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The naginata, a long pole with a sharp curving sword blade at one end, like the spear and sword is one of the ancient weapons of Japan. Its name was first visible in the Kojiki (A Record of Ancient Matters, 712) and was used by warrior priests during the Nara Period, around 750 A.D. Furthermore, in the paintings of battlefieled scenes made during the Tengyo no Ran (Tengyo Insurrection), in 936 A.D., the naginata can be seen in use.
It was in 1086, in the book entitles Oushu Gosannenki (A Diary of Three Years in Oushu) that the use of the naginata, in combat, is first recorded. In this period the naginata was regarded as an extremely effective weapon by warrors, however by the time of the 1500s the introduction of muskets and mass battles forced the naginata into becoming a specialist weapon, wielded by warrior priests and women.
By the Edo period, when the naginata was hardly ever used in combat, it became the representative weapon of samurai women. They would engage in training in order to polish the virtues of Harmony, Order, Chastity and Moderation. The traning would also develop the etiquette, style and personalities of the trainees. Furthermore a fashion developed where samurai families would display naginata in prominent places such as the entrances to theeir homes they would also be clearly visible in parades led by the local lords, and were even given as pressents to brides.
Due to the influence of westernization after the Meiji Restoration the perceived value of martial arts, naginata included, dropped severely. It was from this time that the focus of training became the strengthening of the will and the forging of the mind and body. During the Showa period naginata became a part of the public school system.
Once the ban had been lifted from the martial arts after World War II, a new modern sportive martial art was developed called ’Atarashii Naginata’ using the long history and traditions of the naginata.
In 1955 the All Japan Naginata Federation was founded with the aim of nurturing youth. In 1968 the association received approval to become a non tax paying foundation. From that time on naginata has been widely practiced, both through school education and through other social groups.
Naginata has as its aim the training of technique, the polishing of the spirit, the enhancement of the will, and the nurturing of the body. Furthermore, as the techniques of the naginata are practiced on both sides of the body they are highly appraised for their development of a good sense of balance. And, as the changes to left and right techniques are practiced swiftly they also provide a very effective way of developing a fit physique. Naginata can be enjoyed by men or women, from the youngest preschooler to the oldest senior citizen.
In 1990 the International Naginata Federation was founded. At present the following 10 countries are members, The U.S.A., France, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, New Zealand, The Czech Republic, Australia and Japan. The All Japan Naginata Federation is at present sending instructors and coaches to these and other countries to develop the skills of naginata practitioners around the world. They are spreading the classical martial art of the naginata on a global scale. Introducing ways of enriching people’s live through the training and perseverance required in practice and developing manners, commitment and a will to live in the individual. Training in naginata also develops honestry, integrity and a sense of what is right. It is the visionary dream of the All Japan Naginata Federation that through practice of naginata in all corners of the globe, that we can achieve lasting peace.