Weapons History


 

  The following information is to help you better understand the practice of kobudo (ancient military way). What follows is a brief history and description of the primary weapons used in the Ryukyu Hon Kenpo Kobujutsu Federation (RKKF).

          In 1477, the new King of Okinawa, Sho, Shin, was responsible for putting a stop to feudalism on Okinawa by making all the anji move to the capital of Shuri and imposing a ban on all weapons. Developing out of necessity, the Okinawans learned to use their empty hands and their farming and fishing tools to defend themselves. When the Shimazu Clan from Satsuma invaded Okinawa in 1609, they continued to enforce the weapons ban.

          Today in Okinawa, there are at least four primary ryu-ha (style) that are practiced. There is Yabiku Moden / Taira Shinken ryu-ha carried on by Akamine, Eiiryo. Yamane-ryu-ha which was established by Yamane Mansanru Chinen carried on by Kishoba. The Motobu-ryu bujutsu handed down by the Motobu family carried on by Uehara, Seikichi. The last ryu-ha mentioned happens to be the one taught by the RKKF, the Mateyoshi ryu-ha kobudo, as taught by Odo, Seikichi.

 

Bo (boh)      BO  (Click on Image to enlarge)

          The bo was derived from a farming tool called a tenbib (tin-beeb), which was used to carry buckets or bundles around on either end. This tool came in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common was the rokushakumarubo (roh-ku-shah-ku-mah-ruh-boh), which is a six foot piece of round wood. Other shapes included kaku bo (four sided bo), rokaku bo (six sided bo) and hakkaku bo (eight sided bo). The Okinawan bo is tapered at both ends rather than one diameter. This is a full range weapon that can also be used in thirds. When gripping the bo there are two hand positions used: Honte mochi (hon-teh moh-chee) the natural grip where palms oppose one another and gyaku mochi (gah-koo moh-chee) where the palms face the same directions. When striking, the end of the bo that is closest to the body will be placed on the outside of the lower part of the forearm. The bo employs various blocks and strikes. It is typically the most widely used weapon.

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sai (sigh)          SAI (sigh)     (Click on Image to enlarge)

          The three pronged, metal truncheon is a unique weapon believed to have been introduced to Okinawa by the Chinese in and around the late 1400's. The sai was employed by the local law enforcement the same way the modern day police use their night stick. There has been some controversy and even some speculation as to the origin of the sai. Some believe it to be a weapon that was created as opposed to a farming or fishing tool, similar to a tool used in China to create holes in the ground for seeds. Some even believe that the sai were at one time a bladed weapon.

          By gripping them with either the honte mochi and gyaku mochi, the practitioner can manipulate the sai with deadly speed and accuracy. With the sai, the shaft is referred to as the monouchi (moh-noh-oo-chee), the tip is the saki (sah-kee), and the bottom rounded part of the handle is the tsukagushira (tsue-kah-ghoo-she-rah). A quarter way up the shaft are two curved prongs called the yoku (yoh-kuh) and the tip of the prongs are called tsume (tsue-meh). The size of the sai depend on the individual using them. The monouchi should cover the forearm with the saki extending at least one inch past the elbow. The size of the yoku are important also; because of the grappling and catching abilities of the sai the distances between the monouchi and the yoku should be narrow. The sai employs striking, blocking, punching, cutting, and stabbing capabilities.

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Tunfa (toon-fah)        tonfa.gif (16320 bytes)   (Click on Image to enlarge)

          This weapon developed from two different sources. One was the grist mill handle and the other was a crank handle used for drawing water from a well. Used singularly or in pairs, the practitioner could defend against other weapons effectively, such as a katana or bo. The tunfa employs striking, blocking, and punching as it's techniques. The handle allows the user to swing the tunfa outward for striking and blocking while letting it return to the outside of the forearm to prepare for the next technique.

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Nunchaku (noon-chah-kuh)   NUNCHAKU  (Click on Image to enlarge)

          One of the most popular martial arts weapons, the nunchaku were derived from two different farming tools; the first of which was an old style horses bit and bridle called a muge (moo-geh), and the second was a tool used to pound grain or rice. Nunchaku come in different shapes and sizes. In Mateyoshi tyr-ha, the most common types of nunchaku are the hakkakukei (hahk-kah-ku-kheh), which are octagonal shaped and maru-gata (mah-rue-gah-tah), which is round. Both are connected by three lengths of cord about three finger widths wide. Sometimes the nunchaku can be connected by a piece of vine called kanda (kahn-dah). The kanda was usually longer than the cord due to the fact that this type of connector could bind an adversaries' hands and head. The nunchaku are capable of blocking and striking, as well as trapping and throwing. The motions are not like those seen in movies but are more similar to the movements of the other weapons, like the bo or katana.

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Kama (kah-mah)    KAMA  (Click on Image to enlarge)

          After inspecting this weapon, one can guess that at one time this was no more than a common garden sickle. Usually referred to as ni-cho kama (nee-choh kah-mah), which translates into a pair of kama used in a combative manner. The blades can be used, of course, to cut with, the back of the blade can be used like a club to strike with, and the handle can be used to block and punch with.

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Tekko (teh-koh)

          This weapon has two possible origins. One lies in the idea that the tekko was used on board fishing boats while pulling the net in so the net would not cut into the hand. The other was the use of a horse shoe simply put into the hand and used to punch with. The first one was made out of wood while the other was made, of course, out of metal. These weapons employ blocking, striking, grabbing, and joint locking.

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Eku (eeh-kuu)

          Used originally as a boat oar, the eku is capable of being used similarly to that of the bo. One of the techniques employed while using the eku, is taking the wide, flat part of the weapon and throwing sand in your opponent's face. It has a distinct cutting look while being used.

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Nunti-bo (noon-teh boh)

          Some say that this weapon came from China while others say it was a tool used on the fishing boats to bring in the nets. It consists of a six foot bo with a nunti sai mounted on top. Used like a bo, the nunti-bo can strike, block, grab, and puncture.

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Tinbe / Rochin (ten-bay / roh-chen)

          The rochin is a twelve to eighteen inch piece of wood with a three to four inch blade on the end. The rochin is used in conjunction with the tinbe, a type of shield usually made out of a turtle shell. As one can guess, the shield is used for deflecting incoming attacks while the rochin would be used to strike back.

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         Other weapons used on Okinawa are: the kuwa (Okinawan hoe), suruchin (a long chain, weighted at both ends), the abumi (a wooden saddle stirrup), naginata (a seven foot bo with a curved blade on the end), yari (spear), and of course, the katana (a single edged, curved sword).

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This page last updated
April 04, 2016
 

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