Advantages of Wielding a Nagamaki
When you think about traditional Japanese swords, the first one that comes to your mind would be a Katana. However, there are other Japanese swords that originate from this country and this includes a Nagamaki. The word Nagamaki translates to long wrap. This is a single edged blade with a slight curve similar to that of the Katana. Its blade extends up to 2 feet. What makes the Nagamaki stand out is its long handle. The length of the handle is equal to the length of the blade and this contributes to its uniqueness. Nagamaki has the same hilt as that of the Katana, with layers of wrapped leather, silk and other kinds of materials. Historians have discovered swords like this with little to almost no wrappings around the handle. Nagamaki breaks the rules when it comes to standard sizing and measurements when creating Japanese swords. The result was varying length of Nagamaki in terms of blade, handle and style. Arak ryu is more than eight feet long and weighs eight pounds.
Origins of Nagamaki
This sword is also known as Nagamaki Naoshi. The exact period dating the Nagamaki would have to be Heian period. This Japanese weapon was popular from the 12th to the 14th century. However, when it comes to reaching its peak of popularity, this was during the middle of the Muromachi period of feudal Japan. An infamous warlord named Uesugi Kenshin was protected by his army wielding Nagamaki swords.
What Makes Nagamaki Unique
- Made of high carbon steel similar to those of a Katana
- Two handed sword that requires warriors to use both of their hands
- Single edged blade resembles a Naginata blade
- Has two pins or more for added leverage in favor of its long handle
- Evolution of the extremely long Nodachi
- Use as an infantry weapon
- Used primarily for attacks that includes sweeping movements and slicing
- Long blade and handle makes it ideal to use against enemies even in a horseback
- The swords used by the elves that appear in the movie Lord of the Rings are said to be loosely based on the Nagamaki
- Today, it is a rare collector’s item
- Only a few martial arts teaches technique in how to wield this weapon
Although the Nagamaki resembles the Naginata there is a difference between this two. The handle of the tsuka is more like those found in a Katana hilt. It was even wrapped with leather or silk cords in crisscrossed manner similar to the Katana. When wielding this weapon the two hands are in a fixed position. The right hand was always the closest to the blade. The entire length of the shaft is used. This weapon is design for large sweeping and slicing strokes.
The length of the blade varies. The nagasa closely fits that of the profile of a tachi or Katana blade. Generally, the tsuka of this weapon is longer than its blade. Some say equal to the length of the scabbard or saya. Even if Nagamaki means long wrap there are some variations that are found without cord at all. Nagamaki without hilt wraps have metal around the hilt where the tang is.
As a Martial Arts Weapon
Like a traditional Japanese pole arm similar to a Naginata and Yari, this weapon bridges the gap between a combatant on foot and those riding a horseback. The warrior riding the horse will take advantage of the longer reach to slash or thrust downward against his opponent in the ground. Another brutal technique on the battlefield is to hack off the enemies’ horses limbs to bring down the rider. These techniques inspires movements in martial arts using this weapon although not that brutal at all. Some Sensei even wraps the handle so that Dojo students will not lose control of this large weapon. This is especially true for beginners who tend to get excited and may accidentally hurt themselves or others.
Because of its extra-long handle or tsuka this turns this weapon into a sort of polearm used for martial arts. This opens up different techniques like Sojutsu or spear techniques. The warrior is prepared to fight when he stands in a traditional fighting stance. He is focused on the battle that lies ahead. The same principle are used with a little variation for modern martial arts practitioners using Nagamaki. The Araki Ryu Nagamaki is four foot half with three foot blade attached to it. The technique used is Kesa (Naname) Giri. This is a diagonal cut which aims at the Teki’s collarbone and at his hip. There are still other Kata preserved according to Japanese tradition taught by the Sensei or martial arts teachers. For this reason, dojos require wooden sword versions of swords like the Nagamaki for purpose of safety. The genuine sword will still be collected later but, used with safety equipment like those used in fencing.
- Hammer. Cuts the short distance by thrusting from low guard
- Handshake. Cuts long distance by thrusting from high guard
- Forefinger on the hilt and Thumb on the Hilt. These are good techniques because it allows you to balance and have better control over the weapon
- Using Two Fingers to Control the Hilt. The best technique because you are given total control and balance while wielding the sword
Benefits of Owning Nagamaki
Since the Nagamaki is a single edged sword it is easier to maintain. Instead of sharpening two edges you only need to sharpen a single edge. Single edged swords has the advantage of being stronger because of the variations of metal thickness and integrity of its spine and edge. The Japanese government has place a restriction on the Katana, Tanto and Wakizashi but, this does not apply to the Nagamaki. This gives swordsmiths the freedom to design this sword according to their preference without the need to worry over government imposed specifications. Owning one is easier than owning the other swords previously mentioned above. Although this freedom does not apply to the Nagamaki naoshi or a blade that has been shaped into a Katana or Wakizashi for the reasons given above.