There are many different parts to a katana, and there can be entire articles dedicated to each part. One in particular that doesn’t need a ton of explanation, but is used for various purposes is the sageo. The sageo is a cord that is threaded through the kurigata and either tied around the saya or to the belt or hakama of the practitioner. When the sword is not in use, it is tied in special ways to look presentable.
There are other uses for the sageo, such as tying back the sleeves of traditional kimonos or sometimes for hojojutsu in a pinch. Mostly, it is either ornamental or used to keep from losing your weapon.
Wearing the Sageo
There is no right or wrong way to tie your sageo to your belt or your hakama. Some tie to one side or the other to allow for more or less slack. Some simply tuck it in for a quick-release. Here is one example of how this can be done.
Tying the Sageo for Display
More often, you’ll see ways to tie a ceremonial knot or other ways to tie off the sageo when the katana is put away. These knots are something that samurai would have to learn as part of their training. To them, the sageo bonded them spiritually to the sword and it was important to them to get it right.
The most common knot you see these days is the butterfly knot, or Cho Musubi, and it is tied around the sword’s saya. Other common knots are Iai Musubi, Ronin Musubi, Myoga Musubi (for tanto), Daimyo Musubi, and Taicho Musubi. Here are how to tie three of them.
Using the Sageo for Hojojutsu
Often, the samurai would carry rope with them in case they needed to tie someone up. This was always a part of their kit and was heavily relied upon for multiple uses, but make no mistake, tying up enemies was a necessary skill. When the occasion arose that a samurai was left without said rope (it was being used for something else… tied up… heh), the sageo made a handy stand-in for some purposes. It certainly would not have had the kind of length as the rope they would normally carry, but they could certainly be used to fashion manacles or choke someone out.
So the sageo is something that has more than just one use, and it should not be neglected. Remember that you have many uses for all of your equipment, and you should never limit how you use it to simply what you’ve seen. Think outside the box. Even something as seemingly simple as a cord to keep from losing your sword can have more purpose than you might think!