by Ron Klein
Introduction and Background
Kobudo has been an integral part of the instruction offered at the Uechi-Ryu (NAC/SOKE) dojo in Michigan for several decades. Kobudo kata and kata applications have been introduced from various Okinawan martial arts systems by different individuals. Recognition of proficiency has been demonstrated through invitation of NAC instructors to schools in Michigan and other states to conduct seminars featuring Kobudo kata and weapons applications to karate. This is in addition to students capturing awards for proficiency in Kobudo kata at regional and national martial arts tournaments.
Certification for students studying Kobudo in Michigan has been extremely difficult. There is no integral representation of Kobudo within a reasonable distance to the Uechi-ryu schools. In two cases, senior instructors have adopted sai and bo to our Uechi-kata in order to present some weapons training to their students. Aside from these two cases, there are no systems that accommodate the kata taught or the interpretations and adaptations to the unique kata practiced by the Uechi-ryu student. In one of the above cases, the proficiency of the instructor who had “invented” novel kata was so impressive that Mr. Klein promoted the instructor to the rank of Shodan in the Ryukokyku Karate and Kobudo Association (was promoted to Nidan in the system after a demonstration of Kobudo kata).
The lack of certification has caused difficulties for NAC dojo owners and senior instructors who are dedicated to the martial arts by discrimination from their own and other styles. In addition as one of our NAC instructors noted ” a knowledge of Kobudo without written proof has caused resentment from other high ranking black belts not only in Uechi-ryu but other styles.” or “…as a student of Kobudo for over 14 years, it was not until I received my Shodan (in another karate/ Kobudo style) that I had proof that I was proficient in Kobudo…..despite my teaching many students in my dojo for nearly a decade! ” It is not desirable for us (Michigan Chapter of the NAC/SOKE) to join another martial arts association to obtain certification in Kobudo which will require adapting to new kata and philosophies, that may be perhaps contrary to our own.
One option is to ignore the certification issues and simply integrate a few kata into the curriculum of individual dojo. We have done this and with the comments cited above recognize it as a first step in the evolution of a more formal association of practitioners who desire more communication, a mechanism for sharing ideas and techniques and a means for certification.
We now have approximately 230 students practicing Kobudo under the instruction of Mr. Klein , Mr. Vanderlaare and Mr. Moyle. We have been very pleased at the progress these students have made and the positive effect this practice has had on the development of their skills in Uechi-Ryu. We also recognize the historical precedent of the integral part weapons training played in the practice and development of pangainoon and Uechi-Ryu in China and Okinawa and we also recognize the increased interest of many practitioners of Uechi-ryu for traditional training in Kobudo.
The banning of swords and other weapons on the island kingdom of Okinawa was mandated following the establishment of the Second Sho Dynasty in 1477. In addition to the banning carrying swords the new king, Sho Shin, ordered the collection of all weapons which were placed under royal control at his castle in Shuri. This was necessitated to assure control of the island by the Sho dynasty following many years of political turbulence. Interestingly, this action predates the Sword Edicts of Toyotomi by approximately 100 years . It is during the Second Sho Dynasty that the native Okinawans were thought to have begun the development of open handed (weaponless) methods of fighting as well as adapting common farm and fishing tools for self-defense.
In 1609, the Japanese invaded and conquered the island. In order to maintain increasing degrees of political control severe social restrictions were enforced as well as continuing the ban on the possession of weapons by the native population. The samurai conquerors were the only residents permitted to own and carry weapons. Open handed systems, strongly influenced by interactions with Chinese martial artists were further perfected. Also simple tools of the fisherman and farmer were turned into lethal weapons for self-protection: boat oars (eiku), fish net floats (chesen kun bo), millstone handles (tuifa), top knot pints (jiwa) sickles kama), saddle stirrups (tekkos) and a variety of staffs were deadly when placed in the hands of a skill martial artist.
