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By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:38AM

There are two types of bojutsu practice, Hitoribo which is practised by one person and Kumibo which is practised by two. Everyone in Kobudo practises Hitoribo but only some practise Kumi, what are the advantages?

For some there are none. In a real fight between two bojutsu experts the contest can be over very quickly. Protracted sequences between two practitioners is not only unrealistic, it is also potentially damaging to the martial mindset.

Detractors of Kumibo would further argue ‘how often in history has one person been attacked by another 1 vs 1, bo vs bo’? Very possibly never… it is so unlikely. So why even bother to practise?

So did bo ever fight bo? There are some wonderfully romantic stories about bojutsu experts meeting and duelling, however the truth may be somewhat different. Classical stories more commonly talk about how peasants (young and old) used bo to defend themselves against invaders such as the samurai and some sections of the Okinawan martial arts community choose to demonstrate bo only against katana and firearm for that reason.

Others buy into the stories of Okinawan criminals harrassing travellers and pirates attacking harbour men and other innocents. In these stories the bo is a tool of self defence against other forms of weaponry. These practitioners will prefer to use bo against weapons such and sai and tunkuwa.

There are other stories of martial artists testing themselves against each other in competition, bo vs bo. So perhaps some Kumibo practice hails from this origin. Without knowing for certain which histories are correct, practical based methodologies are for some the only way they can justify martial arts practice, which is perhaps why some histories may prove not to be accurate.

Others do not only think about martial application but seek to train in more existential ways. For example, the bo is used against bo, but only gesturally, i.e. it represents a multitude of other weapons whilst preventing the practitioner from having to change weapon each sequence? Or might the bo vs bo practice have no functional use, but still have practical use in terms of body conditioning, weapon handling and learning about how to fight with distance.

Perhaps Kumibo is at its most useful a method of interaction between two disciples of the arts as a platform in which they can train on a ‘level playing field’ with neither having an advantage. This allows the fighters to learn and reflect without making value judgments about what weapons they used.

Some say Kumibo is useless, others say its absence is the same. Whilst Hitoribo forms the heart of all Kobudo practice, Kumibo remains a methodology of preference.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:37AM

The 'Shin' ideogram is drawn to represent the heart, the lines drawn show the ventricles and where the blood travels. For martial artists in days gone by your spirit is considered to be held within your blood. At one time the whole world agreed on that. However modern science and the 'ologies have yet to explain such a concept in definitive terms and so the ordinary science fearing child of the modern world finds talk of 'spirit' uncomfortable and mystical. So perhaps talk of lymphocytes, globulins and basophils may have to enter future dojos so that modern students can understand how the heart defines/reflects the character of the person.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:35AM

War crimes are often deliberately forgotten so that post conflict peace can be encouraged. The Japanese committed many atrocities during WW2 which are well documented, but less popular in the west are reports of the cruelties and indignities perpetuated by the American soldiers to the Japanese during the years of their invasion and occupation. However, the history and testimony is there for anyone seeking it out.

It was during the post war period that the Yakuza became very strong. Established and understood by the world to be organised criminals who pose threat and danger, alternatively many Japanese consider the Yakuza to be honourable and worthy of respect and gratitude. Why you may ask?

In the 1950s and 1960s the Yakuza offered protection to the ordinary Japanese against the American soldiers who threatened pillage, insult, assault, damage, imprisonment, theft, rape and death to the indigenous population. The Yakuza would facilitate the black market that kept many Japanese supplied during occupation. They provided security against the Americans for shops, bars and local businesses. They befriended and bribed American officers to infiltrate them. They patrolled the streets to protect the women from drunken GIs. For this reason, the Yakuza are admired by many.

Today Yakuza organisations rarely hide and are considered to have a functional role in Japanese society. They are the criminals, but they commit crime whilst being mindful of their obligations and position in society and they demonstrate the possession of a respected and honourable criminal moral code (if such a concept of criminality can make sense to a western mind).

