07 Jan

Tou’on-ryu Kobudo Weapons

Sai, nunchaku, Kobudo, Kanzaki Shigekazu, Hillcrest Community Centre
Bo, sai, nunchaku & hand weights used at Kyoda sensei’s garden dojo
The Kobudo weapons and kata of Kyoda Juhatsu were a huge surprise to me when I first laid eyes on them. My first impression of the weapons was that the size and weight of them was far greater than I had seen or used previously. In my days learning Kobudo from Minowa sensei and Yoshimura sensei I had been taught using weapons made by Shureido for the most part. But when I brought my Shureido bo and sai with me to practice one day, Kanzaki sensei took one look at them, laughed, and said,
So that’s what they’re making for bo these days. That’s not a bo!

You could say it was almost a “Crocodile Dundee” moment 🙂 As an aside, It makes me wonder that if the weight of the weapons was heavier in the past, then how could the Yamani-ryu students back in the day manage to whip their bo around so quickly? Or is that a modern innovation… Just food for thought.

At any rate, there were many differences between the Kobudo I learned from Minowa sensei and Yoshimura sensei compared to what Kanzaki sensei taught. First and foremost, Kobudo in Tou’on-ryu was an adjunct practice. It was meant to support and strengthen your Karatedo, and wasn’t really intended to be used IMHO. It wasn’t a detailed separate art like that of Minowa sensei. As such, it only had three kata: Tsuken shitahaku no sai, Chatanyara no sai, and Soeishi no kon. There were also some techniques for nunchaku, but no formal kata. Furthermore there were no formal two-person sets or even bunkai taught. It was strictly kata. I learned Tsuken shitahaku and Chatanyara no sai kata, but never did learn Soeishi no kon or nunchaku techniques. Although I do have video somewhere of Kamada-san doing the Tou’on-ryu version of Soeishi no kon.

To give you an idea of how different things were I’ll use an example from Tsuken shitahaku no sai. The  largest difference I found in the Tou’on-ryu Tsuken shitahaku no sai was in the execution of chudan-barai uke and jodan / chudan uchi. In the version I learned from Minowa sensei the tins of the sai are sideways / horizontal when performing the chudan uke. It is performed in a fast whipping action using the hips and requires a lot of flexibility in the wrist. This is followed by kaeshi uchi, in which the sai is pulled back and down in somewhat of a figure-eight fashion, followed by sliding in and snapping the sai forward (again requires flexibility in the wrist) (I apologize if this is hard to follow, but text is not the best way to explain these techniques, so please bear with me :-).

In the Tou’on-ryu Tuskenshitahaku no sai version, the arm is extended outward from the center of the body with the tins of the sai held vertical when doing the chudan-barai uke. The forearm then bends at the elbow, bringing the sai back to the center line and then the arm is almost thrown out (using the whole body) to deliver a strike to the opponent’s head. Again with the tins held vertical. I found the Tou’on-ryu sai to be much more power based IMHO, but seemed to embody the “ikken hisatsu” ideal more than the Taira version.

When I asked Kanzaki sensei where Kyoda sensei had learned this version of Tsuken shitahaku no sai, he replied that he didn’t know because Kyoda sensei had never told him and he had never asked. When Kanzaki sensei said that I felt like crying. What if it had come from Higaonna sensei? What would that say about the supposed “Chinese origins” of Nahate. Now unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Finally, you’ll notice that there are a set of spring-loaded dumb bells in the photo at the top of this post that Kanzaki sensei said they used to practice their grip while performing Sanchin kata. They’re a great training tool and believe me when I say they are exhausting to use as part of your Sanchin practice. It’s interesting to note that they are almost identical to the “New Grip Dumb Bell” developed by legendary strongman Eugene Sandow. Apparently, Kyoda sensei had ordered these through the mail many years ago.