Shikomizue Swords


    Mastering the Shikomizue Sword: A Samurai's Guide 

    The shikomizue, a concealed sword within a cane, was as much a symbol of strategy and honor as it was a stealthy weapon. Developed during Japan's Tokugawa period, the shikomizue was particularly useful for samurai and other military personnel who needed to maintain their weapons discreetly. In this detailed guide, we will take a closer look at how to handle this distinctive weapon, from the various handling techniques to its historical significance.

    Understanding the Shikomizue

    Before mastering the shikomizue, it's vital to understand the sword's construction and purpose. The term 'shikomizue' translates to "prepared cane" or "staff sword," highlighting its dual nature. The blade of a shikomizue is often moderately short, designed for ease of concealment and close-quarters combat. The scabbard of the shikomizue was typically carved from a single piece of wood, bamboo, or metal, with a false bottom to hide the blade, and an internal release mechanism for quick drawing.

    The Historical Context

    The shikomizue became a vital tool for samurai after the Meiji Restoration, which heralded a period where open carry of weapons was prohibited. Samurai who had lost their status and the right to carry swords could still keep their skills sharp and their weapon at hand—albeit concealed—with the shikomizue.

    The Shikomizue's Place in Japanese Swordsmithing

    Shikomizue were often crafted by skilled swordsmiths who had to take into account the need for the weapon to appear as much like a regular cane as possible. This meant that the scabbard had to be carved with the care typically reserved for the finest swords, even though it would see little exposure.

    The Art of Concealed Combat

    Utilizing the shikomizue in combat was a task of subtlety and precision. Because the weapon was hidden in plain sight, the samurai who wielded it needed to be adept at drawing and employing the blade without giving away their intent.

    Drawing the Shikomizue

    The first step is to efficiently draw the shikomizue, which involves a two-step process—the release of the blade lock and the actual pull-out motion. The samurai would use swift, precise movements to ensure the blade is ready for use in an instant.

    Stance and Grips

    With the blade drawn, the samurai would adopt a low stance with the sword hand close to the body. Grips would vary depending on the samurai's skill and the immediate need, but a secure and comfortable hold was essential for controlling the weapon.

    Strikes and Techniques

    The shikomizue was versatile in its application—capable of delivering powerful, stabbing thrusts or sweeping cuts. Close-combat techniques would often involve rapid movements and changes in grip, allowing the samurai to parry and counter with efficiency.

    Honing Your Skills with the Shikomizue

    To truly master the shikomizue, one must commit to regular training and the exploration of advanced techniques. This section will guide you through refining your approach to this distinctive weapon.

    Solo Drills and Kata

    Solo practice drills or kata forms are excellent ways to enhance muscle memory and alignment. Practicing the draw, different strikes, and evasive techniques can all be honed through repetitive solo training.

    Partner Drills and Sparring

    Working with a partner allows for the simulation of combat situations, which is crucial for understanding the applications of the shikomizue. Begin slowly with controlled strikes and blocks, gradually increasing the intensity and speed as confidence and skill improve.

    Cross-Training with Other Weapons

    Cross-training with other traditional Japanese weapons, such as the katana or bo staff, can provide valuable insights and transferable skills. Many principles of movement and combat will translate across different weapon disciplines.

    The Legacy of the Shikomizue

    Understanding the shikomizue extends beyond its tactical use—it is also a piece of cultural heritage and a testament to the ingenuity of the samurai class.

    The Shikomizue in Modern Times

    Today, the shikomizue continues to hold a place of honor among collectors and practitioners of Japanese martial arts. Its unique design and place in history make it a coveted item.

    Ethical Considerations

    While the shikomizue may evoke a romantic image of the warrior, it's essential to respect the cultural context and traditions surrounding its use. With deep roots in the samurai's code of conduct, the shikomizue represents a commitment to discipline and integrity.


    Mastering the shikomizue is a pursuit that combines physical prowess with historical knowledge. By following the steps outlined above and immersing oneself in the legacy of the samurai, one can truly appreciate the elegance and effectiveness of this covert weapon. Whether as a martial art enthusiast or a seeker of history, the shikomizue offers a unique window into a bygone era of honor and combat.