Jackets – “Gi”
A thin Naginata gi (jacket) is white. Very similar to a karate gi, but with very short arms. If you really are enthusiastic and want to buy a second hand Karate-gi – shorten the arms, so they are a longish t-shirt length (cut to just the above the elbows).
To buy brand new, a proper Naginata gi in Britain, currently (2011) costs about £28 +PP (a man over 6′ may be a little more: caveat, depends exchange rate). We buy ours from Japan. BUT in Britain only Nine Circles martial art supplier brings them in.
Western Japan style Naginata sleeves are elasticated which helps in not getting your opponent’s stick stuck up your arm sleeve. Until you can buy a Naginata gi, use what you have, preferably as thin & white if possible.
Some men, do not like the very thin cotton, and opt for a thicker cotton, between a thin Aikido, and thin Karate type gi. We’re happy with this – but would still advise a shorter cut sleeve, above the elbow, even if it’s a home-made cut job.
Jacket size is same for Judo or Karate – so a size 2 is for a person up to 155cm, (or woman size 8-10, if she’s tall). Size 3, up to about 165cms tall, size 4 up to about 170-175cms tall, and size 5, definitely a mans… this is a guide only.
Trousers – “Hakama”
Black or blue hakama (“trousers”) are generally (for Naginata) made of polyester cotton, not the 100% heavy cotton as worn by Kendo-ka. This is because the hakama is gathered up under sune (shin protectors) , so it needs to be light & loose as well as fairly crease-proof. Most budo/martial arts suppliers in this country sell hakama. Again, we’re happy with the British company Nine Circles. Here www.ninecircles.co.uk/Clothing/Naginata_Gu.aspx
Please ask our advice first! If you practice kendo, you may be able to make do with Kendo gear, but Naginata bogu is different in a few subtle ways.
Differences in a nutshell:
- Men flaps = Naginata ones, are shorter to allow the hasso kamae to be taken without ‘catching’. Kendo men flaps are longer, and need to be “rolled” if possible…
- Do = is generally much “smaller” as the side-to-side movement and changing from left to right kamae is unqiue to Naginata, hence a Do worn by a Naginata-ka appears to be “small” – it isn’t, its just that Kendo people wear a Do, more loosely and lower down, as they only ever face front on. Also it doesn’t get caught on the men-nodo (throat protector) by being slightly smaller.
- Kote = most obviously, Naginata-kote have split index finger. This is most crucial and is generally the first item a Naginata student will buy. (NB The London club now has five pairs of club Kote). We are also lucky to buy Naginata Kote, hand made to size by Chiba-Bogu in Chiba, Japan for a reasonable £145+ (how much you pay depends on quality and, of course, current exhange rate is rubbish, as already mentioned).
- Tare = in theory the same as Kendo, in reality, personal preference can mean Naginata-ka wanting a less deep “waist-band”.
- Sune-ate – the Shin-protectors which mark out Naginata most distinctly from Kendo…
Only ONE British supplier imports the proper quality shiai style naginata weapon suitable for semi/full contact practice of the modern Naginata style we practice. Please visit Nine Circles, its based near Gloucester. www.ninecircles.co.uk
Due to the extreme length, Japan Post and Japanese suppliers will often not send naginata from Japan. If you manage to find a supplier in Japan (and your Japanese will have to be good !) the only way we have found possible, is by special courier service, namely only Ups or FedEx. Size length it also means it is likely to come to the attention of British Customs, so not only do you have to contend with the courier cost (which will add on at least another 50-70% on top of the item itself) but UK customs “grab it”, slap import tax on it and plus their own “handling fee” – life is low.
The best way, and cheapest, is asking someone nicely, when they go to Japan to bring naginata in as outsize luggage on their trip.
If you buy direct, regardless of supplier, you must check that the item is “complete”, that means three separate items, to put together. The wooden shaft, the bamboo blade and last, but not least, the leather sakigawa on the end (which must be a size 39 Kendo shinai tip in order to fit on the naginata end), called the ishizuki. If it arrives in bits you will need to put it together and you will need a lesson in putting it together safely.
Good news, the white oak part, should last a life time, what does need to be replaced with regular practice, is the bamboo blade attachment (habu). Much easier to post, due to its small size, these are only about £12 each (about £15 with postage/packing) easily available in England.
CHIBA BOGU www.chibabogu.com is based in Japan (Chiba prefecture), with a native English speaking customer services, Mike (actually American). Chiba Bogu is an established bogu supplier to the Japanese market, and especially to the International Budo University students nearby, but Chiba Bogu are now established on the Internet in English with web based orders – however Naginata orders are not yet standard fare on the website.
Their basic Naginata kote at about £135+ upwards (pending your hand size), are a dream, finest soft leather. Their best brown deerskin leather Naginata kote, can cost about £150+. Either way, we will help you draw and send in a template of your hand, and they will in turn do their best (from 9,000 miles) to make a kote that fits…”like a glove” ! and a finishing touch, they will add your name (in English or Japanese katakana) as a finishing gesture. So far all our custom order Naginata Kote, are ordered from Chiba Bogu.
Custom orders are their specialty and therefore expect them to be a little higher priced, as they are closely connected to the makers/manufacturers of armour/bogu. If your budget is “rich” they have some unbelievable fancy options in bogu (armour). In fact their main technician, sits in the shop making/repairing things, a joy to watch such an artisan, Suzuki san, is his name.
Chiba Bogu is not in the business at the “budget end” of the bogu market, and it is proud to say that. This place should be your shop for your second better set, or ‘once only purchase’ of bogu.
We have arrangements for payment in £sterling in England, and Rachel arranges payment in Yen, inside Japan.
Final Buying Advice
If you have the chance to buy second hand Kendo armour (bogu) then go for it. Everyone’s body is different, so no size fits everyone – but for starters it’s ok.
Please be aware, that some naginata weapon “bags” are not suited to the shiai naginata (212 cms minimum length), and were designed for the all wood kata naginata – which are shorter.
We have only had a bad experience once with a Japanese supplier, but it was a very expensive bad experience, and we have not forgotten or returned to that the supplier for Naginata equipment.
Our advice is naturally based on goodwill and experience, and as such we cannot accept any liability for wrong sizes or incorrect orders! Prices are very approximate and based on the £sterling to Yen exchange rate (2009-2011 has been terrible so far, £ to Yen, prices on this page reflect that)