Discover All About Nagamaki

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The Nagamaki is one of the most emblematic weapons of ancient Japan. This is not only because of its unique appearance (a sword whose handle is almost as long as its blade), but also because of its effectiveness on the battlefield.

This is one of the most important swords for the samurai when fighting in the open.

And no wonder.

The nagamaki offers all the advantages of fighting with a sword. That is, possessing a long blade capable of stopping attacks and making powerful cuts. And to that advantage you can add the ability of the spears to attack from a distance.

For this and more, today we will take a look at the incredible world of the nagamaki.

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Creating the Nagamaki

The origins of nagamaki, as with all historical weapons, are not fully established.

When was nagamaki created?

While it is difficult to trace a specific date when nagamaki was created, experts estimate that it first appeared during the Heian period (794 to 1185). It should be noted, however, that there are no traces of nagamaki until before the Kakamura period (1192 to 1333).

A more interesting question, however, is why was nagamaki created, and where did the interest in combining a spear and a sword, and giving both parts the same proportion, come from?

One of the most accepted versions of the creation of nagamaki is that it is an evolution of nodachi. Both are swords created to fight against cavalry, after all.

The nodachi is a sword with a normal handle and a very long blade. It’s so powerful that it was said that it could split a horse and its rider in half with a single blow. It only had one problem: it was too much.

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Too big and too heavy for a normal soldier to wield.

This is why, it is believed, nagamaki was born: a sword with a long blade but an equally long handle. Thanks to this, it was much easier for soldiers to wield the weapon and execute all kinds of powerful blows.

 Of course, wielding a nagamaki required skill, but learning to use it was a much more accessible feat than trying to use the heavy nodachi.

The first nagamaki were, in fact, nodachis that were blunted at the bottom of the blade and covered with a rope. In this way, the bearer had more space to hold the weapon and use it properly. These swords were known as nakamaki nodachi, which could be translated as “field sword wrapped in the center”.

It was only a matter of time before this practice of covering the nodachi blade was transformed into a weapon itself: the nagamaki.

What Makes Nagamaki Special?

Both nagamaki and nodachi were especially good weapons when fighting cavalry. While the nodachi was reserved only for the most muscular warriors, the nagamaki could be used by any sufficiently skilled soldier.

Of course, this means that a person must learn concretely how to use nagamaki, all its techniques and strengths, in order to take advantage of its full potential. However, once this is achieved, the result is unique.

For the wearer of a nagamaki, it is much easier to control the environment and keep an opponent right where he wants them to be. Precisely, many of the combat techniques seek to take advantage of the mobility and control offered by the nagamaki to push an opponent into a disadvantageous position where he can be easily defeated.

One of the main advantages offered by nagamaki is its center of mass. It is much closer to the wearer’s hands, allowing for easier use. Of course, this also means that it renounces all the destructive power of the nodachi, which owes its full strength to the momentum generated by its massive blade.

However, this also means that it is much easier and faster to attack. In addition, the possibility of using the handle to hit the opponent creates a whole repertoire of movement for the weapon.

Many of the attacks with the nagamaki seek to take advantage of the handle to achieve the dual function of attacking and defending.

For example, one of the movements of the nagamaki consists of using the blade to stop an attack from the opponent while using the other end of the weapon to counterattack. This is in case the opponent is in a very short range.

If you have more space, you can choose to turn the nagamaki over your head in order to make your opponent retreat— this is also a great way to say “think twice before you try”.

Most of the time you will be trying to keep your opponent away all the time; too far away for his sword to touch you, but not far enough for your nagamaki to reach him.

And always knowing that, if he gets close enough, you will still have a whole repertoire of moves to deal with him.

Nagamaki on the Battlefield

The nagamaki was so effective on the battlefield that the daimyo Oda Nobunaga had created an entire division within his army with warriors skilled in its use. These were especially good at defending the flanks from enemy cavalry troops.

His soldiers could not only use the nagamaki to damage weak spots on the horse, such as the legs, but also to strike down the riders.

Unfortunately, not many records remain of Nobunaga’s division of soldiers with nagamaki. What we do know for sure is that, if he was still alive, the daimio would have loved this 3D samurai sword customizer.

In it, you can choose from hundreds of different pieces and materials to create the perfect nagamaki for you— each with its own design, history, and symbolism.

Would you like your nagamaki to have a dragon on the Tsuba? Would you like us to engrave your name or a phrase on its blade? In just 5 minutes you can create the nagamaki of your dreams.

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