Miyamoto Musashi had said that "they were good for the field and nothing more". To explain this, such weapons protract the speed and power of its blade several times over. Keep in mind that a thrust with such weapons will pierce through an armor even in a dull state. The heavier the weapon - the lesser control the user may acquire in the case of its full maneuverability.
1) Hold the weapon with your hands wide apart - this will give you a better leverage in maneuvering the weapon. Having the hands too close together can make the pole-arm spin faster but will provide no control.
2) Your stride must compliment your leverage with the weapon - keep your body and spirit straight. Thrust quickly and pull back quickly like a punch. Mix high and low strikes to the target, with mixed attack and retreat as well as side to side. Circle-blocks and parries are always deployed, posing as fighting-stances and/or chambered positions.
3) Grasp the weapon on or near its center of gravity (the center of balance of the weapon), this will allow you to be able to maneuver the weapon from any predicament. You can shift the actual weight of the weapon to any direction. Focusing on the center-of-gravity of your weapon, you can make your weapon spin like a propeller on its axis, making maneuverability easier and faster.
4) Grasp with the other hand at the base of the weapon - from this position you are ready to implement a lunging thrust at any target. Change or switch hands nominally, to compliment your natural stride - this will complete your management of your mobility with the pole-arms. You can point the weapon to any direction.
5) With your thrusts, target the face, neck, mid section and groin area. The frequency of your jab should be nominally (just like in boxing). Mix low thrusts and high thrusts. Circle below his parry and come-up the other side.
6) With your slashes, target the wrists and the ankles. Always apply a fake prior to your actual strikes. Your fake should systematically be your chambered position, this will always keep you one step ahead of your opponents.
7) If equipped with sharp edged blade, slash in the inside of his forearm his fingers will fall open (his tendons will spring back towards his shoulders and he will drop his weapon) - or target the inside of his legs above the knees, he will bleed (this is the position of the main arteries).
8) Against a charging attack (or jumping), thrust at the groin - angle it down at impact so that he would sit himself to the ground, you can then pin him there. If he moves, impale the testicles and drive the blade through the ground. This is how to hold a captive to the ground.
9) Against a sword, strike down at the wrist or slash across to sever both arms at the same time.
10) Against multiple opponents; in two seconds your opponents behind you will make their first steps towards you to strike you. Sweep around and mow their ankles nice and low where they can't parry your strike. Go all the way around (360), then pull and thrust at an appropriate (next) target (or you can switch hold at this time).
11) It's proper to lay your blade on the ground or sand towards your opponent. You should be able to maneuver instantly to parry, flick sand to the face or thrust from this position. The most stable target is his center of gravity - the groin or - (or the hara region). Remember to use subterfuge before all strikes. Set-up your fakes as a chamber of your actual (planned) strikes. This also means to set-up your fakes to be a chambered parry, so that you are prepared to parry his impeding counter-strike ; then counter his counter-strike. This idea is also used in large scale maneuvers with squads or divisions. At any rate, all squads and/or divisions must move in an orchestrated manner as one organism (one body).
12) With the weapon's blade to the ground, you should be able to parry by swinging the base of the pole-arm side to side (shifting it like a bamboo tree swaying with the wind) - from here an imminent thrust can be achieved by grasping the center-of-balance of the weapon and direct the tip of the blade and deliver a thrust instantly. See videos.
13) Expect the unexpected. one must have an alternate or back-up weapon or even a defensive boken or stick to be able to capture another weapon in the event that you decided to throw your halberd at a target or just plainly dropped it or broke it. Most schools do not stress this, but in realistic training (when time-out is a rarity), one must solely rely on his own ingenuity.
The naginata's staff should be oval rather than round. In this way one could actually feel-by-hand the orientation of its blade. A quick twist on its axis will immediately make one feel the balance of which is the striking or the cutting mode. The curvature of the blade will help calculate this orientation. An attacker can easily be neutralized by the ridge side rather than the edge side of the blade. An unwanted severing or cutting of an attacker's member could be avoided. Clearly, there is no excuse. If an attacker's member is cut or severed, you can be sure that one had opted to do so. This is the same principle as in the single edged swords. The double edged sword has no value what-so-ever on the account of morality. When I used the double-edged sword on the basis of parrying only, and resorting with punching or kicking the attacker for counter strikes, I was missing half of my available counter strikes. I was resorting to cutting my attacker whether I like it or not. Unless you're in a killing spree and without justification for lives, the double edged sword is the kind of sword you live by. Everyone knows the outcome on that one. With the ridge, I can strike immediately and stop the attack without maiming the attacker. Broken metacarpals are much desirable than a severed hand. Ease-up on the quick tameshi-giri, and rather concentrate your Focus on Accuracy, Subterfuge and Timing. We will all have the chance to use the double-edged sword in the afterlife, on the devil himself.
NOTE: Please be advised that the above techniques mentioned here-in are actual combat techniques and are not to be applied with any sport oriented nor compatible with any sport oriented rules in its class. Please note that there are required seminars and studies before being qualified to practice the above techniques.
* Focus will render you vigil as the hawk,
* Undying Patience will make you stealthy like the Mantis or the Snake,
* Continuous waza will fit you bold like the Eagle or the Tiger,
* Kata will make you graceful as the crane,
* Elements of Nature harmonized will make you invisible like the Dragon,
* Deliberately forgetting your real-time techniques will render you as Sitting Ducks!
