The naginata is a usually single-bladed polearm. Its blade is typically 30-60cm and is made with the same methods as Japanese swords. The blade has a long tang (nakago) which is fitted into the shaft with pegs (mekugi). The shaft is normally 1.2-1.4 metres long, oval-shaped, and reinforced with several parts. The hollow part of in the shaft intended for the tang is the tatchiuchi or tatchiuke and is strengthened with metal rings called naginana dogane or semegane. Sakawa metal plating was also used. This was usually covered with a cords called san-dan maki which were toughened with lacquer. At the opposite end was a heavy counterweight called ishizuki or hirumaki. When the weapon was not in use, the blade was covered with a wooden sheath (saya)

The earliest mentions of the naginata date from the Heian Period (794-1185). The first clear source to mention the weapon is Honchō Seiki, which was written from 1150-1159. In it is noted that Minamoto no Tsunemitsu used a naginata. During the Genpei Wars when the Taira clan fought against the Minamoto clan (1180-1185), the naginata rose to popularity as an effective weapon for hand-to-hand combat, proving especially good against mounted soldiers. When war tactics shifted to put more focus on large-scale warfare, the yari spear replaced the naginata in popularity. During the Edo Period, the naginata gained a reputation as the weapon of noble women. The long shaft enabled powerful strikes even if the bearer was physically weaker.

The naginata techniques in Bujinkan stem from Kukishinden ryu. We also practice with Bisentoh jutsu, which resembles a larger, heavier naginata.