New Essay: The Curious Relationship Between Naginatajutsu & Kusarigamajutsu

isshinryuronin

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Interesting info on these koryu weapons, not often seen in the West. Kusarigama has been seen in a couple of movies, but even in this entertainment venue, the difficulty and skill required to wield it is evident. How much more so in actual combat with an adversary trained in katana or naginata! Even Musashi admitted difficulty in dealing with these weapons. Indeed, as in most all weapons, core body control is necessary along with nuanced wrist technique. It's a hard skill to fake.

How women were first associated with naginata and kusarigama (and kyudo, for that matter) would be interesting to know in more detail. Is it because they are long distance "standoff" weapons which lessens the chance they get within grasping distance of a stronger male? Or was it taught in buddhist nunneries? Or perhaps by using weapons wielded in arcing motions, they were able to generate power (a centrifugal force multiplier) beyond female musculature?

Thanks for making your essay available to us. I'd like to see more.
 
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Ellis Amdur

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Isshinryuronin - Thank you. You are welcome to looking at any of the other essays on kogenbudo.org They are all open to the public. Regarding the naginata and women, I've got an entire chapter on each in my book Old School: Essays on Classic Japanese Martial Traditions. (and fwiw, a chapter on the kusarigama as well).
 
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Ellis Amdur

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Isshinryuronin - A couple more points in reviewing your post. There were no Buddhist nunneries, teaching weaponry. You are right that the naginata was probably favored because with length and "centrifugal force multiplier," the naginata was viewed as suitable for women (it is probable, however, that this mostly occurred after Japan was at peace after the early 1600's. People wonder why spears wouldn't serve the purpose equally or better - probably because the spear was, to some degree, a low class weapon used by peasant conscript warriors. And it was considered a weapon of war, rather than 'peace-and-war,' like the sword or for women, the naginata.
 

isshinryuronin

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So, I accept that after relative peace was achieved in the Tokugawa era, itinerant Samurai opened dojos and started a variety of ryuha and Samurai women began to study some form of kobudo. But what was the motivation or incentive for them to start learning the art at this time? Did they always desire to study, but in preTokugawa days, the teachers were too concerned with training soldiers and had no time for women until post 1600? Or was there some cultural women's lib (r)evolution that led them to these weapons? Perhaps having the warriors unemployed, their women booted them out of the house and became more independent, trading their kimono for hakama. ;)
 
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Ellis Amdur

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Quite the contrary. The woman's relationship to her family (headed by her husband - and his mother - ) was like the samurai to the feudal lord. Absolute servitude. But they were not expected to be fainting flowers - rather, they were made to endure. And budo training - particularly the naginata - was a means of inculcating those values. A naginata textbook in prewar Japan stated: home economics, sewing and naginata made the perfect woman. It's a lot more complex than this, but it certainly wasn't a nascent feminism. I've got an entire chapter in Old School: Essays in Japanese Martial Traditions called Women Warriors of Japan that goes into a lot of detail on this subject.
 

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