Archive for the 'Shuriken' Category


A Predatorial Shuriken

OK, So i’ll admit I’m not really the April Fools type. I sat thinking about all of the incredibly evil things I could have posted as an April Fools prank and realized… I just couldn’t do it. So instead, I’m gonna post about a fictional weapon that Ive always thought was very cool looking, but entirely impractical:

The Predator Shuriken

AvP Shuriken
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This weapon was one of the cool weapons wielded by the race of Predators in the Predator series of movies. This particular shuriken was prominently featured on the AvP (Alien vs Predator) and AVP2 movies. Now the one featured here is a non-functioning reproduction shuriken, primarily because, well, this weapon would be near impossible to make work in real life, for reasons I’ll get into shortly.

I truly love many of the design details of this weapon. But what makes it such an intriguing weapon to me is primarily the subtle physical impossibility and impracticality of it. It is a weapon that appears, on the surface, to be physically plausible, but upon closer inspection, reveals aspects that are implausible, but so tempting close to real, that you cannot help but wonder if it would be possible to duplicate in real life.

AvP Shuriken – life size prop

AvP Shuriken
[view full size]

For example, looking at the pic above, you may notice that the overall design of this shuriken vaguely follows that of the Japanese Fuuma (or Windmill) shuriken, but departs from traditional shuriken design in it’s asymmetry. The blades are all biased towards one side of the weapon. Now besides the fact this this offends my sense of symmetry, this massive weight imbalance would also make it a very impractical throwing weapon. And yet, in the movie, it is thrown just as a Fuuma shuriken would be, without exhibiting any of the idiosyncratic flight characteristics that one might expect from such a poorly balanced weapon.

An even more implausible feature of the weapon is the great disparity between the retracted form factor and the fully deployed form of the shuriken. Below is a picture of the center section of the weapon with the blades extended:

AvP Shuriken – Center Section

AvP Shuriken - center Section
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And here is a picture of the blades, again fully extended:

AvP Shuriken – Blades

AvP Shuriken -  Blades
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In the movie, the blades are shown to extend out of the center section of the weapon. From the pics, it is apparent that a considerable level of nesting can and would need to occur in order for this to be physically feasible. By my count, there are six blades, each blade consisting of 4 sections, an extension/pivot lever, an outer extension sleeve, an inner extension sleeve and the blade proper. The weapons deployment sequence is shown in the clip below:

AvP Shuriken – Deployment

AvP Shuriken - Deployment

Sweeeet…! Incidentally, the little clip above may also explain the weapons asymmetrical design. If the blades were to extend in a symmetrical fashion around the circumference of the weapon, there would be no safe place to hold it during deployment without risking the loss of a few digits. If memory serves, I think these were used primarily as throwing weapons, so if I were designing it, it would be perfectly symmetrical, and would open in mid air when thrown, so as to avoid the awkward asymmetrical design. The asymmetry seems like a pointless trade-off if you ask me, but then again, I’m not an alien weapons designer…

Anyway, during retraction, the blade would have to retract into the inner sleeve, the inner sleeve into the outer sleeve, and the whole outer sleeve assembly pivot onto the extension arm, which would then all fold neatly into the center section, completely occupying that space. Sounds good in theory, except that, given the physical dimensions of blades, sleeves, etc, there should be hardly enough room for all six blades, let alone a deployment / retraction mechanism…

Of course, given the advanced nature of Predator technology, these technical details would almost certainly only be limitations of human technology, and would be little more than niggling little technicalities to a predator engineer.

In the end, however, it is the overall aesthetic of the blades, and the deployment mechanism that makes this weapon so captivating, and while the technical challenges would be great, the design is ultimately so close to something that could be made using current technologies, it would be very tempting to try…

I wonder if DARPA would be willing to give me a research grant for this kind of stuff… 🙂

AvP Predator Shuriken – [Black Aris]


The hollywood glamour of the Ninja throwing star…

As a great fan of Ninja lore, I’ve always loved the Hira-Shuriken, or throwing star. It was a very useful tool for the Japanese Ninja, but simply not as lethal or as universally effective as Hollywood has made them out to be. Nonetheless this Hollywood glorification of ninja throwing stars has spawned some rather unique variations, like the following pieces of junk “art”:

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister
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OK, so this is hira-shuriken pocketknife hybrid design. Very cool lookin’. But of course, the first question that popped into my head was… “A ninja would not touch this with an extended length manrikgusari…”.

