Kobudo Weapons Art of Okinawan Karate

The Kobudo weapons art is a fighting system of Okinawa, using weapons, some of which were developed from the every day life of farmers, while others were introduced to the Ryu Kyu Islands of Okinawa through trading with the Chinese and Indian cultures. 

Most the weapons used in kobu jutsu resemble farming tools employed by the natives of the Okinawa Islands. And there is a popular tale that all the kobu jutsu weapons were developed due to restrictions placed upon the peasants. 

In actuality, it is more likely that the use of farm tools were adapted during weapon restriction only because many of the farm tools resembled weapons of the former Dynasty. 

As a result, the Kobudo weapons and fighting system was adapted to these traditional farming implements. 

Modern martial arts scholars have been unable to find historical backing for the various stories that exist concerning these weapons being developed from farming tools. 

However, Okinawa has a history of traditional martial arts that developed from these small band of islands. And It is true that Okinawan's, under the rule of foreign powers, were prohibited from carrying weapons or practicing with them in public. 

But the weapons-based fighting that they secretly practiced, and many of the types of weapons they practiced with, had strong Chinese roots, and examples of similar weapons have been found in China and India, pre-dating the Okinawa adaptations. 

It is only natural that while Okinawan martial artists, who were prohibited from carry weapons, began to develop ways of using ordinary tools, fishery and farming equipment as tools of self defense. 

And as they kept adapting these ordinary tools into fighting and self defense weapons, Kobudo the Okinawan martial art of weaponry was born.

Kubudo Weapons List

Depending on where you study and what the lineage of a particular Ryukyu Kodudo Style, you will study anywhere form five to 10 different weapon forms.

These weapons are listed below:

  1. SAI (forked metal clubs)
  2. BO (six foot staff)
  3. NUNCHAKU (Basically a small 2-section staff)
  4. TONFA (wooden handled spinning clubs)
  5. NICHOGAMA (double kama or sickles)
  6. EKU or KAI (fighting oar)
  7. NITANBO (double short sticks)
  8. NUNTE-BO (sai spear)
  9. TECHU or TEKKO (metal knuckle-dusters)
  10. JO (four foot staff)
  11. TEMBE-ROCHIN (buckler shield & dagger)

The Bo is a six-foot staff, tapered at either end. It is said to have been developed from a farming tool called a tenbin: a stick placed across the shoulders with baskets or sacks hanging from either end. 

The bo, along with shorter variations such as the jo and hanbo could also have been developed from walking sticks used by travelers, especially monks. 

The bo is considered the 'king' of the Okinawa kobudo weapons, as all others exploit its weaknesses in fighting it, whereas when it is fighting them it is using its strengths against them. 

The bo is the earliest of all okinawa kobudo weapons (and effectively one of the earliest of all weapons in the form of a basic staff), and is traditionally made from red or white oak. 

The Sai is often believed to be variation on a tool used to create furrows in the ground, it is more likely that these weapons are from India and were introduced to the warrior class of Okinawa via the Chinese 

A sai appears similar to a short sword, but is not bladed and the end is traditionally blunt. The two shorter prongs on either side of the main shaft are used for trapping other weapons such as swords or bo. 

The sai originally reached Japan in the form of the jitte or jutte, which has only a single prong. Both are truncheon-like weapons, used for striking and bludgeoning. 

Sai's were traditionally carried in threes, two are used in combat and the third is used as a precursor to the actual fight and is thrown at the enemy. 

There are many other variations on the sai with varying prongs for trapping and blocking, and the monouchi, or shaft, can be round or octagonal. 

Nunchaku is two sections of wood (or metal in modern incarnations) connected by a cord or chain. there is much controversy over its origins, some say it was originally a Chinese weapon, others say it evolved from a threshing flail, one theory purports that it was developed from a horse's bit. 

Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas Japanese are octagonal, and they were originally linked by horse hair. 

There are many variations on the nunchaku, ranging from the three-sectional staff (san-setsu-kon nunchaku), to smaller multi-section nunchaku. 

The nunchaku was popularized by Bruce Lee in a number of films, made in both Hollywood and Hong Kong. 

The Tonfa is more readily recognized as the police nightstick. It supposedly originated as the handle of a millstone used for grinding grain. 

The tonfa is traditionally made from red oak, and can be gripped by the short perpendicular handle or by the longer main shaft. 

As with all Okinawa kobudo weapons, many of the forms are extensions of 'empty hand' techniques, adapted for weapons combat. 

The Kama; the only one to possess a blade, the traditional farming sickle, and is often considered the hardest to learn due to the inherent danger in practicing with such a weapon.

The point at which the blade and handle join in the traditional model normally has a nook with which a bo can be trapped, although this join proved to be a weak point in the design. 

Modern day examples tend to have a shorter handle with a blade that begins following the line of the handle and then bends, though to a lesser degree than the difference in orientation of the traditional model; this form of the kama is known as the natagama.

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