menuki (decorative and grip improving covers for the mekugi pins which tang in the hilt).
Saya in Japanese. Jian Qiao in Chinese. Vagina in Latin. Aka sheath. A sleeve that encases the blade of a sword. The top end of the scabbard where the sword enters is called the throat. The bottom end of the scabbard is often covered with a piece of metal called a chape.

There is a trend to distinguish between scabbards and sheaths: The scabbard is a hard case, whereas the sheath is a soft case.
(1) See scabbard and saya.

(2) To put a blade away in a scabbard or sheath.
The core steel of a Japanese blade. The shinganae is softer and more flexible than the kawagane (jacket steel) which surrounds the shinganae. The use of at least two kinds of steel in Japanese blades allows them to flex while having a razor edge.
The ridgeline. The ridge between the edge (ha) and back (mune) of a Japanese sword.
The surface between the shinogi and the back (mune) of a Japanese sword.
Machi in Japanese. The transition between blade and tang on the steel itself. The shoulder may be large for broadsword but small for rapiers. The shoulder of a Japanese sword consists of notches on the edge (ha) and back (mune) called the hamachi and munemachi respectively.
The curvature of a blade. This is indicated by two measurements: a distance and a location. The distance is the max of the arch between nagasa line and the back (mune). The location is where that max is on the blade. Different sword makers would place the curvature (max) on different spots of the blade. EG: The Bizen swords curved near the nakago (tang). Bizen is an area in the southeast region of Okayama Prefecture that had an abundance of swordmaking materials such as iron, water, and pine. Bizen was the largest sword maker in Japan esp. during from the Heian Period (794-1185) to the Kamakura Period (1185-1336).
Nakago in Japanese. Codolo in Italian. The continuation of the blade into and within the hilt. The tang is commonly attached to a pommel in western swords. The tang is usually attached to the hilt (tskuka) by the mekugi pin in Japanese swords. Sometimes the sword maker will place his mark (nakagomei in Japanese) on the tang.
The middle of the blade, between the forte (upper part near the hilt) and the foible (lower part near the point).
See point.
true edge
See edge.
The guard of a Japanese sword.
tsuka ito
See tsukamaki.
Aka tsuka ito. Cord wrapped around the hilt (tsuka).
Towards the hilt or pommel end of a sword. The reference is from when the sword is sheathed.
upper guard
The element of the hilt between the pommel and the handle.
waisted handle
A waisted handle is wider in the middle and and narrows toward the pommel or the guard or both. The waisted handle serves to "guide" the hands towards the upper and/or lower parts of the handle.
A widening of the sword near the COP. This design is found chopping blades such as machetes and swords like the falchion or kilij.
The line between the ji and the point area (boshi), essentially the start of the point.

Blade Design

There are different blades for different usages, strengths, mass distributions, lengths, and masses (looks are important but secondary). Here are some characteristics for describing and designing blades and bladed weapons.

Observable Characteristics

Practical Usage


Page Modified: (Hand noted: 2007-10-16 19:26:44Z) (Auto noted: 2010-12-24 22:53:49Z)