Naginata can be used to batter, stab or hook an opponent', but due to their relatively balanced center of mass, are often spun and turned to proscribe a large radius of reach. The curved blade makes for an effective tool for cutting due to the increased length of cutting surface. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, one 5-foot (1.5 m) tall wielder could conceivably cover and attack in 484 square feet (45 square meters) of open, level ground with a 5 foot (1.5 m) shaft, 3 foot (0.9 m) blade, 3 foot (0.9 m) reach.
Naginatas were often used by foot soldiers to create space on the battlefield. They have several situational advantages over a sword. Their reach was longer, allowing the wielder to keep out of reach of his opponent. The long shaft offered it more leverage in comparison to the hilt of the katana, enabling the naginata to cut more efficiently. The weight of the weapon gave power to strikes and cuts, even though the weight of the weapon is usually thought of as a disadvantage. The weight at the end of the shaft and the shaft itself can be used both offensively and defensively. Swords, on the other hand, can be used to attack faster, have longer cutting edges (and therefore more striking surface and less area to grab), and were able to be more precisely controlled in the hands of an experienced swordsman.
The martial art of wielding the naginata is known as naginatajutsu. Most naginata practice today is in a modernised form, a gendai budō called atarashii Naginata meaning "new Naginata", in which competitions are held. Use of the naginata is also taught within the Bujinkan and in some koryū schools. Naginata practitioners may wear a form of the protective armour known as bōgu similar to that worn by kendō practitioners. Wearing the bogu means using a naginata that is a mix of light oak wood shaft, with a bamboo blade habu for atarashii Naginata.
The naginata has become associated in modern Japan as a woman's weapon as it is studied by women more than men, whereas in Europe and Australia naginata is practiced predominantly by men—this is however simply a reflection of the martial arts demographics of Europe, where there is no historical association—as there is in Japan—that naginatajutsu is for women.
Read more about this topic: Naginata
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