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BoothJ9
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Joined: 15 Feb 2022
Posts: 23
Location: Wales
Styles: Shukokai

PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2022 4:13 pm    Post subject: Kobudo Weapon History Reply with quote

I understand that many weapons used in Kobudo originated from other countries predominantly China and would have emigrated to Okinawa via the sailors and traders. I, like many others, have also heard that the reason many Kobudo weapons have other functionalities or resemblances to tools, is that there was a weapon ban in Okinawa which resulted in the population using the things around them like kama for cutting grain, nunchaku for a rice flail, tonfa for a grinding wheel handle etc. My question is, was there ever a weapon ban? As I have heard that this is a load of rubbish and that these weapons were used as weapons and not as farming instruments to avoid breaking the weapon ban "This is not a weapon, just my sickle for cutting my grain" kind of excuse (although it can be argued that anything can be used as a weapon). What is historically accurate in this context and what is simply a myth?

I am just curious about it as I have heard so many different stories about it. The fact that the weapons originated from other countries is something I am fairly sound upon, Kobudo weapons are frequently described or seen in texts and pieces of art from places other than Okinawa.

Any insight into this would be greatly appreciated
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bushido_man96
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2022 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There seems to be a tendency to believe that Okinawans had no knowledge of self-defense or weapons use prior to being visited by the Chinese. I don't think this would have been the case. More likely they developed some weapons systems of their own, and possibly augmented some techniques upon meeting with the Chinese.
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Wastelander
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Joined: 18 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2022 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There were two events in Okinawan history that tend to be referred to as "weapons bans," and used to support the "karate/kobudo was developed by farmers" story.

The first is when the Okinawan king ordered that all military weapons be stored in centralized armories for distribution. This was done to prevent lesser warlords from easily raising armies against the king, in conjunction with a decree that required them to live in Shuri. This specifically excluded weapons that indicated your station, or family heirlooms, as well, IIRC.

The seconds is when the Satsuma Clan, after invading Okinawa, banned firearms, specifically. They weren't too worried about an uprising, because they already conquered Okinawa, but firearms would shift the balance of power too much, so those had to be stopped from coming in. I believe there were still a handful of exceptions, to that.

Neither of those two edicts actually has the effect of banning all--or even most--weaponry. Additionally, weapons would be specifically issued to those in the military, police, and guards, the majority of whom were nobility, and would likely also have had family weapons of their station. Many of them also ended up guarding royal gardens, and there would have been farming implements lying around--bored martial artists would definitely pick those up. Admittedly, that really only applies to the kama and kuwa. The eku and nunti would have been prevalent on boats, like the ones that those same nobles were sent to China on. Sai are definitively Chinese weapons, but the Okinawans traded with many Indo-Chinese peoples, and would have incorporated fighting arts and weapons from other places, as well. Tonfa, for example, are based on the mae sun sawk of Cambodia and Siam/Thailand. Then, we get into weapons like nunchaku, which were based on horse bridles (again, available to nobles), and tekko, which were based on stirrups. We also have plenty of art and written accounts depicting Okinawans training with and using weapons of many difference kinds, even after both of these edicts.
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2022 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stories are often told, as well as being embellished upon over time, whenever Kobudo is the subject. No matter how Kobudo came about, whether or not it be due to a ban and/or the ingenious creations of farmers, the one thing that can be romanticized concerning this topic is that proof of either story is that there's no historical proof, and what has been agreed upon is more leaning to the Pechin warriors' class. Many Okinawans were known to do many things in secret, including Kobudo training.

Having trained in an Okinawan MA style for over 5 decades, and that includes the many different Okinawan Kobudo weapons, I'd hate to imagine how many of them were used as farm tools. Awkward, yet possible, either way, if said Okinawan weapons were once a farm tool or not, well, these farming tools pack a huge wallop.

Historical proof regarding what this topic is trying to understand might not ever be etched in any marble stone, but history is important, albeit the training of it is far more important.

Notable MA historians will try to shine truth upon subjects like this, but one might truly place their finger upon it with any certainty. Choose which historical yarn is the most reasonable, and then, train hard and train well.



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BoothJ9
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Joined: 15 Feb 2022
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Location: Wales
Styles: Shukokai

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2022 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you very much everyone for shining some light on this topic for me. I've certainly learnt stuff. Although I would love to know the historical truth, I must agree with sensei 8 that there is some beauty to not knowing for sure.

Thank you all for taking the time to answer and helping me with gathering and improving this bit of my knowledge.
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tatsujin
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Joined: 12 Oct 2021
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Styles: Ryusei-ha Ryukyu Kempo Karate-jutsu

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2022 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From a historical perspective, there is no doubt that weapons bans in ancient Okinawa have taken place.

As to the "origin stories" of the various weapons, those are much more questionable.

Is a weapon like the eku (櫂) an oar? Pretty sure that it is. Is the kuwa (日本头) a hoe? Again, pretty sure that it is. Is the tekko (鉄甲) really developed from a horseshoe (or two) and/or a stirrup? I don't know. I guess I could see someone "putting 2 and 2 together" and coming up with something like that. Did they? No real way to know.

One thing to keep in mind is that the historical people that did pass down the more mainstream weapons were of the shizoku (士族) or pechin (親雲上) classes. These were not the types of folks that are going to be dealing with horseshoes, stirrups, grain flails and the like. I think it more likely that we have a contribution from the warrior/royal class (both native and imports from other countries like China) and more indigenous sources.

But, there is still a lot of nonsense out there in the history of such weapons. Like fighting against samurai. Look, using something like a tonfa against a katana is near to suicide. Even a crappy katana is going to go through a tonfa like a knife through butter. Those sorts of things can be dismissed pretty quickly.
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