Hi sorry real life happened, hammering these out as I can find the time!
A well-known and critical complement to the japanese warrior's arsenal, the wakizashi deserves its' reputation for reliability, versatility and surprising power. With a name derived from an abbreviated form of the phrase "wakizashi no kataka," or "sword thrust at one's side," the wakizashi was often worn with a tachi or katana, a pairing known as a 'daisho' -- literally, 'big-little'. Used mostly in the early 15th century and onward, the wakizashi was a ceremonial and practical armament, used as a backup weapon when disarmed, a smaller close-quarters weapon for when a katana was impractical, and a tool for committing ritualistic suicide.
A wakizashi's about 12"-30" in length, and weighs between one and one and a half pounds. With a lightly curved blade, thick spine and razor-sharp edge, it's a fast, dangerous slashing and thrusting weapon, well-suited to quickly striking unarmored opponents or exploiting the gaps in scale or plate, though like its' larger cousin the katana, it can't quite penetrate through the thicker parts of the armor. Usually, a wakizashi is wielded in conjunction with a free hand, as grabbing or striking an opponent can help a warrior exploit a critical vulnerability in their adversary. At times, however, it would be used in the offhand with a tachi or katana, usually in an attempt to overwhelm an opponent. Musashi Miyamoto in particular was famous for this style and used it to great success while dueling; that said, it should be clarified that such an aggressive form is best-suited to single combat or small skirmishes, and leaves the wielder too vulnerable to be useful in a larger battle. Miyamoto was an incredible duelist, but he was exactly that - not a samurai or soldier.
All in all, the wakizashi is a potent choice for a warrior that favors precision and agility, who doesn't mind sacrificing armor penetration. As a close-quarters weapon or sidearm, it's a flexible, versatile tool, and its speed is nearly unmatched.
Edited by Kamazhi on 4/12/2013 11:25 AM PDT