Naginatajutsu (also known as “wing”) katanas are a highly specialized form of karate. Originally, this karate was developed for the purpose of bringing down large numbers of opponents armed with nothing but their own bodies. Originally, the naginata was used to carry out street fights between samurai warriors. The earliest designs of naginata utilized a two handed sword. Later, the design evolved to include a single-handed sword, and eventually to use a single-edged sword.
Naginata means “wing” in Japanese and refers to the process of combining the front part of the body (the torso) with the back to generate a slashing motion. This weapon is often referred to as a “claw sword”, and has been used to execute many attacks, most notably those involving the use of the legs and feet. Many practitioners consider the naginatajutsu weapon to be a martial art in its own right. For this reason, many naginatajutsu tournaments are held with the tournament winner defending his or her weapon.
As stated above, naginatajutsu was developed specifically for the combat arena. However, most modern naginata come in a more realistic size and weight and are designed for use as both offensive and defensive martial arts tools.
Most Naginatajutsu tournaments involve multiple weapons
including one or more axes (one-handed swords) and wakizashi (two-handed swords). Some styles utilize two handed weapons exclusively, while others incorporate both one and two-handed weapons in their fundamental strategy. Regardless of the weaponry incorporated into a style, the primary function of the weapon remains to inflict damage with the highest efficiency possible.
The most commonly known form of weapon in Japan is the shuriken (or katana), also known as a sword in the west. While the shuriken is most traditionally used in close distance duels, the weapon can still be used in an offensive environment. The shuriken is primarily a single-edged blade that is made for cutting and delivering powerful strikes with great force and accuracy. Samurai warriors would usually carry several of these weapons in their pockets, and would use them in many different circumstances, ranging from defense to an attack against an enemy.
While the shuriken is most famous for its flexibility in the blade, the naginata is even more versatile. While it is primarily a single edged blade, a skilled swordsman could conceivably use the weapon in a wide variety of situations. If the situation called for it, a samurai could use the weapon as a knife! This wide ranging versatility is another of the unique attributes of the naginata, as it makes it very useful as a multipurpose weapon. A skilled swordsman would be able to use the blade as a cudgel, as well as a sword, dagger, axe, halberd or bow and arrow. A skilled swordsman could also use the weapon as a meteor hammer (a heavy axe that would fall to the ground).
A naginata in the hands of a highly skilled swordsman can be turned into many different types of weapons. One of the most common forms of the weapon in the world today is the plume, which is a four-edged sword that is primarily used as a cutter. Another popular form of the weapon is the makiwara, which is a small sized sword that is used in close range hand to hand combat. Finally, the tanto, which is a slightly larger sword, is also a cutter but is primarily used to ward off strikes from opponents while still remaining mobile and versatile in the position.
While the blade is certainly the main focus of most styles of Naginatajutsu, the true spirit of the fighting martial arts comes from the practitioner’s footwork. This allows for the individual to be able to strike out with a large number of strikes, using any part of the body as well as their weapons at any given time. It is this footwork that often determine who is the best fighter in the area, and it is considered one of the most important aspects of the sport itself. It is this footwork that is often misunderstood by other martial arts practitioners who do not understand the unique aspects of a true Japanese samurai. In truth, the true spirit of Samurai is found in their footwork, not in what they are able to do with their sword. This is why many other martial arts have incorporated striking and other forms of grappling within their teachings, because they recognize the importance of learning to strike with the body as well as the sword.
The history of the Naginatajutsu can be traced back to the 14th Century. It was a common occurrence for the Samurai to use the naginata as a sword and shield. In fact, the entire idea of a katana was actually started by the use of the naginata as a weapon. Because of its unique design and shape, the naginata was often times used as a punching bag, or even as a form of calisthenics that were performed during the times of the Samurai.
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