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Naginatajutsu (??? or ????) is the Japanese martial art of wielding the naginata. This is a weapon resembling the medieval European glaive. Most naginatajutsu practiced today is in a modernized form, a gendai budo, Naginata (?????) , in which competitions also are held.
Multiple theories concerning the weapon’s exact origins are in debate. It has been suggested that it developed along the same lines as kobudo weapons as a modified farming tool. Another theory states that it is the result of the Japanese modifying a Chinese Guan Dao that bears a similar appearance. Others say that a creative samurai in need of a longer weapon attached a sword to a pole.
Perhaps the simplest explanation is the natural development of polearms. The polearms are intended as mass weapons, to be used not just by individual warriors, but by formations of soldiers together on field battles and not for duelling. When fighting in close order, two-handed cut-and-thrust weapons, such as halberds and glaives, are much more efficient than mere spears or swords because of their versatility compared to spears and longer reach compared to swords. Fighting in massed formation does not require similar individual weapon-handling skills as required by a skilled swordsman. Naginata is almost identical in appearance to both glaive and guan dao, and it is most likely result of parallel evolution.
In the early history of its use, the naginata was primarily used against cavalry, as its length kept the wielder a safe distance from horses and their riders. During the Tokugawa period (1603-1868), the naginata was transformed into a symbol of status for female samurai, as well as being the primary means for a woman to defend her home while her husband was away at war. This period also saw the propagation of the naginata as a feminine art and the weapon serving as more of a symbol of devotion to a woman’s family.
Many koryu ryuha, such as the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, include naginatajutsu in their curriculum.
Today, naginatajutsu is most often practiced in the form of a sport called Naginata (?????) , which are governed by the All Japan Naginata Federation (AJN). It is most common in Japan for this sport to be practiced by women at the collegiate level. Outside Japan Naginata is practiced in Europe, Australia, North and South America. Not all countries belong to the International Naginata Federation (INF).