KAMA - A Traditional Kobudo Weapon
Kama is one of many traditional Okinawa weapons practiced by our Shorin-Ryu martial artists. Karate and Kobudo are taught together in traditional Okinawa karate unlike most Japanese karate, possibly because kobudo does not fit well in sport karate. Today, there are schools in Arizona that teach kobudo, but most require exorbitant fees, and black belt certifications to learn kobudo. At the Arizona Hombu dojo, kobudo is inseparable from karate, and all students train in kobudo and karate - after all, both use the same stances, blocks & strikes. It is a peasant weapon used as a sickle to trim plants and weeds.
"With Kama, one can trim weeds - or trim those who plant weeds",
Left photo - O'Sensei Bill Borea blocks bo attack from Kyoshi Neal Adam at the Arizona Hombu dojo.
After the invasion of Okinawa by the Japanese Satsuma Samurai, a ban on bladed weapons and firearms continued to be enforced. Penchin (Okinawan samurai) were only allowed to transport personal swords to Japan for maintenance: peasants had no weapons other than farming and fishing tools. Kama was considered difficult to learn due to the inherent danger of the blade. Before karate became popular in the US, kama (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. 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. The following grips are used: honte mochi (natural), gyakute mochi (reverse) and tokushu mochi (special grip). The weapon is also used for kuride (hooking), kakede (gripping), ukete sasu (blocking and stabbing), tsuki (thrusting), kiru (cutting) and nagete ateru (throwing & striking). Some kama have 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 formed by kama attached to a metal chain (kusari) and heavy iron weight. The chain is typically 6 to 9.5 feet long & used to trap an opponent and also for striking.
According to various stories, kusarigama was a weapon well-suited against a sword or spear. The kusarigama was 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 the 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 page on Kuwa & Tekko.