A variety of weapons is used in Ryukyu Kobudo. Most traditional Okinawan systems use some or all of the weapons that are used by the Shimbukan association. It is common to see variations of the weapons used in other systems such as the bo or long staff in medieval English arts or the Nunchaku, which is usually thought of as being of Chinese origin. However, Ryukyu Kobudo is unique in bringing all of the weapons together into one system. The practice of Kobudo has continued for hundreds of years and the techniques used are powerful and focused.
Up to Shodan
Students usually start their Kobudo practice by learning the Bo Kihon or the Long staff basics. There are ten main basics including a variety of blocks, thrusts and strikes. The Bo is the foundation weapon of Ryukyu Kobudo and is considered both the most important and the most difficult weapon to master. The next most important weapon of the system is the Sai. The Sai is made from steel and one is held in each hand.
The next weapons beginners are introduced to are the Nunchaku and Tekko. Nunchaku have been made famous on Chinese movies and most people can recognize them. Beginners should beware however, as the Nunchaku has a tendency to cause bruises. The Tekko are similar to brass knuckles. Tekko are not commonly used, even in Okinawa and as such, it is a preferred kata at demonstrations.
From Shodan to Godan
Once students have reached their Shodan or first degree black belt grading they can begin to learn the Tunfa, which look similar to truncheons carried by the English Bobbies or police.
Students who pass the Nidan or second degree black belt grading start to learn the Tinbe kata. A Tinbe is a shield which is held in one hand. In the other hand a Rochin or short spear is used.
After Sandan or the third degree grading students start to learn the Kama Kata. Kama or sickle are still commonly used in fields all over Okinawa. Kama can be bought at any hardware store in Okinawa. Care must be taken however, as they are extremely sharp and it may be prudent for those beginning practice in this weapon to use blunted blades.
Practitioners who pass the Yondan or fourth degree grading will learn the Ekku. The Ekku is an oar and is used in Haari or Dragon Boat races all over Okinawa. The Ekku has similar uses to the Bo but has the added complication of having a cutting edge and a forward and back end.
Other weapons traditionally used in the Kobudo dojo are the Manji Sai and the Suruchin. Manji Sai have two forks facing different directions. Shihan are taught the one kata of the system. Suruchin is a weighted rope or chain. At present the association does not have any Suruchin Kata. Another traditional weapon with no current Kata in the system is the San bon no Nunchaku or the three sectioned Nunchaku.