Shuguro Nakazato Hanshi began his training in karate in 1935 at the age of 14. At the same time, he started training in the kobudo weapons bo, nunchaku, tonfa, sai and kama. His sensei until the start of WWII was Seiro Tonaki. After the war, Sensei Nakazato returned to Okinawa and resumed kobudo training under Sensei Tonaki sensei’s son – Masami Chinen.
Sensei Tonaki and Sensei Chinen were students of Sanda Chinen (Masami Chinen’s father), who was also known as Yamane TANMEI (an honorary Okinawan title). Adfter Sanda Chinen’s death, Masami Chinen named his style Yamane-ryu in honour of his father.
Sanda Chinen in turn learned bojutsu from his father, Chinen PEICHIN (another honorary Okinawan title). Chinen PEICHIN was a student of Tode Sakugawa, who was a student of Kusanku and other teachers of Chinese Martial arts. For those already familiar with our karate history, it will be interesting to note that our karate and kobudo can both be traced back to Tode Sakugawa.
BO KATA SYLLABUS
- Shushi no Kun
- Sakugawa no Kun
- Sakugawa no Kun Dai Ni
- Kubo no Kun
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.
The Roku Shaku Bo is the predominant kind of Bo used and attracts the main interest by practitioners. Its length is 6ft, or as is sometimes customary, cut to the height of the user. The wood used is usually Red Oak or White Oak and the Bo is tapered from the tip ends for better blocking and smoother usage. The weight is dependent on the wood used and is a critical factor for students, too heavy and the techniques become cumbersome, too light and there is not enough power. The weapon is classified as a synthetic one and attracts the greatest distance training between opponents. It magnifies the areas of development needed with empty hand and encourages Tai Sabaki/Yoko Sabaki at all times. The practitioner is taught to hold the weapon initially divisible by thirds and then openly encouraged to develop a more flexible holding style allowing full use of the weapons potential distance.
NUNCHAKU KATA SYLLABUS
- Shorinkan no Nunchaku Dai Ichi
- Shorinkan no Nunchaku Dai Ni
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.
The most controversial of the weapons of the Ryukyu but in essence the least properly explored. Made preferably of red or white oak, or a heavy wood, the sections are tapered from the chord end (2.5cm) to the predominant strike end (3.3cm).The shafts vary from octagonal to round in shape and the weight is dependent on the strength of the user. Again too light and there is no power, and too heavy and the movement is slow and ponderous.
Traditionally this weapon is not used in pairs, as the actions of the one should be sufficient. The grips are similar to that of the Sai in name, Honte-Mochi” (Natural), “Gyakute-Mochi”(Reverse) and Tokushu-Mochi”(Special grip).The special grip falls into “Ippon-Tsuki” (single thrust) and “Tatami-Tsuki” (folding thrust).Nunchaku belongs to the family of Bo and is known as the “portable Bo”.
History has not endowed this weapon with traditional kata as shown by the content of those handed down. They are by design training kata to enable better handling and combination work. The essence of the weapon is the kumite, exploring distance, angles and footwork. Impact should be on the tip of the weapon or it will bounce back on the user. Whilst it is noted that there is a farming implement of the Nunchaku design, it should be pointed out that again China was using this weapon concept long before it was recorded as a Ryukyu weapon.
SAI KATA SYLLABUS
- Shorinkan no Sai Dai Ichi
- Shorinkan no Sai Dai Ni
- Shorinkan no Sai Dai San
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.
This weapon is not the result of agricultural creativity as commonly written. Records from China prove its original existence although in a much more elongated form. The weapon is metal and of the truncheon class with its length dependent upon the forearm of the user. When held it should be about 3cm longer than the forearm and generally Sai are used in pairs. Advanced Sai uses 3, with one held in the belt behind ready for, and used for throwing. The tang is of the Korean classification and the pommel is variant to round, square or multi angled types much dependant on the emphasis of the maker’s usage.
The basic holding manner “Honte-Mochi” (Natural) and “Gyakute-Mochi” (Reverse) is prevalent with basic Sai whereupon the advancement to “Toku-Mochi” (special grip) is introduced. This brings the usage and actions of the Sai into the same family as Tonfa and Kama. The Manji Sai which was made by Shinken Taira has a half reversed tang looking much like a swastika and a pointed pommel end denoting Sensei Taira’s preference to a stabbing motion instead of the smashing techniques dominant with the Tsuujo Sai.
The efficient use of the weapon is much reliant on the dexterity of the practitioner with his thumbs, which the tang is balanced and rotated on along with the loosening and tightening of the grip from the small finger for striking and consolidating power.
The early use of the weapon makes the user appear stiff and robotic but as the training advances the flow and unity with body movement becomes ever more apparent. Sai is the practice of “Shuto” in empty hand and emphasizes the need for “Koshi no Chikara” (Hip power) and “Suri Ashi” (sliding movement). The importance of body movement and good footwork is ever more apparent as the weapon is of a smaller classification than Bo. Advanced practitioners must learn to throw the Sai, a difficult requirement in view of the weight. The Sai explores the weakness of Bo, thus making Bo-jutsu stronger.
TONFA KATA SYLLABUS
- Shorinkan no Tonfa
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.
There is in principal only one kind of Tonfa although the shaft varies in shape from round to rectangular. History has also shown the butt ends to be pointed but this is extremely rare.
The weapon is used in pairs and is of wood, again red oak or white oak preferably in keeping with the Bo. The length of the weapon is also the same requirements as the Sai, about three centimeters past the elbow when gripped. The weight like the Bo is paramount to the efficient usage of the weapon. Too light and it lacks power in Kumite, too heavy and the techniques lack speed and become ponderous. Again like the Sai there are three grips, Honte-Mochi (Natural), Gyakute-Mochi (Reverse) and Tokushu-Mochi (Special grip). The latter is not commonly used but is very effective and relates strongly to the techniques of Kama.
Tonfa is the practice of Uraken (back fist) and Hiji waza (elbow techniques) in open hand fighting. Good body movement like the Sai can make this weapon formidable, combining the speed it needs and generates along with the skilful footwork for evasionand attack. The weapons origins can clearly be traced back to China and be found in Indonesia and surrounding geographical locations.
KAMA KATA SYLLABUS
- Kama Dai Ichi
- Kama Dai Ni
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.
The bladed weapon of the Ryukyu arsenal, this weapon brings to the practitioner the feel of steel and the hint of fear a live blade gives. Used, as a pair there is one style of Kama with varying sizes of blade length and shaft size.
The corner of the blade to the shaft should have a groove cut into it for catching the Bo and other weapons without the blade digging into and getting stuck into the attacking weapon. The weight of the shaft is dependent upon the strength of the user and should be tapered to the butt end with increasing thickness. This allows for ease of catching and sliding when changing grip. The blade should add sufficient weight to ensure it is the heaviest point in the weapon. This also allows for ease of usage.
The length of the weapon should extend to about 3cm passed the elbow when held in reverse grip. The handling of the weapon is the same as the Sai with the following grips, “Honte-Mochi” (Natural), “Gyakute-Mochi”(Reverse) and “Tokushu-Mochi”(Special grip). Kama is the practice of “Kuride” and “Kakede” (hooking and gripping) in open hand technique.
The kama kata emphasize body unity with the weapon to obtain power along with demanding footwork. The dexterity of the fingers is paramount to the changing grips the weapon affords and needs in kumite. Most students commence with wooded Kama to ensure safety and acclimatization before moving to the more demanding live blades. This weapon known as the sickle in the west has a derivative from the farming implements.
EKU KATA SYLLABUS
- Shorinkan no Eku
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.