The naginata is a well-known Japanese weapon that has a long wooden shaft for its handle; the naginata means reaping sword or mowing down sword and it has a blade that usually measures around one to three feet. As for the shape, a lot of individuals tend to describe it as something that resembles a leaf but more curved or arched to the point; when it comes to the blade of this weapon, notice that it is firmly attached right to a long, wooden shaft with a length that ranges from six to nine feet. There is a portion of the naginata that slips right into the tang (handle) which almost has the same length as its blade; moreover, the presence of an ishizuki or sharpened end-cap on the shaft works as an excellent piercing right in the middle of the armor plates to hold each part of the weapon firmly in place.
The Naginata as a Weapon in the Battlefield
Naginata is a word that was first used and recorded in the ancient chronicles of the Japanese (the kojiki), while its use on the battlefield as a weapon was in the years 600 to 704 during the Nara period, from when Emperor Shomu ruled. this was way before the Katana sword started to be used in feudal Japan. In 935 AD during the rebellion of Tengyo, foot soldiers were known to have carried this long-range weapon during battle, while other historical evidences note that foot soldiers from Oshu also made use of the naginata during battle; at the time, the weapon was generally advantageous since it was much longer compared to the regular sword and had a great amount of reach when attacking in opponent.
However, during the Toyotomi and Oda period in the year 1500, the use of a spear or yari, as well as firearms became widespread so the methods of warfare and battle began to change. Because of this, the utilization of the naginata for battle eventually fell out of common use, and the naginata gradually turned into a weapon that was wielded mainly by samurai women and priests / monks.
The Naginata – For Spiritual Training during the Edo Period
The Edo period which lasted from 1603 – 1867, was a relatively peaceful moment in the history of Japan; during the period, male samurai warriors focused on training kenjutsu while the women focused on enhancing their skills in naginata. Persistent and focused training in naginata while simultaneously conforming to the art’s etiquette was among the most effective ways of cultivating, improving, and developing one’s character. Also during the period, high-ranking daimyo’s and samurai made use of the naginata by exhibiting the weapon as fine decorative ornaments, displaying these beautifully right at the entrance of their homes; and up to this day, the naginata are periodically used as ornaments during wedding ceremonies etc.
Naginata – The Martial Art
Today, the naginata is not only a weapon used as a decorative in homes or during ceremonies, it is also considered as a martial art performed by children, men, and women. The naginata or naginatajutsu is often practiced in a sport called the Way of the Naginata (Naginata-do), or the New Naginata which is called the Atarashii Naginata – both governed by the AJNF or All Japan Naginata Federation. In Japan, the sport is commonly practiced by females in college levels while outside the country, the art of naginata is practiced by both males and females in Australia, Europe, as well as in North and South America; yet keep in mind that not all countries are part of the INF or International Naginata Federation.
Additionally, the combat system of naginata also teaches patience, self-control, self-confidence, respect, as well as etiquette which better improves a person as a whole while simultaneously balancing out the body’s movements. When practicing naginata, one should have full concentration and discipline to be able to execute its movements gracefully and effectively; also, while its moves are being performed, it also helps develop a person’s morals which are generally based on honor.
Naginata for Training the Body and Mind
In 1867 during the Meiji restoration period, the culture and society of the Japanese drastically changed since the western culture and ideals were practiced during the time; and when engaged in naginata, training and perfecting the various battle techniques became secondary since the art was practiced mainly to train the mind, body, as well as the spirit. At a certain point during the period, the increase in militarism led to the revival of martial arts practice, so naginata was eventually introduced into various teachers’ colleges as well as girls’ schools.
In 1923 – 1989 during the Showa period, the practice of naginata continued to spread and was also introduced in numerous public schools as part of their curriculum for their female students. To have an appropriate form specifically for school, the different styles of the martial art was combined to establish the School Naginata style which was effective for educational use because of its strong competitive characteristics. However, after World War II, the government of the United States banned the study of all types of martial arts; but at some point, once the ban was lifted, the art of naginata was again introduced in various schools in its present fashion.
Present Day Naginata
In 1955, the AJNF or All Japan Naginata Federation was established; it gathered numerous aspects of various traditional schools of martial arts and combined all of these important characteristics to form the new style of Japanese naginata which was called Atarashii Naginata, generally translating to new naginata. For this type of naginata, newer forms (kata) were introduced together with free sparring competitions and additional kata systems. Today, naginata is open for men and women of all ages and if one wishes to practice naginata, purchasing weapons online is possible since there are numerous shops that offer naginata for sale; however, it is always best to ensure that the weapon being purchased is made from high-quality and authentic materials to ensure the safety of the person wielding this.
Shopping for Naginata
Although the naginata is not utilized for battle in this day and age, the art is still practiced by a large number of individuals all over the world to improve their balance, learn proper posture, as well as to incorporate important aspects to help an individual grow positively; these characteristics include patience, self-control, self-confidence, respect, as well as etiquette. For those who wish to engage in the art of naginata but do not have any weapon to use for practice, there are a few shops that offer great naginata for sale that everyone can take advantage of, but before purchasing, always ensure that the shop offering such products are legit, and that they create weapons made from quality materials that are durable, long-lasting, and safe when used.