What's so special about samurai swords (katanas) !! Are Longswords the best swords in history?
What's the most powerful sword made ever? Does the effectiveness of a sword depends on the context it is used for.
The first thing to remember is that a sword is a sidearm. Before the era of gunpowder, the main arms were spears, pikes, halberds, poleaxes or missile weapons - not swords. Second, there is no such thing as an universal sword. Swords are designed on different situations, with different kind of enemies and purposes on mind. Some swords are good against only one or few types of enemy, while others are overall mediocrities but will work just in any situation.
At first, I thought the Katana was the best sword ever made due to its reputation, but then I saw a German documentary which compared a and not only does the Longsword have a cutting ability rivaling that of the Katana, but with their traditional metals they are forged with - Japanese metal for Katana, European for Longsword. The Longsword appears to be much more durable and can cut another sword in half, while the Katana gets badly bent when trying to cut the same kind of sword.
Obviously the technique for swordplay differs from East to West, which also complicates things. Katanas do one thing well and with style: cut. But one should never say that the western longsword can't match it's cutting power, because it certainly can and often will if done with a well designed and well maintained blade. The katana is modeled after an earlier Japanese sword called the tachi, which the samurai had used since the Kamakura period (12th century). Like the katana, the tachi was curved and single edged, but the blade was longer and had more curve, and it was used as a cavalry weapon.
If we take a European sword that is contemporary to the Katana, we get… almost every single European sword type out there. Because the Katana was used for 900 years, whilst the Europeans kept on improving their swords all the time. The European Longsword that is the most similar in use to the Katana. Both are meant to be used two-handed.
A katana typically tops out around 30 inches of blade, which is for me the length of a moderately short one-handed sword. A longsword blade can range from 33 to even 39 inches of blade.
The longsword developed with armor, and shield. The straight tapered blade, is designed to part mail links, and exploit chinks in plate armors, while the armor is intended to provide maximum protection. Let us not forget the shield, again providing a primary defense for the warrior.
Each weapon is ideally suited for it's time, place and style of warfare and not to mention its status.