WEAPONS IN MARTIAL ARTS

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IN THE UNIVERSE OF MARTIAL ARTS ,WEAPONS PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE, AS THEY ARE SOMETIMES CONSIDERED TO BE  THE SOUL OF THE WARRIORS WHO HAVE THEM , HERE WE WILL FEATURE SOME OF THEM.

  THE 

   NUNCHAKU

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 In the 1970’s, Bruce Lee’s film Enter the Dragon gave the western world its first glimpse of the ancient martial arts weapon the nunchaku. The strange twirling weapon was comprised of two sticks held together by a small chain. It had the ability to strike an opponent from long range or choke him while in close quarters.This weapon, however, was not a construct of the film. Its origins date back many years to previous centuries.

While most think of classical Chinese, Okinawan, and Japanese martial arts along the lines of empty hand systems such as Jujitsu, weapons were a significant part of all combat styles. Most of these weapons derived from farming implements as many martial artists were also peasant farmers.

Some sketchy historical records note the nunchakuhttps://www.assoc-amazon.co.uk/e/ir?t=japanjujit-21&l=ur2&o=2 originated from modifying a staff into sections linked with a chain for use as a weapon. However, most research into the subject points to the nunchaku as being used primarily as a farming tool for threshing rice and soy.

Where did the Nunchaku Originate?

Contrary to popular belief, the nunchaku did not originate in Okinawa as many assume. The nunchaku originated in the Song Dynasty in China and later made its way to Okinawa in the 17th century. (The Japanese term nunchaku derives from the southern Chinese term no-chiat kun) But, how did the nunchaku develop into a martial arts device? Because weapons were illegal in Okinawa, the nunchaku “farm implement” was incorporated into karate and jujitsu weaponry systems. Since it was primarily used for farming, the nunchaku would not be confiscated by the authorities.

Do to its exotic nature and cinema exposure the nunchaku is still studied in modern dojos, although sometimes know as the westernised nunchucks. Arguably due to popular movie culture, it’s one of the most popular martial arts weapon ever devised.

 

 THE BO

 (THE STAFF) 

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The Bo staff on the surface is one of the most simplistic of all Japanese weapons. Used in many different art forms from karate to jujitsu, the Bo staff is one of the most destructive and adaptive weapons available to the martial artist.The Bo Staff is used extensively in Jujitsu kobudo (weapon training) as it offers a range of opportunities for disciplining kata, footwork, distancing and control.

Unlike many other martial weapons, thebo staff has a very long range an enable the attacker to have superior reach on his opponent. Most Bo staffs are about 1.8m long, although the concept of a wooden stave as a weapon can be found easily in most cultures – the Quarter Staff in medieval English for example that rose to popular culture fame through the duel of Robin Hood and Little John.

An expert armed with a Bo can keep a much heavily armored and armed opponent at bay frustrating and neutralising their effectiveness. While this weapon can not be easily concealed, it is so common that most armed opponents will not even think twice about it. For example, in these times it could easily be disguised by carrying buckets or baskets. These buckets would be carried on either end and the Bo staff would be draped across the back. Simply set the buckets down, slide the staff out and you are instantly armed. The key is that you are trained in the proper technique to make the weapon as effective as possible.

While staffs have a history of being used throughout mankind, the Asian martial artist has taken this weapon and turned it into an art form. The staff is traditionally about two meters long and three centimeters thick.While the weapon has been used informally since the earliest recorded history, a martial art called kobudo emerged from Okinawa in the early 1600s that featured this weapon. The reason for this was one of necessity as all the commoners of Okinawa were banned from having weapons. This ban forced the people to find other ways to defend themselves and using a simple staff proved to be the best.

 

         THE

      KATANA 

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 The Japanese Katana is known as one of the deadliest edged weapons originating from Oriental cultures, perhaps through western movies and culture, but rightfully also through the hundreds of thousands who have died by its edge.

