Kon (Staff )
Unlike many other martial weapons, the Staff has a very long range and enables the attacker to have superior reach on his opponent. Most Staffs are about 1.8m long, although the concept of a wooden stave as a weapon can be found easily in most cultures – the Quarter Staff in medieval English for example that rose to popular culture fame through the duel of Robin Hood and Little John.
An expert armed with a Kon can keep a much heavily armored and armed opponent at bay frustrating and neutralizing their effectiveness. While this weapon cannot be easily concealed, it is so common that most armed opponents will not even think twice about it. For example, in these times it could easily be disguised by carrying buckets or baskets. These buckets would be carried on either end and the Staff would be draped across the back. Simply set the buckets down, slide the staff out and you are instantly armed. The key is that you are trained in the proper technique to make the weapon as effective as possible.
The Staff on the surface is one of the most simplistic of all Japanese weapons. Used in many different art forms from karate to jujitsu, the Staff is one of the most destructive and adaptive weapons available to the martial artist.
The Staff is used extensively in Jujitsu kobudo (weapon training) as it offers a range of opportunities for disciplining kata, footwork, distancing and control.
While staffs have a history of being used throughout mankind, the Asian martial artist has taken this weapon and turned it into an art form. The staff is traditionally about two meters long and three centimeters thick.
While the weapon has been used informally since the earliest recorded history, a martial art called kobudo emerged from Okinawa in the early 1600s that featured this weapon. The reason for this was one of necessity as all the commoners of Okinawa were banned from having weapons. This ban forced the people to find other ways to defend themselves and using a simple staff proved to be the best.
History: In 1470, when traditional weapons were confiscated by the Japanese military, Okinawan commoners utilized the kama as a fighting blade, often attaching a chain to the base for greater reach. This longer weapon was known as a kusarigama.
Traditional use: The kama was originally used for cutting grass. In close range fighting, the sickle could be used to trap an opponent’s weapon, or for striking.
Current use: The kama is most commonly used in kata (forms) competition and demonstrations. The forms include circular movements which improve blocking and countering techniques.
History: Present in Okinawan and other Asian weapon arsenals, the sai (pronged truncheon) was used to stab, block, trap and punch. Practitioners often carried a sai in each hand, and a “spare”‘ at the belt. The weapon could also be thrown.
Traditional use: The sai is believed to have originated with the pitchfork. As a weapon, it was used in conjunction with various karate stances and techniques, and in defense against sword attacks.
Current use: With dulled points, the sai is now a karate training weapon. It tests accuracy in striking and quick block-and-counter techniques.
BOKKEN (wooden sword)
History: The bokken was a popular samurai training sword because it was safer and less expensive than a “live” blade. When used in competition it could be fatal, and samurai would often keep a bokken nearby while they slept, so intruders could be captured without spilling blood within the house.
Traditional use: The bokken was primarily used to practice blocking and entering techniques.
Current use: The bokken is still used in place of the katana (sword) for training, competition, and demonstrations.
KATANA (traditional Japanese sword)
History: Developed after the bokken, the katana was the favored weapon of the samurai warriors and the most widely used Japanese sword. Drawn in a “sky-to-ground” manner, it was worn in the belt on the left side, edge upward.
Traditional use: Employed on foot or horseback as a thrusting weapon the katana was used in battle, competition and in ritual deaths.
Current use: The katana is now primarily a popular weapon for kata competition and demonstrations.
History: The tonfa (side-handle baton) was developed as a weapon by the Okinawans, specifically for use in conjunction with karate. Two tonfa were often used simultaneously, and were very efficient against armed assailants.
Traditional use: Originally a bean or rice grinder, the tonfa’s circular movements as a farm implement evolved into its rotating strikes as a weapon. The side of the tonfa was used for blocking, and the ends for direct punches.
Current use: Now an advanced karate training aid, the tonfa aids development of block-and-strike strategies and upper-body strength.
History: The Eku is nothing more than a boat oar used for rowing a boat. This hidden weapon was very accessible to the Okinawan people around the beaches and docks.
Traditional use: The Okinawans would use this boat Oar very effectively around the beaches when they were being attacked by the samurai warrior. The Oar or Eku would be used by shoveling or kicking sand into the eyes of the samurai warrior, blinding him while they deliver a killing blow. The Eku kept the Okinawa people at a safe distance from samurai warrior, because of the length of the Oar and the skilled retreating tactics of the Okinawan people. This weapon can be found being performed by any Kobudo practitioners of Traditional Okinawa and Japanese styles.
Current use: Kensho-Ryu teaches the Oar or Eku to high level practitioners of Kobudo. This weapon conditions the body for quickness and strength for greater mobility. The Oar or Eku is rarely seen or done in the public eye, because it mentally challenges young student’s minds.