Why do people worship katanas
How long did a sword last then?
The previous respondents are all right on the point that the people of the early Middle Ages were able to achieve a remarkable quality of steel and produce correspondingly good bladed weapons. The fact that swords survived countless battles and years as a matter of course and could then be passed on is more of a fairy tale and historically the absolute exception.
A sword is first and foremost an object of use. The use of a sword implies that the blade encounters hard resistance like other blades or metal armor and is damaged as a result. It is true that in Europe, and especially in Japan, some swords or blacksmiths were downright revered, but that reverence gave way to pragmatism when it came to survival. It is historically proven that even the priceless blades of the old Soshu or Bizen masters enjoyed extensive use or were simply shortened just to adapt them to current military tactics. A Go Yoshihiro (at least one of the Nihon san saku) was recently up for auction in Canada for 130,000 euros - shortened and with clear signs of battle. Many a blade that is presented to the Togishi for polishing today cannot be restored. For example, because the cut of a single blow was so deep that it reached the core steel and thus made the sword unusable. Other blades show that they once broke in battle and were therefore shortened. Many blades are simply worn out - repeatedly damaged in battle, polished and finally worn down to the core steel. And, with all the fairy tales and myths about the Japanese sword, it is hard to believe: some blades are crooked and twisted. Bent in battle. The fact that so many Japanese blades still exist today has nothing to do with their quality, but with cultural backgrounds.
Incidentally, it wasn't much different with the Europeans. The swords bent, broke, and tangled in battle. After the battle, whatever could be saved was polished, bent, and saved. There is historical evidence that the Vikings straightened their swords in rows after the fight. Those who bequeathed their swords were just incredibly lucky that they hardly had to use it - or at least rarely met tough resistance. Just like Japanese blades, their European counterparts show that they have been exposed to heavy use and eventually had to be abandoned. For this reason it was actually customary for Japanese as well as European knights to carry second and third weapons with them (depending on the financial situation). This can be proven historically.
Conclusion: a sword lasted until it was irreparably damaged. That could be the case after a single fight or after ten full battles. It depended on many factors. These blades can withstand a lot and modern high-performance steel is required to surpass their properties. But even the best sword is not indestructible and usually only found its way into the hands of the son when a condition prevailed for which the sword was never intended: peace.
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