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A nodachi (???:????) is a large two-handed Japanese sword. Nodachi approximately translates to “field sword”. However, some have suggested that the meaning of “nodachi” is roughly the same as odachi meaning “large/great sword”. A confusion between the terms has nearly synonymized “nodachi” with the very large “odachi”. Thus, while the original use of the term may have been to refer to any type of long battlefield sword (daito), including the tachi, it is frequently misapplied to any type of oversized Japanese sword.
Nodachi have the same general appearance and design of a tachi though they are significantly longer. The nodachi was carried by foot soldiers and was designed as a weapon for war versus cavalry and open field engagements. Nodachi were generally used on open battlefields as their length made their use indoors or close quarters difficult. They were an effective weapon against cavalry, though they were not commonly used. Foot soldiers would carry the sword with the flat edge against the shoulder and the fuchi, or butt of the tsuka, in the palms of the hands and the blade facing out toward the enemy. The sword would often be thrown down or at the enemy. Nodachi were infrequently used for several reasons:
During times of peace, the sword was worn slung across the back as a symbol of status. This is distinctive because most Japanese swords such as the katana, wakizashi, and tachi were worn at the waist or belt; however, it was not “drawn” from the back. The nodachi was more difficult to wield due to its size and weight. The length of the nodachi’s hilt varied between twelve to thirteen inches (30 to 33 centimeters). Its cutting capability and range exceeded that of a katana, due to its weight and size.
In some Chinese martial arts, Bagua Zhang being perhaps the best known example, over-sized weapons are used for training purposes. This is done to condition the martial artist to handle a normal-sized weapon more efficiently (e.g. in Japanese martial arts with the suburito, a heavy wooden sword).
The Kage-ryu is one of the very rare schools of Japanese martial arts remaining that trains in the use of the Japanese long-sword (which they call choken).
This sword was also used by Sasaki Kojiro, a very skilled warrior and deadly with the nodachi. He is famous for losing to Musashi Miyamoto, a skilled swordsman of the time.