The naginata is a lengthy weapon with an even lengthier history, seeing use from the Nara period (710-784 AD) to the present day. It has been employed by the samurai and the sohei (Buddhist warrior monks) in the past. Today, the naginata sword is utilized in the martial art of naginatajutsu, though wooden and bamboo versions are more commonly used for practice and competitions.
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The naginata sword was initially used by the samurai class. Later it became the weapon of choice of Buddhist warrior monks for defending their Shintoist temples from invaders. It was used by women warriors as well. Due to its size and reach, a woman could keep an attacker at a safe distance. This pole weapon is composed of a wooden shaft with a curved blade on the end and is sometimes referred to as a “sword on the end of a long pole”. It typically has a tsuba (guard) between the blade and the shaft, and an ishizuki (sharp end cap), which was historically used to stab between plates of armor.
The naginata required significant skill and strength to wield effectively and was most destructive when used in sweeping, circular motions. Its dimensions depended on battle conditions and personal preferences; the shaft could measure anywhere from 5 to 8 feet, and the blade could be 10 inches to over 2 feet in length.
Today, wooden and bamboo versions are employed by martial arts practitioners, and swords with a live blade are very rarely used. Naginatajutsu is widely practiced worldwide, and in Japan, it is studied by more women than men.