Folding blades are neat in concept, but even if they are cool and open in mid flight, so you don’t have to stand there for 5 minutes opening them up before you throw them, they always introduce structural weaknesses, and you can never be sure the blade locks will survive the chronic repeated impacts of throwing… I think I’m gonna pass on this one…

Shiflett Tech Twister

Shiflett Tech Twister
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Now here I thought I was making progress. Then that little nerd in my head deigned to raise his screechy voice at me: “Buuuut why are the points all split in half? Won’t that weaken the points?” Blasted geekoid… But good question. No good answers. Save perhaps because it makes it looks a little cooler. But we all know a true Ninja craves not things like “cool”. Only strength, efficiency and functionality. So we move on…

Ninja Shuriken

Ninja Shuriken
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AHA! What’s this!? Ninja Shuriken! Now this is a design I could see a ninja using. Simple, effective, solid, reliable, What more could a Shinobi Warrior want? Look at the thickness of this weapon. The sharp points. It would be heavy, and strong… Except for one thing. It’s cast from some cheap metal. If you look closely you can see the casting imperfections superficially covered by black paint. Dagnabbit! The points on this thing are gonna wear down to nothing, in mid air, during your first throw…

At the end of all of this, as I sit here writing my conclusion, I realize two things. First, I am torturing myself for no good reason. After all, there are actually a good number of perfectly good stainless steel hira shuriken designs available that I have chosen to totally ignore, just to rip on the stupid Hollywood and TV inspired cheap rip offs reproductions.

Second, I am anal retentive, and need to seek help about that shrill voice I keep hearing in my head that I sometimes wish I could burn out of my skull… It’s OK now though. I’m fine. No, really, I’m fine… 🙂

Ninja Shuriken – [True Swords]

Shiflett Tech Twister – [True Swords]

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister – [True Swords]


The Ever So Versatile Ninjatō

You are probably all familiar with Japanese swords. And I’m willing to bet that when someone talks about a Japanese sword, you conjure up visions of a long, shiny, curving blade. The swords of the samurai. They were ornate, and highly symbolic blades. It was said that the soul of a Samurai rested in his blade. As a result, Samurai swords were elevated to aristocratic status, and became symbols of rank and prestige.

Today, however, we aren’t going to talk about samurai swords. Nope. There was another, more pragmatic sword that probably had just as much an effect on Japanese history as did the Samurai Sword. And it was a soulless, heartless instrument indeed. None other than the spartan Ninjatō. The sword of the Ninja. The Ninjatō (or Ninjaken) were designed to play a much different role. They were neither swords of ceremony or of prestige. They were made to do one thing, and they did it very well. They were the Ninjas weapon-of-all-trades.

Ninjaken – Polished and Gold trim

Ninja Katana Polished ChromeNinj Katana 24k Gold trim
[view full size] [view full size]

Samurai swords were excellent weapons. However Ninja needed more from their weapons than just cutting excellence. They needed functional flexibility and versatility. And thus was born Ninjaken. Ninjaken differed from their high-brow cousins in many ways. First off, they were shorter. This allowed them to be used in smaller spaces, concealed much more easily, and were faster on the draw than the longer Samurai sword.

Battleready Ninja, Blk, Musashi Koga Ninja, Blk

Battle Ready Stealth NinjatoMusashi Koga Ninja Sword Black
[view full size] [view full size]

Another advantage of the shorter sword is that they were a little lighter, stiffer and less susceptible to lateral bending stresses than their longer Samurai counterparts. Ninjaken usually have a larger, square tsuba (guard). This, in conjunction with the shorter stiffer blade allowed them to be used in ways a samurai sword might not have tolerated well, such as leaning it against a wall, and using the larger, stronger square guard as a step.

