In the age before the katana, the tanto could be a samurai's best friend.
In the early feudal age, when most samurai were mounted archers, the
fight would rarely ever get up close and personal. However, when it
did, the mounted samurai would often wrestle his opponent off his
horse, then, leaping from his mount, he'd draw his tanto... the dagger
would then be used to take the enemy's head.
The tanto was a simple dagger fashioned after the nodachi sword. Seldom
longer than 12 inches, the curved tanto would be tucked into the
samurai's belt. The mounted samurai would never go into battle with
this all too important weapon, which could mean life or death when
coming toe to toe with a fearsome enemy.