A Guide To Swords

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For thousands of years, sword makers across the world have designed and constructed unique styles that have become the swords we know today. There are hundreds of different types of swords from four major regions: Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Instead of detailing each type of sword, here is a brief guide to some of the notable types of swords from each region.

European Swords

There are a variety of swords that originate from Europe, most notably the two-handed sword. This type includes the Scottish claymores and longswords. These swords were so massive that they had to be wielded with two hands. This is the type of sword you'd see in the film The Lord of the Rings.

Another major type of European sword is the rapier. The design of the rapier, a long narrow blade with a sharp point, makes it perfect for thrusting. In fact, most rapier blades are not sharp except at the tip. Another important element of the rapier is its intricate hilt design that protects the hands during battle. From the rapier, you also get the smallsword and the epee, which are mainly used for fencing and decorative garb.

Another predominantly European type of sword is the backsword. The swords that fall under this category include basket-hilted claymores, cutlasses and basket-hilted swords. These swords have single-edged blades with thick backs for support. Like the rapier, these swords also have complex hilts because they were often used by European cavalry.

Asian Swords

When discussing Chinese swords, there are two major distinctions: the dao sword and the jian sword. The Chinese dao swords were created during China's Bronze Age and have several distinct characteristics. They usually have a slightly curved single-edged blade and were perfect for thrusting and slicing during conflict. The second important Chinese sword is the jian sword. Unlike the dao, which is known as the "General of All Weapons," the jian is known as the "Gentleman of All Weapons" because it is a very simple double-edged sword.

Japanese nihonto swords are another type of Asian sword. A samurai sword, also known as a katana, falls under this category. The common trait of nihonto swords is their long, single-edged blade. It is fairly standard-sized compared to the range of the other Japanese swords and has a long handle, so it can be held with two hands. Other worthy Japanese swords include the odachi, tachi, nodachi, tsurugi and wakizashi.

African Swords

Unlike Asia and Europe, the African continent has not provided an array of notable sword-types.  According to Wikipedia, there are only nine recognized swords, and none fall under major categories. One of the most interesting types of African swords is the khopesh, which came from Egypt. These swords resemble sickles and can be seen in the movie "The Mummy." The khopesh has a unique design with a somewhat circular blade that was used more for disarming opponents than slicing them.

A second type of African sword called the shotel originated in ancient Ethiopia. This weapon has a simple wooden handle and a curved blade to reach around the shield of enemies to stab them in vital organs. They were most effective against mounted cavalry, where they would rip enemies off their horses.

Another sword called the ida is used by the Yoruba people of West Africa. It is distinctive because its blade goes from being narrow at the handle to thicker by the tip. Legend also says that the Yoruba people added peppers or poison to the blades in order to make the slice deadlier. In general, the ida is extremely sharp, making it perfect for multiple purposes, such as hunting, battling and cutting.

American Swords

There are even fewer American swords than African swords. One of the reasons there aren't many original American swords stems from the fact that modern weaponry already existed by the time the region was colonized. The only recognized sword from America, according to Wikipedia, is the macuahuitl. This sword was used by Aztecs and was usually made from volcanic glass and obsidian. Although the macuahuitl was more like a wooden club with sharp fragments sticking out of the sides, some say it was sharp enough to decapitate a man.

Most remaining American swords consist mainly of collectibles designed from existing styles. For example, U.S. Civil War swords are essentially the smallswords described earlier. Other swords made for the United States are created primarily for military ceremonies.

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