They could also still be used with a full sized saya (scabbard), which would deceive an opponent into underestimating how long the sword was, and how fast it could be drawn. Then there was the added bonus that the remaining saya space could be used to hide all manner of small items, such as blinding powders and such. Between the numerous hiding places that could be engineered into a ninjaken and it’s saya, one could conceal a set of spike or star shuriken (throwing knives), tenouchi (small, hand-held impact weapons), powders, rope, tools, etc. The possibilities were endless.

Deluxe Ninja Warrior Set

Ninja Warrior Sword Kit
[view full size]

Due to the popularity of Ninjas in the media over the past two decades, Ninjaken design has been copied rather shamelessly, spawning numerous replicas, such as the weapon used by the Operative in the movie Firefly Serenity. But the basic formula has always remained the same. A medium sized, full tang, single-edged straight blade, usually with a square tsuba (quard), and a uniquely angled, tanto-like point.

Galaxy Viper, Striking Cobra

Galaxy Viper Sword SetStriking Cobra Sword Set
[view full size] [view full size]

All in all, Ninjaken fulfilled their design objectives admirably. It is truly an interesting weapon, well suited for it’s task as the versatile, multi-function, close quarters combat version of the prestigious Samurai sword, kinda like the medieval equivalent of a carbine, as opposed to a rifle… Not quite the same range, but just as deadly…

Galaxy Viper Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – 24-K Gold Trim – [True Swords]
Striking Cobra Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – Polished Chrome Trim – [True Swords]
Deluxe Ninja Warrior Sword Kit – [True Swords]
Musashi Koga Ninja Sword, Black – [True Swords]
Battle Ready Ninja Tech – [True Swords]


An Animated Glaive!

Ok, So while I was doing posts on movie glaives, I happened to run across a folding throwing weapon from one of my oft watched animes. I thought to myself “Why not do an anime weapon?” Now this may sound crazy, but I heard myself answer: “Because that would show you up for the nerd that you really are.”

Of course, I had to I answer right back: “Hah! It’s too late for that suckah!! Not to mention it isn’t that far of a leap from the fictional hollywood action movie weapons you’ve been pimpin’ so far.” I couldn’t very well argue with this logic. Though I suspect that any logic that is a product of inane psychobabble may not be particularly reliable. Dunno whether y’all will be more disturbed by the fact that I am blogging about an animated weapon or that I talk to myself. Either way, it doesn’t matter. ‘Cause, like I’ve said many times before, I’ve never professed sanity to begin with.

But anyway, here I am, getting ready to talk about an interesting kind of throwing blade that makes an appearance in the anime Naruto and also in the video games Final Fantasy and Ninja Gaiden. We will be focusing primarily on the only folding version of this blade, which was used by Sasuke in the Naruto anime series. We are, of course, talking about the Fuuma Shuriken, AKA the FÅ«ma or “Wind Demom” shuriken, more commonly known as the Shadow Windmill Shuriken.

Shadow Windmill Shuriken

Shadow Windmill Shuriken
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Now, in spite of being an anime weapon, it actually fulfills all of the criteria for the hollyood glaive. It is a multi-bladed throwing weapon. It folds up. And it has boomerang-like qualities to boot. Lucky for you, I just so happen to have an (all too brief) clip of one in action:

Fuuma Shuriken Deployment

Sasuke Hurling his Fuuma Shuriken
[click to view]

Sweet eh? Now I will mention that the game and anime versions of these types of weapon have one major difference to their live action movie counterparts. They are huge! They are not normal hira shuriken sized by any stretch of the imagination, being quite a few orders of maginitude larger than any of the others I have mentioned so far. In fact, a single blade of this particular monstrosity is about the size of a full-sized machete. When it’s closed it’s the equivalent of holding 4 large cutlasses side by side. Heh.

Closed Fuuma Shuriken
Fuuma Shuriken (Closed)

Now of course I do have a couple of reservations about it. Like the fact that I don’t see a way to lock it in the open position. Not particularly confidence inspiring. Not to mention that, given it’s size and potential weight, it would almost have to be your primary (if not only) weapon. Let’s face it. If you carried one, you might be hard pressed to carry much else. I mean look at it. It’s almost as big as Sasuke. Granted he’s just a kid, (a highly trained, very skilled killer ninja kid) but still. Any weapon that is almost as large as a teen-aged boy has some serious size issues… But then again we are talking about a fictional animated weapon that routinely defies the laws of physics, so what do I know.

