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Katana Odori

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Greetings all. I am not sure whether this post is best here or at the Izakaya, but as it concerns Katana I have put it here. Has anyone ever heard of the "Katana Odori"    刀踊り a traditional dance done by Geisha. All the photo's I have found show the same pattern kimono, and the same props of a Tenugui, a Katana and a Shikuhachi. I suspect it is linked to an episode in Japanese history and tradition.... possibly originally a woman masquerading as a Boy.

  I suspect the answer to what it is will also explain many or all those pictures of "Samurai" Women in armour and/or carrying blades. Thanks in advance for your attention and input on this subject.


 Dave R





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Hi Dave, very interesting. I have not seen/heard of a katana dance but it may well be danced. I say this as I remember from my university days (1970s-1980s) watching a small group of visiting Japanese women doing two traditional dances for us students of Japanese in our "mutsumi no ma", which has tatami floors, shoji screens and a Japanese garden beyond the wooden verandah.


The first was a naginata dance, The spokeswoman told us that although it was a dance, it was actually structured as a kata and was specifically aimed to drill samurai women (left alone to guard the house when the men were at war) in reaching down the woman's size naginata resting horizontally above the shoji screen leading onto the veranda.In those times the naginata was always rested here as most attacks would come in the front yard gateway up to the front verandah. All the kata were for repelling either cavalry or infantry and were mostly directed at evading yari thrusts and in return cutting upwards so as to cut off horse and human  legs and go into underbelly areas, as you can imagine with a woman on foot resisting a man on horseback.

The second dance was unarmed. It was done with an iron edged fan and was a kata for deflecting/blocking sword cuts from an attacker also on foot. 

While to the average westerner the event was merely a strange dance, to those of us familiar with swords it was clearly a memory enhancing training kata exactly as the spokeswoman explained.


So, to answer your question, no I haven't seen a katana dance, but it is stronly possible that samurai women received some training in home defence with that arm too.

Hope this helps,

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The more one delves, the greater the use of a sword in Folk Dance and Religious practice can be found:


This is called Oni Kenbai 鬼剣舞literally "Devil's Sword Dance":




Where the division between Folk dance and Religious practice lies is a matter for some discussion I suspect.



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 Many thanks to everyone for their contributions. I think that this is going somewhere useful..... There look to be a lot of sword related performances in Japanese tradition, (unsurprisingly) and the above Ladies are just one aspect of such. 

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If any of you are familiar with Araki Ryu, they train in kenbu, which is a stylized sword dance. My wife & I had the opportunity to attend one of their training sessions while we were in Phoenix, & watching them was rather eerie, in my eyes.



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