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The Kama as Part of Okinawan Kobudō

On the Japanese island of Okinawa, which is the traditional home of what we know today as Karate, there was a growing trend in the 15th through 17th centuries towards including various weapons in the study of those unarmed systems of self-defense. It was only natural that the wooden staff would be the first of these non-military weapons to be joined together with self-defense techniques then in use on the island.  At that time, swords and such were forbidden by law to most of the non-samurai classes of people on Okinawa. The Kama, which is a form of a wheat or rice sickle used to cut down the stalks of those grains, is the fourth weapon of five in what’s called Okinawan Kobudō.  The simple explanation for Kobudō (“koh-boo-dough”) is that it’s the combined martial arts weapons system of study in Japan.  The Japanese word means “old martial arts way.”  Besides the wooden staff () and the Kama, the other weapons in Okinawan Kobudō generally can be the Sai, the Tonfa, and the Nunchaku.  The staff is always taught first, then the Sai, the Tonfa, the Kama and finally, the Nunchaku.  There is a method to this random-looking order, by the way.  Each weapon is taught in conjunction with the techniques of the style or styles of unarmed combat and self-defense being learned at the time.  If you notice, the wooden staff can be a good “stand-off” (you can hit people from farther away) weapon, which can fit in well with the short or long kicks, and the hand and arm traps and blocks taught to the student in certain phases of Karate.  You can see how the follow-on skills and techniques which include so-called “sticky hands” (complicated and very quick hand traps and in-close blocks) would match up perfectly with the Kama and what it was meant to do.

Kamas as a Weapon Efectiveness

As far as this effectiveness in close-in battle that a Kama was expected to help an Okinawan Kobudoka (a student of Kobudō) achieve, well…it could be a fearsome and deadly weapon when used in the right hands.  Remember, the Kama has a short, wooden handle topped with a razor sharp, curved blade that comes down to a very sharp end at its far length, away from the handle.  The possibilities for mayhem that could be created with a pair of Kamas were endless! As a weapon itself, the Kama is mostly used as a pair because of the benefits in using two of them to defend against an attack by somebody using a baseball bat or a wooden stick or pole or some other longish weapon.  They’re deadly-effective when it comes to cutting, slashing, and hacking at an attacker.  Because of the nature of the weapon, most students will at first learn on completely wooden versions to avoid cutting or otherwise hurting themselves with Kamas that have a sharp metal blade. We recommend that students who choose to study Kama techniques gain a little bit of wrist and forearm strength due to the sometimes top-heavy weight of a Kama.  Once that’s done, there’s no end to how a skilled student can use them in self-defense and close-quarters battle.  As a part of Okinawan Kobudō, the progression from the staff to the Kama will also help a student be better prepared for using this highly-effective weapon. The Kama, along with the Tonfa, the , and the Nunchaku, are available for viewing and purchase at bukiyuushuu.com.  They’re all completely updated with the needs of today’s martial artist in mind, and each is a magnificently-detailed example of the original Japanese weapons each of them pays tribute to.  

Kamas as the Self-Defense Weapons of Choice

  In the world of Asian martial arts, there are very few weapons among the ones that started as something else that can be as fearsome looking and effective as the Kama.  Originally used as a real farming tool by 15th and 16th century Okinawan and Japanese rice farmers, this sickle came with all the basic ingredients needed to bake up a good self-defense weapon.   We’re sure that when the need came about to have some kind of weapon to defend themselves against roving bandits, or even pushy Japanese samurai warriors, these farmers or peasants or others who were forbidden by the ruling class to carry real swords and knives took one look at this curved-blade tool and immediately saw a lot of potential in it.

Kamas are often referred to as the following:

  • Kamas Weapon
  • Japanese Kama
  • Okinawan Kama
  • or Martial Arts kama
  Let’s examine a typical Kama for a minute.  It has a handle ranging from 12 to 16 inches, which is an ideal length that will allow a person to easily swing it around.  It also can come with a wicked-looking, semi-curved blade that runs 6 to 8 inches in length from its butt-end, which begins at the top-end of the handle, all the way down to a very sharp point.  That point, by the way, turns out to be excellent for gouging or digging into something.   So, back then, all the ingredients that make a good self-defense weapon were there from the beginning.  Excellent possibilities for honing the blade to razor sharpness existed, especially if the metal was really good.  The wooden handle of the Kama allowed the hand holding it to slide up and down it with ease, and that would let someone who was using it to run the Kama further away or closer into the hand, depending on how near or far the attacker was from the defender.  Also, the handle could be used to block a sword or wooden staff strike.  If the Kama was used in pairs, it could also trap the staff or sword, which would prevent it from being drawn back.   A skilled Kama artist could make good use of all these weapon qualities that were within the simple Okinawan farm tool, just as we too can in this day and age.  Today, the Kama is one of several traditional Okinawan weapons that are included in the study of what’s known as Okinawan or Ryukyu KobudōThe word “Kobudō” simply refers to the weapons systems of study on Okinawa, in general.  Sometimes, this  study is called “kobujutsu,” which is a more accurate Japanese term.   Other weapons included in kobujutsu include the wooden staff, or Bō, the Tambo (a short staff), the nunchaku, and several others, depending upon the school of Kobudō that’s doing the teaching.  All of these weapons are available for viewing in the online catalog at bukiyuushuu.net.  Buki Yuushuu is a premier maker of very up-to-date versions of these traditional Japanese or Okinawan self-defense tools.   Making the Kama a part of learning a martial art of any type, whether it’s Okinawan or Japanese forms of Karate, or different styles of Chinese Kung Fu, or even Korean taekwondo can make you a better martial artist.  Learning to use a Kama or Kamas in pairs, in a weapons kata (form) or even in a kumite (freestyle fighting within a martial art…the word is pronounced “koo-meh-tay” or  “koo-muh-tay,” depending on your accent), will help your martial spirit grow, and also will help your mind, your, body and that spirit eventually become a single unit.