Naginata in Taiwan

by Simon Bruins

This month, I visited Taiwan for the second time.

The main purpose of my trip was to visit my girlfriend’s family for lunar new year, but I also planned to participate in some kendo and naginata practices in Taiwan when I had the chance.

This year, I was very lucky to be able to participate in the yearly Taiwan Naginata Association national practice and demonstration on February 28.

Due to 2/28 being a national holiday in Taiwan, this event can be attended by many Taiwanese naginata practitioners. In addition to it being a joint-training for all of Taiwan, it is also used as an opportunity to recruit new members.

The event was held in the basketball court of the Nangang Sports Center in Taipei. At 2pm there were approximately thirty interested people. Among the guests were some kendo and Iaido people who wanted to try. The main instructor presented the history of naginata and shared some of her experiences and then we did a short naginata workshop of about fifteen minutes with the attendees. After the workshop was finished, we launched into regular practice with all the TNA members, while the people interested in trying got a real beginner class on the side.

After a brief kihon session, we put on our bogu and did ji-geiko in two 30 minute blocks with pretty much everyone present. The beginners, who had learned to hit men, could practise hitting the two motodachi on the end of the rotation.

I was able to do ji-geiko with nearly everyone at the practice and was impressed by the energy and strength of many of the participants. I did notice that quite a few people seemed to have some kendo-like habits, which I have been trying very hard to break myself. I also noticed a consistent habit of wanting to switch back to hidari-chudan kamae after a mochikae-waza. Still, we exchanged many solid ippon over the course of the practice and we all had huge smiles on our faces when we finally took off our bogu. Even though we weren’t always able to communicate with words, we had been able to communicate through naginata. Exchanging ippon and learning each other’s techniques.

We finished up with a final 30 minutes of shikake-oji rotations which also functioned as a final demo to the participants of the beginner practice. Again, I was very impressed to see that everyone present seemed to know the full set of shikake-oji and we all gave it our best.

At the end of practice, some presents were exchanged. I gave out some chocolates and very beer openers and I received a beautiful bookmark with the Taiwan Naginata Association logo.

Afterwards, we crossed the street to the shopping centre restaurant area where I was treated to an amazing dinner. We talked a lot about our naginata experiences, the upcoming WNC, organising more international seminars and many other topics related to our favourite hobby. 

In the end, I left with a full belly, and a head crowded with new ideas. Most importantly though, I left with many new and renewed friendships of naginata around the world and can’t wait to meet with them again in the future!