Weapons of Ryukyu Kobujutsu
The Bo or Kon, being the way of the wood, is the most commonly used weapon in the Ryukyu Kobujutsu system with 22 kata, more than half of the total kata in the Kobujutsu syllabus. This in itself is a clear indication of how highly this weapon was regarded in Okinawa and in Ryukyu Kobujutsu.
All the kata were authenticated by Sensei Taira before he died, ensuring that the teachings passed on are the true ways of those who walked before us and left us their legacy. Such names as Sakugawa and Chinen in the syllabus underpin the quality and depth, establishing the Bo as a weapon of great interest and serious study.
There are 4 kinds of Bo taught and used in the syllabus:
- San Shaku or Jo Bo (approx 3 feet)
- Roku Shaku (approx 6 feet)
- Kyu Shaku (approx 9 feet)
- Eiku or Suna Kake no Kon or Tsubani no Kai
Shaku is an old style of imperial measure and traditionally used for Bo lengths. Bo was classically made of Red Oak (Aka Kashi) or White Oak (Shiro Kashi) and the Okinawan style was to taper both ends to give the ability to used Nagashi and Barai.
There are some schools that use no taper and this is traditional in classical Japanese Bo Jutsu. However the general Okinawan approach is with a taper. Some believe this to have originated from the Chinese influence but this is also considered a user development and therefore inconclusive.
It is important to recognise that classical 6 feet Bo are of good solid weight unlike many of the light styles we see all over the world, especially in weapons competitions. The weight however is dependent on the wood used and is a critical factor for students, too heavy and the techniques become cumbersome, too light and there is not enough power. The weapon is classified as a synthetic one and attracts the greatest distance training between opponents. It magnifies the areas of development needed with empty hand and encourages Tai Sabaki/Yoko Sabaki at all times.
The practitioner is taught to hold the weapon initially divisible by thirds and then openly encouraged to develop a more flexible holding style allowing full use of the weapons potential distance.
Each Bo type adds a new dimension in usage and footwork. The Jo Bo is close range with higher stances and quick hands. This is imperative to get the best benefit from this close quarter weapon. The Roku Shaku Bo bridges all distances, both short and long and is the main stay of study with the most depth in kata. Kyu Shaku Bo being 9 feet in length works entirely on the benefit of distance. It does require much skill and weight balance understanding and an appreciation of how important the balance between hands and feet are.
The most fascinating for many visually is the Eiku or Suna Kake no Kon. Suna Kake means to splash sand and this tokui flicking techniques make this weapon unique. It also deploys a lot of thrusts to the neck as the opponent lifts his head to protect his eyes from the sand. There is one kata, which is taught at a very senior level and is the jewel in the crown of Bo training.
Bo predominately uses the strategy of Go no Sen but senior students are taught to deploy all three initiatives as well as the understanding of Sagaru, Hairu and Sabaku. To defend only by moving sideways is insufficient and much study of holding the line and drawing back is needed.
Yakusoku kumite is practised much along with the Enbu kumite and “futari” and “san nin kumite”. Studying kata in depth quickly makes students realise that they must study for more than one attacker to understand the bunkai properly. This study also highlights the key principals of Bujutsu.
The practice of Bo must be with intensity and serious study.The ability to perfom 22 kata provides only a measure of understanding and ability with the weapon. All kumite should be practised repeatedly and the level of intensity continually raised. The need to challenge your spirit and resolve must be explored.
“Sensei Motokatsu Inoue once told me that he loved the Bo the most and it is a feeling I share. His dream of hearing the sound of wood all over the world endorses his passion for this fascinating weapon and it is a feeling all should share and understand.”
Sensei Julian Mead
|Shuji No Kon Sho||Sesoko No Kon|
|Shuji No Kon Dai||Kongo No Kon|
|Koshiki No Shuji||Yonekawa No Kon|
|Sakugawa No Kon Sho||Tsukenbo|
|Sakugawa No Kon Dai||Chinenshichanaka|
|Sakugawa No Kon Chu||Chatanyara|
|Soeshi No Kon Sho||Choun|
|Soeshi No Kon Dai||Urasue|
|Shirotaru No Kon Sho||Tsukensunakake|
|Shirotaru No Kon Dai||Kyu Shaku Bo|
|Sueyoshi No Kon||San Shaku Bo|