For me, weapons was not part of karate training. I was always taught that Karate, which translates to Empty Hand, meant NO WEAPONS! I know that other styles did have a weapons component and I didn’t have a problem with this. It was just not our thing. Shotokan Karate did not have a weapons component other than defence against weapons.
A month ago, the International Karate Daigaku introduced weapons. It was in part due to an essay written by a training partner and friend, Nick Quesnel. He questioned why we were not using traditional weapons in our training.
Nick was the first person in the dojo to pick up the bo and start spinning it around. He studied Kanazawa and Demura’s weapon techniques and tried for figure out where they would fit into kata. On occasion, we would work together on some ideas. Nick moved on from training when he was accepted into the military. The unfortunate part of his acceptance was that the IKD would announce that weapons would be added to the organisation just shortly after he left for his basic training.
Nick argued that Master Funakoshi is shown in several photos using weapons. He also pointed out places in katas were weapons were obviously being used. Now we have added the Sai, Tonfa and Bo to our training. I never thought I would like the tonfa. I purchased a set before IKD World Camp and learned a few techniques while at camp. When I returned, I received my copy of Fumio Demura’s, “Tonfa: Karate Weapon of Self Defence.” I have watched the DVD and taught myself Tonfa Kihon no Kata. I am not perfect at it but I can get through the basic kata.
Recently, I have shown students at the dojo where I train some of the aspects of the tonfa. I understand that the Amherst Shotokan Karate Academy has ordered several tonfa and will be holding classes on the weapon. I can not wait to show the students more about the weapon that I call the poor man’s nunchaku.
My wife and I are also very interested in the bo staff. We hope to improve our skills and be able to perform some demos with weapons for our recruiting day at Mount Allison University in the fall. We hope to gain a few new students with the introduction of traditional weapons.
Karate may translate to Empty Hand but I think the “Empty” part actually points more to emptying your mind that actual empty hand. After learning more about the bo and the tonfa, I can see techniques hidden in the shotokan kata syllabus that are obviously performed with tonfa or bo staff in your hands. It is interesting to discover these and it makes you wonder what were the masters thinking years ago when they developed these kata. Why were the weapons omitted over the decades.
Now my eyes are open and I am looking at everything in a different light. It is great to have a veil lifted and see a whole new world before your eyes. Make sure your karate is not “closed mind hand.”
Empty your mind and open your eyes. Embrace Kobudo and add it to your karate training.