Tendo-ryu, which provides the basis for modern naginata (glaive) practice, has a 450-year history dating back to its founding by Saito Denkibo.
With a length of over 2 meters, the naginata was an extremely effective weapon on the battlefield, but fell out of use after the introduction of firearms. In Japan, naginata training is a martial art practiced primarily by women. Through the use of centrifugal force, the naginata allows women to be on equal footing with physically stronger men. Women from samurai families considered the naginata to be the perfect weapon for defending their homesteads when their men were away at war. It also served an important role in the education and self-development of these women. The naginata techniques that many women learn today under Yasuko Kimura, the 17th head of Tendo-ryu, preserve those traditions.
According to headmistress Kimura, “Learning the techniques of Tendo-ryu is exhilarating. There are so many possibilities in the way the weapon is held, or how the body moves. The various skills are not achieved by performing kata (prescribed sequences of techniques) on one’s own. It all comes together through interacting with others. In a sense, it is your opponent who holds all the answers. During kata competitions, in which various weapons are employed against an opponent wielding a tachi (long sword), your partner is always watching and waiting for you to lose focus. It is the opponent who keeps you honest.”
Based on excerpts from the book “Budo: Japanese Martial Arts,” published by Nikko Graphic Arts Co., Ltd. For more information, visit nga-publication.com.