Kobudo is the art of traditional weapons training. There are six farming and fishing tools which were used as weapons in Okinawa: the bo, nunchaku, sai, tonfa (tuifa), kama and eku.
Many students like the versatility of weapons training. Many like to compete in tournaments. Some train in kobudo to broaden the martial arts experience. Most students who train in the art of kobudo agree that it is unique and enjoyable.
The bo is considered to be the quintessential Okinawan weapon and has varying lengths from six to nine feet in length. The rokushaku-bo (6 foot staff) is the weapon used most commonly and is extremely effective due to length and maneuverability. One can see a great deal of links in the movements within bo kata to empty-hand methods and a concrete understanding of karate helps the techniques with the bo.
This weapon can have two to three pieces of wood connected by thread, cord, chain or horsehair. It was used in Okinawa as a thresh and also as a horse bridle. It has origins in China as well as the Philippines and has been popularized a great deal from motion pictures. They are common today in many areas of Southeast Asia being used in agriculture. They are not practiced with the flash used in movies but use specific strikes and blocks with not a great deal of turning or flashy twirling. These types of motions are found in kihon(basics) and not so much found in application.
Thought to have originated from China and or Taiwan, the sai were employed by local authorities as an effective means of restraining and or striking. It was not uncommon for one or more sai to have been concealed to replace one that had been thrown at an opponent. Some say that the sai was a pitchfork, which is ridiculous. The sai has always been a weapon having never been adapted from farming implements or tool use.
The tonfa’s use came from being the handle for a millstone grinder and was a very effective weapon for defense. It could be twirled by the handle or flipped upside down to be use for hooking a weapon and then striking with the grip-head. The tonfa has been adapted by law enforcement in the form of the PR-24 however, creators of this adaptation claim that it has no tie to the tonfa. Interesting that one of the creators, before he was in law enforcement, was a marine and spent time on the island of Okinawa.
The kama has long had it’s place in agriculture in the east and was not a foreign visitor to the Ryukyu islands. Farmers have used and continue to use kama to cut sugar cane, pineapples and other crops native to the islands. They may be found in most hardware stores today in Okinawa and are available in different shapes and weights. The kusarigama is an attachment of a rope or chain to either the handle or reinforcement ring of the blade. This adaptation increase the danger of this already risky weapon and should be practiced with utmost seriousness and slow speed. Dull blades don’t hurt either.
Still use in the Dragon Boat Races in Okinawa, the eku is another weapon that is truly an Okinawan treasure. Used in a similar manner as the bo, the eku employs the use of cutting with the edge of the blade and the thrusting of the saki or tip. One commonly used technique is the throwing of sand into the eyes of an opponent. In some kata, such as Akahachi no eku, there is a kicking of sand with the feet followed by a reverse strike with the butt of the oar. Legend has it that this weapon was used against attackers by fisherman and was effective against the katana.