Length: Different sizes between long and short
Distance: Long range
The naginata, a heavily used weapon that was a primary choice by warriors during the Middle Ages, became a specified training style by women in the recent years.
It is known that this weapon was designated for use by women even since the Middle Ages, Although the reasons for this cannot be verified. As an example, Shizuka Gozen and Tomoe Gozen are females who have used the naginata. However, this doesn’t mean that men did not use this weapon. On the contrary, there were many men who trained in utilizing the naginata just as much as the yari, for it was a formidable weapon on the battlefield during times of war. Also, in terms of inheritance of individual naginata systems, it was men who could receive this and not women. In the later years, the naginata became a tool for educational studies at schools, which in turn became the source of women’s martial arts, and spread throughout Japan as a form of competition.
The naginata’s unique point that separates it from the yari and bo is that its shaft is an oval shape. Since it’s a single-edged bladed weapon like the sword, its shaft has to be oval-shaped in the same fashion. This is to ensure that a person can handle the naginata with the blade facing forward.
There are differences between how the naginata is utilized between boys and girls. For example, unlike for boys, the version girls use is designed smaller and lighter to fit their frame. Also, in their movements they stand straight a lot, which meant small steps and joining of the legs was prevalent. This is due in part to the fact that women opening their hips widely was frowned upon.
During naginata katageiko (form training with the naginata), a ryūha-standard wooden naginata is used. Looking at kenjutsu, it is normal to have ryūha-specific standards for a wooden sword. Even though this is the case, the length of a live sword and the fittings that go along with it rarely has to match any ryūha-specific rules. However, in the case of schools and their naginata, there are many ryūha-specific standards that extend even as far to a live naginata. The same can be said for the yari. The predominant image of going up against a person wielding a naginata would be to use a naginata yourself, or wield a sword or yari.
Current naginata schools in Japan include the following: Tendo ryū, Jiki Shinkage ryū, Higo Ko ryū, Yoshin ryū, Suio ryū, Nen ryū, Komagawa Kaishi ryū, Jiki Gen ryū, Muhen ryū, Katori Shinto ryū, Takenouchi ryū, and Toda Ha Buko ryū.