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Jr cook
Jr cook's picture
Kobudo kata origins?

Hey everyone. I'm doing a bit of research on some of our kobudo (Okinawan weapons) forms. Mainly trying to get a better grasp on where they fit into the bigger picture of combat vs. defense. Are they derived from "battlefield" techniques or are they meant more for home protection, self defense, etc.? Either way I have further questions about the training methods that evolved into the various kata we now have. The biggest of which, at the moment, is what kind of opponent were they designed to fight? If anyone has info on these kata and their pre-Okinawan origins I would be interested. Or any links to sources would be appreciated as well! Thanks for any info you can share.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Just some thoughts,

Most avaliable Kobudo kata from Okinawa IMO was developed/formed by Okinawans in the late 19th or early 20th cent.

The majority of the Kobudo kata IMO have little/nothing to do with Battlefield fighting, considering the weaponry used and the manner in which it is used, where and by whom it was used.

I seriously doubt the reality of the mainstream using say Nunchaku, Tonfa, Kama in fights, outside of personal differences etc etc, Bo and Sai have a fairly solid role in Law Enforcement that makes reasonable sense and is varifiable.

Of course there would be the reality of lower classes fighting, with whatever came to hand and kama is a tool used in Okinawa re harvesting etc etc.

Many Kobudo kata have names that proberly do not historically via lineage actually represent the supposed creators of said kata, maybe they contain elements or principles of the old Masters, and it does of course depend what version your working with in terms of how close you get.

Elements of Matayoshi Kobudo it would seem have a more Chinese influence, but I don't study Kobudo enough to really understand all the lineages to really comment with any accuracy.

diadicic
diadicic's picture

Here is the system I have worked with.   http://www.ryukyu-kobudo.com/

 

tas_ana
tas_ana's picture

Hi Jr cook

the following link is a pretty article on the Matayoshi system. It contains a brief history that includes some thoughts on the various weapons and their kata origins.

http://www.meibukanmagazine.org/Downloads/MeibukanMagazineno9.pdf

Hope it's helpful

Cheers

Harald
Harald's picture

Dear Mr. Cook,

do you want to know who at first used a bo, tonfa, sai or whatever againt whopponent on what circumstances (balltefield or at bed)?

Is it a historical question or does it concern whether kobudo is of some use in pracitcal karate nowadays? (I have a bo but usually don´t carry it wih me the streets).

Best wishes,

Harold

miket
miket's picture

Jr:

100% speculation here: 

My OPINION is that a potential origination of Ryukyu kobudo was in response to perceived Western European expanionism in the South and East China Seas toward the middle-end of the 19th century, starting with Perry's landing in 1853, or even before with Hall's landing in the early 1800's; and not just in response to the contact with Ryukyu, but in response to colonialism in SE Asia generally. 

What I am suggesting is that kobudo was developed as a 'first line of defense' such that the civillian population of Okinawa could effectively act as it's own militia against a foreign invading force... more on the lines of harrassing actions and home and property defense than as an organized army, to be sure, but potentially troubling to an invading force all the same.

This speculation based OPINION, which  is not meant to be revisionist, is arrived at more from a strategic consideration of the Japanese invasion of Ryukyu, a consideration of the second-class Ryukyu islands as a 'buffer zone' between Japan and European expansion, and a student's level understanding of Okinawan history.  It is also very much in line with what the Japanese later proposed to do in response to the threat of invasion of the Japanese mainland by the Allies during World War II with the civillian portion of Operation Ketsu-go...

http://www.vfwwebcom.org/forum/index.php/topic,6700.msg19795.html

http://histclo.com/essay/war/ww2/cou/jap/inv/w2ij-ket.html

The same exact behavior can be observed in today's headlines with Ghadaffi's recent threats to arm civillians to achive effectively the same purpose in response to the NATO bombings of Libya.

So, I would say that kobudo was meant to be the 'employment of every day household items in response to a perceived threat to life and property', the same way today we would conduct an 'improvised weapons' class. I was a student of Matayoshi kobudo (fifteenyears) and I have a hard time believeing such an activity could have existed under the noses of the Japanese if it was in fact directed against them (and the same way I believe karate probably existed in the semi-open).

The myth of the hard-put Okinawan peasant devotedly working his kata training in secret late into the wee hours of the night just doesn't hold up for me as anything more than a romantic legend.  My opinion is that it was likely a civillian outgrowth of training conducted by the Ryukyuan army. (See Prof. Greg Smit's research for more on that subject).

PS:   Consider what you know regarding the evolution of karate history, its connection to specific form military like Yabu, and it's integration into the school system  in response to the following excerpt from the second web page posted above:

"Drill was a very common part of European and American education in the 129th and early-20th century. This primarily consisted of marching and learming marching moves. It waa adopted primarily because it taught discipline. It was mote common for boys than girls. Japan after the Meiji Resoration established a national educational systen for the first time and used European models for their new system. The physical educational (PE) program as designed by the new Ministry of Education (MoE) at first involved light gymnastics, but over time, drill and evebtually overt military training became part of the phyical education system. The first PE program designed by the MoE was light gymnastics (1878). The primary purpose of the PE program was to promote health. The Moe made PE a required subject and adopted military gymnastics (1886). The MoE reorganized the PE and adopted military drill (early 20th century). The MoE gradually turned to military personnel for PE instructors. During the Taisho era (1912-26) about 50 percent of school PE teachers were military personnel. Schools began assigning military officers secondary and teriiary schools to teach military drill. This included both marching and military exercises. The military began to see school PE as preparing students for subsequent military training. [Okuma] At the end of World War II this was extended to preparing children to participate in resisting an anticipated American invasion--Ketsugo."  

