KAMA - A Traditional Kobudo Weapon
"With Kama you can trim weeds - or you can trim those who plant weeds" ~ Soke Hausel
Kama is just one of many traditional Okinawa weapons practiced by Shorin-Ryu martial artists. Karate and Kobudo have mostly been taught together until the 20th century, when many Japanese karate styles began to eliminate kobudo from their curriculum, possibly because they did not fit well into sport karate. Today, there are schools in Arizona that teach kobudo, but most require additional fees, and most require black belt certification to learn kobudo. At the Arizona Hombu dojo, this art is inseparable from karate, and we start you in kobudo and karate at the same time - after all, both use the same stances, blocks & strikes.
Kama is a peasant weapon also used as an Okinawan sickle to trip 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 were only allowed to transport personal swords to Japan for maintenance with permit in hand - while peasants had no weapons other than farming and fishing implements.
The kama was considered to be a difficult to learn due to the inherent danger of the blade. Before karate became popular in the United States, kama training (just like katana, or samurai sword) had a razor sharp edge. It was easy to provide oneself with many scars during practice. Today, we have practice weapons, but care must still be exercised even with these. Many Shorin-Ryu systems train with kama and all students of Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai, learn kama.
Kama is used singly or in pairs (gama). The point, sharpened edge of the blade, handle and the butt of the handle are all used in strikes and blocks. The kama is used similar to sai and has the following grips: honte mochi (natural), gyakute mochi (reverse) and tokushu mochi (special grip). It is used for kuride (hooking), kakede (gripping), ukete sasu (blocking and stabbing), tsuki (thrusting), kiru (cutting) and nagete ateru (throwing and striking). Some kama also come with handle straps so the weapon can be released similar to nunchuku techniques.
A similar weapon to kama is kusarigama (chain-sickle). This is a difficult weapon to master and rarely taught in the US. It is also difficult to find kusarigama at martial arts supply houses. They are almost non-existent and the few available are not quite up to specification. The kusarigama is a traditional weapon consisting of kama attached to a metal chain (kusari) with a heavy iron weight at the opposite end from the kama. The chain of the kusarigama should be 6 to 9.5 feet long & used to trap an opponent with the weighted ball and chain prior to moving in to slice with kama. This is completed by swinging the kusari overhead or at the side to wrap it around an opponent's arm, leg, or neck. 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 and 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 the many samurai he killed in combat. However, he met his fate when lured into a bamboo grove by Araki Mataemon. Surrounded by bamboo made it impossible for Shinryukan to swing his chain to trap Mataemon's katana and was subsequently killed.
For more information, see our page on Kuwa & Tekko.