What Is the Difference Between a Nagamaki and a Katana?

The Nagamaki and Katana have several differences. These include Tsuka, their construction, how the swords were used, and more.

The Tsuka of the Nagamaki and Katana

While both the Nagamaki and Katana feature a Tsuka that can accommodate two hands, these have some differences. For the Nagamaki, its Tsuka measured as long as its blade. The Katana’s Tsuka, on the other hand, was shorter than its blade.

Because of the different sizes of the Tsuka, the Samurai used the Nagamaki and Katana in different ways.

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How the Swords Were Used

In combat, the Nagamaki and Katana had different functions. For the Nagamaki, they used it for slicing and sweeping attacks. It was an infantry weapon that was primarily used against cavalrymen.

Since the Nagamaki had a long Tsuka, it kept the wielder safe while attacking enemies from a distance.

Like the Nagamaki, the Katana was held with two hands. It was mainly for cutting and for quick-drawing techniques. Its curvature allowed for drawing the blade and striking an opponent in a single motion.

For the Samurai to easily perform these movements, he wore the Katana thrust through their Obi or a belt-like sash. The edge of the sword faced up so he could easily unsheathe this.


Construction of the Nagamaki and Katana

Another difference between the Nagamaki and the Katana is the construction of the two swords. The Japanese government did impose laws and limits on its blade length. With that, swordsmiths were able to design the Nagamaki based on their preference.

When creating the Nagamaki, swordsmiths didn’t worry about specifications established by the government. This is why there is no specific size for this sword. The only prominent feature of the Nagamaki was that its blade and Tsuka had the same length.

The Katana sword, on the other hand, went through changes in length through its years of development. Its blade length ranged between 60 to 80 centimeters. In the 16th century, it had an average length of 73 centimeters.

What Is the Difference Between the Nagamaki and the Naginata?

The main difference between the two weapons is that the Nagamaki is a sword, while the Naginata is a polearm. Because of this, the two blades have other differing characteristics that make them unique from each other.

Blade Length

The Nagamaki is a long sword that has a blade measuring two feet or more. Its Tsuka almost has the same length as its blade. When it comes to its blade, the Nagamaki sword had a single-edged one that somehow resembled the blade of a Naginata.

When it comes to the Naginata, it features a relatively short blade that’s often mounted at the end part of a pole. Its Tsuka is often longer, while the blade features an outward curve with a pronounced arch towards the tip.

Tsuka of the Nagamaki and Naginata

The Naginata has a Tsuka that’s longer than the blade. It was mounted at the end of a simple wooden shaft.

In historical records, the definition of the Nagamaki is vague. But generally, the Tsuka and blade almost had the same length. Yet in this day and age, it often refers to a sword that’s as tall as the user.

Also, the blade is, at times, likened to a Tachi or Katana. Sometimes, it appears heavier and wider like the Naginata.

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Differences in Uses and Functions

Traditionally, the infantry wielded a Nagamaki during battles and was frequently utilized against the cavalry. The Samurai could use the Nagamaki for attacking cavalry at a safe yet adequate distance. It would protect themselves from any harm coming from the enemy.

For the Naginata, this weapon was often wielded by Ashigaru or foot soldiers. They needed to create space while on the battlefield. Plus, it had a few situational benefits over a sword like a longer reach.

Chinese Counterparts

The Nagamaki is a Japanese version of the Zhan Ma Dao, a Horse chopping sabre created during the Song Dynasty.

Ancient Chinese foot soldiers usually lay close to the ground with a camouflage themselves against the enemy. With their Zhan Ma Dao, they would strike the horses’ legs of passing enemy cavalry.

For the Naginata, it’s the Japanese version of the Guan Dao, a Chinese Crescent sabre fixed on a pole. With that, the Naginata appears like a sabre placed on a long pole.