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Naginata

The martial art known as naginata is named after the spear-like weapon first used by the warrior class of Japan some 1000 years ago. The naginata is a pole measuring approximatly 2 meters with a curved .5 meter blade at the end. Given the length of the naginata it was a very effective weapon against men on horses and also in keeping an enemy at a safe distance. During the Edo Period women of the noble class were taught to use the naginata for defence of the home while the men were off at war. Today the blade has been replaced with either sectioned bamboo slats or solid wood and the focus is now on mental and physical health, not keeping the homefront safe from intruders. However today, despite the fact that men also train in naginata, it is primarily practiced by womenToday there are two types of naginata practiced, modern and classical. In modern naginata (called Atarashi Naginata or New Naginata) two types of practice are done, tournaments and kata (form). For tournaments the naginata used is a long oak shaft with bamboo slates for a "blade". The tip of the "blade", as well as the end of the wooden shaft are protected by a small leather sleeve. The armour is similar to to that worn in kendo, except the gloves have a separately padded index finger to allow extra sensitivity to the staff posture. In scoring points, the head, hands, body, and throat, are all valid targets, but unlike kendo, the shins are included. Strikes must be made with proper form, and correct part of the "blade" and accompanied by a kia (shout). Strikes are usually lighter than that in kendo taking into consideration that the weight of the true weapon would lend strength to the technique. In the kata form, a wooden naginata is used along with a partner. The pair move in a pre arranged pattern of strikes and blocks. This form of practice makes full use of the charateristic broad sweeps of the naginata.Classical naginata styles originate from the militaristic training styles of feudal Japan, remaining largely unchanged for hundreds of years. Unlike modern naginata, classical naginata does not have tournaments. Instead, classical naginata styles are practiced as prearranged choreographed forms. As both partners know the other's strikes and blocks these forms are often performed at great speeds, creating a realistic feeling. On Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. the Okazaki City Gym Budojo is open to any one who wishes to train by themselves. Both a hard wood floor, suitable for Karate/Kendo and a padded floor for Judo/Aikido are available. The price is a mere 200 yen for the four hours. Heat is available for 100 yen per half hour and hot showers are available for 100 yen.

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