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Hitoribo and Kumibo

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.

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