Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Okinawan Kobudo Weapons' Training in Mesa, Arizona, for Martial Artists & Gardeners

If you are into gardening - the Okinawa kama is hard to beat when it comes to removing weeds. And if you are
into karate, kobudo, and self-defense, the Okinawa kama is a must! Kamajutsu at the Arizona Hombu Dojo, Mesa
Traditionally, kama was developed with other farming implements for self-defense on Okinawa. It became an important weapon due to King Shoshin of Okinawa outlawing ownership of bladed weapons. Some suggest the king was a devout Buddhist and was against violence, but in all likelihood, the king was fearful of an uprising. Even though kama had a blade, these were not considered weapons, but rather farming tools; so the Okinawan peasants converted traditional sickles into weapons of self-defense and trained in secret. Typically, we train with two kama - one in each hand.

If you are into gardening - there is nothing like sharp Okinawa kama for removing weeds from your garden. But if you are into traditional martial arts like many of our adult students at the Arizona Hombu Dojo in Mesa, there is nothing like kama for self-defense. But to protect ourselves and our training partners, we train only with non-shapened kama because we all want to be able to go home and text with all of our digits still attached.

Thursday evenings, members of the Arizona Hombu on Baseline Road on the border of Mesa and Gilbert Arizona in the Phoenix valley train with Okinawan Martial Arts Weapons - just like the Okinawan peasants of the past. Currently (2015), students are training in kama as well as nunchaku. Few other schools teach kama (gardening sickles) which is unfortunate, as kama is a martial arts weapon found in most Sears garden shops. Most Okinawan kama (gama) come as pairs  and are handy to have for any garden or home invaders which are all too common in Arizona.

Training with Nunchaku
Ben defends attack by Gavin at the Arizona Hombu during ippon kumite (one step
A modified kama, known as kusarigama is even more rare in martial arts schools because it leaves so many bruises until the student learns to use this complex weapon - its a kama attached to a chain. But at the Arizona Hombu, we teach our students to love gardening. So if you are ever attacked in your garden by a gang of ninjas, you will be thankful you learned to use kama and kusarigama.

When I was 10, I was handed a rusty sickle by my mother and told to go out back and cut weeds. I only wish I would have known something about the kama back in those days, it would have made cutting weeds interesting. 

        Click Here for LOCATION MAP to our Mesa Karate School

Anyway, kama was likely a weapon of the peasant class on Okinawa, simply because it would have been a tool of farmers – something beneath the Pechin class (Okinawan equivalent of Samurai). One of the great controversies of Okinawa karate was how the martial art developed. Many think of karate as a form of self-defense used only by Okinawan bodyguards and royalty, others argue it was a peasant art. The martial art of kobudo argues this was a combat art for peasants.

Kobudo developed after King Shoshin outlawed bladed weapons on Okinawa in the 15th century. Okinawa was invaded by the Satsuma Samurai from Japan and the ban on bladed weapons continued to be enforced by Japanese Samurai who could take the life of any peasant they chose. If any Okinawan was caught with a weapon or practicing karate, they likely would have lost their head – this was one reason why karate was a secret for centuries.

The kama is one of the more difficult Okinawan weapons to learn due to the inherent danger of the blade. Before karate became popular in the US, kama training (just like samurai sword) involved a razor sharp blade. It was easy to self-inflict scars during practice. Today, we have practice weapons, but care must still be exercised because most are so poorly made that they tend to fall apart with little use. It is a good idea (and highly recommended) to wear safety glasses or goggles while training with these and to search for either a martial arts supply house that sells kama that will last and not break easily - a challenge. Otherwise, one must search for ways to keep the practice weapon from breaking. We encourage our students to purchase weapons from a custom manufacturer such as Crane Mountain. As an example, a few years ago I purchased an eku (Okinawan oar) from Century Martial Arts. On the very first swing (in the air) the weapon snapped in half - I didn't even get a chance to use it in ippon kumite (controlled sparring).

Training in kama and bo at Kobudo class in Mesa, Arizona
Kama is used singly or in pairs (gama). The point, sharpened edge of the blade, handle and the butt of the handle are all used in strikes and blocks. There are different grips used in kama combat including honte mochi (natural), gyaku te mochi (reverse) and tokushu mochi (special grip). The weapon is used for kuride (hooking), kakede (gripping), ukete sasu (blocking & stabbing), tsuki (thrusting), kiru (cutting) & nagete ateru (throwing and striking). Some kama have straps attached to handles so the weapon can be released similar to some nunchaku techniques.

