The samurai used several different types of swords, with the katana being just one of them.
Most samurai commonly carried three pieces: katana (long sword), wakizashi (short sword) and tanto (dagger). Collectively, this set is known as a daisho. All of these pieces could be wielded either one- or (in the case of the katana) two-handed. Depending on their fighting style, they would:
1. Use the katana for attack and the wakizashi for defense;
2. Use the wakizashi as a secondary weapon in case they were disarmed;
3. As above, but use the tanto as a throwing weapon (which it was horrible at, due to it's large size); or
4. As above, but use the tanto as a close-quarter stabbing weapon.
If a samurai was defeated, or dishonored, he would be expected to commit seppoku (aka hara kiri, or ritual suicide). The samurai would use his own tanto to basically disembowel himself. At the same moment he finished the incision, another samurai (either the one that defeated him or one from his clan) would decapitate him.
Then, there are the other swords that the samurai employed:
Aikuchi/Kaiken - throwing daggers
Odachi - great sword (a size up from the katana)
Nodachi - two-handed sword (a size up from the odachi)
My training in shotokan, kendo and iaido.
· 1 decade ago