The Monster Shuriken

Sasuke's Big old Fuuma Shuriken
[view full size]

But given what it could do, (if it were real) the simple but robust construction, and it’s intimidating appearance, (Did I mention that it is usually portrayed as a black weapon… Yes! Bonus Points!!) it would most certainly be quite an effective, durable and lethal weapon to wield. Assuming, of course, that you are A) a highly trained animated ninja, or B) carry steel I-beam girders around for a living…

But strength requirements aside, it seems that this weapon could actually be combat worthy. Unlike most of the other glaives I’ve blogged, this weapon has ample space on each blade for a handle grip throw to be used, though it would require some serious training to get good rotation and a clean release using it.

But the truth is, this is such a beautiful and intimidating (albeit impractical) weapon, I really don’t care bout it’s shortcomings. I’d buy one in a heartbeat. I have actually been toying with the idea of designing a working one, just to see if I can overcome the challenge of inventing a strong, reliable blade locking mechanism for such a weapon. Would be pretty awesome… But that’s probably just my inner nerd talking…


Some Contemporary Glaives.

Since I’m on a roll with the glaives, I thought I’d blog about a few more glaive designs. Today we will be looking at not one, but TWO of the more contemporary incarnations of the infamous glaive. Thats right ladies and jerks, today we will look at two modern and well publicized glaive designs, made famous by the comic vampire hunter Blade, and the resulting movies. I bring you none other than Blades Shredder and Cyclone Glaives.

Blade’s Glaives


Blades Shredder Glaive Blades Cyclone Glaive
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I won’t bother to recap my previous comments about the weaknesses of a folding blade, ’cause (assuming you have been following along) you now know them all. Right? Right? Oh Come ON!!. OK. You fail. Start this class again from the beginning. The rest of us are going to continue on. Those still with us are in for a treat, because the design of Blades Glaives present a unique set of potential problems, which we will cover today in class, one by one. Woot!

First off, you can’t see it from the pics, but Blades glaives are centrally spring loaded. The mechanism that keeps the blades secure in both the open and closed position requires a hub mounted spring in order to keep the blades in whatever position they are locked in. Personally I think this is a risky design move, especially for a weapon that experiences high impact or G forces, because the same forces could “pop” the mechanism on impact, causing the mechanism to fail. See if you can find an abused novelty store display model of one of these and you will see what I’m talking about. Just pray that after repeated use it doesn’t decide to fold up on you while still in your hand. Strike 1.

The second point to note on both blades, is the exaggerated size of the central hub around which the blades rotate to close. No doubt this is a direct result of the requirements of the centralized blade locking mechanism and the spring thereof. The resulting hub is large, unwieldy and eats up a huge section of the real estate that might otherwise have been used to hold it. Wheeee! Strike 2.

Which brings us to yet the third problem. That huge hub means that these glaives have no real handle. The Shredder glaive design does allow for a bit more hand room in the middle, but between the huge hub and the short blades, you would be hard pressed to throw this cleanly while still imparting enough rotation to make it stick in anything more solid than the seat of yer pappy’s overstuffed wing-backed chair. And it’d probably still bounce off that.

And just forget about trying the palm grip throw with one of these puppies, like Blade does in the movies. Much like the Beastmaster Glaive, it would very likely hang up in your hand or on your fingers on departure. Though unlike the Beastmasters Glaive, (if it’s any consolation), it probably remain open while it does so. Probably perform a 180° in your hand too, resulting in an “incident” that your idiotic friends may think hilarious at the time, but you might not find too humorous. Steeeeeerike 3! Yer Out!

All of this leads me to one undeniable conclusion. For any and all practical intents and purposes, the average hollywood glaive stinks! These particular designs, especially the Cyclone, are possibly some of the most impractical designs ever in the history of glaivedom. (Yes, I said “Glaivedom”. This is my glaivesphere, and I can use whatever glaivey word I want. Glaiveify at will, if you will. Now back to the Glaivespiel at hand. Glaiveisms Rule!! Ha!)

