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Choose Your Weapons

Posted Oct 14 2008 4:00am

I've never been a huge fan of traditional Okinawan weapons ( kobudo ). After all, karate - the empty hand way - forgoes the need for anything besides relying on the human body as a means for self defense. Kobudo is a bona fide fighting system unto itself, so when it's taught alongside of karate (as it usually is) at least some of its techniques are going to get short shrift. Most schools simply don't devote the same time, energy and passion into this martial art when you already have your work cut out for you in the equally in-depth (and far more practical) system of karate.

For the kobudo practitioner, the trick is to not regard your weapons as something separate from yourself. There's really nothing mystical about becoming one with, or extending ki into your weapons. There's a story about jiu-jitsu master Sokaku Takeda breaking the ribs of a hooligan with the snap of a wet towel when he summoned ki-energy into his makeshift weapon. In medieval kenjutsu the sword was considered a sacred artifact that possessed a life force of its own.

Some karate styles offer a myriad of kobudo weapons. In Isshinryu karate the predominant weapons that are taught are bo (6 ft. staff) and sai (tri-pronged truncheon). I favor the sai because I feel the techniques are reasonably similar to what I've already learned in karate. I also like the idea that the sai was probably developed to counter larger and heavier weapons, such as the sword and bo. Since I've settled on my weapon of choice I decided it was time to spring for some quality sai. So this past July, I put in my order for a pair of Shureido sai, natural black. A Shureido rep told me this was a hot item and that it would take some time before a shipment came in. Three months to the day - on my birthday, no less - my sai finally arrived. It certainly wasn't planned that way, but I'm happy to say it was worth the wait. It was a sai of relief. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
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