Okinawan kobudo, just like karate, has been strongly influenced by the martial arts from China and other cultures in Southeast Asia. Apparently already in the 15th century the ruling king prohibited citizens from carrying weapons. All weapons were kept in the King’s castle.

Most likely Okinawan kobudo was developed by the Pechin warrior class, based on systems imported from China and adapted to local conditions. Although much of it is based on farm implements, it is unlikely that farmers would have had the inclination or energy to pursue intensive weapons training. One should also remember that in those days, except for the few that lived in actual castles, the different classes of a community lived in much closer proximity to one another, and farm implements, if not owned by the warrior class, would be readily available.

Many of the Okinawan kobudo traditions were preserved and handed down in middle of the 20th century by Taira Shinken.

Okinawans kobudo was at its zenith some 100 years ago and of all the authentic Okinawan kobudo kata practiced then, only relatively few remain known



OA Bo is a six-foot (1.8 m.) long staff often tapered at both ends. It is usually made of red or white oak. A kumi bo is made of bamboo. It is often used to practice when hitting a makiwara board. It is more flexible and does not break easily.

The origin of the bo is most likely the stick that was put across the shoulders to carry baskets with rice, produce or water buckets.

The bo is the first and the most often used weapon in Okinawan kobudo.


The sai is a three pronged weapon made of metal. The centre prong is longer that the two outside prongs. There is a type of sai, manji sai, where the two shorter prongs point in opposite directions.

The origin of the sai is unclear. There are reports of similar weapons used in India and definitely in China. In Okinawa metal was very scarce.

The sai may have been an ornament, denoting certain rank, that could also be used as a weapon.


Tonfa are made of wood and were likely originally handles of a millstone used for grinding grain.

The tonfa has proved so effective, that it is has been integrated into the equipment of modern police officers around the world, often reincarnated as the police baton or ‘night stick’.

The sai may have been an ornament, denoting certain rank, that could also be used as a weapon.


Nunchaku consist of two pieces of wood (or possibly metal) connected with a string or a chain. It’s origin are not clear, but it may have evolved from a threshing flail. There is one type of nunchaku, called a muge nunchaku, has been derived from a horse bit.

There are several different types. Some have one section shorter than the other and there are also nunchaku with three sections. In some countries the hard type of nunchaku is forbidden and plastic or rubber versions are used for practice.


The kama is the traditional rice sickle, a tool used to cut rice. The traditional kama is made of metal with a wooden handle. For kobudo practice a wooden kama is used. Just like tonfa and sai, kama are usually practiced in pairs.


Tekko are brass knuckles also called knuckledusters. They can be made of any hard material. In many countries brass knuckles are illegal. In Canada plastic brass knuckles are allowed. Techniques with brass knuckles follow the empty hand techniques of karate, but with slashing techniques added.


Tinbe and rochin are a shield and a short spear. The shield (tinbe) can be made of a variety of materials; baskets or metal. Traditionally, turtle shells were also used. Imitation turtle shells made of fibreglass are now available. It is said that the origin of the rochin is from short spears used to kill fish.


The surujin is a chain, rope or leather cord weighted at the ends. The are two styles, the naga surujin or long surujin (2.3 m.) and the mijikai surujin or short surujin (1.5) m. long. Surujin techniques are very similar to nunchaku techniques.


Eku is an Okinawan type of oar. The paddle end has a ridge in the centre is slightly pointed. The sides of the paddle end are rather sharp.


There are several other types of weapons used in Okinawan kobudo.

For example there are several types of sticks of different length e.g. tambo, hanbo or nunti bo. A kuwa is hoe used in agriculture and tichu, a small hand-held weapon with three sharp points.