A similar weapon to kama is kusarigama (chain-sickle). This is a very difficult weapon to master and rarely taught and it is difficult to find kusarigama to purchase. They are almost non-existent in the US and the few available at local martial arts stores are not up to specification.

Kusarigama is a traditional weapon with a kama attached to a metal chain (kusari) with heavy iron weight at the opposite end of the kama. Or it can be attached to a rope wound around the wrist.

Okinawan farmers at the Arizona Hombu dojo train with farming implements. Photo shows karate students
and instructors training with kama (Okinawa sickles) during kobudo class.
The chain of kusarigama is relatively long (often 6 to 9.5 feet) and used to reach an attacker outside a striking distance of a samurai sword with weighted ball and chain. This was done by swinging the kusari overhead or at the side and wrapping it around the attacker’s arms, legs, or neck.  It is also likely the kama was swung overhead in big circles and thrown at samurai with follow-up strikes to vital points with the weight. Records show that kusarigama was extremely popular in feudal Japan, and many schools trained in this art from the 12th to 17th century including Koga Ryu, a school of ninjutsu. Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of kama or kusarigama should spend time with Tadashi Yamashita.

Kama and bokken - traditional Okinawan martial arts at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Arizona Martial Arts Weapons Classes

Summer is here in Arizona and time to cut the heat with kama. Kama is an Okinawan farming implement used by peasants to defend themselves against samurai, bandits and government (when it came to the last two categories, these were, and still are, nebulous and difficult to distinguish from one another) This simple farming implement was used very effectively in the hands of an expert, whom could produce sliced samurai in seconds.  

A kama is simply a sickle and used to trim crops. Since we love gardening in Arizona, we are getting ready to start training in this martial art beginning May 2014 at the Arizona Hombu

And you think its hot in Arizona? Try training with Okinawan kama and learn what hot is.
In traditional martial arts, students & faculty learn all aspects of karate along with
kobudo (martial arts weapons). 
Karate was created on Okinawa centuries ago as was Kobudo. These two were blended into one art known as Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo and taught to Okinawan royalty, their body guards and peasants. This is a traditional martial art, not sport. The difference is that in traditional martial arts, students are taught traditions, martial arts history, philosophy, respect, basics, kata (forms), applications of all techniques in kata referred to as bunkai, body hardening, and powerful strikes. There is no competition, and the only type of kumite (sparring) taught in traditional karate is one step in order to keep students from losing focus and power. 
Extreme body hardening. Professor
Hausel accepts full-force kick to ribs by
Sensei Donette Gillespie, 3rd dan
Don't try this at home. Professor
Hausel takes full-force kick in groin
(unprotected) at half-time at a University
of Wyoming basketball game and smiles

Traditional martial arts are combat arts (jutsu) and many traditional arts include guidance for self-improvement (do). You will never see a trophy in a traditional martial arts school as competition and tournaments are considered antipathetic to progress in martial arts. 

In sport karate, one gears up with protective pads, cups, body armor, etc. In traditional karate, one learns how to accept full force strikes to vital body parts without any protective equipment. Most of our ladies are not into body hardening, so most skip this part of training as do several of the men - and it is not required.
Dai Shihan Neal Adam (6th dan) defends attack with gama
from Sensei Bill Borea (3rd dan) with bo, during kobudo
classes at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate. 

So, this summer, why not take a slice out of the heat and join our adult and family traditional martial arts school at 60 W. Baseline Road on the border of Mesa and Gilbert. Stop in and see why our martial artists are enjoying themselves and why everyone in the school are good friends. And why you are at it, we will teach you how to use the kama, other kobudo arts, samurai arts, self-defense and traditional karate. You can follow the progress of our students on our facebook page for Arizona School of Traditional Karate and also Arizona Shorin-Ryu.

Adam Bialek practices with wooden gama and Neal Adam with bo during kobudo classes
at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa, Arizona.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kama - Martial Arts Weapon from Okinawa & Arizona

Pencil sketch, by Soke Hausel
"A deshi who bares kama scars, knows kama well"  - Soke Hausel.

We start all of our students of Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Renmei in Arizona in both karate and kobudo (martial arts weapons) when they start training in karate. Karate and kobudo have always been taught together in traditional Okinawan karate, and there is no additional fee for learning kobudo. In Shorin-Ryu Karate, one is expected to learn both empty hand and weapons as the compliment one another and it is all part of their martial arts education. 

