One Weapon In The Hand Is Worth…

I’ve been doing martial for well over thirty years now. In fact, I’ve reached the point where I’ve somewhat forgotten EXACTLY when I started, which makes it difficult to put a firm number on the years I’ve been a practitioner. If I go from memory, I’m pretty confident I started karate when I was ten years old, which means I’ve been practicing for thirty-five years this Spring. on the other hand, the year 1990 sticks out in my head for some reason, which would make it only thirty-three years. Not much of a difference and the only way I could confirm would be to see my original registration form, which Sensei would have back in new Brunswick. Fat chance of that, even if he should happen to still have it.

Even though my focus over those decades has been Uechi-Ryu Okinawan karate, I’ve dipped my toes in the proverbial pool and tried out a few different things in my time. If I had to put a number on it, I’ve trained in at least seven or eight styles, with some of them involving arts that don’t involve empty-hand fighting. When you ask the average person what they know about karate, they’ll usually point out the punching and the kicking, with rarely a mention of weapons. Which makes sense, if you look at the literal translation of karate. But it might surprise some to know that the average karateka usually WILL train with weapons at some point…

Outside of Uechi Ryu, I’ve trained in Kobudo, Kendo and Iaido. The first was because Kobudo goes very much hand-in-hand (pun intended) with karate and owes its roots to Okinawa. The last two, I got into because my parents were kind enough to buy me a wakizashi when I was younger and I wanted to learn how to use it, as opposed to leaving it in my closet. Most people are familiar with Kendo, given the use of the armour and grilled helmets you see when they square off, combined with the bamboo sword known as a shinai. Iaido is a bit of a different, still focused on the sword, that trains the practitioner to draw and execute techniques quickly, with a focus on situational and environmental awareness. It focuses on speed and accuracy.

Although everyone’s martial experience will differ based on their wants, needs and expectations, I chose to pick up a weapon because I knew that the day could potentially come when I would face an armed opponent and it’s never a good idea to do that empty-handed. I mean, if someone came at me with a sword and I had nowhere to go, what the hell am I supposed to do??? That bullshit that you see in movies where the person “catches” the sword between their palms is total bullshit. A properly honed sword, moving at a speed intended to kill, would slip past a defender’s palms with ease. And even if all the stars aligned and the defender managed to stem the sword’s approach, a skilled practitioner of the sword need only adjust the forward angle by a couple of degrees in order to cleave the defender’s hand off at the wrist. Assuming the sword is properly sharpened, of course. But I digress…

It paints a bit of a bleak picture but it’s a realistic one, which most people don’t usually adopt. What I like about Kendo and Iaido, is that the teachings allow me to apply techniques without necessarily holding a sword. If I find myself against someone with a weapon, I can adequately defend myself using a length of broomstick, a baseball bat or a random stick on the ground. It’s a better prospect than facing off against an armed opponent, empty-handed. Kobudo, for me, has its place but has been less useful throughout the years. After all, you won’t find most weapons associated with the art easily. Nunchucks are illegal in Canada, finding properly-weighed kamas is unlikely and walking around with a pair of sai on the streets is cumbersome and not recommended. The bo or staff is effective training as it falls under that same umbrella as sword training. I still own the last two, but seldom do I ever get to effectively train with them.

But let’s get into the meat of the post, which for those of you who frequently read my stuff, already know that I’m going to cover some of the positive and the negative aspects. And there are some of both, with weapons training. The positives are pretty obvious and I’ve already mentioned them; additional techniques, ability to defend against an armed opponent and the overall ability to actually USE the weapons you’ve trained with. By virtue of that, one would ask what possible negatives there could be. The biggest and most concerning is one that most people don’t consider, going into a confrontation: you could be disarmed. The problem with that is it opens the possibility of your chosen weapon falling into your opponent’s hands and being used against you. Not so ideal, if you train with a bladed weapon.

The second is more of a personal dislike but it ties up one or both of your hands. In karate, we use a variety of techniques that involve the open hand and grappling. If you’re using weapons that include both hands, like kama, sai, tonfa and even the bo, both your hands are tied up with your weapon and the ability to isolate and grip your opponent is lost. As I said, this is a personal dislike, since my karate style involves getting in close to one’s opponent an often involves gripping the gi, clothing, hair or other parts of your opponent so you can deliver the blow without them backing away or dodging. The last disadvantage I’ll point out, although I’m sure there are more, is the fact that training in some of these weapons styles may alter and change one’s stances and overall techniques they use in their home style. That can be detrimental to your advancement and progress.

All in all, training and familiarizing yourself with weapons is a positive thing. It’s a good addition to one’s martial arts toolbox and can be useful in certain situations. The same rules apply, when searching for a weapons school to train with. Make sure the style suits your wants, needs and expectations and be wary of the McDojo aspects I’ve written about so many times before. If a teacher is trying to sell you on joining by twirling a staff above their head, you should probably walk out. That theatrical shit has no use in the streets and may look cool but will likely get you hurt, more than anything else. Food for thought… ☯️


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I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

2 thoughts on “One Weapon In The Hand Is Worth…”

  1. Paired weapons: Well, the use of double force multipliers can offset your listed disadvantages, which are legitimate. It does take extra training for sure though.

    As far as altering your stance, etc… Most don’t require a drastic change. Knives in particular can be used exactly like empty handed techniques. Replace a punch with a stab, and a chop with a slice. 😉 Same with Escrima sticks or a Tonfa / PR24 Baton. Something like a kama or longer weapons like a katana or bo… Definitely change things a bit, and body awareness is critical there.

    I’m mildly surprised Nunchaku are illegal up there. Down here you can have them so long as you’re a practicing student at a dojo / studio. It’s amazing how many weapons laws are based on what looks scary though. At close range a knife is far more dangerous than a gun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m inclined to agree. I like using a single escrima stick, I had the opportunity to train with them during my time with RIOKK. And yes, during my youth, I was always told that nunchucks were okay as long as they were associated with a dojo and were shown as for “ornamental” purposes… We had several pairs in our dojo. Then, a few years ago, I was reading provisions of the Criminal Code and sure enough, they’re listed as a prohibited weapon. I don’t know when that amendment was made or why they did it. You an own swords but not two stick tethered by rope? Seems absurd… But then, if everything in life made sense to me, I’d get bored.


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