Precepts on Striking Techniques with the Staff
By Antonio LaMotta
The mightiest weapon is neither the staff nor the Sword. The soul can take the form of any recourse, may it be a weapon or not. In essence, it depends on the ability of the user, depending on how well his or her soul is acquainted with it – when, where, and how it is used. Remember that even if you win or killed your opponents, the outcome will turn on you if you have achieved it outside harmony and morality.
On striking with the staff, one should choose appropriate targets, set-up the strike properly, use correct hand positions, and deploy proper footwork. Always keep the mind, body, and spirit straight, and rather make your opponents twisted, turned, and off-balanced.
The Target: On this level of staff precepts, each technique should be administered effectively by taking no more than one to two seconds. Keep in mind that fighting multiple opponents is often very likely, and it is detrimental to be able to strike effectively in good order. The targets easily reached by the staff are the foot, ankle, shin, knee, hand, wrist, and forearm. The secondary target but being more stable is the head, with an overhead strike, horizontal strikes and with a thrust. To stop an attacker’s charge, a strike to the face, sternum, and the groin are effective. In practice, unlike the shinai that is loosely bound and disperses its inertia on impact - the solid staff’s force of impact is dangerous. Caution should be taken by slowing the striking techniques down to avoid injuries. This does not impede the learning time and actually helps by improving one’s precision. It is possible to slow down the techniques without losing effectiveness in practice.
The thrust can easily deliver a force triple the weight of the user in a square-inch – from a standing position. The power is multiplied by employing proper stance and speed of trajectory. The jabs to the feet, rib cage, face mask, and breastplates are further subjected to a force greater depending on the surface of the tapered point. An impact surface area of .5 square-inch (tapered point) delivers four times as great as a 1 square-inch (blunt point).
A strike to the side of the head can easily paralyze the nerves coming from the ear, therefore causing bells palsy (paralysis of facial muscles). An addition of physical stress can add to the potentiality of incurring this injury. A sharp thrust to the back of the neck can also break a vertebrae causing lower body paralysis or death. The force of a horizontal or vertical strike is greater than a thrust, multiplied by the radius (length of the staff from pivot point), the speed of impact and the weight of the staff. A heavy staff can easily cause injuries through kendo gloves or even padded grieves. The tapered edges (of the fluted staves) can also incur more damage on impact. Its ridges will focus the force of impact on linear contacts. Extra caution should be exercised in the practice of striking with the staff.
To set-up the Strikes: From the standing position (Drawing I), a jab can be quickly deployed to the feet, groin, sternum, throat, and face. From this seemingly rested position, the targets are connected unexpectedly. A sharp pressure downward at the groin can pin the opponent to the ground. These jabs are delivered quickly in a flicking motion. An immediate fake and strike combination should follow to finish the attack or may be directed to another target.
A strike to disable the ankle is quickly delivered from these positions (Drawing II, Drawing III). The staff is released quickly like an arrow, in horizontal trajectory, directed by one hand to the unprotected target. The enemy's hand can also be stricken from this position, breaking the wrist or the metacarpals. It is applicable for either sitting, kneeling, or standing posture. When done properly, this technique will hit the target before any reaction.
Quick dispatches of jabs to the face, sternum, and the groin keep the attackers at bay (Drawing IV, Drawing V). This can be used to set-up the low strikes and vice-versa. A strong sweep around will also keep attackers from behind to retreat. Low strikes are sufficient to stop the attackers. The high strikes to the head level is also effective but are extremely dangerous in practice.
To set-up the thrust, initiate an overhead downward strike. Pull the staff (avoiding contact with the parrying weapon), and deliver the thrust to either the face, sternum, or groin. Slipping under the parry, deliver a single or double-hand thrust (Drawing VI). A multiple fake thrusts can also set-up to strike any other target.
To create an opening, push vigorously towards the opponents defended sector. A quick release or a quick slide-off will allow the opponents cover to slip forward leaving a momentary opening. A strike directed to the wrist, hand, or head is ideally undefended.
A ki-ai (a spirited yell), directed with conviction, can also add to the realism of the subterfuge or fake attack. Place the weapon at a chambered position with a loud and long ki-ai, then strike to the designated target as soon as the opponent makes an opening by deploying to deflect the fake attack.
When parrying, deploy to a striking position (parrying and chambering for a strike in one move) – thus skipping a step, keeping one step ahead of the opponent. When attacking, employ subterfuge – fake by deploying to a striking position then strike strongly at the designated target when the opponent’s weapon pivots to deflect your attack. This can be done by moving clean across the opponent’s pivot point, and making a thrust or a cut at the undefended sector. In practice, it is beneficial to call the targets twice (before the strike and in time with the strike). Then apply the proper technique to connect with the target. This will improve the flow of your striking combinations.
Proper Handling: More angles of attack can be acquired by switching hands (alternating grasps on the weapon) nominally. Your moves are multiplied twice being symmetrical. Most strikes and thrusts are managed with a single hand. This method makes the application much quicker - harder to parry. A double handed technique is used for more stability and strength.
Footwork: It is essential to manage a normal alternating stride. The distance between the feet should conform to the leverage necessary to the technique being deployed. The legs should provide strong support from the ground to the center of gravity (hara region) for power and leverage. From here, the spine, the arm, and the bo/staff project the inertia of the ground itself. An orchestrated combination of all these body components will provide the control, power, and speed of a strike (Drawing VII, Drawing VIII). The coordinated movements of the hands and feet will help in the management of all the sectors both for defensive and offensive deployments.