Naginata – Japanese Martial Arts Weapon
The Naginata is a Japanese halberd-like weapon where a curved blade is mounted on a long pole. The Japanese martial arts of Naginatajutsu focuses on training with this weapon.
The traditional Naginata weapon was at least 5 feet long and was tipped with a steel blade. In contrast, according to the British Naginata Association, the modern Naginata used for practice is “a minimum of 212 centimetres in length, and is primarily made of white oak… At the end of the white oak shaft, is a bamboo blade (like the halberd). For safety reasons the naginata blade is made of a strip of bamboo (2 pieces). In vigorous shiai (competition) this bamboo is flexible and absorbs shock”.
For information on other traditional martial arts weapons, please visit the main Martial Arts Weapons page.
Summary of Naginata Techniques and Style
Traditionally Naginata were used by Samurai and Warrior Monks (Yamabushi). Given its length and cutting power, Samurai found the Naginata very useful against mounted enemies. It was one of the weapons that became popular with Samurai women.
Today, Naginata are used in Naginatajutsu (old-styled) and Naginata-Do (modern-style) martial and are taught in some Schools of Ninjutsu and some Bujutsu Ryu. These martial arts style uses Naginata in kata and in sparring matches against opponents armed with other Naginata or with other weapons such as the Katana and Kusarigama.
According to the International Naginata Federation, “There are two different kinds of competition in Naginata. Shiai-kyōgi is that similar to Kendo competition. Armour (bōgu) is worn and competitors engage in sanbon-shōbu. That is, the first to get two points within the designated time limit wins. There are both individual and team matches. Teams have three or five members. As in Kendo, three referees (shimpan) adjudicate matches. In shiai-kyōgi, the criteria for valid points (yūkō-datotsu) are defined by the All Japan Naginata Federation’s Tournament Regulations: “An accurate strike with the naginata’s datotsu-bu (monouchi) must be made to a datotsu-bui (stipulated target area) with correct posture, vigorous spirit, while calling out the name of the target being struck.” The stipulated target areas are men (helmet; front, left, right), dō (plastron; left, right), sune (shin guard; left, right, both inner and outer), kote (gauntlet; left, right), tsuki (straight thrust to the throat).
Basic methods for using the naginata include furiage (lifting the naginata overhead and striking), mochikae (swapping grip to enable attacking from the opposite side or from a different angle), furikaeshi (spinning the naginata overhead), kurikomi (pulling the naginata in to shorten the length to strike closer in), kuridashi (extending the naginata, thereby facilitating attacks from a further distance). In all cases, either the sharp side (monouchi) of the blade or the butt-end (ishizuki) must make contact with one of the official target areas for the point to be counted as valid.
The other type of competition is called engi-kyōgi. In this competition, a team of two is pitted against another pair. Both teams perform set-forms or techniques. There are two variations: One involves performing three or five of the shikake-ōji techniques simultaneously, and the other involves doing the All Japan Naginata Federation Kata.”
Modern Naginata Versus Kendo Opponent
Traditional Naginata Versus Katana