Naginata Equipment
Q: Where can I buy naginata equipment?
A: We know of at least 3 sources in the United States:
East Coast Martial Arts Supply
More sources are listed in our
Links section.

Q: What type of uniform is worn by Naginata students?
All Naginata students wear a black or navy blue hakama (wide, pleated pants), a plain white obi (belt), and a white keikogi (jacket). Advanced students also make use of protective armor (bogu) if they wish to participate in competitive matches.

Q: Are colored belts worn in Naginata, as they are in many other martial arts?
No. All students and instructors, regardless of their rank, are attired identically.

Q: Is the armor (bogu) worn by Naginata students the same as that used for Kendo?
A: The bogu used by Naginata students is essentially the same as that worn by Kendo students, except for the addition of shin protectors (suneate). Naginata gloves (kote) are also slightly different than those utilized in Kendo. Naginata kote have a singulated  index finger as well as the thumb to better facilitate the rapid shifting of the hands along the length of the naginata's shaft.

Q: Do I need to buy armor (bogu) right away?
No. Bogu is usually not needed until a student is more advanced.

Q: How large is the shiai (competition & practice) naginata?
A: Shiai naginata are between 2.10 and 2.25 meters in length (82.6-88.5 inches) and weigh a minimum of 650 grams (1.4 lbs).

Q: What is the shiai naginata made of?
The shaft (ebu) is made of oak, and the mock blade (habu) is made of two strips of bamboo.

Q: Is used equipment available?
A: Yes, used equipment is generally available.

Q: Is Naginata competition & testing held only in Japan?
A: No. The International Naginata Federation (INF) holds sanctioned matches all over the world. In addition, local clubs occasionally host their own tournaments. Dan (black belt) testing is conducted at most INF or USNF seminars or tournaments. Testing for lower ranks is usually done at the student's own school.

The Martial Art of Naginata
Q: Is Naginata practiced only by women?
No. At one time in Japan's history, Naginata was the only martial art that women were allowed to practice. Today, however, Naginata is practiced by men, women, and children of all ages and abilities.

Q: What is "Atarashii Naginata"?
Atarashii Naginata is a standardized combination of all of the old schools of Naginata.

Q: Is Naginata just a sport?
No. Although many aspects of modern Naginata are contest oriented, most people practice it solely as a means of building character and self-discipline.

Q: Do I have to be athletic to learn Naginata?
No. Naginata is practiced by people of all ages and abilities.

Q: Do I need to have had prior martial arts experience before I can study Naginata?
No. Experience in other martial arts, while it may be helpful, is not a pre-requisite for studying Naginata.

Q: Does it cost a lot of money to get started in Naginata?
No. Most schools will rent equipment to beginners for a nominal fee.

Q: Where did the naginata originate?
Historians differ in their opinion as to the naginata's origin, however, most feel that it originated in China but was utilized and refined in Japan.

Q: Are there any other terms used to describe the naginata?
The naginata is sometimes referred to as a "reaping sword" or "halberd".

Q: Was the naginata ever used in battle?
Yes. The naginata was used extensively in battle in medieval Japan. It was especially popular in cavalry battles. Foot soldiers used it to cut horse's legs and then kill the rider once the horse fell. The wives of the Samurai also used the naginata to defend their homes while their husbands were working in the fields or away in battle. Once firearms were introduced in Japan (mid-16th century), however, the naginata declined in use and was practiced primarily by women as a means of character development.

Q: How large is the match area in Naginata tournaments?
The match area is a square measuring 12 meters on each side.

Q: How long is a Naginata match?
Naginata matches last no longer than 5 minutes.

Q: What are the valid targets in shiai (competitive matches)?
A: The head, throat, wrists, shins, and body are all valid targets.

Q: Can the butt end of the naginata (the ishizuki) be used to strike?
A: During shiai (bogu), the ishizuki CANNOT be used to thrust to the throat due to the danger involved. Ishizuki thrust to the throat is no longer valid and would be considered a hansoku if used. Thrusts (tsuki) to the sides of the body, such as in Shikake-Oji drills #5, 6, & 7, are NOT valid strikes during shiai (bogu) competition although the side of the ishizuki can be used to strike the shins (suneate) or to block strikes to the head or shins (suneate).

Q: I like to participate in "forms" competition. Do Naginata tournaments include that?
Yes. Engi ("forms" competition) is quite popular.

Sword Appraisal
Q: I have a Japanese sword (or naginata). If I send you some photos of it, can you appraise it for me?
We're sorry, but we cannot appraise swords. Numerous factors determine the value of Japanese blades, including the name of the swordsmith, the condition of the blade, its age, etc. In addition, a certified appraiser needs to examine the blade directly (not via photographs). Please check our list of favorite links for the names of sword related websites which may be able to help you.

Further Questions and History
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 allowed.

Q: 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 horse fell.
  • As far as the crafting (swordsmithing) process goes, naginata blades have always been made exactly the same way in which conventional Samurai swords are made.
  • 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 aspects:
  • 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 length).
  • 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.