Friday, November 29, 2013

Traditional Okinawan Karate & Kobudo (Tonfa) Taught By Hall-of-Fame Grandmaster

Tonfa (トンファー) or tuifa is a side-handled baton that was likely introduced as a martial arts weapon on Okinawa centuries ago after a peasant discovered this farming tool could be used as a weapon with some modifications. It has been suggested that the weapon originated in China, others suggest it was a modified millstone grinder handle, part of the millstone axle frame, or a modified primitive horse harness.

Just like some of Okinawa's farmers and fishermen of old, students and faculty at the Arizona Hombu dojo (aka Arizona School of Traditional Karate) in Mesa, as well as Shorin-Ryu students from Chandler, Gilbert, Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale, train with this self-defense weapon. The tonfa at one time was used by nearly every law enforcement agency in the US, but it lost favor to the expandable police baton (known as ASP) and to the stun gun. But to martial artists who train with tonfa, these can be very effective martial arts weapons whether held in a normal grip, reverse grip or extended grip.

After likely being developed on Okinawa and evolving over decades, the weapon was introduced to the world in the 20th century and became popular with law enforcement agencies until it was replaced by the expandable baton. However, few law enforcement agencies (other than in Japan) trained more than a few hours with tonfa, or the side-handle baton, making it less than effective with poorly trained police officers. As a result, as a law-enforcement weapon, the tonfa became awkward and under-used.

On Okinawa, the tonfa was constantly used in kata and bunkai practice to reinforce muscle memory particularly in the Shorin-Ryu Karate Schools. Thus it has more pragmatic application to Shorin-Ryu martial artists and the Japanese police. Shorin-Ryu martial artists learn to use all surfaces of the tonfa for defense and striking.

At the Arizona Hombu dojo (aka Arizona School of Traditional Karate), students train with tonfa in kata, bunkai, self-defense and sparring. By training  with the kobudo weapon in basic (kihon) techniques and in kata students begin to learn valuable muscle memory. For example, the Seiyo Kai Shorin-Ryu Karate system has three tonfa kata and each movement in all three forms must be learn as practical applications (bunkai) in one-step sparring (ippon kumite) and in kumite (free sparing) and the student must demonstrate use of the weapon without hesitation. After this is accomplished a student can apply for kobudo certification from Soke Hausel.

Not quite a rice mill, but same principal. This is an actual gold mill from
 Jerome, Arizona with Soke-Dai Eric Hausel.
Training also involves using one tonfa and two tonfa in self-defense techniques. The more advanced stage of training with tonfa is using it in sparring (jiyu kumite) against armed opponents with a knife (tanto), bo, hanbo, nunchaku, etc. This type of kumite requires the student to use good technique and to have excellent control so they do not injure their training partners.

Tonfa and other kobudo weapons are used on kobudo nights at the Arizona Hombu dojo on the border of Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona. Thursday evenings, classes are devoted to kobudo training and it typically takes a year or two of training to certify in Okinawan tonfa. The weapon is held by side handles (tsuka) either in a normal or extended position, as well as in a reverse grip. It is used for blocking, striking and hooking.

Dr. Teule (1st dan) from France attacks Dave from Chandler, Arizona. Dave defends with tonfa. 

Hanshi Finley (7th dan) from the Casper Seiyo Shorin-Ryu dojo trains with tonfa using 
reverse grip at the Arizona Hombu and striking his opponent with the pommel.

An arastre gold mill at Jerome, Arizona. This mill was not used for any Okinawan weapons. Instead, it was used to
extract gold.  But imagine if the Okinawans had this - just think what those chains could have been used for - maybe
a manrikigusari or kamagusari.
Senpai Florence defends attack and follows up with strike using tonfa at the Arizona Hombu Dojo.
Tonfa kata training at the Arizona Hombu, Chandler Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Arizona

Sensei Paula Borea defends attack by O'Sensei Bill Borea
at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa-Gilbert, Arizona