Naginata

From Academic Kids

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One_of_samurai_weapon_Naginata.jpg
A samurai wielding a naginata

Naginata (なぎなた, 長刀 or 薙刀) is a pole weapon traditionally used by Japanese samurai. In recent times, it has become strongly associated with women. It consists of a wood shaft with a curved blade fashioned onto the end, and is similar to the European glaive. Usually, it also had a sword-like guard (tsuba) between the blade and shaft.

The martial art of wielding the naginata is called naginata-jutsu. Most naginata practise today is in a modernised form, a gendai budo called "Naginata", in which competitions also are held. Naginata is also practised within the Bujinkan and in some koryu schools.

Contents

History

The naginata was first visible in the Kojiki in 712 CE and was used by Yamabushi warrior priests during the Nara Period, around 750 CE. In the paintings of battlefield scenes made during the Tengyo no Ran in 936 CE, the naginata can be seen in use. By the 17th century the rise in popularity of firearms greatly decreased the appearance of the naginata on the battlefield.

Construction

Physically, the naginata, like all weapons, can be customized to fit the build of the bearer. Generally, the naginata shaft is usually the height of the bearer's body, and then the blade is mounted atop, usually measuring two shaku or three shaku (one shaku is equivalent to 11.93 inches, or 303 mm) long. Unlike most pole arms the shaft is oval in cross section, and could range from 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m) long. The blade is usually curved, sometimes strongly towards the tip, and historically is believed to be related to Chinese halberds. As with Japanese swords, naginata blades were forged blades, made with differing degrees of hardness on the spine and edge to retain a sharp edge but be able to absorb the stress of impact.

Note also at the opposite end of a Naginata a metal counterweight, sometimes a spike, was often attached, making the naginata an effective weapon whichever end was put forward.

Usage

Naginata can be used to stab, but due to their relatively balanced center of mass, are often spun and turned to proscribe a large radius of reach. The curved blade makes for a more effective tool for cutting due to the increased length of cutting surface. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, one 5-foot (1.5 m) tall wielder could conceivably cover and attack in 380 square feet (35 m²) of open, level ground with a 5 foot (1.5 m) shaft, 3 foot (1 m) blade, 3 foot (1 m) reach. Naginatakas were often used to create space at the battlefield.

It is believed that the addition of "sune-ate" (leg greaves or shin guards) to the armor of samurai and foot soldiers was motivated directly by the injuries sustained from naginata.

Naginata methods are said to be derived from a combination of bojutsu staff fighting methods and sword fighting methods.

See also

it:Naginata la:Nanguinata ja:薙刀術 pl:Naginata sv:Naginata

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