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A Brief History of the Yari

The Yari is an ancient spear weapon introduced to Japan centuries ago. The spear has been used by many cultures. The most recent version could be considered to be the bayonet on the rifle. The Yari has had many variations over the centuries, all lethal. It has been a part of the Japanese culture in times of war as a weapon and in peace for entertainment.

The word Yari means spear, it was a weapon used by the Samurai warriors who are noted for their expert use of the sword but they found the Yari to be of greater use on horseback. The name that is used for the Samurai version of the Yari is the Naginata.

The Yari Was Not Just a Male Weapn

It was once required for a Japanese woman to be proficient with this spear by the time she was eighteen and is still used today for physical education purposes. The Spear is primarily a thrusting weapon and there are many styles of this lethal weapon. The use of this ancient weapon is taught in the school of Sojutsu which means, the art of the spear.

The Jumonji Yari was crossed shaped and the second most popular Yari, the Yari head was made from the same metals as the swords. It is known that far more damage could be done with the Yari as opposed to the sword, which is why it was a weapon of preference.

The Kama Yari was a sickle shaped spear. There are two types of spears the pipe spear and the three bladed spears. Usage of the Yari requires agility, discipline, and skill. Being a part of the expert group of warriors to use this equipment was extremely competitive and proficiency required many hours of practice.

One Response

  1. Mark

    I like this information about the yari, but have some misgivings about the samurai version being the naginata. I don’t have much expertise on the subject of the yari, but I do have ten years experience in the Jikishinkage ryu naginata school.

    Its my understanding that the yari is a straight blade weapon with several cutting edges, whereas the naginata is a single edged sword blade on the end of a shaft. The translation for naginata is ‘long sword’ I was told. The yari could be used to slash, but was primarily a thrusting weapon. Its shaft was round in cross section. The naginata, on the other hand, had an oval shaft cross section, and was first used to stop cavalry charges by slashing at the horses’ legs. The oval shape easily allows the user to orient the single blade properly. During the Tokugawa peace, samurai found it cumbersome to carry, opting for the swords instead. The weapon was left at home, where women were to use it to defend the household and their honor. This is how it became primarily a woman’s art.

    Perhaps to some these are minor distinctions, but I do know that I would be at a loss if I tried to use a yari effectively. On the other hand, I would be very comfortable using the sweeping slashing strokes that are the signature of the naginata techniques.

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