Naginata Polearms

The naginata is a halberd-like weapon that was used extensively in feudal Japan. Described by some as simply “a sword on the end of a long pole”, the naginata was actually a sophisticated weapon which required considerable skill and stamina to use effectively in battle. It consisted of a curved blade, 1 to 2 feet in length, mounted onto an oak shaft that was usually 5 to 9 feet long. The actual dimensions of a naginata were primarily dependent on personal preferences and battle conditions. Attached to the butt end of the shaft was a sharp end-cap, or ishizuki, which was used to pierce between the plates of an attacker’s armor.

Although the exact origin of the naginata is not known, three theories are prominent today. The first states that the naginata evolved from a simple farming tool used for chopping. In the early part of the third century BC, farmers attached sharp stones to the end of long wooden shafts. Later, metal was used in place of the stones.

The second theory is that the naginata evolved directly as a weapon. The first prototype blades were most likely made of bronze, followed later by steel. This theory sets the development of the naginata well after the introduction of metal to Japan from the Asian continents (after 200 BC).

The third theory is that Chinese halberds were carried to Japan during early migrations, sometime around 200 BC. By the Han and Wei Dynasties (approximately 200 AD) these weapons closely resembled the type of naginata eventually used by Japanese warriors. Some historians believe that, although the Chinese may have invented the weapon, it was later developed, utilized, and refined by the Japanese.

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