Southern California Naginata Federation
Technical Questions from Our Website Visitors
"Tou wa ichiji no haji, towanu wa matsudai no haji."
"To ask may be a moment's shame, but not to ask and remain ignorant is a
Is the knot you show for the "folding of the hakama" of special significance to
a particular school? I was just wondering because I've been studying Shin-Kage
Kenjutsu here in Edmonton and our knot is quite different. It is supposed to
represent a heart and diamond and reflects our formal bow. I'd be interested in
the semiotic or meaning of your knot. Thanks.
A: In our federation there is no special
meaning associated with the manner in which the knot is tied.
Q: I understand that the "ishizuki tsuki" appears in the kata, but
does it also score points in shiai? Does the tsuki to the throat count if it is
made with the ishizuki? I recall seeing college students in Japan practicing
tsuki to the throat with the kissaki only. Please clarify these points for me.
A: Tsuki to the side of the body made
with the ishizuki, such as in Shikake-Oji drills #5, #6, and #7, do not score
points in shiai. Tsuki to the throat (with the ishizuki) is no
longer allowed because
it is too dangerous. Tsuki to the throat with the kissaki, however, is
Is the naginata another type of sword?
A: Yes, the naginata's BLADE is basically a
Japanese sword BLADE, but it differs from the conventional "Samurai sword" in
several ways, a few of which are listed below:
- It's length varied from 1-3 feet, as compared to most "Samurai" swords
which are between 2.0- 2.5 feet in length. It was also generally more curved
at the tip. The length and amount of curvature were decided upon by the owner.
Blades were usually made to customer specifications.
- The naginata's "tang" (the part that goes inside the handle) is almost as
long as the blade itself, as opposed to Samurai swords which typically have a tang
approximately 5-8 inches long.
- The shaft (wooden "handle") is between 6-9 feet in length.
- The naginata was used by foot soldiers in the front lines of battle. The
more elite fighting men (the Samurai) usually used the katana, or Samurai
sword. The naginata was also used by the Sohei, or Buddhist warrior monks.
Throughout its history, the naginata has been used by women. During the Edo
period (1600-1800 AD), all Japanese women were required to master the naginata
by age 18. The naginata was a perfect weapon for women, as it enabled them to
strike attackers before they could get too close.
- Because of its length, it is more commonly used in sweeping, circular
motions rather than the conventional striking methods utilized with a sword.
One of the common uses of the naginata was in cavalry battles. Foot soldiers
used the naginata to cut the horse's legs, and then kill its rider once the
- As far as the crafting (swordsmithing) process goes, naginata blades have
always been made exactly the same way in which conventional Samurai swords are
- Starting in the mid 1300's, there was a weapon called the "nagamaki" which
was a long sword blade (2-4 feet) with a long handle (2-3 feet). The handle (tsuka)
on the nagamaki was constructed more like that of a Samurai sword's handle. It
was NOT a wooden pole as was the case with the naginata.
Q: In various books on Japanese weapons, I have
come across reference to a weapon called the nagamaki. It seems to be a
shorter-shafted version of the naginata. Could you give me a bit more
information on it and its relationship to the naginata?
A: The nagamaki is considered by many
historians to be a variation of the "no-dachi", which was essentially a very
long "Samurai" sword (you may have seen it used in the movie "The Seven
Samurai"). However, the nagamaki differed from the naginata in many significant
- The tsuka, or handle: While both weapons are considered "pole
arms", the translation of the word "naginata" means "mowing down sword" or
"reaping sword". The term "nagamaki" means "long wrapping" and refers to the
manner in which the handle is crafted. The nagamaki is attached to a much
shorter handle (approximately 4 feet long) which is wrapped in a manner very
similar to that of a Samurai sword (criss-crossed silk cords) while the
naginata is mounted directly to a long wooden shaft (typically 5-8 feet in
- Technique: The nagamaki, with it's sword like handle, was usually
held with the two hands in a relatively fixed position (the same way in which
a conventional sword would be held). The naginata, however, with its long
wooden shaft, required the wielder to rapidly shift hand positions along the
length of the shaft in order to fully utilize the weapon's striking
capabilities and range.
- History: Historical manuscripts indicate that the naginata may have
been used in China as early as 3 B.C. It was utilized and refined during the
Nara period (approx. 710-784 A.D.), and by the 11th century it was used
routinely in battle. In contrast, the nagamaki wasn't developed until much
later, during the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1600A.D.). In fact, the
nagamaki is reported to have been favored by General Oda Nobunaga for his
front line troops.
- Blade: The blade of a nagamaki was shaped very much like a
conventional sword. Because of it's long length, however, it was frequently
thinned along the back edge to reduce its weight. The blade of the naginata
varied in length from 1-2 feet or more, with the tip frequently curved much
more than that found on the nagamaki or even the standard Samurai sword.
Q: I am preparing a research paper about
Japanese Swords, and would like to know where to obtain the reference books
mentioned in the SCNF web site's "Naginata Blade Crafting" section.
A: Most of the books were purchased at
bookstores such as "Barnes and Noble", etc. Also, your local library should have
copies of them, or be able to obtain copies thru an inter-library loan.
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