TIL Katana produced during Japans feudal period are far superior to any other sword to come out of the country at any other time.




The legendary Ulfberht swords were produced for only a few centuries, and less than 200 are known to exist, but they were most likely the best swords in the world at the time. They were made in the viking age, between the 9th and 11th centuries, before the katana had even replaced the tachi in Japan. 


Early versions of the Ulfberht were imperfect because they used the same construction method as later katana: a soft pattern-welded core for shock absorption with a hard edge welded into it. Although still superior to iron-cored swords common at the time, it had not yet peaked. The folded core was vulnerable to flaws like delamination, cold shuts, and inconsistent welds.


The perfected version was forged from a single billet of purified crucible steel, so homogeneous and consistent it wouldn’t be matched until the industrial revolution. It had a relatively high carbon level, something similar to modern 1070 steel, probably imported from central Asia along the Volga trade route.


The shape was Oakeshott Type X, the type that would later evolve into knightly cruciform swords. They had a wide fuller groove to reduce weight and improve lateral strength. The superior steel allowed it to be much lighter and faster than contemporary swords, allowing the type of agile handling necessary to get around the ubiquitous shields of the era. The pure, monolithic construction also made it more durable and shock resistant than contemporary construction, critical for springing back to shape after twisting impacts against shields and helmets. 


Ulfberht swords in particular show futuristic transitional traits: known examples were longer than normal viking swords, possible due to their lighter weight and one-piece design. Metal armor was rare and expensive at the time, so there was no need to pierce it with needle-tipped swords.

Even a couple inches of extra reach were a huge advantage because the point wasn’t very acute.

Ulfberht swords had rounded but tapered tips, ideal for a sneaky technique called “slipping” the sword.


A viking warrior could surprise his enemy by letting go of his sword mid-swing, allowing the grip to slip through his fingers for a few inches before catching it near the pommel. Combined with the inertia of the swing, the sword appeared to leap forward in a combined sort of slash-thrust. More rounded points would be better slashers, but wouldn’t snag and cut in as deeply when slipped. 

TL;DR: vikings were not barbarians and their best swords were the best in existence, the Ulfberht sword was equal to and probably superior to the best katana in several aspects, like durability.

Peak Discourse: Writing a long and well-researched post because you misread what OP actually wrote.

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