Dr. Adam (6th dan) trains with Adam Bialek during kobudo classes
at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate. Here, Adam
defends with kama while Dai-Shihan Adam attacks with bo (6-foot staff).
One of several traditional weapons taught at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate (martial arts school) and all of our schools around the globe as well as in our hombu dojo at the border of Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona with Chandler and not all that far from Tempe (60 W. Baseline Road) is kama. Kama is a traditional Okinawan weapon used by peasants and farmers that must be respected. This respect grows exponentially as one progresses to the kusarikama (kama with rope or chain) as there is greater potential for a collision with this later weapon. 

We recommended martial artists train with dull bladed kama, as sharpen kama leaves scars. One of our Casper Wyoming members returned from training in Okinawa a few years ago where he purchased gama (a pair of kama) and proceeded to cut himself in the dojo after he discovered the blades were sharp as razors. Because of this, we only allow non-sharpen practice weapons in the dojo as we only have so many bandages to go around.

Thursday evening classes are devoted to kobudo and start at 6:45 pm. We have extra practice weapons for new members to use. This training includes basic exercises, learning three complex kata (forms), bunkai (practical applications from the kata), and ippon kumite (one step attacks) using kama in self-defense against 6-foot pole (bo), samurai sword (bokken), 3-foot stick (hanbo), knife (tanto), and even guns.

Stop in and visit the Arizona School of Traditional Karate, a traditional dojo at the border of Mesa and Gilbert at 60 W. Baseline. We look forward to meeting you.

Charles Jean gives Ryan Harden (1st dan) a close shave during kobudo
classes at the Seiyo Hombu dojo in Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler, Arizona.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kama Training at Arizona School of Traditional Karate in MESA

We continued training with kama during the advanced Kobudo Class on Kobudo night over much of the Fall at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler. However, by late, we were training with tonfa and in the summer 2012, our members focused on training with a single tonfa and started to learned use of the Okinawan sai.

Last year, our martial artists focused on the kama, its applications and katas in August, and learned a second kama kata in October and November.
Bill Borea (2nd degree black belt) and Neal Adam (5th degree black belt) train in kama applications at Arizona School of Traditional Karate - the Hombu

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kama - Weapon of Shorin-Ryu Karate

"Few martial arts instructors know the use of kama. And of those who do, for some reason, this weapon lost favor with many sensei (martial arts instructors) and is rarely practiced in most dojo".

The kama and the kusarigama have had a long history on Okinawa, but it is difficult to find information about these weapons. The kama was used to cut crops similar to sickles used in the US to cut weeds.

One of the great controversies of Okinawan karate was how did karate develop and who practiced this martial art on Okinawa. Many people think of karate as being a form of self-defense used only by the samurai class of Okinawa, others argue that this was a peasant art developed both by peasants and the samurai class. But this one weapon, in particular, strongly suggests that at least kamajutsu was developed by peasants as no self-respecting samurai would use a farmer’s tool.

Sensei Jessica Ricks training with kama at the University of
In the 15th century, Okinawan King Shoshin outlawed all bladed weapons on Okinawa. This decree affected the samurai class of Okinawa. Samurai on Okinawa were referred to as Ryukyu samurai or as Pechin. Pechin were of a feudal warrior class who were charged with military defense and enforcing Okinawan laws similar to the Japanese samurai. It is interesting that the rank of the Pechin was based on the color of the hat they wore. The Pechin were also responsible for developing and training their indigenous Okinawan art of Te (also known as Ti) that is better known to us as Karate. The Pechin kept this fighting art secret and typically taught the most devastating forms and techniques to one member of their family, usually the eldest son.

After the invasion of the Satsuma Samurai from Japan, the band on bladed weapons and firearms continued to be enforced, this time by the Satsuma Samurai. According to one document, the Pechin were sometimes issued permits by the Satsuma Samurai allowing them to travel with their personal swords to smiths in Kagushima Japan for maintenance and repair of their weapons. It is not clear if this permit allowed them to wear the weapon in public.

Dai-Shihan Neal Adam attacks Sensei Bill Borea during ippon kumite training with martial arts weapons at the
Arizona Hombu.
Peasants had no weapons other than farming implements. They also had no bladed weapons (other than kama and possibly knifes [tanto], so it is very likely they developed this art. Since Okinawa had no known source for metals to manufacture blades, the kama had to be imported from nearby Asian countries. Since kama was widely used throughout Asia to cut rice and bamboo, it is likely it was imported from China, Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines.

