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We enjoy sharing knowledge and subjects around Kobudo and the martial way.

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.

By Jikishin Kobudo, May 26 2015 11:39AM

Edo period fire fighters were tough, since fire fighting was a violent business. 'Machi-Bikeshi' (Firemen of the lower status) often competed to be the first to put out a fire so that they could claim the reward. Sometimes this would result in a fight between rival groups. At other times, fire fighters may be required to fight the arsonists themselves, who could be preventing them from putting out the fire, particularly if the fire was caused as an act of revenge. Other times, more unscrupulous Machi-Bikeshi would deliberately start fires as a way of extorting money from locals.

Machi-Bikeshi became infamous as both heroes and villains and their impact into the world of martial arts is significant as a result. The tools of the fire fighters became their weapons during famous conflicts; these tools are found as weapons in Kobudo.

This image shows two objects from our collection. The first is a Tomiguchi or fireman's axe and was used to break through doors and generally to assist in managing burning timber. Its relation to the kama is obvious, indeed some refer to it as a kama. When fastened to a chain or rope it was useful for casting high into the rafters of a building to allow greater leverage or access to higher floors, in this way it becomes identical to a Kusarigama.

The second object (smaller inset picture) is a Hyōshigi which was was used to alert all local people who may be sleeping about the presence of the fire. This tool was the equivalent of the modern siren but also has deeper connotations within the Japanese culture. The wooden blocks are hit together repeatedly to create a recognisable sound. It is considered the origin of the nunchaku by some. Machi-Bikeshi also carried polearms very similar to the bo and the Nunti which would allow them to manage burning debris from a distance. Shields (Tinbe) were not uncommon.

By Jikishin Kobudo, May 18 2015 11:46AM

Daruma encouraged physical fitness as a way of purifying the body and mind for the purposes of contemplation. The physical disciplines he introduced to the Shaolin later evolved into the widespread martial arts practices of the Orient world.

It is now established that there are two purposes of martial arts training, either for the preparation of conflict or for the enlightenment of the soul. Some say the two can develop hand in hand, others say they contradict. For example, those that obsess with violence, doing injury, gaining victory over others and increasing personal dominion are more likely to be on the path of conflict, whereas those who seek nothing but improvement, show compassion and promote peace are on the path of enlightenment. Childhood experience predicates the outlook of the adult individual; some may choose a path of conflict because as a child they saw only conflict. Some may choose a path of compassion because as a child they knew only peace. The opposites are also true.

A human reaches an age where they are no longer physically threatening and it is common to see an aged fighter who was once filled with the fire of Hachiman (God of War) begin to pursue an outlook of humility, compassion and forgiveness. Some however as they become weak with the body choose to become aggressive in the mind. In the martial arts world these individuals can be identified as those who seek to create large organisations with dogmatic rules, institutional hierachies and financial gains. These indiviudals may try to convince others that they are continuing traditions of their teacher or preserving the techniques of the past. In truth all they seek is a way to placate their aggressive nature in their mind now that their body renders them weak in the dojo.

Martial arts are still as they have been for centuries, a mixed bag of the solitary monks who train for enlightenment and instituional warriors who serve their master for reward. How do you choose to train? Who do you wish to train from? It is through our choices that we are defined.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Mar 30 2015 11:14AM

There are numerous explanations for how the Tunkuwa, Tonfa or Guai first appeared into the world of martial arts. Whatever its origins, it has undoubtedly been developed as a weapon and for martial arts use and has gone on to reach worldwide popularity as the police PR24 sidearm.

The prevailing Okinawan history is that the Tunkuwa (Ryukyu pronunciation) was used within households to turn a grindstone and that for this reason it is a weapon associated with kitchens and with women. However, the Chinese explanations are quite different. One of the most romantic histories is associated with the Daoist immortal Li Tieguai which can be translated to mean "Iron Crutch Li".

Li Tieguai was by some accounts a contemporary of Lau Tzu the father of Daoism. Li famously walks with a crutch and is one of the eight great immortals. He defends the weak and the infirm and protects all who face disability. His iron crutch is unable to be destroyed and is his primary weapon for fighting, if he is ever to do so.

The manner and the shape of a crutch is very similar to the modern weapon except that it is much shorter. A different legend tells of how an unarmed martial artist who was fighing with a crutch against a sword suffered from his crutch being cut in two. The martial artist then held the two pieces of the crutch in either hand and so the "Seung Guai" or "double crutch" weapon was born.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Mar 3 2015 12:46PM

The Sansetsukun or San Jie Gun (Chinese pronunciation) is not an agricultural tool nor does it have any other domestic functional use; it is simply a battle weapon for use in the field of conflict. The use of Sansetsukun on the Ryukyu Islands is a contentious issue since it appears to have been introduced to the island in the twentieth century and there is no evidence to indicate any historical use within the Ryukyu archipelago. However, the fact that Chinese martial arts were so widespread in Okinawa suggests that it likely was used in times past, albeit that they were not recorded.

A Chinese weapon developed for the battlefields of the Song dynasty, the Sansetsukun had two primary uses. The first was to attack mounted officers and the second to attack over and around a shield defence.

Its strength lies in its versatility and ease of transportation. Rather than carrying large cumbersome weapons to attack cavalry, the San Jie Gun can be quickly and easily deployed to any part of the battlefield and it still allows the fighter a large degree of manoeuvrability in a way that a heavy bladed weapon may not. The reach of the weapon means that it can be used to strike the legs of a horse or the rider himself.

