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Title: Kabutowari  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Weapons of Japan, Japanese martial arts terms
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The Kabutowari (Japanese: 兜割, lit. "helmet breaker" or "skull breaker"[1]), also known as hachiwari, was a type of knife-shaped weapon, resembling a jitte in many respects. This weapon was carried as a side-arm by the samurai class of feudal Japan.

Antique Japanese hachiwari with a nihonto style of handle.


  • Types 1
  • Use 2
  • Gallery 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


kabutowari were usually around 350mm long; some larger versions are around 450mm long. There were two types of kabutowari: a dirk-type a and truncheon-type.

The dirk-type was forged with a sharp dirk-like point,[2] which could be used to parry an opponent's sword, to hook the cords of armor or a helmet, or like a can opener to separate armor plates. The sharp point could pierce unprotected or weak areas of an opponent's armor like the armpit area.[2] The blade of this type of kabutowari was a curved tapered square[3] iron or steel bar with a hook on its back edge.[4] In combat, one could parry and catch a blade with that hook, as with a jitte. Some kabutowari of this type were mounted in the style of a tanto with a koshirae.[2]

The truncheon-type was blunt, cast iron or forged truncheon-like weapon resembling a tekkan or a jitte. This type of kabutowari had the same basic shape as the dirk-type kabutowari including the hook, but it was usually blunt and not meant for stabbing.


It would appear that tales of samurai breaking open a kabuto (helmet) are more folklore than anything else.[5] The hachi (helmet bowl) is the central component of a kabuto; it is made of pie piece-shaped plates of steel or iron riveted together at the sides and at the top to a large, thick grommet of sorts (called a tehen-no-kanamono), and at the bottom to a metal strip that encircles the hachi.[6][7] This would require enormous pressure to split open. This idea that the kabutowari was somehow able to smash or damage a helmet kabuto is most probably a misinterpretation of the name which could have several meanings, as hachi could mean skull or helmet bowl and wari could mean, split, rip, crack or smash.[5]

In modern times there is no ryū (school or style) known to train with kabutowari, although certain dojos within Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu still train with them, as an extension of jittejutsu. A number of weapons retailers in Japan still sell usable kabutowari.



  1. ^ , Daniel C. Pauley, Samantha Pauley, 2009 P.66Pauley's Guide - A Dictionary of Japanese Martial Arts and Culture
  2. ^ a b c Cunningham, Don. Taiho-Jutsu: Law and Order in the Age of the Samurai. p. 75.
  3. ^ Stone, George Cameron. A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor: In All Countries and in All Times. Courier Dover Publications. 1999. pp. 273.
  4. ^ Bennett, Matthew. The Hutchinson dictionary of ancient & medieval warfare. Taylor & Francis. 1998. pp. 136.
  5. ^ a b Mol, Serge. Classical weaponry of Japan: special weapons and tactics of the martial arts. Kodansha International. 2003. pp. 71.
  6. ^ Kabuto page of Nihon Katchû Seisakuben, An Online Japanese Armour Manual
  7. ^ Absolon, Trevor. The Watanabe Art Museum Samurai Armour Collection: Volume I ~ Kabuto & Mengu

External links

  • Hachiwara
  • Defensive Weapons of the Samurai
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