Which Martial Arts are Tanto Used for?

The Tanto is used for numerous martial arts. The practitioners of these martial arts utilize a Tanto with blunt blades made of wood or plastic. For more advanced training and demonstrations, they used a blunt Tanto with metal blades.

Some of the martial arts that involve the use of a Tanto include Aikido, Aikijutsu, Jujutsu, and Ninjutsu.


Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art. Its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, developed Aikido as a combination of ideas in his martial studies, religious beliefs, and philosophy.

Based on Ushiba’s philosophy, the main goal when practicing Aikido is to overcome oneself. It’s to prevent aggressiveness and violence.

The curriculum of Aikido consists of a variety of techniques. Most of these include throws and joint locks. Aside from a Tanto, some also used the Bokken and Jo.

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Aikijutsu was initially called Daito-ryu Jujutsu. Under the headmaster Takeda Sokaku, this martial art became popular in the early 20th century.

Takeda underwent several extensive martial arts training, including Sumo and Shinden Jikishinkage-Ryu. For the style he taught, he referred to this as Daito-Ryu, translating to “Great Eastern School”.

Aikijutsu can be branched out into three styles, which are Jujutsu, Aiki no Jutsu, and the combined Aikijujutsu. These focus on joint manipulations and throwing techniques to effectively restrain or injure the attacker.


Jujutsu is a family of Japanese martial arts and a method of close-range combat. It involves defeating armed or armored opponents while utilizing a short weapon like the Tanto, or one’s bare hands. This is because striking against armored opponents was proven ineffective.

Through Jujutsu, practitioners learned the most effective methods to neutralize opponents. These include throws, pins, and joint locks.

martial arts tanto


Ninjutsu, sometimes interchangeably referred to as Ninpo, focuses on the tactics of guerrilla or unconventional warfare, as well as espionage.

This martial art appears to be practiced by the Ninja of feudal Japan. Ninjutsu was a separate discipline in several traditional Japanese schools. It combined the study of formal martial arts like Taijutsu, together with Kenjutsu, Shurikenjutsu, Sojutsu, and more.

Shorinji Kempo

Shorinji Kempo, which means “Shaolin Temple Boxing”, is a modified Shaolin Kung Fu martial art.

The name Shorinji Kempo is the reading of Shaolin Quanfa in Japanese. It was established in the year 1947 by Doshin So.

He was a Japanese martial artist and military intelligence agent who resided in China before and during WWII.

What Can the Tanto Cut Through?

Since the Tanto featured a design mainly for stabbing and slashing, it was able to penetrate Feudal-era armor.

During battles, Samurai warriors carried the Tanto for attacking during grappling and up-close battles. Its distinct shape, specifically the long narrow blade, and thick spine tapered to the Kissaki, punched under/through the armor.

When looking at different samples of Samurai-themed artwork, these depict warriors engaging in this kind of struggle. This kind of combat was common enough that the warriors devoted a part of their training to grappling in armor.

martial arts tanto

The Tanto for Penetrating and Piercing Armor

Both the Japanese Katana and the Tachi did not sport design for penetrating armor. The Kissaki or point of every Nihonto is considered cutting points. It’s a necessary feature since most of the cutting moves in combat were possible using the blade’s first few inches.

Since the primary swords of the Samurai were not fit for piercing through armor, they used the Tanto as their secondary sword. Its small size made it a convenient auxiliary weapon for indoor combat and penetrating the armor of a Samurai.

The Tanto almost had no defined points or Yokote, unlike the Katana or Tachi. Because of that, the Tanto is more efficient as a stabbing weapon.

When cutting and changing angles, this point helped support longer blades. For the Tanto, it was not necessary since its use was for piercing armors.

The Tanto for Tameshigiri

Generally, the Tanto is a blade specifically for stabbing, However, its sharp edge can also function effectively for cutting. With that, the Tanto is effective for cutting during Tameshigiri.

However, some Tanto sports a completely straight design with a thick cross-section for penetrating armor.

The materials that the Tanto can cut through depends on the type of steel used for the blade. Those with higher carbon content can cut through harder targets like Tatami mats and bamboo poles.

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