OK, I had been thinking. For single-handed swords, pommel design is not that important. As a result, there is a wide variety of them, and in fact many are designed to protect the hand. Hand-and-a-half and two-handed swords are a different story. I have a bokken and a European longsword plastic training replica - for those interested, models are here and here (latter is only an approximation). Forget the Orientalist "cutting battle tanks with a katana" hype; longsword is a much better design. Mostly because of three things: 1) Pommel 2) Crossguard 3) Double-sided blade To start with a pommel, reason why it is so important is that it offers much more grip flexibility. Now, longsword's handle is technically - in this particular model - shorter than that of a katana. For katana, I usually use two-handed grip with one hand of space between. For longsword, with normal grip hands are next to each other, which can make some actions with a sword rather awkward. Enter pommel. Pommel in this model adds a whole another hand of a space on the grip: when I use handle-and-pommel grip, hands are spaced about as much as on katana. Difference here is that pommel is much more forgiving than katana grip. While katana can be maneuvered around easily, addition of a pommel in European longsword means that hand naturally shifts around it, making maneuvers that would be weird in a katana rather manageable. Second difference is crossguard. In katana, tsuba is just a flat piece of steel (decorated or otherwise). In some ways, it does protect somewhat better hand protection, though that depends on a grip - if you move your hand further away so that it is not straight next to the crossguard, longsword suddenly has hand protection as good as if not better than a katana. However, what I found is that - with hand next to the hand guard - katana is much more restrictive. With a crossguard, you can easily let finger(s) slide over the flat of the blade in order to facilitate certain maneuvers. Secondly, crossguard has an offensive application. It is much more easy to use for a bind, to lock down the enemy blade. Crossguard itself can be used to push at the opponent. And if the enemy is in armour, you can just grip the blade and use pommel and crossguard the beat the crap out of the opponent. No such luck with katana. Third, the blade. Katana is a single-edged cut-and-thrust design. It is a very good weapon, but single edge means that it is limited in certain maneuvers. Longsword has two-sided blade, allowing maneuvers which would not be possible with katana, such as reverse cut. Anybody else with experiences to share?