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About the Nagamaki Sword
The Nagamaki sword is considered as a traditional Japanese Samurai sword. The difference between the Nagamaki and the Katana lies in the handle because in this case a Nagamaki sword has a long handle than the standard sword.
The Nagamaki was used by the Samurai class of feudal Japan which is why it was also known as Samurai Nagamaki. There is a chance the Nagamaki was made during the Heian period since there were no examples during the mid Kamakura period. It was however, during the Muromachi period when Samurai Nagamaki reached its popularity.
There are stories that says the famed warlord Uesugi Kenshin which is a daimyo in the Echigo province kept a special guard of retainers that he armed with Nagamaki blades.
Normally, The Nagamaki sword was around 2-2.5 feet in blade length with its handle around 2 feet. The hilt used for this sword resembles those found on the Katana. This sword gets its name from the special wrapping made on the handle of the swords. It could either be made with leather or silk cords in criss cross manner.
Description of Nagamaki
The Nagamaki sword was said to evolve from the Nodachi sword from the 14th century. However, the blade length was similar to the Katana or tachi blade which is more than 2 shaku or 2 feet.
Even if the name derives from the long wrappings of which the Nagamaki is known for, there is a specimen that has no wrapping cord. The cord helps to improve grip on the hilt. Samples of this sword without the wrappings compensate for it by having metal collars around the hilt where the tang is located.
There were not rules to be followed regarding the creation of how to make a Nagamaki sword. Some swords like wakizashi and tanto follows strict measurements. However, in the case of the Nagamaki the blade length, kissaki style etc can be different and still remain categorize as Nagamaki.
There are Nagamaki swords that has a very long tang. This only solidifies the fact that there are no strict rules for the production of a Nagamaki.
This sword was designed for large sweeping and slicing strokes. This was used as an infantry weapon. Records show that Nagamaki was used against cavalry. The hands do not change when using this weapon. The right hand was preferred than the left hand. There are fewer sliding actions on how the handle was use.
Today, the Nagamaki sword is made with high carbon steel tempered with a polished surface. Today’s version of the Nagamaki is a cross between Katana and Naginata. The length of the handle gives this sword superb leverage to increase its ability to cut. This sword is not just for display but is a thoroughly functional weapon both in the past and even today.
Everything you need to know about Nagamaki
In the history of weapons, it is possible to find many attempts to break the rules; to create new things; to make unthinkable hybrids. It is possible to see monstrous weapons, with structures that look like those taken from a fantasy film.
And the sad reality of these weapons, usually, is that they don’t survive the passage of history. It is immediately discovered that they are not effective in combat -possibly thanks to the sacrifice of some idealists who relied on these monstrosities. In the end, these weapons are relegated to the realm of fantasy.
Nagamaki, however, is not one of these weapons.
The Nagamaki is an unconventional weapon by sword standards, yes. It is a Katana with a much longer handle than usual, which gives it, at first glance, the appearance of a spear. However, this design turned out to be terribly effective on the battlefield. Even great warlords like Oda Nobunaga would end up having their own troops armed with these unconventional weapons.
But what makes Nagamaki so special? What are the advantages that give a warrior the cutting power of a katana with the range of a spear? What kinds of moves, techniques, and strategies can you choose when you have a weapon like this?
Read below while we will explore Nagamaki sword from end to end; from its historical origins to its practical applications.
Let’s get started!
History of the Nagamaki Sword
It is believed that nagamaki may have been first produced during the Heian period (794 – 1185 AD), but there are no examples of nagamaki before the mid Kakamura period (1192 – 1333).
It is not known where or why the nagamaki was born. The most widely accepted version says it is an evolution of the enormous Japanese sword called “nodachi” —which had also been created to combat cavalry—. According to that theory, seeing how complicated it was for an ordinary person to wield a nodachi, the bottom of the blade began to be covered with a cord. In this way, the wearer would have more room to hold the blade and therefore would be easier to maneuver. Swords with this modification were known as nakamaki nodachi, which can be translated as “field sword wrapped in the center”.
