Martial Arts Wiki
Jul 4, 2018

martial artists fighting with sai and staffStrictly translated, the Japanese word kobudo covers all ancient martial traditions, armed or unarmed, of Okinawa or Japan. Today, when specifically referring to Okinawan traditions, the term kobudo is most often used to describe the weapons of the Ryukyu Islands.

These weapons include:


  • sai (iron truncheon)
  • Bō (Six foot staff)
  • nunchaku (horse bridle)
  • kama (sickle)
  • tekko (metal knuckles)
  • tsuifa (millstone handle)
  • eiku (oar)
  • suruchin (weighted rope)
  • timbi (shield and short spear)


Kobudo is an Okinawan term that refers to Kobujutsu or, ancient weapon art. In 1477, during the Second Sho

Dynasty, swords and other weapons were banned from Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands by Emperor Shoshin. All weapons on the island were collected and garrisoned in his royal castle in Shuri on Okinawa. It was as a direct result of Shoshin's edict that Okinawans turned to the development of karate (open hand) fighting. Although kobudo weapons are not really a part of karate, their development has shadowed the development and evolution of karate to the degree that they are almost inseparable. In 1600 the Japanese invaded and occupied Okinawa. As a conquering army they used the continued prohibition of weapons as a method of controlling the population. This was combined with an attitude by the Japanese, that still permeates the island today, that Okinawans were second class citizens and not as good as Japanese. (Even today most any Okinawan will quickly inform you - "I am not Japanese, I am Okinawan!") Therefore only Japanese samurai's were permitted to own and carry weapons. Okinawan karate further developed from it's Chinese roots. Just as the monks in china had developed weapons from seemingly innocent items such as the staff, so to did the Okinawans. These creative farmers and fishers resorted to weaponizing the implements of their everyday working life. They developed complex weapons forms for such items as the boat oar (eku), fish net floats (chesen kun bo), millstone handles (tonfa), top knot pints (jiwa) sickles (kama), saddle stirrups (tekkos) and the 6 foot staff (bo). Over the years modern machinery and implements replaced most of the traditional kobudo implements, however they remained an integral part of kobujutsu. With the growth and development of Shorin-Ryu Matsubayashi-Ryu karate certain kobudo weapons have remained closely aligned to our system. These weapons include the Bo, the Sai, the Tuifa, the Kama and the Nunchakus. By adding weapons training to the traditional open-handed training, Grandmaster Nagamine felt the individual student could enhance their mental and physical training.