Kobudo, the ancient martial art of Okinawa weapons, is designed to compliment karate. Most martial arts schools that we surved in Arizona do not include training in kobudo. If they do, typically, one has to sign contracts with their karate school and pay additional fees to allow them to train in kobudo, often only after they reach the yudansha level (black belt). Other martial arts schools do not practice kobudo as it was intended – as a martial art of self-defense.
Recently, some martial arts students attended a fair in the Gilbert Islands community where one local martial arts school gave a demonstration of taekwondo and then followed with weapons. The weapons portion of the demonstration left questions as to what the intention of kobudo was in that particular taekwondo school. It was more a demonstration of acrobatics with twirling rather than kobudo.
Kobudo was created by Okinawan peasants and body guards for royalty as a method of self-defense. It was (and is) an extension of karate. Because of a proclamation by King Shoshin many centuries ago, all bladed weapons were banned on Okinawa. This was due to the king's Buddhist belief and because of civil unrest – sort of what we see in the US and Australia today. So, what this did was open up everyone’s pockets and valuables to thieves and left the country vunerable to invasion (which finally happened when the Satsuma samurai from Japan invaded Okinawa in the early 17th century).
At some point in Okinawa's history, peasants began training in kobudo with karate. Kobudo used the tools of trade – farmers used rakes, hoes, poles, sickles, bridles: fishermen used poles, paddles, fish hooks, ropes and weighted ropes for self-defense against armed aggressors. In Shorin-Ryu Karate (Okinawa Karate), students learn kobudo as soon as they start karate. They go hand in hand - much like a bicycle and tires - you need both to work properly.
Traditional kobudo weapons include nunchuku, tonfa, sai, kama, hanbo, nitanbo, cane, bo, kobutan, eku, ra ke, kuwa, manrikigusari, hojo, tanto, hari, nireki, surichin, tetsubo, tekko, tinbe, yawara, suruji and more. It is rare for a karate school in the US let alone Arizona to teach any of these let alone most. We only found one school in Arizona that teaches most. In addition to ancient weapons, kobudo actually goes much further. Many tools of trade should be practiced as kobudo weapons. Imagine a carpenter, a plumber, a gardener – they all have many weapons at hand. Even such docile professionals like librarians are surrounded by potenial weapons as librarians learned at a clinic in Chandler, Arizona.
It is also very important to learn to use such weapons in combat! It is important to feel the weapons and what they can do. Thus bunkai, one-step sparring and even free sparring will assist in development of weapons expertise. At a couple of martial arts clinics at Scott Air Force in Illinois, members of Juko Kai International trained with bo, naginata, katana and yari and sparred with bo - all 50+ martial artists free-sparred (kumite) against all who came near them.
However, one has to be extremely cautious because nearly all martial arts weapons sold on the market are junk and will even break just by swinging the weapon in the air. Not too long ago, I purchase an eku (paddle) from a well known martial arts distributer in Oklahoma. The very first time I swung the weapon in the air, the handle snapped in two!
At a clinic in Casper Wyoming many years ago, the dojo operator purchased several expandable batons from the same company. By the end of the day, more than half of these had fallen apart. So in most cases, it is worthwhile to purchase man-made weapons made from strong materials. We came across a place in Oracle, Arizona that makes strong weapons. Also, if you particle with a partner, always wear protective eye gear!