The second use of the San Jie Gun was to attack over the top of shield walls; the flailing chained section allowing attacks that would be otherwise impossible by any other weapon. Breaking through a shield defence and disabling mounted fighters are both seminal requirements of the medieval battlefield. Both of these uses require a Sansetsukun with a heavy wooden construction, often with metal ferules and so the currnt Wushu tradition of bamboo three-section staffs is uncertain in terms of battlefield application but likely for use in practice.

2nd picture: Sansetsukun-Jutsu at Jikishin Kobudo in Leeds

By Jikishin Kobudo, Feb 13 2015 12:34PM

Mokuso or meditation is done at the start and end of each Kobudo training session. The Kanji can be translated to mean 'silent perception' and reflects the process through which a person can gain access to their subconscious mind in preparation for training. This issue is a complex one since debates exist about the exact nature of thought and brain function.

The underlying cause of such debate is that scientists have as yet been unable to identify the physical manifestation of single thoughts; indeed such things may not exist. It is suggested that our thoughts are only perceptions or directives of more complicated brain function. So if our conscious thoughts are not always representative of our deeper brain function that directs our behaviour, then gaining access to and understanding of our subconscious is arguably the moral duty of anyone who trains themselves in lethal arts.

Mokuso when done in the correct way provides a physical and psychological benefit to the martial artist inside and outside the dojo. The path through Mokuso can be abruptly summarised as follows:

Step 1 - Mushin

First empty the mind of all thoughts. This is known as passing through the gateless gate.

Step 2 - Jikishin

Second, adopt a pure heart that is free from prejudice and rich in optimism.

Step 3 - Zanshin

Third, become aware of the self, the moment, and of the opportunity to learn.

Step 4 - Shoshin

Fourth, adopt the mind of a beginner who has no knowledge or expectation.

Step 5 - Fudoshin

Finally adopt a focussed mind that will do its very best in all tasks ahead.

Mokuso yame - Meditation ends

This path (with practice) can be travelled in an instant if necessary; however like physical preparation for the muscles, it is always beneficial to spend as long as possible in the process.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jan 8 2015 01:29PM

This mysterious weapon is potentially one of the most important martial arts artefacts in the world. Currently in private ownership in England this weapon was formerly the property of the family of William Gladstone (1809 – 1898), four times British Prime Minister and President of the Board of Trade during the wars between Britain and China. On it is inscribed the symbol (正) which represents correctness. It has been suggested that this was presented to William Gladstone by the Chinese, though this claim as yet remains uncorroborated.

It is steel, weighs 603grams and measures 52cm in length, the shaft is circular and the cambered double-edged blade measures 8cm long and 2.5cm wide. It is ideal for strong parries and puncturing and slicing blows. The weapon is dated to 1850 (approx) and though not showing any signs of recent sharpening it still maintains a cutting edge. A single notch in the blade may suggest a use at some time.

This weapon is contemporary to the Sai and is associated with a plethora of short range steel weapons that were at one time a key feature of southern Chinese martial arts and its similarity to the Kama cannot be ignored. The exact name of this weapon is unknown and we would welcome suggestions from other martial artists and historians. This weapon has contributed to the ongoing practical research into historical fighting practice at Jikishin Kobudo and will feature as part of a martial arts demonstration at the Royal Armouries Museum in February 2015.

William Gladstone was a popular, caring and poignant man whose insight into world affairs is as relevant today as it was a century and a half ago.

“Remember the rights of the savage, as we call him. Remember that the happiness of his humble home, remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan among the winter snows, are as sacred in the eye of Almighty God as are your own. Remember that He who has united you together as human beings in the same flesh and blood, has bound you by the law of mutual love, that that mutual love is not limited by the shores of this island, is not limited by the boundaries of Christian civilisation, that it passes over the whole surface of the earth, and embraces the meanest along with the greatest in its wide scope” W.E. Gladstone 1879.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Nov 6 2014 04:55PM

Some histories of Okinawa and some modern Sensei portray the people of Ryukyu as a peace loving nation who never demonstrated any acts of aggression. However, this is in contrary to contemporary accounts from neighbouring countries during the middle ages. Japan and China both document violent acts of internecine aggression between the islands and expansionist movements from the kingdom of Ryukyu to the North and South. Okinawa has its own histories and legends of great warriors and fighters from the islands and it is important the experience of Okinawa during WW2 and after does not reinterpret a nation of warriors and fighters as historical victims and pacifists.

This image taken from a historical wood block print shows a knight of Ryukyu fighting furiously amidst the surrounding Shimazu Samurai attackers. Of note to researchers is that the unique weapons on display are far more akin to the Chinese arms than the Japanese with a Guan Dao in full flurry. This mounted halberd use is something that demonstrates incredible horsemanship and leg strength in order to control a horse, hands free and with only a rudimentary saddle.

The prohibition of weapons in Okinawa is a historical fact, but perhaps we should ask ourselves why would that be necessary in a nation of pacifists? Tentatively we might wonder if the truth may well be as the King Sho Shin claimed, that the only way to stop the Ryukyuans fighting each other was to take away their weapons. However, even then, in contravention of the King's wishes, the Kobudo traditions of turning any tool or implement into a weapon, and the Karate tradition of making the empty hand lethal, meant the warrior traditions of this great fighting nation never died.

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