The katana originated in the Muromachi period (1392–1573) as a result of changing battle conditions requiring faster response times. The katana facilitated this by being worn with the blade facing up, which allowed the samurai to draw and cut their enemy in a single motion. Previously, the curved sword of the samurai had been worn with the blade facing down.
The length of the katana’s blade varied considerably during the course of its history. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, katana blades tended to be between 70 and 73 cm (27.6 and 28.7 inches) in length. During the early 16th century, average length was much closer to 60 cm (23.6 inches), but late in the 16th century, it was again approximately 73 cm (28.7 in).
The katana was paired most often with the wakizashi or shōtō, a similarly made but shorter sword, both worn by the members of the warrior class. It could also be worn with the tantō, an even smaller similarly shaped knife. The katana and wakizashi when paired with each other were called the daishō and they represented the social power and personal honor of the samurai.
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