Friday, January 4, 2013

Observations on Isshinryu Kobudo

I am only speaking from my own understanding of Isshinryu Kobudo based on my 40 years of experience, My training came from Charles Murray and his time with Mr. Lewis and on Okinawa at Agena with Master Shimabuku and Shinso. I had the kata taught to me at a frantic pace. almost akin to our seniors on Okinawa.  Then I was alone training myself. The versions I was taught resembled what others at tournaments were doing but there were differences and I kept to the way I was shown.

There were no references available to me for years and perhaps my memory is faulty but I was challenged regularly by one of my seniors Reese Rigby as to my knowledge of what I was taught and he shared some performance details behind the techniques too. But the most powerful tool I had was competition against some of the strongest competitors in the US those days and powerful instructors working with me in their own arts too. I most often competed with Chantan Yara No Sai and Shi Shi No Kon No Dai, strong tools.

Nothing I was taught led me to believe the kobudo kata were more than training tools. No instructor ever claimed they were for self defense. When I developed students to train in them I worked out my own schedule for training. I would not teach them until after black belt for I felt there was too much to accomplish on the empty hand training to seriously devote to the kobudo.

But I felt weapons training was useful to prepare the brown belt. I choose to have them begin with the Bando training I had received. (first from Mr. Murray later reinforced by Mr. Rigby and one summer at the Bando summer camp in 1983. Not because it was less serious but because, for the short stick form I teach it was a practical hand held defensive technique for solid defensive traditions as well as a starter training for more serious studies later. Also every hand held object could function as a stick from our studies. Not to be confused with stick systems for stick fighting purposes.

Bushi NO Te practice of Bando Staff with Mike Cassidy

and the ½ of the Hidden Stick with Young Lee

Then I focus on the training at a far different pace than I was taught. Instead of weeks month of initial instruction was involved and then at a very gradual pace depending on the students needs and capabilities.

Most frequently beginning with Tokomeni No Kon along with further work on the Bando staff and the full short stick study.

Next would be Chantan Yara No Sai (the beginning sai study as I received it) and Urashie No Bo.

Kusanku Sai would be taught depending on the students needs. Also taught would be my personal study of Tonfa based on kata Wansu.

Advanced students would study Shi Shi No Kon No Dai and my tonfa study on Chia Fa by the film of Shimabuku Sensei (I retain that name solely not to confuse it with the Hama Higa No Tonfa form of others).

What I came to realize after 25 years of work was the Isshinryu Kobudo had a definite use by design. It was power training for empty hand development. Decades of hard Kobudo training develop muscles and fibers and neuro-musci;ar responses that compliment empty hand development. Say several decades of strong sai low blocks enhance your ability to grab an attackers hand and pull it down with identical force as the sai strikes. The use of bo, sai and tonfa combine to enhance our Isshinryu technique and the way the forms are constructed is an advantage, a force multiplier so to speak. The only other training that could compliment our studies would be the makiwara, when possible in the individual’s practice,.

Thus the mechanics of Bushi No Te Isshinryu Kobudo are not trying to imitate other weapons study. Those studies are worthy but outside of our studyl.

At the instructor level a study of Sutrisno family tanto and kama is available for finer motor control development. The bladed weapons are most serious studies.

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