Historically the sodegarami was used as a type of man catcher around 2 meters in length, with multiple barbed heads, facing forwards and backwards. The pole was sturdy hardwood with sharp metal barbs or spines attached to metal strips on one end to keep the person being captured from grabbing the pole. The opposite end of the pole would have a metal cap, or ishizuki like those found on naginata and other pole weapons. The sodegarami together with tsukubō (push pole) and the sasumata (spear fork) comprised the torimono sandōgu (three implements of arresting) used by samurai police to capture suspected criminals uninjured.The sodegarami was used to entangle the sleeves and clothing of an individual who could then be more easily disarmed or dealt with.
The sodegarami evolved from the yagaramogara, which was "a long pole implement employed by naval forces." This instrument in turn was derived from the Chinese lang xian, dating to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), which was used to defend against Japanese pirates. Alternative names for the sodegarami included: roga-bō , shishigashira, neji, and tōrigarami.