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A nagamaki

The nagamaki (Japanese: 長巻, literally "long wrapping") is a Japanese pole weapon with a large and heavy blade, popular between the 12th and 14th centuries. It is very much like a glaive. It was introduced and used primarily during the Kamakura (1192–1333), Nanbokucho (1334–1392) and early Muromachi (1392–1573) periods. It was a long sword with 2–4 feet blade and a shaft with 2–3 feet length. The blade was single-edged. It was also beveled along the back edge to reduce its weight. It resembles a traditional naginata, but the main difference was that the handle (tsuka) of the nagamaki was not a simple wooden shaft; it was made more like a katana hilt. Even the name "nagamaki" ("long wrapping") is given by the tradition of handle wrapping. The nagamaki handle was wrapped with cords in criss-crossed manner, very similar to the wrapping that is made on katana. The nagamaki is considered to be a type of the no-dachi sword, a variation of the long samurai sword.

The way to hold nagamaki was also very specific. It is held with the two hands in a fixed position in the same way a katana is held. Unlike the naginata, the hands do not change when handling the weapon and the right hand was always the closest to the blade. While handling nagamaki fewer sliding actions on the handle are performed than are with the naginata, where the entire length of the shaft is used. The nagamaki was not spread and developed until much later like the naginata. During the middle of the Muromachi period (1336–1573 A.D.) it reached its peak of usage. The nagamaki is considered the favored weapon of General Oda Nobunaga.

The nagamaki is designed for large sweeping and slicing strokes. It also works as a spear. Traditionally, it was used as an infantry weapon. Warriors used the weapon against horsemen. Still, it required more time and materials to create a nagamaki than spears or naginata, this is why it was not as widely used. The closest exemplar of real nagamaki that can be seen today is nagamaki-naoshi. It appears to be like a long katana-shaped halberd, but straighter and thinner, with a very long tsuka. In contrast to it, the naginata blade is shorter, wider and more curved to the tip. The nagamaki also resembles the Song Dynasty anti-cavalry weapon, the Zhanmadao.

History

The nagamaki was developed in the middle of the Kamakura period. Today it is a rare collector’s item, and few martial arts teach its technique.

Manufacture

There are no solid rules governing the aspects of the make of the nagamaki. Unlike wakizashi, tantō, and katana, which have had history of strict measurements regarding the nagasa, and even the tsuka in some cases; the nagamaki varied in nagasa, nakago(tang) length , kissaki style, etc. Bare nagamaki blades are katana length with typical katana-size tang (7–10 inches). The nagamaki has a single very sharp edge. Nagamaki presumably could have koshirae in a tachi or katana style as well as a nagamaki style. However there are examples of nagamaki with rather long nakago (tang), which could be fitted with a longer staff for a haft and effectively function as a naginata. All traditional Japanese swords are fitted very snugly to their tsukas and held in place with a mekugi (bamboo peg) which is fit through a mekugi-ana (hole in the tang and hilt). This is actually quite a strong mount when done correctly, and allowed for easy dismount of the bare blade for maintenance or inspection. Katana most commonly had one single mekugi, and nagamaki commonly have been found with two or more to account for the added leverage of a longer handle. There are always variances in the mekugi. Having mekugi at all makes it legally a type of bladed samurai weapon in Japan (and thus requires the owner to fill out and carry appropriate paperwork with the weapon). There are fishing tools used in Japan which would otherwise be like samurai weapons had it not been for the absence of a mekugi-type mount.

The length of blade varies on a nagamaki. However, the nagasa most commonly fits the profile of a tachi or katana blade, which would be a blade of more than 2 shaku (2 Shaku = 60.6 cm, roughly 2 feet) in length. The tsuka (hilt) seems to average about 2.5 feet. Generally speaking, the tsuka of this weapon is a bit longer than the blade. While nagamaki means "long wrap" they have been found with no ito (wrapping cord) at all, which is very much like a long tachi handle. The tsukamaki (hilt wrap) is of even more importance when applied to the tsuka of a nagamaki. The cord helps to improve grip on the tsuka and also lends structural integrity to the wooden handle. Nagamaki found without hilt wrap usually had at least metal collars around the hilt where the taint is.

References


Simple English

Nagamaki is a Japanese pole weapon with a large and heavy blade. It is very much like a glaive. It was introduced and used primarily during the Kamakura (1192 - 1333), Nanbokucho (1334 - 1392) and early Muromachi (13921573) periods. It was a long sword with 2-4 feet blade and a handle with 2-3 feet length. The blade was single-edged. It was also sharpened along the back edge to reduce its weight. It reminds a traditional naginata, but the main difference was that the handle (tsuka) of the nagamaki was not constructed of wood; it was made more like a katana handle. Even the name "nagamaki" is given by the tradition of handle wrapping. The word "nagamaki" means "long wrapping". The nagamaki handle was wrapped with cords in criss-crossed manner, very similar to the wrapping that is made on katana. The nagamaki is considered to be a type of the no-dachi sword. This one was a variation of long samurai sword.

The way to hold nagamaki was also very specific. It was held with the two hands in a fixed position in the same way a katana sword is held. Unlike the naginata, the hands did not change when handling the weapon and the right hand was always the closest to the blade. While handling nagamaki not too many sliding actions on the handle were performed as it was in naginata's case, where you use the entire length of the shaft. The nagamaki was not spread and developed until much later like the naginata sword. During the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1600 A.D.) it reached its peak of usage. The nagamaki is considered the favored weapon of General Oda Nobunaga.

The nagamaki is designed for large sweeping and slicing strokes. It also works as a spear. Traditionally, it was used as infantry weapon. Warriors used the weapon against horsemen. Still, it required more time and materials to create a nagamaki than a spears or a naginata sword, this is why it was not so widely spread. The closest exemplar of real nagamaki you can see today is nagamaki-naoshi. It appears to be like a long katana-shaped halberd, but straighter and thinner, with a very long tsuka. In contrast to it naginata is shorter, wider and more curved to the tip.

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