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On a Japanese weapon, and in particular the Katana, the hilt is called Tsuba. Its role is to protect the hand and prevent it from slipping from the handle (Tsuka) on the edge of the blade, to balance it by counterweight, and finally to perfect the defense techniques of a Tanto.  

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The Tsuba are generally classified into two categories: those in iron (Ou Tetsu) and those in soft metals (Ou Kinko) composed of a wide variety of alloys: Shaduko (of midnight blue color in copper and gold), Sentoku (Brown in copper, zinc and lead), Shibuichi (Often gray in copper and iron),.... Most often circular in shape, they can also be found in various shapes (square, hexagonal, rectangular,...). Their surface is generally carved, decorated or openwork (Sukashi).

There are several features on the Tsuba, each having a specific function

  • The Nagako-Ana:The largest and most important gaps visible on the Tsuba, more or less triangular in shape, it is used to pass the blade of the saber. ​

  • The Kozuka-Hitsu:Hole in which we slip a Kogatana, which was a replica of the Katana blade but on a small scale, indeed Kogatana means "Ko" short "Gatana" which is a phonetic variant of Katana, it was used for all common uses of the Samurai , the most noble of all being to cut the goose quill which will allow the Samurai to write his last poem before his ritual suicide: the Seppuku.

  • The Kogai-Hitsu:Hole for storing the Kogai, a pair of spikes with many uses : edged weapon, chopsticks, hairpins, scraper for cleaning horse hooves or tool for armor. ​

The first rare Tsuba date back to the 6th century, made by the Shitogi school, but become more common from the Nara period in the 8th century. Much simpler in shape (drop of water), they were generally made of a copper or iron alloy. Until the Muromachi (1336-1573) and Azuchi Momoyama (1573-1603) eras, the Tsuba had a purely defensive function and was therefore simply a circle of bare metal. ​

From the Edo period (1600-1868), we began to forge Tsuba with much more elaborate aesthetics. It becomes a decorative object showing the social level of its owner. ​

Among the most famous Tsuba makers, we must mention the Goto school, founded by Goto Yujo (1453-1512) whose Tsuba were mainly used for ceremonial swords. ​

Some Tsuba are finely decorated and are the subject of collections. ​


Menuki :metallic ornamental pieces often of very good quality (which become real signed works of art), placed on either side of the handle (Tsuka). They have a decorative and also symbolic purpose by serving as a lucky charm. They are also used to promote the positioning of the hands and prevent them from slipping during the cut.



It is the Habaki-shi (Habaki Maker) who makes the Habaki. In Japan, he needs about 5 years of apprenticeship to perform this function. The tools are quite basic, consisting of hammers, files, pliers and a torch.


  Manufacturing phases: ​

  • The Jiganedori:Cutting in a copper sheet of a strip of 8cm by 5cm. 

  • The Hizukuri:The Habaki is hammered to give it its particular shape, namely, a thin end and the other thicker end. This will make it easier to enter the Koiguchi (the mouth of the Saya). Following the hammering and to restore its resistance, the metal is tempered. That is to say that it is strongly heated, then cooled by plunging it quickly into cold water.

  • ​​​_d04a07d8- 9cd1-3239-9149-20813d6c673b_​​_d04a07d8- 9cd1-3239-9149-20813d6c673b_The Ouimage and the Toshin-awase:It is now necessary to adapt the Habaki to the blade. But first, you must carefully wrap the slide in paper to protect its polished surface and not scratch it. The Habaki is then placed on the tang of the blade (Handle), then hammered, until it takes exactly the shape of the blade (Section). 

  • The Hamachi-ire:The Habaki will be held in place by a small copper wedge (Machi-gane), placed inside. The Machi-gane is then welded, but you have to be very careful because if the weld is bad, it is impossible to resolder it, because the base would be annealed, which would make it softer. 


  • Yasurigake:Now that the Habaki is properly fitted to the blade, it needs to be fitted to the Koijiri. Once the operation is complete, you can make decorative streaks or other ornaments such as Mon, these decorations should not be too deep because this would affect the good resistance of the Habaki and risk filing the inside of the Saya and create game. 


