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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.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Aug 19 2015 11:00AM

The relationship between France and Okinawa is long standing and is thanks to the Daimyo overlord Shimazu Nariakira (島津 斉彬).

Despite the Bakufu or “Shogunate” maintaining a closed door policy to the outside world, the Ryukyu Islands were never subject to the same level of isolation. Their remote geographical position meant that policing such a policy would be impractical and besides, the nations relied on international trade for their wealth.

The Shimazu clan were (as lords of the Sastuma region of Southern Kyushu, Japan) able to instigate relations with the Western world through their Ryukyu Island dependents. Nariakira was very western minded and was greatly interested in their technological advancements and how these may benefit his own clan.

This picture is the oldest photograph of a Japanese person and was taken of Nakiakira in 1857.

He advised the Tokugawa shogunate in 1851 to open relations with the west and in 1853 welcomed the arrival of American diplomats to Japan. In 1857 Shimazu Nakiakira, in an attempt to match the hegemony of the Bakufu, encouraged the French missionaries who were resident in Naha to act as intermediaries between his Okinawan representatives (Mabuni and Onga) and the French government. Nariakira agreed to purchase, under the cover of the King of Ryukyu Sho Tai, two screw-driven steamers, a warship and a commercial ship, and introduced a Western style navy including modern harbours to the islands. He purchased weapons and other various pieces of equipment and then constructed blast furnaces to develop western firearms.

He modelled his army drill and cavalry on that of the French, and he began to send his young academics to France and England to gain knowledge as part of cultural exchanges. Understandably King Sho Tai at the time was very welcoming of these advancements.

A remarkable man, Nakiakira permitted western residences to be built on Okinawa to house and provide work for foreigners both French and English. However, Nakiakira’s actions created huge division amongst those who wished to see integration with the West and those who did not. Following Nakiakira’s early death in 1858 there was a violent and revengeful response to his actions by those loyal to the Shogun who saw his actions as treasonable. Those loyal to the deceased daimyo suffered terribly and a brief period of resistance to the West was seen. Ultimately in 1863 Nakiakira’s open door policy was resumed, this time on Kyushu itself and the future of Japan was about to change forever.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jul 21 2015 11:21AM

Matayoshi Shinpo wrote no textbooks instructing people in the techniques he taught. However, the organisation that he led during the second half of the twentieth century has. The Zen Okinawa Kobudo Renmei was begun on 15th May 1973 to help expand and develop in 'friendly relationships' the art of Okinawan Kobudo as taught by Matayoshi Shinpo Soke.

The sixteen petal chrysanthemum logo was chosen for the organisation since it is a symbol that represents plentifulness and is a symbol of good luck to the people of Okinawa. This textbook explains the reasons for the formation of the Renmei and explains how it began. Its members are obliged to preserve the techniques of their ancestors and for that reason none of the techniques in this book have been subject to adaptation or change from how they were originally taught. It is good that this book exists, created equally by several masters of Kobudo and under scrutiny of each other.

Though all of Matayoshi Sensei's students had different training experiences and now teach in diverse ways, this book perhaps represents the most reliable consensus of what Matayoshi Sensei communicated and what he wanted the world to learn, remember, protect and promote with pure hearts and diligent souls.

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, 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, 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, Oct 12 2014 11:00AM

For several years Sensei from around the world have looked to create a tournament environment for staff fighting. This has typically been through the introduction of foam staffs and helmets.

Events using foam staffs are popular, particularly in the USA and though such competitions are amusing to watch and participate in, the techniques employed have been open to criticism from the perspective of realistic application.

Recently in Okinawa there have been attempts made at the Budokan to introduce competitive staff fighting tournaments using more realistically weighted weapons. Competitors are requested to wear full bogu with the addition of shin protectors. This has caused split opinion on the island between those who promote such events and others who feel it is reckless and spiritually destructive. Some say it is not traditional practice and has no place in Kobudo.

Interestingly, there is an older pedigree for such competitions, unbeknown to 21st century Okinawa it can be found in 19th century England.

Quarterstaff fighting was considered an essential skill of close quarters fighting within the British Army during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was useful for the practical development of techniques with the bayonet and with the pike; it was also good fun and gave rise to numerous inter-regional tournaments. Baden-Powell famously learned staff fighting in the Army and later introduced these skills to the Boy Scouts.

At the height of the British Empire's reach, the Great Grandfather of Jikishin Kobudo's Sensei, was a weapons instructor and Regimental Sergeant Major for the 1st Royal Dragoons. For several years during his long service he was stationed at Aldershot barracks, a dedicated training centre created to enhance the Army's physical fitness and fighting skills. Here he was exposed to the joys of Quarterstaff matches, which were intended to keep the eye keen and the feet swift whilst, developing the strength of heart amid tough physical conflict.

During staff fighting matches, the soldiers would wear fencing masks, wicket keeper's gloves, cricket pads and a thick leather tunic to protect the ribcage and groin. The fights were full contact and the only restricted technique was a thrust. Just as with boxing, musketry and fencing, there were regimental champions for Quarterstaff fighting and the matches drew quite a crowd and gained significant press attention.

It may may be interesting for Okinawan Kobudo-ka to know that there was a methodical system of instruction for Quarterstaff fighting in the British Army during the Victorian era and it is sometimes taught at Jikishin Kobudo for research purposes. The British system includes blocks, strikes and combinations based upon fencing guards, parries, cuts and thrusts. Interestingly for students, many of the techniques taught within the British Army in the 1800s are very similar to those practised in Okinawa today.

(Picture - training session at Aldershot 1891.)

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.

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