War in the Middle Ages was not a mere clash of brutes armed with iron bars. Medievalists and archeological research show weapons adapted to elaborate fighting techniques rivaling their Japanese contemporaries. Though less common than the spear, and less efficacious than the bow, the sword was an expensive weapon reserved for experimented warriors and became their symbol. Over centuries its shapes and techniques — thrust or slash, or both — evolved as armor did. Like the katana, the sword often was attributed sacred or supernatural attributes.