One staple of a good movie fight scene is a hero or villain working their way through a myriad of weapons. They might start off with knife, but that will get kicked out of their hand, leaving them defenseless until they grab a nearby pool cue. Once that breaks they eventually find their way to a chair, and so on.
You’ll find this classic situation popping up in all kinds of martial arts movies. Take this scene from Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon”:
In a mere three minutes we are treated to Bruce’s skill in open hand fighting, bo, escrima style sticks, and nunchaku.
Most of the time this is done just to keep the audience interested. However, the idea of being able to use multiple weapons effectively is intriguing and warrants a little deeper investigation.
When discussing the use of a weapon, I generally break things down into two “spirits”: the spirit of kobudo combat, and the spirit of the weapon itself. Each are equally important when endeavoring to maximize your ability to utilize tools as a means of enhanced life protection.
The Spirit of Kobudo Combat
When fighting with weapons (especially against other weapons) damage can accrue quickly. Certainly empty hand fighting can be lethal, but adding the force and physics of a weapon increases the likelihood of being mortally injured. Bearing that in mind the spirit of kobudo combat must always be one of a brief and fatal meeting.
As such there are certain matters that require special attention to achieve success. Stancing must be used in a manner that reveals as few targets as possible to the opponent, even if it means narrowing traditional stances. Centerline control must be so precise that there is only a razor’s edge allowance for error.
The need for control of distance and timing in kobudo is paramount as opportunity occurs in a moment’s notice. Nowhere is the idea of ichigo ichie more apparent.
Understanding the spirit of kobudo combat means building a solid foundation of principle and concept.
The Spirit of the Weapon Itself
Although all weapons share commonalities in fighting, each also has it’s own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding how best to use the weapon means understanding the spirit of the weapon itself.
An Array of Weapons From Okinawa Kenpo
Long range implements are capable of different tactics than short range ones, which can be broken down further into wooden weapons vs metal weapons, bladed vs non-bladed, and so on. Properly assessing these capabilities will allow you to stay within your zones or strength while avoiding zones of weakness.
Just as an example of analyzing each weapon for its own unique qualities, consider the kama. The kama is weak when it comes to long range. A bo user can keep a kama user at bay and outside of the kama’s effective fighting distance. However, the kama’s unique hooking ability can control, manipulate and ensnare an opponent’s weapons or body parts in order to force a closure of distance and quickly dismantle vulnerable and hard-to-access parts of the body.
The winner in any match is determined by whomever is in better command of themselves and their weapon.
Open Hand / Weapons Separate and as One
I’ve come to believe that the spirit of kobudo is the same as the spirit of karate, with very minimal differences. The importance of centerline, distance, timing, kiai, kokoro, etc. are all present in both methods of life protection. The emphasis and execution will vary, but both systems will ultimately augment each other and spur on a practitioner’s growth as a complete artist.
An example – in sparring we often find it acceptable to take a few blows knowing that we can bounce back and try again. In weapons combat it becomes intensely obvious that a single mistake will result in real life injury. This is an excellent mindset to transfer to self defense. Conversely, training in empty hand can teach us how to move the body quickly and utilize all eight of our attached weapons (hands, feet, knees, elbows) even when one or more weapon is occupied. This resiliency and creativity can be lost when using a single weapon all the time.
It should be noted that the spirit of a weapon itself is something that cannot be faked or assumed through other means. If you wish to learn how to use a kama-like weapon effectively, you must practice with the kama. If you wish to use the sword effectively, you must practice with the sword.
As such, kobudo is both exclusive and inclusive in the realm of martial arts.
As a sword practitioner, I feel it is my duty to bring you the epic samurai failings of the internet. If you’re looking for good, quality content – today is not your day. But, if you enjoy watching cringe-worthy videos about swords, you’ve come to the right place.
This first video comes courtesy of failblog.org. In many sword arts, there is a concept called tameshigiri. Tameshigiri is the process of practice cutting through rolled up tatami mats or other artificial substitutes for the human body. In most instances, things go well and the viewing audience is impressed. Unfortunately this is not like most times…
You gotta believe that sword is razor sharp, which makes this all the more “holy crap!” worthy. I’m assuming everyone is ok as it didn’t seem to stick into anything (here’s hoping).
The next video is a lesson in getting what you pay for. If you’ve ever watched Home Shopping Network, you know that they sometimes come out with crazy deals like 600 knives for $79.95. They also sell curiously cheap katanas for right around the $40 mark. Why so cheap?
Ahhh. The only person truly shocked is the guy who got poked. This is also why live TV is so great – you never really know what’s going to happen. If you have one of these swords in your home (I do), make sure never to use it or even touch it.
The final video I think I showed once before, but it bares repeating for this particular post topic. A “master 9th dan” gets it into his head that he wants to do some cutting demos at a tournament. What his assistant doesn’t know is that the master needed a little more practice…
You gotta hand it to them for keeping composure though. It’s almost like accidents have happened before to these guys…
You may think that this post is purely for sick amusement, but you’d be wrong! In fact I am trying to communicate a very important message of not toying around with weapons, especially katanas. You kids out there – if you are thinking about running around, cutting off tree branches and stuff with a katana you bought at an anime convention, do not do it! I don’t want to have to make a fail post for you too.
Spike TV has a new show out called ‘Deadliest Warrior’. It pits two historical fighters against each other in mortal combat. Tonight is Samurai vs Viking at 10 pm Eastern (check your local listing for your time).
I’m such a sucker for these shows! I really liked Human Weapon, but also watched things like Fight Science and Dhani Tackles the Globe. I don’t know, they intrigue me. The thing about this new show ‘Deadliest Warrior’ is that they bring in experts from whichever fighting style is on the episode and they examine the ballistic and cutting ability of their weapons. Then, taking various mathematical and logical factors into account, they program a computer to run 1,000 fights between the two combatants and see who comes out on top more often…and why.
Last episode an Apache Warrior bested a Roman Gladiator. It was a little controversial since the fight was one on one and that is what Gladiators specialized in. This week the stakes are even higher because my boy the Samurai is taking on the fierce Viking class.
One thing that seems obvious is the sword advantage the Samurai will have. The katana is definitely going to outperform the viking style spatha. I’m willing to bet my hat on that. But it’s possible the Viking will use a shield in combination with his sword, which could complicate things for the computer.
In the picture above we see the Samurai using a naginata while the viking uses a long axe. I would have to give the samurai the edge here as well as the naginata has longer range as well as various striking methods, including stabbing, cutting, and striking where the axe only really has striking.
The Viking chainmail is probably going to cause a problem for the Samurai. Chainmail is designed to resist cutting and the Samurai is sure to rely on that heavily.
All things considered, when it comes to a one on one fight, I don’t believe any warrior throughout history was better developed than the Samurai. My vote officially goes to him.
How about you?