Sensei Bill Borea defends bokken attack by Sarah.
The kama is considered one of the hardest weapons to learn due to the inherent danger of the blade. Before karate became popular in the United States, kama training (just like the katana, or samurai sword) had a razor sharp blade. It was easy to provide oneself with many scars during practice. Luckily today, we have practice weapons, but care must still be exercised even with these. Because it is easy to lose a finger during training with a live blade, sharpen kama are not used in training in Seiyo Shorin-Ryu dojo. Just think how difficult it would be to insult someone if you accidentally removed your middle finger.

Most Shorin-Ryu karate systems train in kama. Seiyo Shorin-Ryu has three kama kata – one that is indigenous to our system of Shorin Ryu. In addition to the kata, there are several very effective bunkai for the kama. It is very likely that we will add one or two kama kata in the future.

Kobudo training at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa, Arizona
The kama is used singly or in pairs (gama). The point, sharpened edge of the blade, handle and the butt of the handle are all used in strikes and blocks. The kama is used similar to sai and is used in the following grips: honte mochi (natural), gyakute mochi (reverse) and tokushu mochi (special grip). The weapon is used for kuride (hooking), kakede (gripping), ukete sasu (blocking and stabbing), tsuki (thrusting), kiru (cutting) and nagete ateru (throwing and striking). All of these techniques show up in most kata. Some kama also have straps attached to their handles so that the weapon can be released similar to some nunchuku techniques.

The point where the blade and handle of a Okinawan kama are attached forms a nook unlike the characteristic farming sickle some of us are familiar with in the U.S. where a blade continues to the handle without a nook. This nook is used for trapping weapons, such as a bo.

A similar weapon to kama is the kusarigama (chain-sickle). This is a very difficult weapon to master and rarely taught in most dojo and is also difficult to learn. In addition, it is very difficult to find kusarigama to purchase. They are almost non-existent and the few that are available are usually not quite up to specification.

The kusarigama is a traditional weapon consisting of a kama attached to a metal chain (kusari) with a heavy iron weight at the opposite end from the kama. The chain of the kusarigama is relatively long (usually about 6 to 9.5 feet) as was used to trap a samurai outside the striking distance of his sword with the weighted ball and chain, and then to move in to slice with the kama. This was done by swinging the kusari overhead or at the side and then wrap it around the samurai’s arms, legs, or neck. The chain was designed to strike a samurai with a katana or yari at a somewhat safe distance. The weight could also be used to cause injury and disorient the victim. It is also likely that the kama was swung overhead in big circles and thrown at a samurai with a follow-up strike to the head or other vital point with the weight.

Sensei Bill Borea blocks thrust by Charles at the Arizona Hombu in Mesa, Arizona.
According to various stories, the kusarigama was a weapon that was well-suited against swords and spears. Records show that kusarigama was extremely popular in feudal Japan, and many schools trained in this art from the 12th to 17th century including Koga-Ryu, a school of ninjutsu.

The kusarigama was a very useful weapon, but had its limitions. In the 17th century, a kusarigama master named Yamada Shinrykan was feared because of the many samurai that he killed in combat. However, he met his fate when he was lured into a bamboo grove by Araki Mataemon. Being surrounded by thick bamboo made it impossible for Shinryukan to swing his chain to trap Mataemon's katana and was subsequently killed.

Another story of limitations of the kusarigama involved Shishido Baiken who was also well-known for his kusarigama technique. Miyamoto Musashi injured Baiken by throwing a tanto (knife) outside the reach of Baiken’s chain prior to finishing him off with his sword.

Police DAV karate team from northern India poses with Soke Hausel, Dai Shihan Neal Adam and Sensei Bill and Paula
 Borea after a weeks training at the Arizona Hombu.
Members of the Police DAV school karate team from northern India pose with Soke Hausel and Shihan-Dai Adam on their visit to the Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Hombu in Mesa, Arizona for a week-long clinic in kobudo and karate training.

Kobudo, the ancient art of weapons, is part of the curriculum of Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai, as are the samurai arts. These arts are taught at the Hombu in Mesa Arizona by Soke Hausel and Shihan-Dai Neal Adam. They area also taught at a number of dojo in Wyoming and Utah as well as several national and international dojo.

Our Hombu is located at 60 W. Baseline in Mesa, Arizona. Stop by and see our traditional dojo. We accept new students for training as well as train groups in special weekend clinics or week long clinics.

VISIT our website at Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Karate

And if you are in Arizona, visit our Arizona Site

Other information about Kobudo, see Arizona Kobudo

Seiyo Sai, and Jujutsu