Jr cook
Jr cook's picture

Thanks for all the info so far everyone!

shoshinkanuk wrote:
The majority of the Kobudo kata IMO have little/nothing to do with Battlefield fighting, considering the weaponry used and the manner in which it is used, where and by whom it was used.

I seriously doubt the reality of the mainstream using say Nunchaku, Tonfa, Kama in fights, outside of personal differences etc etc, Bo and Sai have a fairly solid role in Law Enforcement that makes reasonable sense and is varifiable.

Of course there would be the reality of lower classes fighting, with whatever came to hand and kama is a tool used in Okinawa re harvesting etc etc.

I agree. Most of these weapons are not what I would consider battlefield weapons and considering the history of Okinawa, I would not presume there was ever an army of sai and kama wielding locals.

It seems that most of the codified fighting system we have now is not the work of feuding farmers who picked up a harvesting tool and decided to create some kata. Though it's interesting to think maybe someone learned about weapons combat from another source and then trained with what they had lying around. Similar to how children will substitute any found object for a ball should the proper equipment be unavailable.

diadicic wrote:

Here is the system I have worked with.   http://www.ryukyu-kobudo.com/

 I have spent a little time practicing the same, or a similar system through a former Chito Ryu school. I am aware of a few schools of the same lineage.

tas_ana wrote:
the following link is a pretty article on the Matayoshi system. It contains a brief history that includes some thoughts on the various weapons and their kata origins.

http://www.meibukanmagazine.org/Downloads/MeibukanMagazineno9.pdf

This is some great info. Thanks for the link!

Harald wrote:

Is it a historical question or does it concern whether kobudo is of some use in pracitcal karate nowadays? (I have a bo but usually don´t carry it wih me the streets)

Harald, my question is a bit of both. I'm interested in the history so that I can build a better understanding of what it is I'm looking at in the katas. I agree that I don't usually carry a Bo (though there is one in the car at the moment!) but I'm looking at it in broader terms. To my thinking, combative applications are all about intent and good, functional principles. As we know, these elements are understood best when practiced in training. I'm looking at the kata as a way to decipher some of these lessons.

miket wrote:
What I am suggesting is that kobudo was developed as a 'first line of defense' such that the civillian population of Okinawa could effectively act as it's own militia against a foreign invading force... more on the lines of harrassing actions and home and property defense than as an organized army, to be sure, but potentially troubling to an invading force all the same.

Wow! Very interesting theory. To my logic it seems quite plausible that what was know of weapon arts were translated into makeshift weapons as you are saying. This would also support the mix of established weapons such as sai or spear and the more crude weapons like the tan bo and chizikun bo found within the kobudo systems.

miket wrote:

The myth of the hard-put Okinawan peasant devotedly working his kata training in secret late into the wee hours of the night just doesn't hold up for me as anything more than a romantic legend.  My opinion is that it was likely a civillian outgrowth of training conducted by the Ryukyuan army.

I also have a hard time fully buying in to some of the history that seems commonly accecpted. I have long felt that, as you mention, the lower class has neither the time or means to pursue a dilligent study of martial arts. Historically, it is the well-off and the military who travels and seeks training of this type. Not to mention the livelyhood of a farmer's entire family would rest on his health and strength for the harvest and good medical care would be an issue. I don't see the martial arts as a likely investment for a majority of this class. Especially if the training was supposedly illegal!

Very good stuff.

Thanks again everyone!

Ives
Ives's picture

Be aware that kobudo is a rather broad term.

See the differences and similarities between Ryukyu  Kobudo and Nihon Kobudo. Some Ryuha use the same weapons, but kata are way different, from what I understand. I practice some bo and a sai kata, and some tunfa and nunchaku-kihon of Taira/Inoue-lineage.

Matt Perlingiero
Matt Perlingiero's picture

Jr cook wrote:
Are they derived from "battlefield" techniques or are they meant more for home protection, self defense, etc.?
Well, yes and no.  Depends on the weapon you're talking about.  The staff is certainly a battlefield weapon, and the sai has its place in law-enforcement and self-protection.  The rest are suspect, but I don't think all were -improvised- weapons.  Kuwa, eku, jiffa, and kama were improvised, I agree; however, nunchaku, yari, tinbe & rochin, tekko, kusarigama, rokushakugama, tuifa, nunchaku, sansetsukun, and many others do not fit into that ideaology.   Also, most of the kobudo weapons were in use in Southeast Asia and China prior to their introduction to Okinawa, so there's that...   I don't think the "midnight peasant training" is based in any fact, because the pechin class in Okinawa constituted over a third of the population.  There's no way that many people could get by without working, so you have many people with warrior training doing menial labor, which to Japanese xenophobia makes them peasants at absolute best.    Another thing to consider here is that Okinawa never had much interest in war, so there wasn't a lot of pressure to develop in a "battlefield" (conquering) sense.  Self-protection was the main concern.  Please don't misunderstand, Okinawans had swords, spears, and halberds, but the emphasis wasn't on -war-, which is where these weapons thrive.   

Jr cook wrote:
If anyone has info on these kata and their pre-Okinawan origins I would be interested.
Okinawan Weaponry by Mark Bishop is a good place to start.

mike23
mike23's picture

An author was cited a while ago by sensei Abernethy, Christopher Clarke. He has a book titled Okinawan Kobudo, a history of weponry styles and masters. The link below. It might help.

http://www.amazon.com/Okinawan-Kobudo-History-Weaponry-Masters/dp/148026...