The origins of the Katana are somewhat unclear; however, it is commonly attributed to a mixture of both Chinese and Japanese craftsmanship. Some people will tell you one thing, other will insist on the opposite. There is a lot of evidence the Katana was introduced to Japan from China, although in a early form.The term Samurai, commonly used to describe the members of the Japanese warrior class during the 15th-19th centuries, is often associated with the Katana sword, as in feudal Japan anyone else was prohibited from using them. This deadly sword is a natural evolution of craftsmanship: starting as a hefty “greatsword”, and changing with time into a more agile, lighter blade which was required in faster battles. The Katana is often distinguished from many other swords by the fact that it sits blade edge (Ha in Japanese) up in its sheath, allowing the warrior to draw the Katana and slice his opponent with a single motion. In fact the art of drawing and cutting the Katana is known as Iaido

History of the Katana

The familiar version of the Katana sword first began to appear in the Muromachi period of Japanese history, 1392-1573 AD. The Japanese history of edged weapon craftsmanship stretches back over 2,000 years. This relatively small island nation is a historically renowned home to some of the finest weapon-smiths since its rise to political and military power.The use of a Katana is commonly used in Jujitsu training, to complement the unarmed nature of the martial art – in fact there are many Jujitsu sensei who will tell you Jujitsu was used as a ‘backup’ for armed soldiers when their blade was lost  

A true Katana measures in length greater than 60 cm and is a thin, curved and ultra sharp blade.This style of weaponry was officially born during feudal Japanese times. During this historic period, the Jujitsu-trained Samurai class even began carrying their swords differently. The length of the blades were increased and the warriors, although traditionally carried blade down, began to carry them blade up. The reasoning of this was to increase their kill time. With the blade already facing up, a samurai sword could be thrust through an opponent much faster and with deadlier accuracy.A range of samurai swords are commonly trained with in Jujitsu – Katana and Wakizashi mainly, although lower belts will more often than not start training with wooden bokken to avoid losing ears!

What Defines a Samurai Sword

The samurai sword itself is forged out of a treated Japanese steel. The must pass the steel through a special forging process and the heating and cooling temperatures must be accurate in order to ensure the metal does not break. The blade begins straight but becomes curved during a special process called quenching. This is a specialized process of cooling the metal.

A Samurai’s sword requires special care even after it has been forged. Due to the delicate nature of the metal compound, it is prone to rust, therefore must be cleaned and polished regularly even if it is placed in storage. The sweat from the samurai hands alone will cause the metal to rust. As the warriors primary weapon, the sword takes care of the Samurai in turn the Samurai must care for his blade.broken in combat. At its inception, Jujitsu was a strictly “no weapons” method of combat, concentrating on domination of the opponent. However, modern day practitioners often attempt to gain proficiency with both fighting styles.While the Katana is no longer used for military purposes (it was however well into the first world war!), it carries heavy ceremonial and historical importance in Japanese culture, much like the Japanese Jujitsu fighting style

 

   THE 

   TONFA 

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 The martial arts weapon, the tonfa, is one of the more popular devices in the Okinawan and Japanese karate and Jujitsu. The tonfa is essentially a club with a handle that protrudes at a 90 degree angle. This allows a practitioner to hold the handle in a solid grip while the club protects the forearm.


The origin of the tonfa can be traced to ancient China and Thailand where it was originally used to as an accessory to a millstone. After being inserted into the millstone, the tonfa would be used to grind rice. Eventually, the tonfa made its way to Okinawa for the same purpose of grinding rice.Since Okinawa had a strong martial culture, it is no surprise that the tonfa was added to the many other farm implements based weapons of Japanese and Okinawan karate. This is because it can easily be incorporated into traditional punching and blocking. In time, the handle of the tonfa was modified so that the club would rotate when twirled. This made its ability to strike and block both circular and unpredictable.


The Tonfa: Attack & Defense Combined

What made the tonfa an important inclusion into Karate and Jujitsu was its ability to deal with bladed weaponry. Specifically, the long handles covered the forearms and could provide decent protection against sword swings. The offensive capabilities of the tonfa were also expansive and included thrusting, twirling, and Jujitsu style grappling techniques.So effective is the tonfa is has been integrated into the equipment of modern police officers around the world, often reincarnated as the police baton or ‘nightstick’.