Overtime, these implements were either replaced by more modern tools or simply became part of the quaint folklore and traditions of a rapidly industrializing agrarian society. However, the use of these weapons and the art of Kobudo became an integral part of the practice of martial arts on the island. Kobudo, though not formally part of karate has been inseparable from its practice and traditions. The practice of Kobudo kata and bunkai are used to enrich open handed arts by increasing physical strength, coordination, balance and grace. The weapons also are used offensively and defensively as extension of the practitioners body increasing one’s skill and awareness; they add an additional element of reality to everyday practice.
One major difference between karate and Kobudo is that the latter has not been systematized rather, emphasis has been placed on associations of practitioners who use the weapons to facilitate their own individual practice. This is usually accomplished by adopting several of the many hundred of kata now practiced on Okinawa and world-wide. Specific weapons kata have been introduced into several karate systems ( e.g. Isshin-ryu and Shorin-ryu) to enhance the student’s mental and physical training. Many dojo follow this practice and utilize weapons kata at the discretion of senior instructors who have learned the value of Kobudo training. Many instructors have requested training in traditional weapons to enrich their practice of Uechi-ryu. We have sought to meet this need in the past by individually studying a wide variety of weapons kata which we have shared among various dojo. The number of individuals and dojo requesting assistance in training in traditional weapons has increased significantly.
We propose providing a system for recognizing the accomplishments of these individuals who have devoted time and effort to weapons training in addition to introducing and making available training in Kobudo as well as certifying the attainment of skill in these arts. We feel that the availability of a Kobudo association, sanctioned by the NAC will satisfy an unmet need of the membership to enrich their personal study and offer to their students a unique opportunity for advanced and supplemental training.
In keeping with the traditional roots of our Kobudo we have adopted the name NOFU-KOBUDO KAI . This name simply translated means Farmer’s Tools/Weapons Association and is a direct link to the historical roots of our art.
THE NOFU-KOBUDO KAI AND ITS MEMBERSHIP ARE DEDICATED TO PROVIDING A MEANS FOR THE STUDY AND DEVELOPMENT OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE/OKINAWAN KOBUDO, TO MAINTAIN AND ENCOURAGE QUALITY TRAINING AND PROFICIENCY THROUGH CERTIFICATION AS A RECOGNITION OF ACCOMPLISHMENT AND PROOF OF KNOWLEDGE AND PROFICIENCY.
The Association will be dedicated to providing:
1. Qualified instruction and training in traditional Chinese/Okinawan weapons.
2. Certification for white and black belt ranks in traditional Chinese/Okinawan weapons.
3. Support and the availability of the above to NAC/SOKE dojo as an extension and supplement to the instruction of Uechi-Ryu karate.
4. Such organization and certification to the members of the Michigan NAC/SOKE dojo and any other NAC/SOKE dojo regionally and nationally.
5. Such organization and certification to dojo of other styles that meet and satisfy the mission statement of the Association and the NAC.
Kata and Training
The kata currently practiced by the members of the NAC/SOKE are listed below. These kata have been chosen for a number of reasons, however in general they represent:
1. A broad spectrum of traditional Okinawan weapons
2. A tribute to a wide variety of individual instructors and styles encompassing the historical traditions of the Okinawan arts.
3. A wide variety of movements and forms we feel provide the student with the intellectual and physical variety essential for in depth training.
4. A wide variety of movements that represent techniques useful for self-defense situations as demonstrated by bunkai.
5. A continuity with the central principles of Uechi-ryu thus facilitating and enriching the art.
Though we list kata our members are currently practicing, we feel that it is important to recognize and incorporate weapons kata that are practiced by other NAC dojo as part of a certification program. We also recognize that Uechi-ryu is rooted in the Chinese martial arts where weapons and open handed practice are closely integrated. Thus we welcome in put as to new kata and weapons forms, regardless of the source, to be included in our listing of accepted kata. Such kata must satisfy criteria cited above. For this reason we have left the specific kata requirements for each rank open, thus permitting the student to choose kata that are relevant to his or her specific interest or which can be chosen by an instructor and adapted to the specific needs of individual students.
