Sport

Apr 1, 2017

NAGINATA - THE ART THAT BUILDS CHARACTER

If there is an inheritance that the East is giving to Humanity, it is undeniably a diversity of disciplines that seek the evolution of the Human being and which lead to physical, mental and spiritual elevation. Martial arts such as Karate, included as an Olympic modality at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in 2020, is an example of this.

Budo, which means "War" or "Martial," is defined as the set of disciplinary rules governing the moral order of Martial Arts practitioners. Coming from the ancient Samurai (warriors), these rules were also called "Bujutsu", in Japanese, or "Techniques of War", in Portuguese.

One of these ancestral Martial Arts is the Naginata - born within the wartime forces of the medieval era. In Naginata, a scythe-shaped sword with 2.25m long, is used.

The first to use this sword in Japan were the warrior monks, the "Yama-bushi", to protect the sanctuaries from thieves. Until the sixteenth century, the Infantry used the Naginata to cut off the horses' legs, thus wounding the enemy from afar. Their presence in the houses of the samurais of all categories has been generalised throughout the ages.

With the appearance of firearms, the Naginata stopped being used in the fighting, but maintained a place of honour in the aristocratic houses, where it was used by the wives and daughters of samurais in the defense of the home.

In the sixteenth century, weapons of war were officially banned from the people to secure the domination of the Bushi aristocracy, but the tenacious martial tradition encouraged by the insecurity of the time made this art survive in villages, towns and monasteries.

Between 1603 and 1867, Naginata was also practiced by the wives and daughters of samurai, not only for self-defense, but also as a method of moral development. The weapon became decorative and was equally used as a dowry by the aristocratic brides.

From 1868 to 1912, Naginata was practiced mainly for personal development and was also introduced in the curriculum of public schools as a school discipline.

The first associations for the practice of Naginata were formed from the 1950s, congregating more than 15 different styles of the modality. In 1953, "ZEN NIPPON NAGINATA RENMEI" (Japanese Naginata Confederation) was established, an organisation that regulated this art, bringing together the techniques of the various styles existing in a unique style. Another entity was formed in the 1990s - the International Naginata Federation (INF), which congregates several countries and is divided into three sections: Japan, Europe and the Americas.

At present, this Martial Art is divided into two types: the Atarashi Naginata (Modern Style) and the Classic Style.

The Modern Style includes several aspects of competitive sport, with two types of evidence: Shiai and Katá. The Shiai is the mode of struggle, with the use of protective equipment. The combat consists of striking blows to the head, throat, trunk, wrist and cinnamon. The Katá is done in pairs, performing choreographed movements where the objective is to demonstrate, with the greatest perfection possible, the techniques of Naginata.

The Classic Style consists of the various fighting styles of the samurai. In this style, there are no competitions and the movements are developed through the sequence of pre-defined movements of attack and defense, performed with great speed, strength and precision.

In either case, the main purpose of the mode remains - the perfecting of man as an indivisible whole: body, mind and spirit.

Practitioners say that Naginata exercises intrinsically generate the need for body balance, which can bring a more correct and elegant posture. They activate the blood circulation, providing a better functioning of all the organs and a better physical condition. It also seeks to strengthen individual spirit and character. For this, the practitioners resort to "KIAI", a method of channeling energy, whose exercises provide the total union of body, spirit and sword. The compliments made at the beginning and end of each fight or exercise also have their meaning: respect and spirit of collaboration between partners. Thus, a link is formed between the practitioners of this little-known martial art, but so complete and virtuous.

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