 

  THE

 SAI

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 The purpose of the Japanese Sai weapon was debated about for a long time. Some people thought the weapon was intended for just that purpose, to be a weapon.But other people theorised that the Sai was made as an agricultural too to measure crops, to bale hay, to hold rolling carts in place or to plant rice.The Sai is a dagger shaped fork with two prongs that are usually curved and project out from the hilt of the weapon.The Sai is sometimes used as a training weapon in the martial art Jujitsu. In Jujitsu the practitioners focus on the forms of certain movements and sometimes add in a weapon for aesthetic flair. The Sai is often used in kata and form. The tip of the weapon is often dulled or blunt as to not hurt the opposition.

The unique shape of the Sai, with the two pronged hilt, has the advantage during combat as it can trap the opponents weapon in these prongs and disarm them. Even weapons as large as a long sword can be disarmed. The Sai is also a very good weapon for defensive moves. The Sai is a very versatile weapon and is probably best used by those In popular culture, the Sai has been featured in many movies. The comic book, super hero character Elektra used a pair of Sai as her weapon of choice, and Jennifer Garner certainly looks the part, so long as she doesn’t act, speak or move. Other notable Sai advocates include Gabrielle, the character from Xena, Raphael the Turtle and the Neo in The Matrix Reloaded

TH

 SHURIKENS

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 The word shuriken, composed of the characters http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/shuriken_kanji_sm.jpg ” shu”, “ri” and “ken“, is literally translated as “hand hidden blade”. The character “ri” is composed of the morpheme (meaning component) “i” as in clothing, in the sense of covering, as well as the phoneme (sound component) “li“, together representing the idea of “reverse, back, or covered. Ri (the on yomi reading) is also read in kun yomi as ura, which to us martial artists would be familiar from expressions such as “ura waza” as opposed to “omote waza“. In combination with the first character, “shu-ri” suggests “hidden in the hand, or in the palm”. “ken” means blade, and is the same character as found in bokken, or shinken, hence “hand hidden blade”.

There is however, occasional usage of the character http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ri2_kanji_sm.jpg ”ri” which means separate, or to release, and this has sometimes led to the translation of shuriken as “hand release blade”. Why this usage occurs is not clear at this stage, though it could refer simply to thowing of blades such as tanto, kodachi, or even katana, where it is not necessary to hide the blade in the hand. The other possibility is that people were not greatly literate in feudal times, and they simply used any character that sounded correct. Mou En Ryu documents, the Mou En Ryu Shu Ri Ken Goku Hi, held in the University of Kyoto library contain one particular example of this usage.

During the time of the Sengoku Jidai, (Warring States period, 1482 – 1558shuriken were also once known as shiriken, meaning “rear end blade”, due to a popular misconception that the weapon was the small utility knife (kozuka) held in the scabbard of the long sword, which was thrown from a grip which held the tip of the blade in the palm, (the rear end of the knife thus pointing outwards to the target). Of course, kozuka were indeed thrown as a weapon, but they were not all that were thrown. As we shall see, there were many types of blades and objects, small enough to be worn hidden on the body, but heavy and sharp enough to be thrown as a tactical weapon.

There are two basic types of shuriken, bo shuriken (http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/bo_shuriken_kanji.gif), which are long, thin and cylindrical, with varying thicknesses and shapes, and shaken (http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/shaken_kanji.gif), which are made from flat plates of metal.

Bo shuriken consist of three main designs, defined by the origin of the material used for the their construction, the first being cylindrical, and straight sided, which are called hari gata (http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/harigata_kanji.gif), or needle shaped. The second type are square sided, and are calledkugi gata (http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/kugigata_kanji.gif), or nail shaped, and the third type called tanto gata (http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/tanto_gata_kanji.gif), or knife shaped, that are flatter and wider, and maintain a knife shaped appearance. Within these three bo shuriken categories, there is a more detailed classification system, which mostly describes various blades based simply on their shape, or the objects from which they were adapted. (Please refer to table below)

Shaken are further classified as hira shuriken (http://secrets-of-shuriken.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/hirashuriken_kanji.gif), which are the multi-pointed, star-shaped design, and senban shuriken, which are lozenge-shaped blades. The source for these is not clear and could be from the washers that sit under nails in the woodwork of traditional Japanese buildings, from carpenters nail removers, (see below), from stones, fashioned into throwing objects (tsubute) or hishi-gane, derived from coins. There is a 3rd type, called teppan which is a large version of the senban, some as large as 12cm in width, that were adapted from the carpenters “nail-removers”, whether they are classed as shaken or not is uncertain at this stage.

