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Bo -- Spear?

Sensei Pat Nakata recently gave me an Okinawan eku (wooden oar) with which to practice. Before I begin to learn his eku kata (in the Ryukyu Kobudo line), I have been using the eku while practicing the Yamani-Ryu bojutsu kata: Shuji Nu Kun, Sakugawa Nu Kun, and Shirataru Nu Kun. I learned these kata from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. They constitute the curriculum of the traditional Yamani-Ryu system.

Of course, these kata are designed for the rokku shaku bo (six foot wooden staff). But I noticed something interesting while using the eku. If you begin the kata with the blade end of the eku down (in the right hand), all of the cuts and thrusts of the kata are with the blade, whether right side forward or left side forward. This means that all of the sliding hand shifts with the bo/eku are designed to keep the cutting end forward.

This would make sense if the bo kata were based on yari (spear) or even naginata techniques. But it would not make much sense if the bo kata were based on bo, since bo are symmetric -- there is no difference between the ends. But here, apparent pains were taken to ensure that the same end of the bo is used for all of the forward cuts and thrusts.

If you begin the kata with the blade end of the eku down, you also end that way.

Compared to other "Karate" based bo kata and systems I have viewed, Yamani-Ryu seems to have obvious yari origins. I understand that yari techiques were incorporated into the Jukendo (bayonet attached to rifle) system practiced in the Japanese military. Some of the techniques I have seen in Jukendo books also resemble Yamani-Ryu bojutsu techniques. Could it be that they have the same origin -- sojutsu (art of using the yari)?

Shirataru Nu Kun is particularly interesting when using an eku. There is a "scooping" technique throughout the kata that resembles the sand flicking technique of other eku kata. Of course, the scooping technique can be a take down/leg sweep, but the similarity to "sand flicking" is noteworthy.

I like the eku -- it can be swung like a bo but can also cut like a sword.


Charles C. Goodin