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.