A nodachi (mean. field sword) is a large two-handed traditionally made Japanese sword (nihonto) used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Nodachi is the same type of sword as odachi (large/great sword).
During the late Kamakura period (1185–1333) samurai began to use extremely long swords, these nodachi had the same general appearance and design of a tachi though they are significantly longer. They primarily were used for status symbols of either skilled duelers, a swordmaker’s example of skill, dueling in general, and while thought to perhaps be used to counter cavalry, such things were never proven.
They were infrequently used for several reasons:
- Nodachi/odachi koshirae
- The blade was more difficult to forge compared to a normal-sized sword
- The nodachi required greater strength to properly wield
Weapons such as the naginata or nagamaki were more effective by far when compared to any possible use of nodachi for anti-cavalry purposes, very much like the European counterpart zweihander .
During times of peace, the sword was worn slung across the back as a symbol of status. This is distinctive because most Japanese swords such as the katana, wakizashi, and tachi were worn at the waist or belt; however, it was not “drawn” from the back.
The nodachi was more difficult to wield due to its size and weight. The length of the nodachi’s hilt varied between twelve to thirteen inches (30 to 33 centimeters). The blade was usually around four feet (122 centimeters) long. Its cutting capability and range exceeded that of a katana, due to its weight and size.
In some Chinese martial arts, Bagua Zhang being perhaps the best known example, over-sized weapons are used for training purposes. This is done to condition the martial artist to handle a normal-sized weapon more efficiently (e.g. in Japanese martial arts with the suburito, a heavy wooden sword).
The Kage-ryu is one of the very rare schools of Japanese martial arts remaining that trains in the use of the Japanese long-sword (which they call choken). A variation of this sword was also used by Sasaki Kojiro, a very skilled warrior and deadly with the nodachi. He is remembered principally for his duel with Miyamoto Musashi, a famed swordsman of the time.