The basic method of throwing of the shuriken varies little between schools, the main differences being the shape of the blades and their origin.


Origins

Throwing things has no doubt been a pastime of human beings for thousands of years, and when early man learned he could protect himself and catch food by throwing hard objects at living things, the idea of a throwing system surely developed from here on. A study of the development of throwing things throughout human history would be a next to impossible task, so this site will be mainly concerned with the highly refined traditional Japanese system of throwing concealable edged/pointed weapons.

There is very little historical documentation, particularly accurate, detailed and objective information, available today on the shuriken art, due to a number of factors. Possibly the primary reason is that it was a rather secretive art…the technique of using theshuriken itself involved deception and surprise, and the main schools that utilised such methods of battle were also heavily involved in deceptive and secretive activities. This probably also contributed to a certain amount of disdain held towards the art and its proponents, by the innocent population in general. What documentation that may exist would be held by the individual schools in the form of scrolls, the contents of which would only be shown to trusted students of the particular school. Furthermore, the simplicity and utility of the weapon was probably not held in such high esteem as that of the kenjutsu arts, which used highly developed techniques to wield swords of great refinement and advancement in metal technology. Added to this is the fact that the shuriken itself was a supplementary weapon to the sword and other weapons within the main martial art schools of the time, and hence probably did not gain much popularity, even among students who were initiated into the secrets of the schools they were member of. Nevertheless, it did hold some historical and practical value, as there are occasional mentions of the use of throwing blades in the literature showing them to be held in a positive regard.

The earliest Japanese work, the Kojiki (around 600AD), contains a passage where Prince Yamato-Takeru throws a cylindrical vegetable into the eye of white deer, killing it. Some translations have him throwing a chopstick.

The Nihon Shoki (also around 600AD) mentions a stone throwing implement called an ishihajiki, but its possible this was a sling. Yet another ancient work, the 8th century Man’yoshu, in one section describes throwing an arrow, and another section a flat stone called tsubute (see below).

The record of the Later Three Year War (Gosennen no Eki, 1083-87AD), entitled Hiyori no Ki, contains a passage describing holding a short blade hidden in the palm and throwing it from a distance “shuriken ni utsu” (lit. strike with a blade in the palm). One researcher believes this may be the origin of the term shuriken

The Osaka Gunki (military record of Osaka) contains a passage that says: “Tadamasa saved himself from his foe by drawing out his wakizashi and throwing it, as you would a shuriken”. It is said that Tadamasa later created the first shuriken, called the Tanto-gatafrom a short sword.

Chronicles of Japan’s history, such as the Heike Monogatari, and Gikeiki make mention of “ishi-nage”, or stone throwing. The stones were specially shaped to aid throwing, and were called “totekibuki“, and later “tsubute“, which means both to throw a small stone, and the stone itself. Tsubute were later made of “iron-stone”, and thus called “tetsutsubute”., and appear to be the precursor to the lozenge shaped senban shuriken.

Today, there are many and varied types of shuriken, which suggests that the development of the art was rather fragmented and insular among various schools and areas. According to Yasuyuki Otsuka Sensei, headmaster of Meifu Shinkage Ryu Shuriken-jutsu, there were no standardised or formalised set of rules governing manufacture and use of the shuriken blades as there were with the katana, or Japanese sword, and this would have aided in the proliferation of differing designs and schools around the country. Chikatoshi Someya Sensei attempted to form some sort of categorisation of shuriken in his book “Shuriken Giho”, but admitted that without historical records, such categorisation is purely speculative, and that there were a number of examples that could not fit in his categorisation method as well. Nevertheless, such categorisation can be useful today for the purpose of describing and discussing the art and the items in use.