T M A C

Kobudo ( Weapons )

THE BO

The bo, or stick is probably one of the first weapons that mankind used to defend or hunt. It could easily be found, was not to difficult to handle, and could be used for multiple purposes. In Okinawa, the bo probably originated from a farmtool called tenbin. It is a stick held across the shoulders, on which fish or waterbuckets could be hung. The techniques executed with the bo, were probably developed very early in history, and were probably refined after the Heian Era (around 1127 AD), because in 1326, the island was split up in three independent kingdoms, which led to a lot of internal and continuous warfare 'till 1429. This was of course the best period to develop and perfect martial combat techniques. During this period, also elements of Chinese martial arts were imported and adopted. Probably, also around this period (~1470) the rulers of that moment restricted the use and possession of arms, to prevent uprisings. The developed empty hand combat systems from that time lay at the origin of the later developed karate, as we know it today. Around 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi again stated laws that prohibited the possession or the carrying of weapons. This left the peasants of Okinawa more or less defenseless against the Samurai, which were the only ones aloud to carry arms. Although the empty hand techniques developed on the battlefield were very effective and refined, they were not very effective for use in massive defence or offence operations. The only instruments the farmers had, were their simple farmingtools. In 1609, the Satsuma Samurai Clan attacked and swept away the Okinawan defences. The islanders used turtleshields and short stabbing daggers, but they were of very little use against horsebacked, swordcarrying Samurai or bows. From then on, Okinawa was ruled by a weak government under orders of the Shogun, until the upcoming of the Meiji Restoration, halfway the 19th century. At that time, Okinawa became a prefecture of Japan.

 

THE SAI

Again, the sai was simple farminstrument which the peasants turned to their advantage once they were forbidden to carry any arms. Usually the sais are used in pairs. A third sai was hidden in the obi (belt) and was used to replace one sai that was thrown at the charging enemy. If the throw was succesful, the fight could be over all at once. If not, the distraction could be just enough to get close enough to stab with the sai or to counter an attack and to win the battle.
Originally, the sai was made out of two seperate parts: the stem and the curved prongs. These two parts were then pounded together in a process similar to that used by swordsmiths. Around late 19th centurie, another method was used. A finished sai would serve to create a sai-shaped cavity in the ground. Molten iron was poured into this shape, producing a perfect twin of the first sai when the iron had hardened. Rough edges were removed and afterwards the sai was polished. The stem of the sai should cover the complete forearm, to guarantee full protection when countering an attack. The butt of the handle can have various shapes and can be used in the same way as a bullet. Another vesion of the sai, called jutte or jitte was a weapon used by the Japanese Police. It is smaller than the sai, and has only one prong.

 

THE TONFA

Like the other weapons of kobudo, also the tonfa served as a working tool, before being a weapon. The tonfa was an arm of a millstone for preparing grain, which coold easily be removed. In 1906, the ownership of weapons was prohibited on the Okinawan Islands by the Japanese invaders. As a result, an exploration of self-defense techniques and new weapons for self-defense began. To fill the need to protect their family and crops, the Okinawans developped one of the most efficient forms of unarmed combat in history: karate. They also developped a system of armed combat, with "hidden weapons" -ordinairy farm tools-, called kobujutsu. The main part of the tonfa, the shaft, consists of a large hardwood body, about 50 to 60 centimeters in length, and a smaller cylindrical grip secured at a 90¡ angle to the shaft, about 15 centimeters from one end.

 

THE NUNCHAKU

As all the other okinawn weaponry, the origin of this weapon is obscure. Some say it has a Chinese origin, others say it was developped from a horsebit. It probably came into action somewhere in the 16th century, like the sai, tonfa, etc. The nunchaku is made out of two sticks, usually some hard wood, and connected with a rope (it used to be horsetailhair) or a chain. As the sticks vary in legth, size and weight, so does the length of the connection between the two sticks. The nunchaku-stick is normally as long as the forearm, but it is up to your personal favor to make it as long or as short as you want.
The nunchaku-stick is divided into three parts, the upper part: jokon-bu, the middle part: chukon-bu and the lower part: kikon-bu. The top of the stick is called kontoh and the rope passes through the ana (hole). The bottom of the nunchaku is called kontei.
There are a heap of variations of a normal nunchaku. It seems that the Chinese had a round stick nunchaku, or maru-gata nunchaku. The Japanese made it a bit more efficient by making the sticks octagonal (eight sides). This nuchaku is called hakakukei nunchaku.
Then there is a nunchaku with one long stick and one short stick, which is called so-setsu-kon nunchaku. It should prevent you from hitting your own hand when you mis a hit. The han-kei nunchaku is made out of two halfs of a stick which fit nicely together which makes it easy to carry. The san-setsu-kon nunchaku is the three-sectional staff. The sticks may vary in size, sometimes the middle one is a bit shorter than the outer ones. Another variation of this nunchaku has one normal stick, and the other side is composed out of two shorter sticks. It makes it harder to block an attack and it is easier to loop another weapon or attacker with this nunchaku. Another variation, the yon-setsu-kon nuchaku, is made out of four sticks (long piece-short piece-rope/chain-short piece-long piece).

 

THE KAMA

  Already very early in the history of the Okinawan Island(s), there was a central government, nicely ruled by a king. This period is situated around 1127 AD and is referred to as the Heian Era. In 1326, the island was split up in three independent kingdoms, which led to a lot of internal and continuous warfare 'till 1429. This was of course the best period to develop and perfect martial combat techniques. During this period, also elements of Chinese martial arts were imported and adopted.Around 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi again stated laws that prohibited the possession or the carrying of weapons. This left the peasants of Okinawa more or less defenseless against the Samurai, which were the only ones aloud to carry arms. Although the empty hand techniques developed on the battlefield were very effective and refined, they were not very effective for use in massive defence or offence operations. The only instruments the farmers had, were their simple farmingtools. In 1609, the Satsuma Samurai Clan attacked and swept away the Okinawan defences. The islanders used turtleshields and short stabbing daggers, but they were of very little use against horsebacked, swordcarrying Samurai or bows. From then on, Okinawa was ruled by a weak government under orders of the Shogun, until the upcoming of the Meiji Restoration, halfway the 19th century. At that time, Okinawa became a prefecture of Japan.
  The kama was a tool used to cut weeds and bring in the crop. It was a very simple but nevertheless very sharp and potentially deadly weapon. It's structure however made it very weak when attacked with heavy blows directly to the blade. Therefore, there has been a redesigning of the weapon, which is called natagama . It is stronger in its construction, because the blade runs through past the curve of the normal kama and all the way down into the handle. This makes the cutting edge bigger, and above all, the previous week point where the sickle was attached to the stick has vanished.