"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|
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|
|Sensei Bill Borea defends bokken attack by Sarah.|
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 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.|
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.
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