When hands and feet are not enough
Weapons have been a factor in solving conflicts between men and nations ever since one of our primitive ancestors first reached out and picked up a rock, or a stick, with which to strike down his opponent, in some long forgotten argument.
Today around the world martial artist from a wide range of styles study and practice weapons based art form known as Kobu-do, or the "ancient martial way".
The weapons most commonly associated with kobudo and familiar to most practitioners are the sai, bo, jo, kama, tonfa, nunchaku, eku and tekko.
Each of these weapons has in turn associated with it, one or more katas, some of which have been handed down from master to student for more than 200 years.
The following is a brief summary of some of the terminology associated with each of these weapons.
The sai while normally associated with the island Okinawa, is thought to be of Chinese origin, and it is one of the few weapons that did not evolved from something else. Popular with many martial artists today the sai is most often used in pairs, and therefore requires a student to be equally proficient with both their left and their right hand.
At a time when citizens of Okinawa were banned from possessing weapons, the sai was easy to conceal, plus, it's metal construction made it an excellent defensive weapon against the Japanese samurai sword, or a long range weapon such as the bo.
The sai is comprised of seven main parts, they are as follows :
1. tsukagashira - the butt end of the handle
2. tsuka - the actual handle grip
3. moto - the actual center point between the two side guards
4. yoko - the two side guards
5. tsume - the tip of each side guard
6. monouchi - the blade of the sai
7. saki - the very tip of the sai blade
The modern sai while made of lighter metals, has in reality changed very little from it's original design and is considered a difficult weapon to truly master.
The sai katas taught today include Chatan Yara no Sai Sho, Chatan Yara no Sai Dai, Tawada no Sai, Chikin Shitahaku no Sai, Yaka no Sai, Hama Higa no Sai, just to name a few.
The bo is traditionally a wooden staff approximately 6 feet in length, usually made of a hardwood with a diameter ranging from one to two inches depending on the hand size of the practioner. The bo its self can be either straight from tip to tip or it may be tapered, a style that is popular with many tournament competitors since this type of bo tends to be very light allowing for quick hand movements and ease of twirling, always a crowd favourite. It should be noted, however, that for training in the dojo and for striking and blocking practice, a heavier sturdier bo is best as it will take the impact of a strike and it will also help the student to develop stronger wrists and shoulders.
A bo when held horizontally is held with both hands in such a manner so as to have approximately one third of its length between the students grip and one third of its length on either side of the grip. When held with the bo tip facing an opponent one hand should be on your hip with the palm facing inward while the other the lead hand will be facing upward thus allowing the wrist to twist when thrusting forward, this is similar to the motion made when punching. When striking downwards with the bo it is important to remember that the pulling hand, or rear hand, generates all the power while the leading, or forward hand, is used primarily for guidance.
The bo is comprised of three main parts, they are as follows :
1. moto - the center or the balance point of the bo
2. & 3. saki - the very tip at either end of the bo
It is important to remember when selecting a bo to examine the weapon carefully and to choose a bo that is not curved or bent out of shape, as this will hinder the quality of your training. As weapon it affords a greater range than most others and is often countered when demonstrating bunkai by either the sai, jo, tonfa, or kama.
The bo kata taught today include Shushi no Kon Sho, Shushi no Kon Dai, Chatan Yara no Kon, Sakagawa no Kon Sho, Chikin Sunakake no Kon, just to name a few.
The kama as a weapon derived from the hand held sickles that were traditionally used in the harvest of rice. The handle of the kama will be approximately the same length as your forearm at one end of which you will find a crescent shaped blade. Like the sai the kama is most often used in pairs and it is truly deadly weapon in the hands of skilled practioner.
The kama is comprised of seven main parts, they are as follows :
1. soko - the butt end of the handle
2. moto - the center of the handle
3. monouchi - the blade of the kama
4. saki - the very tip of the kama blade
5. kagashira - the top end of the handle protruding above the blade
6. kashira - the head of the handle
7. himo - the rope at the base of the kama
Used to cut from side to side, from underneath, or from above, the kama is a versatile weapon and since it's handle is most often made of wood this makes it a much lighter weapon than a sai.
There are very few surviving kama kata those taught today include Kanegawa Nichi no Kama and Toyama Nichi no Kama.