But practical considerations aside, these glaives (heh, heh, heh, I said “Glaives”…) do appear quite menacing, and that is a quality that can stand on it’s own merits. They look… mean. Especially the Shredder. Just don’t go confusing them for athletes when they are really just runway models… Doing so could literally come back to bite you in the proverbial ol’ hiney…

Blades Shredder Glaive – [Medieval Weapon Art]
Blades Cyclone Glaive – [Medieval Weapon Art]


Introducing: The Glaive

While pointing out the pitfalls of folding throwing stars, it occurred to me that there was another class of folding throwers that might make more effective folding throwing weapons than folding shuriken. Now they are all fictional weapons, but then again, many of the swords I have blogged about began as fictional weapons, so I thought, “Why Not?” I’d like to introduce you to the imaginary big Hollywood brothers, of the folding shuriken: the “Glaive”.

The Hollywood “glaive”, is easily described. It is a multi-bladed throwing implement whose blades could be folded into itself in order to give it a smaller form factor, presumably for easier transportation. They also seem to have a boomerang-like (even mystical) ability to come back to their wielder. I know of 3 movies featuring “glaive ” weapons. The Beastmaster, Krull, and one of my all time favorites, Blade. Today we will look at the very first example (that I know of) of the Hollywood “Glaive”. Namely the “glaive” featured in the movie “The Beastmaster

The Beastmasters Glaive (open)

Beast Masters Glaive
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In the Beastmaster movie, the protagonist (our friend the Beast Master) is given a throwing weapon called a “caber” (Which I have hopefully spelled correctly). It consisted of a 4 bladed weapon, which folded in half, scissor fashion, so that each half blade set back to back against each other. A fairly standard “glaive” design. But this “glaive” has some serious issues.

Before I go off on a rant about this so called “glaive” I thought it would be interesting to know that real cabers and glaives do actually exist. However they are nothing like what is portrayed on the big screen. Cabers are commonly found in the unlikely sport of… Scottish log tossing. In fact, the competition is called the Caber Toss, and the logs are called (you guessed it!) cabers.

And glaives, far from being the hand held throwers portrayed in the movies, were actually medieval polearms. Like, lessee, big spears. Ya know, big broad headed spears. Machetes on a stick if you will. Go figure. Somehow I can’t really visualize a humongous blade on a spear shaft spinning “gracefully” *ahem* through the air… But back to hollywood Glaives.

The Beastmasters Glaive (closed)

beastmasters caber (closed)
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The design seems to be quite robust, each sub blade is fastened together by a solid looking pin. It looks like it could be made to handle a lot of torture, however one thing bothers me. The blades appear to be freely hinged. No means of fixing them in the open position. Now I’m no expert but it seems to me that freely swinging blades would wreak untold havoc on the trajectory of this weapon. And given the geometry of the weapon, I don’t think it could be thrown in the fashion illustrated, gripping the middle of the glaive, where the hinge is. At least not without risking a few fingers (that I’m sure you want to keep) in the process. But then again, my understanding of physics might be suspect. Meh.

The Beastmasters Glaive (open hinge shot)

Beastmaster Glaive (open hinge)
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And then there is the little niggling problem of how the blades would stay open, if, by some dark mystical trick of the universe, this “glaive” were to actually hit its intended target. My physics are a little rusty, but AFAIK, a free hinge means it gonna fold on impact. it would probably still hurt (if it ever actually hit you), but that free hinge design would make it pretty freakin’ hard to make it “stick” anything. I’m just sayin’.

Perhaps with some type of lock-back mechanism in place on the blades, this “glaive” would make for an excellent weapon, but as is, it certainly wouldn’t make my armory wish list. When all is said and done however, it is actually one of the more classy designs of the few Hollywood glaives I have seen. Not so much sinister as much elegant. A little rustic but artfully designed. Not usually what I look for in a blade, but I’d make an exception for this one. It’d prolly look great in black…

The Beastmasters Glaive – [Realm of the Dark Blade]


Folding Throwers: Convertible Hira Shuriken?

