Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What exactly is kobudo?


Kobudo
What exactly is kobudo? I have been training in kobudo for the last two and a half years and I’m still not exactly sure what kobudo is. The basic description of kobudo that I would give to a layman would be ‘weapons training’ but that is very simplistic. After all a gun is a weapon but training to use a gun is not kobudo!

There is a distinction between the terms kobudo and Okinawan kobudo. The word ko-bu-do  breaks down to mean ‘Ancient’ (ko) ‘Stop War’, meaning ‘Peace’ (bu) and ‘Way’ (do) i.e. the ancient way of peace ( sometimes also known as ancient martial way). Some of the weapons used in Okinawan kobudo are based on ancient farming and fishing implements, such as tonfa, nunchuku and kama, whereas some were designed to be weapons such as the sai which was used by the domestic police for crowd control purposes. However, most of these types of weapons were used widely in much of Asia before they ever reached Okinawa so why they are referred to as ‘Okinawan’ weapons I don’t really understand.

The term Kobudo actually refers to the ancient Japanese arts, i.e. those that pre-date the Meiji restoration of 1866 -1869 and include battojutsu, ninjutsu, jujutsu, naginatajutsu, bojutsu, kenjutsu and many others. The term kobudo is synonymous with the term koryu, meaning old school. In this interpretation, kobudo includes some empty hand arts such as jujutsu and ninjutsu so to describe kobudo as ‘weapons training’ really is incorrect!

So can Okinawan kobudo and kobudo (koryu) be mixed together? It would seem strange to do so because the Japanese arts were used by professional warriors on the battlefield whereas Okinawan kobudo was used by civilians as a means of self-defence or civil-defence. Samurai would have had no use for a pair of nunchuku or tonfa on the battlefield and Okinawan civilians were banned from using bladed weapons such as swords.

Here lies my confusion……

I am learning kobudo in a jujitsu club. So far, so good. I have trained with a sword (actually a bokken) – a Japanese ancient art. Still so far, so good. I have also trained with a bo which is used in many cultures around the world, including Okinawa and Japan. My other two weapons are nunchuku and tonfa, both from Okinawan kobudo BUT I am not learning to use them in an Okinawan kobudo way, I am using them in a Japanese way. Basically I am doing jujitsu using tonfa and nunchuku.

In Okinawan kobudo, which is a precursor to karate, both tonfa and nunchuku are used pre-dominantly as blocking and striking weapons, whereas I am using them for locks and throws as well. Want to know how to do a reclining leg throw with a pair of tonfa? – I’ll show you. Want to do a half-shoulder throw augmented with a pair of nunchuku ? – I can show you that as well.

But is it kobudo? Or is it a hybrid? Or is it a form of weapons cross-training? Does it matter? After all, it’s effective….

What is your understanding of the term Kobudo?




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9 comments:

Openhand said...

Uh, what makes you believe that your not learning it in the kobudo tradition? Locks and throws (as well as using them for striking purposes). Taika uses them all extensively for locks, restraints and submission (if not injury).

Felicia said...

I totally hear you, but I'm from the "Does it matter?" school of thought, LOL. Hybrid, cross-training or traditional - who cares? If it works, keep it in your tool box, I say...

Charles James said...

Considering the connectivity to Japan, Okinawa, and China in regards to martial systems be it empty hand or weapons it really doesn't matter.

Unless, your goal is to make a historically accurate traditional connection with the Okinawa way of weapons.

John Coles said...

Very insightful question SueC. One which most will either dismiss or not understand. Striking based martial arts tend not to focus on 'ensnaring' opponents. So, you'd expect their weapon work also not to focus on ensnaring opponents. They just want to hit them. Jujutsu, a Japanese homegrown martial art as opposed to an adopted and modified martial art, tends to focus on ensnaring to execute a joint-lock, throw, takedown, or stangulation technique. When was the striking-based weapon modified to execuate the aforementioned non-striking based techniques? Was it in the Japanese past, or is it in the modern present when we had have far more access to information. It is difficult to argue that the jujutsu-using Samurai would use the nunchaku farm implement. After all, they adapted the peasant sickle to become a kusurigama weapon. I've been taught various ways of using a nunchaku, short stick, etc to do non-striking techniques, but they all have the feel of a modern derivation.

Keep up the paradigm busting thinking.

SueC said...

Openhand, I don't think I'm learning it in the kobudo tradition because I don't believe Samurai used nunchuku or tonfa. However, I can believe that karate-ka when using tonfa and nunchuku may do locks and takedowns with them. Does that make sense?

Felicia, It works but I'm not sure it's legal to keep it in the tool box! LOL (who keeps a pair of nunchuku in their handbag?)

Charles, My problem lies more with the Japanese way of weapons rather than the Okinawan way. Like I said to Openhand, samurai just wouldn't have used tonfa or nunchuku - unless you know otherwise?

John, I think you've got my point - thanks! If kobudo means 'Ancient martial way' can a modern derivation still be called kobudo? Seems like a contradiction in terms to me!

BRIAN FORD said...

HI SUE,THE KANJI BREAKS DOWN BU IS TWO , AND DO TWO ,KO AS YOU SAY IS OLD OR ANCIENT THE OKINAWAN NAME FOR THE BO THE TONFA AND SAI ARE DIFFERENT FROM JAPANESE.ROBERT CLARK GOT REST HIS SOLE HAS A LOT TO ANSWER FOR WHEN IT COMES TO KO BUDO, ALSO THAT IS A MODERN TERM.LET ME INVITE YOU TO A WEEKEND OF "KO BU DO " ALL THE MONEY FROM THE COURSE GOES TO THE BLIND HANDED OVER ON THE DAY. ITS TWO DAYS OF "BO "SAI"TONFA"2 MAN KUMITES IF YOU WANT TO TRY 07794411447 PLEASE WE WANT NO PUBLISITY BRIAN FORD.X

SueC said...

Hello Brian, Thank you for leaving your comment and for the invitation. However, since writing this post I have given up on my kobudo training for the time being to concentrate more on my karate training. I do appreciate the offer though and I hope you raise a lot of money for your cause.

Anonymous said...

HI SUE, SORRY TO HEAR YOU HAVE PUT KO BUDO ON THE BACK BURNER, KARA TE AND KO BUDO GO HAND IN HAND BUT A LOT TO DAY ARE JUJITSU MOVES DONE WITH A WEAPON THAT WOULD NOT STAND UP TO ATTACKS BY SAY A KENDOKA WHO KNOWS HOW TO USE A SWORD.KEEP UP YOUR BLOGGIN.BRIAN

SueC said...

Hi Brian, I agree karate and kobudo should go hand in hand but only if its the right kind of kobudo and ours wasn't! I'll still be blogging though...

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