KOBUDO KATA (Practiced by the Michigan NAC)
ANAKO NO KAMA
OKURYUGAWA NO KAMA-SHO
ANAKO NO SAI
TAIRA NO SAI-CHADIAN
TAIRA NO SAI-NIDAN
MATAYOSHI NO SAI
TSUKENSHITA HAKU NO SAI
HAMAHIGA NO SAI
KANEIGAWA NO TEKKO
MAYAZATO NO TEKKO
SOKEN NO TUIFA
YACCA NO TUIFA
MATAYOSHI NO TUNQA
BO (ROKUSHAKU BO-6 FT STAFF) OR KUN
CHUN NO KUN
SAKUGAWA NO BO SHO
SAKUGAWA NO BO DAI
KOSHIKI SAKAGAWA NO BO
SEJUN NO BO
TSUKEN NO BO
EIKU BO OR KAI (OAR)
MATAYOSHI NO EIKU (AKACHO NO EIKU)
SOKEN TSUNAGAKI NO KAI
TSUKEN AKACHO NO EIKU
JO (YONSHAKU-4 FT STAFF)
YOTOHA NO JO (RYOTOHA)
CHESEN KUN BO-SHO
JIWA (GUSHI NO JIWA)
BOKKEN GI SAN
Sai-short three pronged “swords”.
Eiku (kai)- skulling oar
Chesen kun bo-fish net floats
Rank Requirements and certification:
We have divided the kyu ranks into two colored belts green (Go-kyu) and brown (San-kyu). Though in Uechi-ryu most schools use a ten step kyu system, we feel this is unnecessary for kobudo training. The time in grade for kyu and dan ranks parallels the system accepted by the NAC and indicates the minimal time when a student is elegible to test for the next grade. The qualities scored for dan and kyu testing are identical to those required by the NAC. Judging of test requirements will be:
1. Sanchin spirit.
2. Timing/distance (for advanced bunkai and kata application)
3. Strength and power in the application of technique and kata
4. Accuracy and focus of the movement
5. Posture, stance and body position.
6. Technique-accurate usage and application
8. Breathing-regular and natural, not exhausting
10. Economy of movement-in kata, bunkai and application
11. Knowledge of kata and past material (technical and oral, including history of kata and history and proper care of the weapon demonstrated)
There are no set bunkai in nofu-kubodo. Bunkai is the demonstration of a movement or series of movements followed by its interpretation with a partner(s). Students will be expected to demonstrate the application of movements from their kata.
The testing boards for the Association will be ,except for content, identical in composition to those outlined for the NAC in the NAC handbook. The time in rank and material required for rank will be:( designations at each grade include all previous material, time in grade is minimal)
Gokyu- 1 year in grade. Kata: 1 sai, 1 bo and 1 weapon kata of choice
Sankyu- 1 year in grade. Kata: 2 sai, 1 bo,1 tuifa and 1 weapon of choice.
Shodan-1 year in grade.Kata: 3 sai, 2 bo, 2 tuifa and 1 weapon of choice
Nidan- 2 years in grade. Kata: 3 sai, 3 bo, 2 tuifa, 1 eiku,1 kama,1 jo 1 weapon of choice
Sandan- 3 years in grade. Kata: 4 sai,4 bo,2 tuifa,1 kama,1 eiku ,1 tekko,1 jo,1 chesen kun bo, 1 weapon of choice.
Yandan-3 years in grade. Kata: 4 sai,4 bo,2 tuifa,2 ac,2 tekko,1 Inouye,1 chesne kun bo, 1 kama,1 weapon of choice.
Godan- 3 years in grade. Kata: 4 sai, 4 bo, 2 tuifa,2 kala, 2 eiku, 2 tekko, 1 jo, 1 chesen kun bo, Inouye, 1 weapon of choice.
Rokudan-all above (plus enrichment of the system, history of a kata or specific weapon, introduction of a new weapon).