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

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.

By Jikishin Kobudo, May 6 2014 11:00AM

'Shushi No Kun' Kata is one of the most practised staff forms in Okinawa. The origins of the kata are from China, bu it is uncertain about the exact date or manner of how the kata first arrived on the island.

'Shu Shi' in Japanese is pronounced Zhou Sher in Chinese and is the name of the person who developed this kata. The most usual translation of this name into English would be 'Mr.Chow'.

The 'Staff of Mr.Chow' is practised primarily utilising go-no-sen techniques, in which the opponent is first parried or blocked before counter-striking. Shushi No Kun for this reason is considered a beginner's kata, despite being a relatively complex sequence to learn.

Amongst many other weapons inside his Kodokan dojo, Matayoshi Shimpo Sensei had an example of 'The Guan Dao', so named because it was the preferred weapon of the most famous Chinese General Guan Yu, and suggested to be the most significant and influential weapon of Chinese martial arts. Despite living almost 2000 years ago, Guan Yu is worshipped by martial artists and law enforcers to this day in China as the embodiment of martial spirit.

When Sushi No Kun, it becomes clear that the movements of the kata are well suited to this weapon, with the majority of techniques being executed with the bladed end. It is well established that practise with the staff allows the development of skill with all other pole weapons. Though we will never know the full story of Mr.Chow, we can conject with caution, about the possible applications of his kata.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Apr 9 2014 12:00AM

It has been stated by academics that the ninja (忍者) are a misrepresented phenomenon. Some writers assert that peasant ninja-clans are the work of romantic fiction and Ninjitsu as an art is a modern invention. Those who practice Ninjitsu object to this, and refer to certain historical texts that served as training manuals (such as the ‘Banshenkukai’ and the ‘Ninpinden’), as providing the legitimacy for claiming a continuous line of knowledge transmission from the past to present day.

From an independent viewpoint, evidence strongly supports the notion that “ninja” is simply a term that was sometimes ascribed to spies and covert military operatives throughout Japanese history. It is by no means an exclusive term either; other terms found within historical literature include Kyodan, Mitsumono, Shinobi, Yato, Monomi, Rappa, Kussa, Nokizaru and Suppa, all of which describe the same or similar type of person. In fact, ninja as a term is scarcely found in Japanese historical documents.

Whatever the true history of covert operatives in Japanese history may be, what is interesting for Okinawan martial artists is that many of the weapons associated with the “modern ninja” are also found within the practice of Kobudo. Is this simply because the ninja are proposed to have been peasants and therefore would have characteristically used non-military tools and weapons? Or could there be some connection between Okinawan martial artists and the Shogunate spies?

All writers agree that covert military techniques in Japanese history appear to have their origin outside of Japan and many point their fingers towards China as the source. This is predominantly due to the influence of Chinese military authors such as Jiang Ziya (姜子牙) and Sun Tzu (孫子) who specifically identify methods for selecting and training covert operatives in their writings. However there is also another area of consideration, the islands of Ryukyu.

Ninja are classically associated with the Edo period (1603-1867), this is when they first start to appear in artwork, become more prevalent in literature and their legend most often dramatised. This is precisely the period during which the Ryukyu kingdom was attacked, Okinawa was invaded (1609) and subsequently assimilated into the wider Japanese political landscape. It is well discussed that Okinawan martial arts were at their zenith during this period in history and firmly established that their fighting techniques and strategies were heavily influenced by the Chinese.

There are some Okinawan martial artists who reputedly claim their ancestors were employed by Japanese generals due to their martial arts skill. There are also Japanese who claim descent from ninja clans who also have links with Okinawa. If we observe traditional Okinawan dress we can see many similarities between this clothing and Edo period depictions of ninja. Perhaps most implicating however, is that the traditional weapons of Okinawa Kobudo are those associated with the ninja.

Ed: Nowhere in translated literature has the link between the “Ninja” and Okinawa been made. Though this area is significantly under researched, to the best of the author’s knowledge, it has never been witnessed, documented nor asserted.

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