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Why Study Kobudo

Essay: Why Study Kobudo

Keith Harris


As a Dojo owner and dedicated student of Kobudo I have tried to justify to my students the effort of studying weapons.

We honour the wisdom of Daisensei Yagi by taking up the Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Komma and Nunchaku as he taught us.

But why do we blindly follow in the teachings…

I do not think we are expected to just go through training without thinking for ourselves. After all we are also taught that our brains are our most valuable weapon.

I can only relate to my readers my experience, my thought process over the years. I hope that by doing this I can stir some of you to think on this subject for yourselves and perhaps share your thoughts for all of our benefit.

I also believe in change, sometimes it is quick, sometimes there is a slow percolation process.

When I was a white belt I viewed the weapons on the wall at Gorge Karate Dojo. I was immediately attracted to the shining pointy things on the wall, Sai. I was a child of 38.

As a hard practitioner I felt the best thing to do with weapons was to learn how to destroy my enemies.

This kept me going for a few years.

When I visited Meitoku Yagi Sensei in Okinawa, he told me a story. I am sure you have heard it. That weapons can be used for peace. When faced with a physical threat that you cannot negotiate your way out of a peaceful action is to pick up a handy object to use as a deterrent to the threat. I relate this story to the class to point out the reason we study the Bo first. Bo-like objects can be more easily found in a desperate situation than say a set of Nunchaku.

So if we only need the Bo why study the others. The mind takes you down many paths.

Daisensei Yagi taught us to use the traditional kata to develop our weapons skills. I felt it was because we could learn to handle the weapons without having to learn another Kata. This idea worked for a start but I then started looking at the flow of the weapon the arc of the Bo tip, the whipping action of the tonfa and the penetrating stabbing action of the sai point and I thought I had reached some form of enlightenment. We use weapons practice using traditional kata not to help our weapons skill but rather to help develop insights into our empty hand Kata!

While holding the weapon we can see that the energy flow is very visible. We can prefect our empty hand technique as we analysis our weapons kata. With the weapon in our hand as an extension of our arm, the flow, direction and accuracy of our movements are observable by all. This lasted for about 15 years.

During my karate/kobudo training I noticed a progression.

I seemed to break less glasses while washing the dishes. Then when a dish slipped out of my hands I was able to catch them before they hit the ground. Now I see that I have the ability to stop, most times, the dish from leaving my hand. How often do you surprise yourself?

This is just a symptom of the weapons training.

What are we really doing when we train with weapons? All of the above and probably more. But above all we are training our tactile abilities. To be able to think with our hands. To be sensitive to our environment through just one more organ, the biggest one…our skin. Through our weapons training we are developing our hands to be supersensitive to Heaven and Earth…just a thought.

Sensei Keith Harris

Owner/Head Teacher

Arthur Karate Dojo

Since 1997.

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