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Arizona Hombu Dojo

School of Traditional Okinawan Karate, Kobudo, Self-Defense & Samurai Arts

KAMA - A Traditional Kobudo Weapon

"With Kama you can trim weeds - or you can trim those who plant weeds" ~ Soke Hausel

Kama is one of many traditional Okinawa weapons practiced by Shorin-Ryu martial artists. Karate and Kobudo have been taught together until the 20th century, when many Japanese karate styles began to eliminate kobudo from their curriculum, possibly because kobudo did not fit well into sport karate. Today, there are schools in Arizona that teach kobudo, but most require exorbitant fees, and many require black belt certification to learn kobudo. At the Arizona Hombu dojo, kobudo is inseparable from karate, and all adult students train in kobudo and karate at the same time - after all, both use the same stances, blocks & strikes. 

Kama is a peasant weapon used as a sickle to trim plants and weeds. The left photo shows Kyoshi Neal Adam attacking O'Sensei Bill Borea who blocks with kama.

After the invasion of Okinawa by the Satsuma Samurai from Japan, a ban on bladed weapons and firearms continued to be enforced. Thus Penchin (Okinawan samurai) were only allowed to transport personal swords to Japan for maintenance - while peasants had no weapons other than farming and fishing tools. 

The kama was considered to be a difficult to learn due to the inherent danger of the blade. Before karate became popular in the US, kama training (just like samurai sword) had a razor sharp edge. It was easy to provide oneself with scars during practice. Today, we have practice weapons, but care must still be exercised with these. Many Shorin-Ryu systems train with kama but all students of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Karate, learn kama.

Kama is taught in pairs (gama). The point, sharpened edge of the blade, handle and the butt of the handle are all used in strikes and blocks and used similar to sai. It has the following grips: honte mochi (natural), gyakute mochi (reverse) and tokushu mochi (special grip) & used for kuride (hooking), kakede (gripping), ukete sasu (blocking and stabbing), tsuki (thrusting), kiru (cutting) and nagete ateru (throwing & striking). Some kama also come with handle straps so the weapon can be extended similar to nunchuku.

A similar weapon to kama is kusarigama (chain-sickle). This is a difficult weapon to master and rarely taught in the US. They are almost non-existent and the few available are not quite up to specification. The kusarigama is a traditional weapon with kama attached to a metal chain (kusari) and heavy iron weight at the opposite end from the kama. The chain of the kusarigama is typically 6 to 9.5 feet long & used to trap an opponent with the weighted ball & chain. The weight is also used for striking. 

According to various stories, the kusarigama was a weapon well-suited against a sword or spear. The kusarigama was extremely popular in feudal Japan & many schools trained in this art from the 12th to 17th century. In the 17th century, a kusarigama master named Yamada Shinrykan was feared because of many samurai he killed in combat. However, he met his fate when lured into a bamboo grove by Araki Mataemon. The bamboo grove made it impossible for Shinryukan to swing his chain to trap Mataemon's sword & he was subsequently killed. See our page on Kuwa & Tekko.