Faced with the efficiency of this type of grip, over time they simply began to create swords with much longer handles. These became known as Nagamaki.swords.
Nagamaki in War
It is well known that the Oda Nobunaga daimio was very close to this weapon that he had created a full division of warriors with Nagamaki.swords These would have been especially effective in defending the flanks of the troops from constant enemy cavalry attacks.
These hybrid sword and spear weapons were not only good in melee fighting, but also proved more effective than Nodachi in fighting cavalry. This was because it was much easier to use, so it was much more convenient when arming entire troops with it.
Another advantage, according to some historical archives, is that Nagamaki would have been especially effective for riders as well. Thanks to its reach and ease of use, they would have been used to lacerate troops in ways that a spear could not.
Advantages of Nagamaki
As mentioned above, both the nodachi and nagamaki were intended to face the troops on horseback. The nagamaki, however, gained some advantage over the nodachi in arming numerous troops. This is because it is much easier to wield a nagamaki.
For the wearer of a nagamaki it is simply much easier and more comfortable to move smoothly. In fact, many of the combat techniques are based on this. It is easier to control the environment and push the opponent into a difficult position for someone who possesses a weapon with such a large range.
One of the main advantages of this hybrid is that it has the balance point closest to the hands of the bearer. This means that it is much easier to attack with it, spending less energy to give each stroke and being able to make movements faster. This, of course, with the disadvantage that it cannot hit as hard as the nodachi, because it is sacrificing the weight of the blade —and therefore the momentum it can generate—, in favor of greater mobility.
In addition to the above, there are other benefits of having a longer handle. For example, the possibility of using it to deflect attacks or to give unexpected blows in order to weaken the opponent.
In fact, a wide variety of nagamaki combat techniques are based on abusing this advantage. Many of its movements seek to have a dual function: defense and attack.
Thus, for example, some of the attacks with nagamaki involve stopping with the blade a blow of the rival’s sword while counterattacking with the back of the weapon to some exposed point of him.
Another possibility is to turn the nagamaki over the head in order to make the opponent retreat, make him dizzy, or frighten him to reduce his resolution.
A clear advantage is to be able to use this weapon as if it were a spear; keeping the opponent at a distance with the tip of the blade without the need to expose one’s own body.
In short, the efficiency of a nagamaki depends exclusively on the skill and intelligence of its bearer. After all, what he has in his hands is both a sword and a spear, so he must know when to use each of these parts of the weapon in his favor.
In rugged terrain, for example, using it as a spear to maximize range is the best option. While, in a tighter space, or if the opponent gets too close, then it becomes vital the skill of the wearer to know how to use his nagamaki as a sword.
In short, the nagamaki is an unconventional weapon, full of techniques and advantages over other weapons that a good warrior will know how to take advantage of.
Some dojos who teach sword techniques also teach Nagamaki Jutsu to students who wish to master this skill.
Even the Naginata when introduced eclipse this sword, modern dojos still believe in this weapon. Wielding a Nagamaki incorporates special movements since this sword is long.
Most teachers who are proficient in teaching these sword techniques are those that have reached upper level dans in different kinds of martial art practice.
The best teachers are those who carefully lay out step by step program that even beginners can simply follow. It also helps if the teachers in question also know how to perfect his art since he can share a wide range of techniques on how to use this weapon.
Nagamaki vs Naginata
The first obvious difference is that this weapon is a sword and the Naginata is a pole arm. The Naginata has a shorter blade length but with much longer handle, unlike the Nagamaki sword that is blade is longer, but have a shorter handle.
In terms of handling the weapons both needs both hands to be able to swing it properly. While in the case of Naginata there is a need for the user to rapidly change the hands use as the need arises. In terms of the blade,
Nagamaki was shape like that of a standard sword. It was however, thinned out on the back edge to reduce its weight. In the case of Naginata, the tip was curved much more.
Because of its straight shape long rod it is usable as a spear. However some compromise needs to be made because there is less slashing and cutting capabilities. The long blade made it hard to hit difficult targets using slashing movements.