The martial arts have a long historical connection to organised crime all around the world and this is also true in Japan and Okinawa. There are strong ties between some martial arts schools and organised criminality that for obvious reasons go unreported however, they are/were nevertheless there.

This was particularly true in the post-war years when many martial artists took on the responsibility of protecting their fellow countrymen against the invading force through whatever means was necessary. Rather than enter into direct conflict some Yakuza (like some Samurai) took the role of educating the Americans Soldiers in the ways of the arts, thus providing them personal discipline and respect for the culture. This approach in turn led to a great rise in popularity of Japanese martial arts amongst US servicemen, since the disciplines of budo were similar but much more meaningful than those found within the army of the time.

Jurisprudence in Japan during and after WW2 is deeply complex and this article can make no further comment than that. Were some martial arts masters in Japan and Okinawa connected with organised crime? Yes, they most definitely were. Some were/are Yakuza. This fact has been kept secret for many years for obvious reasons. Does that have any relevance to the future of the arts? Probably not, but it provides a fascinating insight into the past.

EDITOR COMMENT [This article is in no way suggesting that all American soldiers committed crimes during occupation nor that all martial arts teachers in Japan are connected with organised crime. Evidence indicates these are minority phenomenon. This article is based on the first hand testimony of Japanese people, Japanese and Okinawan martial artists, Western martial artists and American soldiers collated through primary and secondary sources].

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:30AM

Kobudo is a quasi-rigid body mechanical problem and ultimately the same mathematical laws that govern the motion of the planets and falling apples also govern the forces and motions of our body.

The most famous equation of which we are all taught in school is F=ma, Newton’s equation of motion (F being force, m = mass and a = acceleration). What is perhaps less well known is that integration of this equation yields the impulse equation I = Δmv, that is impulse is equal to the change in momentum of a ‘body’.

In Kobudo, the ‘body’ we typically care about is ‘the weapon’ and the impulse might be thought of as the amount of force we've 'paid in' to the weapon before our blow lands. If we push the weapon twice as hard or alternatively twice as long, we double the impulse.

Principle 1

Momentum is mass times speed and the laws of physics require it to be conserved. As such if a weapon strikes an opponent with great momentum, then the opponent must be moved by it.

However, if their stance is good they will remain rooted to the ground with the force of friction holding them still. The momentum of a blow will move them and the entire planet they are standing on (albeit an incredibly minute fraction) as the momentum is transmitted by their legs into the ground.

Kinetic energy on the other hand is needed to break or to do damage. Kinetic energy is the energy associated with a motion and is given by mass times the square of velocity. If one doubles the mass of an object, one doubles its kinetic energy. If one doubles its speed one has quadrupled its kinetic energy.

Principle 2

The transmission of power to our weapons is a smooth process that continues up to and beyond the moment a blow lands. Heavier weapons take longer to move but in the process of doing so they gather more impulse and a balance between speed and mass needs to be struck.

In Kobudo the same blow may be delivered different ways. Sometimes directly moving via the shortest path at other times wound back or circled to build momentum. The first way should in principal be faster, the second produce a harder blow.

Kobudo is not about learning to do techniques one way. It's about learning how weapons interact with the biomechanics of your body to do the same set of things well in lots of different ways as the situation demands. Similarly, it’s also not just about learning how to deliver blows it's about learning how to take them.

Principle 3

When an attacking weapon is blocked, its kinetic energy must go somewhere. If it connects with your weapon that energy may break your weapon. If it hits you it might break you. The ground generally doesn't bend or break under you when you take a blow and so the kinetic energy released must be converted into other forms of energy in the bodies and weapons involved. As a result, in Matayoshi Kobudo we generally avoid stopping weapons abruptly. Power is defined as dE/dt the rate of energy release over time. So by reducing a weapons kinetic energy gradually, a blow can be made less powerful even though it's initial energy remains unchanged.

