By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 15 2015 12:27PM
The 'Muge', also known as 'Umui' is a traditional method for bridling horses or ponies on the island of Okinawa, but it is not unique to this region. For some, the Muge is a preferable method of controlling a horse because the reigns do not require a bit to be placed inside the horse's mouth. For others the Muge can be quite painful for the horse, especially if the edges are not smooth and rounded. Muge are made by hand for different animals and are often custom made for each horse. For this reason no two Muge will be identical.
Matayoshi Shinpo Sensei believed that the Muge could be used in the same way as the Nunchaku and some believe that they are the origin of the Nunchaku. During the Satsuma occupation of Okinawa, horse riding was banned amongst the peasant class and amongst farmers and preserved only as a luxury for the samurai class. As such, the possession of reigns was also banned. Okinawans could however construct Muge relatively simply and use these to ride horses in flagrance of the law. The idea that such rebel Okinawans may find themselves in situations that require them to fight for their life or liberty are not implausible and amidst the nationwide prohibition of weaponry it is asserted that with the Muge, various aspects of the Jutsu are revealed. For example catches, blocks and parries, using a curved piece of wood becomes more difficult; also the striking point of each attack becomes more complicated.
Matayoshi Shinpo taught how to swing the Nunchaku using the full reach of the weapon and this is something that is essential i nthe use of the Muge.
The art of making Muge is a refined one and is in limited demands in Okinawa today. The few Okinawan Kobudo-ka who use the Muge for practice here generally make their own. The Muge pictured here were made by Seaholme Kobudo in England to the size and specifications of those used by Matayoshi Shinpo Sensei.