Initially, the Habaki was made of iron, then it became a precision piece and was made of copper, silver and also gold.​

The Habaki is the metal piece located at the base of the blade. It is used to balance the blade, and to lock the sword in the scabbard (Saya) and therefore to prevent it from falling. The Habaki is always made before the Saya, because it must be perfectly adjusted to it. The habaki also serves as a stop for the Seppa, for the Tsuba and the Tsuka. Because the Habaki is made of softer metals than steel, it also serves to absorb shocks. ​

To draw, you push on the guard (Tsuba) with your thumb to get the Habaki out of the Saya and be able to pull the blade. ​

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The Fuchi is the piece that sits between the Tsuba (guard) and the Tsuka (Handle), often referred to as the "underguard".
The Kashira is the name of the piece found on the pommel of the sword. The braiding of the Tsuka generally passes through the Kashira.

Traditionally ornamented with the same patterns, the Fuchi and the Kashira are offered by Masamune in matching pairs.



The Tsuka designates the handle of Japanese bladed weapons (A Katana, a Tanto for example).

The Tsuka does not have the sole purpose of being able to grasp the sword, but it can also be used to carry Atemi, or to deflect and control Tsuki.

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It is made of 2 half-shells of magnolia wood (Ho) glued with fish glue surrounding the tang of the blade, covered with ray or shark skin (Le Same, equivalent to stingray) because rot-proof and waterproof sweat and bound by a cord of cotton, silk or braided leather depending on the use of the weapon: pageantry, war, peace (Le Ito) under which are inserted 2 Menuki (Lucky charms). The connection with the tang of the blade is ensured by a bamboo peg, the Mekugi, the game against the Tsuba is ensured by one or more Seppa (Small pieces cut from a sheet of copper or brass). ​ 


The Saya is the name of the scabbard used for Japanese swords and weapons such as Katana or Tanto.​

Saya are normally made from light woods and lacquered on the outside. The Saya generally has a Kurigata, a small ring, to attach the Sageo (A braided ribbon). The tip of the Saya can be reinforced with a metal tip, the Kojiri. The mouth of the Saya where the sword is introduced is called Koiguchi.

The Saya has a particular importance in Iaido which focuses on the art of drawing the sword. Beginners in Iaido use Bokken with plastic Saya to learn the practice. ​

When sheathing the Katana in the Saya (Noto), the fingers of the left hand (Except the index) hide the Koiguchi (The opening of the Saya), the index serving to guide the blade. ​

Noto is one of the most important gestures in the practice of Iaido, it is at this moment that one is most vulnerable, this gesture is only done when one is absolutely sure of not risking anything, it is accompanied by a very deep Zanshin and at any time the sword must be able to spring from the Saya.




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  • Fuji:The collar installed around the head of the handle.

  • Habaki:Necklace threaded on the blade and placed before the Seppa and the Tsuba.

  • Kashira:The knob of the handle.

  • Koiguchi:The opening of the barrel.

  • Kojiri:The end of the scabbard.

  • Kurigata:The ring on the side of the scabbard where the Sageo is tied.

  • Mekugi:Wooden peg (Or solid material) to bind the handle to the blade.

  • Menuki:Ornamental elements located under the braiding of the handle.

  • Sageo:Usually silk or cotton, used to attach the scabbard to the Hakama.

  • Samegawa:Ray skin used as a covering on the wooden handle, under the braid.

  • Saya:Case or sheath to hold the sword.

  • Seppa:Metal wedge placed on each side of the Tsuba.

  • Tsuba:Saber guard.

  • Tsuka:Saber hilt.

  • Nakago: Silk of the blade.

  • Nagasa: Length of the edge of the blade.

  • Ha: Sharp.

  • Habaki: Rectangular copper piece inserted on the Nakago.

  • Mune: Back of the blade.

  • Seppa: Oval spacer washer that holds the Tsuba.

  • Ho: 2 half-shells of the Tsuka in magnolia wood.

  • Ito: Tsuka braiding cord.

  • Yokote: Edge perpendicular to the cutting edge, delimiting the Kissaki (point).

  • Nakago-jiri: End of the Nakago.

  • Hi: Grooves along the blade.

  • Mono-uchi: Point (variable according to the swords) located on the blade, where the impact on the target at the time of the cut will be the most efficient.

  • Yasuri-mei: Lines of files made on the Nakago, with various patterns and orientations, allowing among other things to determine the school of forge or the blacksmith.

  • Mekugi-ana: Hole made on the Nakago which allows the Tsuka to be fixed on the blade of the sword. Number 1 when the sword is recent and can go up to number 4 for older Koto type blades.

  • Shinogi: Edge on the sides of the blade, which start from Nakago to Kissaki and delimiting the junction between the plane of Shinogi-hi and the plane of Ha.

  • Mune-machi: Notch at the end of the Munewhere does the Habaki come to rest

  • Ha-machi: Notch at the end of the Ha (cutting)where does the Habaki come to rest

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