By moving our own bodies and our weapon during an impact, more of that energy is turned into kinetic energy within ourselves. So by using the body in a flexible and fluid form we can transfer the energy of impact into the movement of our limbs. The heat of our muscles resists the motion without allowing our joints to be elastically compressed, pulled or sheared potentially beyond their tolerances. Similarly, we avoid vibrations and stresses in our weapons and bones that might break them.


Here at Jikishin Kobudo in Leeds, our scientists investigate the theoretical rigour behind the principles of power transmission. Many tend to think of martial arts in qualitative terms but the physical act of combat is most definitely quantitative and an understanding of the quantities involved can definitely improve our understanding of if not the practice of Kobudo. The old masters did not have the benefit of modern scientific theory to explain their techniques, but their insights and intuition were correct.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:25AM

This outstanding piece of footage claimed to be from 1897 shows young men wearing bougu and fighting with shinai. If one looks closely you can see several insights into the martial experience of the time.

The men are clearly having "fun" and at first we thought this was theatrical, but on closer inspection we can see advanced martial arts techniques being used.

Watch carefully at the start and you will see the Kusarigama being wielded. For those of us who use the Kusarigama this film is a priceless treasure. Just who is the Sensei sat down? We may never know. but we will search to identify him. Can you help?

See the film here (link to YouTube)

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:18AM

Okinawa is well known for its citizens living long lives. It has the largest percentage of its population living to over 100 years old in the world. This is put down to the food that they eat, their joyous outlook to the world, the absence of industry and their fondness of physical activity. In Okinawa, body image and health is very important. Traditionally men would keep their body in shape through the practice of martial arts, whilst women would train in dance.

During the 20th century the Okinawan martial arts (previously known as Chinese Kung-Fu) were divided by two terms to give them a definitive Okinawan Identity. These terms were Karate and Kobudo. Karate is well known and very popular as a worldwide Japanese cultural export, whereas Kobudo (a multi-weaponed martial art) is lesser known and less widely practiced.

Hojo-Undo forms an essential part of both Karate and Kobudo training and can be summarised as the process of strengthening and conditioning the body to make it strong and supple enough to undertake the complicated and extravagant movements involved in martial arts practice.

However what is unique to Kobudo and cannot be found in Karate are the constant impressions that are left upon the body through the regular use of various weapons. The weapons have different weights, sizes and structures that require unique approaches in handling, manipulation and power generation. For this reason is suggested that Kobudo offers unique fitness benefits and the physiques of the dedicated Kobudo-Ka are unique.

Jikishin Kobudo is currently researching the different training benefits of each weapon through consultation with academics and fitness professionals and will publish the results in the coming months. This article acts as an introduction to this work and begins the dissemination of its research with some insights into the general benefits of Kobudo as a collective art.


Kobudo has an excellent position in the promotion of health, fitness and the physical condition. As an entity, it offers the practitioner two types of human movement – Moving oneself and moving an object. The concept of how to optimally move as a human may often be lost as a focus in modern gyms; however this is the very essence of traditional martial arts.

Kobudo promotes the stimulation of both slow and fast muscle twitch fibres in the muscles and seeks to delegate a technique's functional requirements to each area of the anatomy. The legs provide the key powerbase and the engine of the body. Sunken stances support the building of tensile holding strength where the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, stabilising muscles and connective tissue around the knees and ankles are loaded with the body weight moving with the legs in many configurations of flexion and extension.

The upper body provides the dexterity, control and accurate delivery of the technique and are where more explosive movements are used, once the inertia of the bodyweight has been overcome by the legs stepping - The fast twitch stimulus of the upper thoracic and shoulder girdle during strikes is greatly enhanced. Although unloaded, the speed, power and neurological overload can cause a response of growth hormone to stimulate the repair of micro tears in the muscle similar to many field and track athletic disciplines.

