Kobudō (沖縄古武道 ), literally ancient martial arts or ancient martial way, is an old martial tradition that involves training and practice with a variety of hand held weapons – metal and wooden weapons, bladed and non-bladed weapons.
The origins of kobudo are difficult to draw since its traditions were handed down by word of mouth. Only certain people were allowed to train with weapons and trainings were often done in relative secrecy. That said, it is possible to relate the modern kobudo to the feudal Okinawa and Japan, the ancient China and the pre-colonial Philipines.
Okinawan kobudo (沖縄古武道)
The Okinawa Islands are part of the larger Ryukyu Islands, an archipelago of islands between Kyushu and Taiwan. In 1470 the Sho Dynasty on the island of Okinawa collapsed and the new king So Shin came to power in 1477. As a means of controlling the rebellious warlords throughout the island, King So Shin, banned the carrying of swords by both noblemen and peasants; all weapons were collected and maintained under royal control at his palace. This event triggered two secret movements: the nobles learned and developed te, the art of unarmed combat, while farmers and fishermen developed weapon systems based on the use of tools and agricultural implements (Ryukyu bujutsu).
The Okinawan kobudo (or Ryūkyū Kobujutsu, 琉球古武術) taught according to the Matayoshi’s style (Matayoshi Shinpo or Shimpo, 又吉眞豊, 1921–1997), includes 17 different traditional weapons and for each weapon, forms (kata), technics (waza) and stances (dachi).
- Bō (6 ft Staff) – Shushi no kun, Choun no kun, Sakugawa no kun, Tsuken (Chikin) no kun, Shishi no kun,
- Sai (Small Trident) – Matayoshi No Sai Dai Ichi (Nicho Sai), Matayoshi No Sai Dai Ni (Sancho Sai), Shinbaru / Chinbaru no sai
- Matayoshi-Sai (Small Trident with opposite hilt)
- Nunti (Matayoshi Sai with two spears)
- Nunti-Bo (Spear) – Nunti No Kata, bo with a nunti at one of its extremities
- Kuruman-Bo (Long thresher)
- Tonfa (Wooden Side handled Batton) – Matayoshi No Tunkua Dai Ichi, Matayoshi No Tunkua Dai Ni
- Nunchaku – Nunchaku No Kata
- Sansetsukon (Three Sectional Staff) – Hakuho, Sansetsukun No Kata
- Eku (Boat Oar) – Tsuken Hakachu No Eku Di
- Tinbei (Shield used with a sword called Banto) – Timbei No Kata
- Kama (Short sickles) – Kama No Te
- Cho-Gama (Long sickles)
- Surujin (Weighted rope / Chain) – Suruchin No Kata
- Kuwa (Hoe) – Kuwa No Te
- Tekko (knuckle-dusters)
- Tecchu (sharpened palm stick)
Bushi (武士, warrior, knight) or samurai were the aristocratic warriors from the ninth to the nineteenth century. Bushido means the way of the warrior and it is a not written code of moral principles that the fighting nobles should follow during their daily life: the noblesse oblige of the warrior class. The way of the warrior is intimately connected with the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. Zen is the Japanese equivalent of the Chinese Dhyāna: the human effort to reach through meditation zones of thought beyond the range of verbal expression. Martial artists have to practice also their mental activity in order to achieve a mind free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during combat or everyday life. This mental state is called mushin (無心, no mind). The term is shortened from mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of “no-mindness”, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.
Another concept to be mentioned is the budo. Budo (武道) means martial way but it can also be described as way of war. It describes many forms of art, not necessarily for the warriors, the aim of which is to direct or use ki or vital energy. Budo, like all wise things, constitutes the application of the basic energy of the universe. This energy is one and knows no bounds. Judo, aikido, karate, as well as kendo, iaido and kyudo, are some of the more modern martial art forms, known collectively as budo.
In our system, the weapons that are studied and taught are: Nunchaku, Tonfa, Kama, Sai, Naginata, Bo, Jo and Katana, according to codified programs that include kata (forms) and applications.
One Reply to “Kobudo”
This was a really informative article because it explained that Kobudo was originally handed down by word of mouth and only certain people were allowed to train with the weapons. In my opinion, one reason that it would be beneficial to learn is that it would help preserve an art that has been passed on for centuries. I will have to look for a Kobudo instructor!
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