What exactly is kobudo? I have been training in kobudo for the last two and a half years and I’m still not exactly sure what kobudo is. The basic description of kobudo that I would give to a layman would be ‘weapons training’ but that is very simplistic. After all a gun is a weapon but training to use a gun is not kobudo!
There is a distinction between the terms kobudo and Okinawan kobudo. The word ko-bu-do breaks down to mean ‘Ancient’ (ko) ‘Stop War’, meaning ‘Peace’ (bu) and ‘Way’ (do) i.e. the ancient way of peace ( sometimes also known as ancient martial way). Some of the weapons used in Okinawan kobudo are based on ancient farming and fishing implements, such as tonfa, nunchuku and kama, whereas some were designed to be weapons such as the sai which was used by the domestic police for crowd control purposes. However, most of these types of weapons were used widely in much of Asia before they ever reached Okinawa so why they are referred to as ‘Okinawan’ weapons I don’t really understand.
The term Kobudo actually refers to the ancient Japanese arts, i.e. those that pre-date the Meiji restoration of 1866 -1869 and include battojutsu, ninjutsu, jujutsu, naginatajutsu, bojutsu, kenjutsu and many others. The term kobudo is synonymous with the term koryu, meaning old school. In this interpretation, kobudo includes some empty hand arts such as jujutsu and ninjutsu so to describe kobudo as ‘weapons training’ really is incorrect!
So can Okinawan kobudo and kobudo (koryu) be mixed together? It would seem strange to do so because the Japanese arts were used by professional warriors on the battlefield whereas Okinawan kobudo was used by civilians as a means of self-defence or civil-defence. Samurai would have had no use for a pair of nunchuku or tonfa on the battlefield and Okinawan civilians were banned from using bladed weapons such as swords.
Here lies my confusion……
I am learning kobudo in a jujitsu club. So far, so good. I have trained with a sword (actually a bokken) – a Japanese ancient art. Still so far, so good. I have also trained with a bo which is used in many cultures around the world, including Okinawa and Japan. My other two weapons are nunchuku and tonfa, both from Okinawan kobudo BUT I am not learning to use them in an Okinawan kobudo way, I am using them in a Japanese way. Basically I am doing jujitsu using tonfa and nunchuku.
In Okinawan kobudo, which is a precursor to karate, both tonfa and nunchuku are used pre-dominantly as blocking and striking weapons, whereas I am using them for locks and throws as well. Want to know how to do a reclining leg throw with a pair of tonfa? – I’ll show you. Want to do a half-shoulder throw augmented with a pair of nunchuku ? – I can show you that as well.
But is it kobudo? Or is it a hybrid? Or is it a form of weapons cross-training? Does it matter? After all, it’s effective….
What is your understanding of the term Kobudo?
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