It is a fine Friday afternoon here in the Realm of the Dark Blade, and I thought I would write another post on the topic of small, star-shaped throwing implements. Due, in part, to an intriguing throwing star design that I have been seeing quite frequently of late. Essentially, fancy hira shuriken with folding blades. Hmm. Now the idea kinda makes sense, at least in theory, but under further examination, some fundamental weaknesses are painfully evident in the practical implementation of these weapons. Following are two examples.

The Cyclone Thrower

Cyclone Thrower Folding Throwing StarCyclone Thrower Throwing Star Closed
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The Dragon Twister

Dragon Twister Folding Throwing StarDragon Twister Throwing Star Closed
[view full size]<>[view full size]

As you can see, these throwing stars have the unique distinction of having points, (blades, in fact,) that fold. What is really kickin’ is that besides looking sleek and stealthy, the cyclone thrower can be thrown in the closed position, and will open itself in mid flight! Pretty cool. Except that both designs introduce other weaknesses and/or problems.

First, while folding blades allow for a smaller overall diameter, these designs are often three (or more) times thicker than a traditional throwing star. So I could store a couple of these in a smaller diameter pouch, but I’d only be able to fit 2 where I could originally fit 6, in a flatter, (albeit larger) pouch. I dunno if it’d be worth it.

Then of course there is the issue that more parts means more points of failure. Each hinge or blade pivot point adds another possible point of failure. Failures that would almost certainly occur under conditions of extreme duress; most likely when it would be terribly inconvenient for a failure to occur. Yeah, I agree. I hope Murphy burns in hades too. But you’d be b*ll*xed either way.

And most notably, in the stated scenario, with, let’s say, a Dragon Twister design where your blades don’t open by themselves mid- flight, who, on Gods green earth, would have the time to sit there and open all 5 blades before throwing it? I can just see it now, just as your determined foes are about to fall upon your pathetic little self…: “Well gosh, I’m sorry, could you hold off on killing me for a second? I just got the third blade open…” Uh huh. Brilliant survival strategy.

Nonetheless, I actually like the basic design of these throwers, especially the smooth lines of the cyclone thrower. When closed it forms a very neat little circle, no points to jab you in uncomfortable places while being carried, and the fact that it can be thrown closed and opens in mid-air just ranks it astronomically high on the cool scale. Another cool toy to add to my little black bag of tricks…

The Cyclone Thrower (Black) – [True Swords]
The Cyclone Thrower (Silver) – [True Swords]
The Dragon Twister (Black) – [True Swords]
The Dragon Twister (Silver) – [True Swords]


The Mighty Shuriken!

Since I have been running into so many interesting throwing weapons lately, and I’ve already posted an expose on the enigmatic kunai, I thought it would only be fair to give you all a deeper look into another one of the oft-toted ninja weapons of stage and screen. The ubiquitous shuriken! ‘Cause the etymology of shuriken is just about as interesting as that of kunai. Not to mention that there are a lot of Hollywood induced misconceptions about shuriken. So here goes nothin’!!

Contrary to what you might think, the term “Shuriken” is not restricted to throwing “stars”, but rather refer to two general forms of small, hand held throwing implements. The first form is basically a throwing spike called the bo shuriken. The second, more commonly seen shuriken type, the throwing star, are called hira shuriken, aka “Shaken”. Each requires a different throwing technique, but are equally effective. The history of these shuriken is quite interesting.

Bo Shuriken

Bo Shuriken
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Back in the times of feudal Japan, Ninjas were perhaps best known for being skillful and wily assassins. Their greatest abilities were their stealth and resourcefulness. A common ninja practice was to hide in plain sight, as farmers, peasants, monks, etc. However the incognito assassin faced a tough challenge. How to carry the tools of the trade, as it were, in an inconspicuous manner. Generally, “farmers” and “peasants” did not routinely tote big, black ninjatō around. Kinda a dead giveaway, if ya know what I mean. The ever resourceful ninja often circumvented this troublesome little issue by disguising their weapons as commonplace items, like walking canes, flutes and such.

Hira Shuriken

Hira Shuriken
[view full size]

But the clever shinobi warrior could do even better: turn common items into weapons! Sickles become kama, flails turned into nunchaku, etc. Shurikens evolved in much the same way. In fact, shuriken was often sourced from some random building material, most commonly construction nails, pressed into duty as bo shuriken, and roofing washers, into hira shuriken. And of course these items being of plentiful supply in farms, constructions and so forth, were easy to find.

