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Iain Abernethy
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Karate Cafe call Iain on Kobudo!

Hi All,

I hope you all find this interesting. In the “Occam’s Hurdled Kata” podcast I answered a listener’s question on Kobudo and it’s relevance to self-defence. The bit in question can be found at 48:00 in this podcast: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/occams-hurdled-katana-podcast

As a UK based martial artist I commented that Kobudo had no real relevance to self-defence for me and hence it was not part of my practise. My point was that it is illegal to use weapons in the UK and hence the specifics of using Sai, Nunchaku, Tonfa etc were an irrelevance to me and hence Kobudo would never be a permanent part of my practise.

Paul at the Karate Café podcast contacted me via twitter to say he felt I was off base with this and, after a little tweeting, Paul said he would do a “counterpoint podcast” and it can be found here: http://karatecafe.com/podcasts/minisode.12.mp3

I said I would spread the word on the podcast so people could listen to Paul’s reply. Hence this post!

It’s a very good listen and I suggest you all check it out to get the alternative take on things. I think Paul makes a very good case and there is little he says that I would disagree with. Having heard the podcast I think our views are maybe closer than first thought.

I feel that Paul’s point that Kobudo develops skills that are transferable to improvised weaponry is totally valid. My use of the phrase “they are not practical” in reference to Kobudo kata and modern self-protection was therefore inaccurate and I totally get why he chose to call me on it.

What would have been a better expression of my view was “they are not directly practical, but can have indirect benefits with regards to improvised weaponry”. I’m not sure if Paul would agree with that or not, but that is what I took to be his view from his podcast reply.

Even with the indirect benefits, classical Kobudo is not personally for me as I feel it suits me better to work directly with likely “improvised weapons” themselves. There are also specific skills associated with some of the classical weapons that take a lot of time to develop (i.e. flipping Sai, rotating Tonfa, redirecting Nunchanku, etc). I feel that, seeing as I’m never going to make use of those specifics, training time should be prioritised elsewhere.

As for weapons, it is the simple “hit them with it” skills that are applicably to all blunt objects, and the “puncture them with it” skills that apply to “pointy” and sharp objects, that I would personally prioritise. Simple skills for simple improvised “weapons” as opposed to the advanced skills associated with Kodudo. And even then, the weapons side of my training is low priority when compared the empty handed stuff. The empty hand is always relevant and immediate so that is what we place a strong emphasis on.

One point that Paul makes that I totally agree with, and that I completely failed to acknowledge on the podcast, is that the skills associated with “stick and staff” are very easy to adapt to many everyday objects. The question made reference to “weapons kata” and hence I thought Tonfa, Kama, Sai, etc. I did not think “stick” which I tend to associate with Arnis.

I feel that the little Arnis that I have done is valuable and versatile as many things can be “a stick”. Simple Arnis drills are practised at the club, but not with any great regularity due to the emphasis on empty handed skills. But the point Paul makes is valid and I should have included that in order to give a more complete and accurate answer.

A few things learnt for me: 1, People listen carefully to what I say in the podcasts! 2, My “stream of consciousness answers” are not always clear or complete and it’s good to know people will pull me up on that when they feel I have missed something. 3, I need to listen to Karate Café more!

Please be sure to listen to Paul’s “reply podcast” as it makes some very good points and rightly calls me to account on a few things. While we may place a different emphasis on weaponry overall, and while we make place different value on the indirect benefits of classical weapons, I think that I would agree at a “concept level” with the overall theme of Paul’s line of thinking. I also agree that, while Kobudo may not be directly applicable, the skills developed in Kobudo have relevance to improvised weapons.

Whatever your stance on this, the good thing is that my “provocative” answer got you all a good podcast from Paul! ;-)

All the best,


michael rosenbaum
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I think there a good points on both sides and it’s true there are cultural divides present, something we should all be aware of when  discussing the martial arts.  However, that said, I do find it interesting that Paul would take up this argument since he lives in Texas.  I’ve been to Texas several times and it’s a great state (or country-which ever you prefer) but the three things I always notice everywhere there are: 1. Pickup trucks, 2. Lonestar beer, 3. Guns.

It’s true that most of the Kobudo weapons are agricultural tools, I know because I’m also a long time Kobudo practitioner,  but so are axes, shovels and kitchen knives. Therefore I’d like to ask two questions.

1.       Wouldn’t it be more effective to practice using weapons commonly found in our own day to day existence?

2.       Just how effective do you feel Kobudo is in the day and age of firearms.

Mike Rosenbaum

Dandridge, TN. Neighborhood of Davy Crockett.