Along with the Goho (hard style) and Juho (soft style) techniques of Shorinjiryu Karatedo, we also practices Bukiho (weapons) techniques, including bo (6ft staff), jo (4ft staff), sai (iron truncheon), tanbo (short stick), eku (oar) and ken (sword). The three primary weapons are emphasised by Shinan Kori Hisataka, and are the bo, jo and the sai. These represent long, medium and short range weapons.
The practice of classical Okinawan weapons is sometimes known as kobudo or kobujutsu, meaning way or art of ancient weapons. In Shorinjiryu Koshinkai, we don’t class the weapons as outdated or old, so instead use the term buki, which simply means weapons. As this practice is integrated into our overall art, it is referred to as bukiho. If it were a standalone art it would be referred to as bukijutsu (or perhaps bukido).
Bukiho is an important part of our practice, as it gives practitioners a feel for using weapons, which are an extension of the empty hand. By practicing weapons, one gains a feel for the advantages and disadvantages of the different types, ranges and applications of weapons, and importantly, gains an insight into defending oneself against an opponent who may be bearing weapons.
An overview of the various weapons practiced at the Kengokan Dojo is provided below.
Bojutsu, the art of the bo (6ft staff) is the first of the weapons taught in Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo. Being a long weapon, the bo is well suited to the job of keeping an opponent out of your own space, whilst still being able to attack them. Historically, the bo was used by police and civil defence forces in the Ryukyu Kingdom. Various bo drills, kata and dances were taught in villages throughout Okinawa.
The practice of bojutsu at the Kengokan Dojo generally commences with basics and the practice of Gorin no Kumibo, two person drills of attack and defence using bo against bo. After this, the first kata, Gorin no Bo, is learnt. Intermediate and advanced practitioners continue to practice the bo as a prime weapon, both learning more advanced kata (including Shishiryu no Bo and Tokumine no Bo), and further drills against other weapons. Although the bo is the first weapon learnt, it is both a basic and advanced weapon.
The jo is a four foot staff that provides most of the advantages of the bo, but in a more versatile length, especially for confined spaces. The jo is uniquely suited to disarming opponents of medium to long weapons such as bo, sword. Historically, the jo was practiced by the inner circle of the palace guard in the Shuri Royal Palace, but was not commonly practiced outside this group.
Although jojutsu was emphasised by the founder of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo, Shinan Kori Hisataka, its practice has not been emphasised in recent years. Kengokan Dojo head instructor, Shihan Des Paroz, researched jojutsu history and introduced to Shorinjiryu the kata Ufuchiku no Jo, which hails from the Shinan Hisataka’s primary weapons teacher, Sanda “Ufuchiku” Kanagusuku. Subsequent to this, Hanshi Shunji Watanabe of Shorinjiryu Kenyukai Watanabe-Ha, has re-introduced jojutsu, having reviewed his notes and recreated the kata taught to him by Shinan Hisataka. In Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo, this kata is known as Kudaka no Jo.
Aside from these kata, jojutsu practice at the Kengokan Dojo also includes paired practice against partners using other weapons such as jo, bo and sword.
The sai is a three pronged “iron truncheon” that was probably introduced to Okinawa from China. The weapon was used by some members of the Okinawan police in the Meiji Era following the abolishment of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The popularity of the weapon among the police was as a result of the preference for the sai by Sanda Ufuchiku Kanagusuku, the Superintendent of Police in Okinawa during this era (Ufuchiku was the title of the Superintendent who oversaw the police in the Okinawan Prefecture).
As the third of the three primary weapons emphasised by Shinan Kori Hisataka, the main sai practice in Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo includes the kata Nijushiho no Sai, and a 2 person Sai Bo no Waza drill.
The tanbo is a short stick, around 2 foot in length. Used in a similiar way to the rattan stics used in Fillipino arts such as arnis or escrima, the primary point of difference to the Okinawan stick is that it is generally a hardwood stick, not rattan cane. As with the Fillipino arts, the tanbo can be used as a single stick, or double stick. Tanbojutsu is not commonly practiced in most Okinawan bukijutsu systems, but provides a valuable complement to the longer staffs (bo and jo), and is a good alternative to the sai as a shorter weapon.
In the Kengokan Dojo, our tanbojutsu practice consistes of the kata Goho no Tanbo, which is based on the same template as the Bo Kata Gorin no Bo. There is a corresponding range of two person drills that form the omote waza bunkai of that kata.
Ekujutsu (also known as ekudi in Okinawan or kaijutsu in Japanese) is the practice of the oar (kai in Japanese, eku in Okinawan). Closely related to bojutsu, ekujutsu was specially adapted for officials of the Ryukyu Kingdom who patrolled the Kingdom’s waters in the traditional sabani boats, as it was an implement that was literally at hand, and easily adapted to defensive situations. Ekujutsu was also practiced by fisherfolk and others who may have been a first line of defence.
Typically shorter than a bo, the kai featured a paddle end which gave it different capabilities than the bo, including a sharper edge for slashing. It was also uniquely able to use its natural environment, as the paddle end could flick sand or water into the eyes of an opponent. Most ekujutsu kata feature this technique. Shinan Hisataka emphasised in his 1964 book Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karate: Geijutsu no Rekishi to Genri, that although the bo was the primary long weapon, practitioners of Shishiryu bojutsu should also practice modified forms with the oar. The Tokumine no Bo is especially suited to practice with the eku.
Like the eku (kai), the yari is a variant of the bo, but with a spear tipped end. It was primarily a battlefield weapon, and its practice largely waned in the Ryukyu Kingdom following the 1609 invasion by the Satsuma clan of Japan. It did continue to be practiced in certain closed family arts. In the modern era, the only extant systems that still have unique yari forms are the Shuri Palace Hand (Udun-di in Okinawan) arts, particularly Motoburyu Udundi, the familial art of the Motobu family, close relations to the Ryukyuan Royal lineage.
Yarijutsu was also practiced in the Kudakaryu familial arts (those of the Kudaka/Hisataka family), and Shinan Kori Hisataka emphasised in his 1964 book that the techniques of Shishiryu Bojutsu should be modified for practice with the spear.
Within Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo, kenjutsu (the practice of the sword) is practiced as an adjunct to other weapons. Its practice provides a useful insight into possible kata applications, for both empty hand and other weapons. One of the highest yakusoku kumite within Shorinjiryu is the Shin Ken Shira Ha Dori, a series of defences against a sword wielding aggressor by an empty handed defender. This is said to have been inspired by such encounters by Shorinjiryu Kenkokan founder Shinan Kori Hisataka, and one of the key masters in our historical lineage, Kensei Anko Azato.
In addition, there is a sword kata, Gokyoku no Ken, which was created by Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka, which is based on the same template as Gorin no Bo. The practice of sword is restricted to yudansha, and individuals below 3rd Dan generally practice with a wooden sword (bokken or bokuto).