The core and trunk region has a great demand placed on it - Acting in a similar way to a 'car chassis' as it provides the taut structure to brace the body for an explosive movement or keeping the body upright during dynamic movements. The added rotations, concaving and expansive movements add great health to the spine in addition to repetitious flexion of the abdomen, serratus, lats and rhomboid structures to strengthen the overall trunk security and capability.

In no particular order, and of course this is not an exhaustive list, the practice of Kobudo offers benefits across all types of fitness

• The capacity to produce fast, explosive movement of maximal power during strikes, jumps and blocks.

• Pure holding strength of connective and muscular tissue from sunken stances and steps, pressing and core strength.

• The increase of cardiovascular capacity during fast, repetitious kata, hojo-undo and kumi-waza to elevate the heart rate and put pressure on the demand for exceptional technique under time pressure.

• The range of movement in joints and the undoing of modern life in offices and cars such as the cultivation of hip, ankle and thoracic mobility.

• An increase in the flexibility of the muscles during dynamic movements – Raising the internal temperature of the body and increasing the elasticity of muscular tissue.

• The dextrous nature of using and manipulating the many different weapons of Kobudo is excellent for spatial and hand-eye coordination. As an extension of motor-neurone control, or the ‘mind-muscle connection’, the executing of techniques to target is trained and trained again during kata, hojo-undo and kumi-waza. This is demonstrated as a call and response mechanism, the brain recognises a stimulus and responds in an accurate and effective manner.

• The training of balance combines the holding strength in the trunk, hip girdle and legs and the internal awareness of how the body is postured. This can be demonstrated where posture and bodyweight is turned to maximum leverage such as in an Osae Uke (or ‘pressing’ block) In the short-term this allows the correct stance and execution of technique and in the long-term can be a deciding factor between healthy joints and the acceleration of worn knees, shoulders and key areas of the body.

Of course in addition to the benefits of physical training come risks. The risks, either due to vulnerabilities found in an individual’s physique, the mis-judged execution of a technique, poor preparation in the warm-up or the level of intensity of practice. We can never eliminate risks in the dojo or on the sporting field, however the healthy relationship between Sensei (teacher) and Kohai (student) must incorporate what is most suitable for them. This element can transcend the practice of martial techniques and move to look to the journey of the individual student on their path.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:15AM

The Shodokan dojo of Seiko Higa is one of the most important in the history of Okinawan martial arts. For some this was the spritual centre of the renewal of Okinawan martial arts following the anhilation of Okinawa by America during World War 2. Seiko Higa (1898-1966) became known as the Master of Naha-Te and the list of Masters who trained and taught at the Shodokan is extensive.

One of these is Master Shinpo Matayoshi, who following his return to the island from Japan, lived in the Shodokan for a period whilst he got his family back on their feet. Matayoshi Shinpo was greatly respected because of his father and also because of his own martial arts skill and knowledge. He became an imposing figure seen around the Shodokan through his sheer ability and affable character.

Master Matayoshi made musical instruments as a way of providing his family a living, but he also began to teach martial arts. He taught Kobudo at the Shodokan dojo, but not as many believe under the authority of Higa Sensei. They were family friends and Matayoshi Sensei hired the dojo from Higa in order to deliver instruction.

This image shows Matayoshi Sensei with a young Tetsuhiro Hokama, posing in the Shodokan with Kobudo weapons.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:12AM

We have had four sets of replicas made of these that have just arrived today. An outstanding weapon, that has hardly been put down all afternoon. Now we just need to find out a bit more about their history.

If anyone has seen or used knuckle-dusters that are exactly like these - please get in touch. They are quite rare and different from the mainstream Okinawa Tekko and are almost certainly Chinese. Of particular interest is the fact that these appear to be a mixture of Tekko and Tetchu. Oddly perhaps is also the ornate decoration along the bar that would usually be gripped, whereas the striking side is more rounded and undecorated. Possibly evidence that these were used as horse stirrups? Much to research with these and much to enjoy in their use.

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