The tonfa while an ancient weapon, has been the popular weapon of choice for many law enforcement agencies both in Asia and in North America for many years due to it's versatility. With no sharp edges the tonfa can do double duty for striking and blocking without the fear of cutting and is effective against both long and short range weapons. The main body of the tonfa can be either square or round but the handle must be round in order to facilitate ease of spinning and proper rotation in order to develop proper techniques.
The tonfa is comprised of eight main parts, they are as follows :
1. gedan tsukagashira - the forward end of the tonfa above the grip
2. tsuka - the handle grip
3. tsukagashira - the round top of the grip
4. tasui - the underside of the tonfa
5. yoko nage - the upper side of the tonfa
6. sokumen - the side of the tonfa
7. ushiro tsukagashira - the butt end of the tonfa
8. monouchi - the main body of the tonfa
In the hands of an expert the many ways in which the tonfa can be utilized seem almost endless.
Two of the most popular tonfa katas practiced today are Hama Higa no Tonfa and Matsu Higa no Tonfa.
A weapon constructed of two equal lengths of wood and connected together by a short length of rope or chain the nunchaku can be whipped or twirled in a manner that can generate great speed and powerful blows. Lacking any sharp edges for cutting, or sharp points for stabbing, the nunchaku like the tonfa is used primarily to pound ones opponent into submission. Either held in one hand or two the nunchaku is effective as an offensive or defensive weapon.
The nunchaku is comprised of seven main parts, they are as follows :
1. himo - the connecting rope or chain
2. gedan tsukagashira - the end of the handle nearest the rope or chain
3. ana - the opening through which the rope or chain is threaded
4. jokon bu - upper area of the handle
5. moto - the center of the handle
6. kikon bu - lower area of the handle
7. ushiro tsukagashira - the end of the handle furthest from the rope or chain
A true product of Okinawa the nunchaku was easily dismantled and hidden or disguised as something else at a time when weapons were forbidden by the Japanese military.
Two examples of nunchaku katas practiced today are Maezato no Nunchaku and Akamine no Nunchaku.
The ekku is in effect an oar. Used by Okinawan fisherman the ekku is shorter in length than a bo and usually made of hardwood and it is used in a similar manner to a bo. Unlike a bo, however, this weapon is not griped in thirds, but instead is held with one hand just back of the blade, and the other hand comfortably towards the rear. Because more of it's overall weight is located at one end it is a much more difficult weapon to use than a bo. In addition to having a broader surface than a bo, which can be used to scoop material towards an opponents eyes, it also has the added benefit or having two edges for striking.
The ekku is comprised of five main parts, they are as follows :
1. ushiro tsukagashira - the butt end of the oar
2. saki - the tip of the oar blade
3. moto - the center of the oar
4. yoko - the side of the oar blade
5. monouchi - the blade its self
Today it is probably safe to say that most North American kobudo students have never even seen an Okinawan ekku up close let alone ever practiced a kata with one. It is not surprising then that the ekku kata, Chikin Sunakake no Ekku, or as it is sometimes referred to Tsuken Sunakake, is most always performed using a bo when practiced today outside of Okinawa.
So choose your weapon, practice your basics, and then learn a kata from an experienced and knowledgeable kobudo sensei, train well and always stay true to the kata, for it has come to you over many thousands of miles, and down through countless hands, and the kata you are endeavouring to learn therefore deserves your respect, and should not be undertaken lightly.
Originally the tekko were made from two metal horseshoes. Easy to conceal they could be carried hidden inside a persons clothing or carried openly since horseshoes were a common item and above suspision. Held by the center of the "U" shape with two ends facing outward they could be used to either block or strike.
In the Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan the tekko is used in the performance of the kata, Maezato no tekko. This kata was created by the late master Taira Shinken and named by him to honour of his original family name which was Maezato. This kata is said to have been influenced by the pattern, or embusen, found in possibly one of two Shotokan katas still prcticed today, they are Jion and Ji'in. Of the two the pattern is Ji'in is the most strikingly similar of the two in many respects.
My thanks to Lee at http://www.bloodrunner.co.uk for providing some of the drawings used on this page.
To learn is a privilege, to pass on what
you have learnt is your responsibility.
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay