Fighting with traditional weapons was part of the Federation's training events. For some, it was the highlight of the event. For others, including myself, it was great to watch. The session was only open to black belt students. We had the opportunity to gear up and work kobudo against an opponent. The gear was massive and was jokingly referred to as Robocop. There were several layers of padding...think a cross between hockey gear and sparring gear. Weapon fighting was optional and not surprisingly the same group would participate at each training.
Then one session, my class instructor forced...no, wait...I meant to say encouraged me to participate. It took fifteen minutes to put on the gear. The gloves made the weapons hard to hold and there was a full helmet. The weapons were padded and modified to reduce the chance of injury. A different class instructor helped design a suitable helmet. He was a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism, Inc ( SCA ) and had experience designing modified armor. SCA is an international organization whose members are dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Check out their web site FAQ page for more information.
It was time to choose a weapon. I picked up a bo and my opponent (my class instructor) had a bo. The match lasted only two minutes before exhaustion set in. The gear was heavy and the helmet made it hard to breathe. I participated in this session one time over ten years ago. What did I learn from a two minute session of weapon kumite?
I am slightly claustrophobic. When I put the full helmet on my head, I felt a moment of panic. I had to take a few breaths in order to calm down. The helmet was heavy and hot and it made it difficult to breathe. I should have known this before I put the helmet on. I do not even like to wear turtlenecks.
Hands are a great target. I know this because during my two minute session, the other bo found a chink in my so called armor. The bo smashed down on my thumb and I actually saw stars. I could not bend my thumb for weeks. It was swollen and bruised. I never went to the doctor to have it check but I should have.
Angles, angles angles.
I held the bo in thirds with one hand palm up, the other palm down. This allowed me to use both ends of the bo fairly quickly. There was no time for hand changes as seen in our kata.
The exchanges happened faster and at a closer range than I expected.
Go for the disarm.
Certain lessons make a huge impact on your training. The difficulty is recognizing those lessons when they are happening. I did not realize it at the time, but this two minute session impacted my subsequent kobudo training. I am glad my class instructor encouraged me to participate because this session is no longer on the schedule.
Is there any particular session that made you look at your training differently? Did you know it at the time? Or did you realize it days, months or even years later?
Disclaimer: Do not mistake this blog as advice or instruction. This is a personal weblog. I am merely documenting my karate training experiences. The weapon fighting described in this post was performed under the supervision of an Internationally recognized kobudo instuctor with over thirty-five years of experience.