In some traditional shuriken designs you can see the influence of thier original forms. Many traditional bo shuriken often had square or triangle cross sections, mimicking the shape of the large nails of the period. Similarly, both square, triangle and sharpened ovoid style hira shuriken replicate the shapes of coins, roofing washers and other construction pieces, sword guards and so on. True to the ninja style, they probably palmed whatever was available, sharpened them on a rock, and held on to them for when the need arose. Did I mention they were really resourceful? The little kleptos… As the use of shuriken grew, clans began designing their own special flavor of shuriken.

Traditional clan-specific Hira Shuriken Design

Traditional Hira Shuriken

A common misconception was that shuriken were used for killing. Yes, they could be used to kill someone, but they were hardly the ideal killing tool. Unless they were poisoned. But then again, back in the day, there were few acting poisons that could cause instantaneous death in very small quantities, and I rather doubt that any self respecting shinobi warrior would hang around just to see if their particular brand of poison performed in accordance to the advertised claims. I’m sure the victims family would get most suspicious of the “friend” in black that showed up unexpectedly to supposedly pay their respects.

Rather, they were used for distraction, deterrence and disruption, to hinder the movement of the enemy, or discourage pursuit. A shuriken to the face, or in an extremity, might not have killed an attacker, but would certainly be enough to delay an enemy long enough for a shinobi warrior to escape. Similarly shuriken could be thrown in the ground as makeshift makibishi or punji sticks, slowing down pursuing forces. They could also be used as push daggers in a pinch.

The Modern Hira Shuriken

A modern Hira Shuriken
[view full size]

The shuriken changed a lot over the years. Many Japanese clans redesigned them to meet their specific needs. But even today, their basic simplicity belies how truly effective they were. They may not be the lethal universal weapons pictured in the movies, but they still hold a place of honor in the historic halls of weapons of stealth and efficiency, which, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, makes them just my kind of weapon…

6 Point Hira Shuriken – [Gung-Fu]
Triangular Bo Shuriken – [Asian World of Martial Arts]
4 Point Classic Hira Shuriken – [Gung-Fu]


Pointless Points.

I have for you today a product of marketing hype. Specifically, a throwing axe. But this throwing axe is not ordinary throwing axe. It is an “8 point” “Shuriken” style head throwing axe. Now you might be saying to yourself “Wow! 8 points! It must stick real easy!” But the reality of it is not as you might imagine. In fact I take issue with the presumed effectiveness of the advertised “8 points”. And shortly, I’ll tell you why. Here is the throwing axe in question:

Astro “8 Point” Throwing Axe

Astro throwing axe
[view full size]

Now look at the head of this axe, keeping in mind that this unusual design is most likely intended to improve it’s sticking ability. Does something strike you as off? The keen eyed will notice that the 4 inner points are actually well below the contact line between any one of two outer points with each other and/or the handle. This means that for all intents and purposes, except for some particularly deeply penetrating throws, none of those internal points will have much effect on your ability to make this axe “stick”.

Now the even more astute among you will notice that of the four large points, one is safely and soundly ensconced inside the handle!! Whaa!?!? Ok, now I’m no physicist, but I’m fairly certain that a point on any throwing implement that is surrounded on all sides by flat steel surfaces will not contribute to said implements ability to penetrate any given target object. Call me crazy. But there it is.

But there is an important point to my dissertation. And that is that the net effect of all of this is that out of the touted 8 points, only 3, (Yeah, count ’em, only THREE) will play any kind of major role in determining the stickiness of this throwing axe. That makes this axe a *whopping* (LOL) one point better than your standard single bladed throwing axe.

Now this may look cool, but me personally, seeing as the whole points thing is likely just marketing hype, with no real functional advantage, I much prefer the appearance of a single or double bladed axe over this undecided cross between a shuriken and a throwing knife. However that’s just me. I will be sure to show you examples of what I think a well designed throwing axe is supposed to look like in a future post.

Astro 8 Point Throwing Axe – [True Swords]

September 2020

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