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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mesa Arizona Students Certify in Martial Arts Weapon known as Tonfa

I continue to find the greatest students in the world. Or do they find me? Must be karma. Anyway, at the Arizona Hombu Dojo (aka Arizona School of Traditional Karate) in Mesa - within 30 feet of Gilbert and about a hundred+ yards from Chandler, students continue to perfect their karate and kobudo technique. For me, I love to watch them progress. 

I've been a martial arts instructor for more than 4 decades and taught a few thousand students at four universities, and each year my students get better and better and better. Not only here in in the Phoenix Valley, but also all around the US, India, Japan, Vietnam, Middle East, Canada, China, Great Britain, and Switzerland. I have lost touch with most and wish I knew how they were doing and what they were doing with their lives, and if martial arts helped them in their path in life.

As the Grandmaster of Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo (Seiyo Kai), I look to teach my students a large variety of martial arts that mostly fall under Okinawan and Japanese Shorin-Ryu Karate, Kobudo, Self-Defense, and Samurai Arts. These include iaido, iajutsu, jujutsu, hojojutsu, naginatajutsu, yarijutsu, hanbojutsu, tanto, ra-ke, tsue, kuwa, manrikigusari, gusarikama, shurichin, nunchaku, sanchuku, kama, sai, tanto, bo, jo, nitanbo, kobuton, and tonfa (and a few others).

The tonfa, the classical night stick also referred to as the PR-24 and side-handle baton, has been used by law enforcement agencies around the globe, but few officers really know how to use this baton. In most Okinawa baton training, students use two tonfa unlike law enforcement. Even so, our students also learn to use just one tonfa. A small group of our students who tested for certification (meaning they have reached a level of expertise with this weapon that is considered expert) have shown they understand kihon (basic strikes, blocks and throws), they demonstrated all three of our Seiyo Shorin-Ryu tonfa kata, demonstrated bunkai (applications from the kata), used to tonfa as a self-defense weapon against attackers armed with clubs, poles and knives, and also demonstrated kumite (sparring) defending with a pair of tonfa against attackers wielding a bo (6-foot pole). Imagine, fighting another martial artist with these wooden weapons with no protective gear. 

Following exams, five martial artists in Arizona in tonfa including Adam Bialek, Patrick Scofield, Sarah Kamenicky, William Borea and Ryan Harden. They all came out of the exams with only a few minor bruises. And that is because they have all learn self-control. These people are all great individuals as well as outstanding martial artists.

Patrick and Adam train in bunkai with tonfa and bo.
Dr. Teule trains with tonfa at the Arizona Hombu

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tonfa (Martial Arts baton) taught at the Arizona Hombu Dojo

Katharina (9th kyu) from Germany trains with 
Sarah (2nd dan) from Texas at the Arizona
Hombu dojo.
Soke Hausel began teaching tonfa to the kobudo classes at the Arizona Hombu Karate & Kobudo Dojo on Baseline Road in Mesa to students from Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler in the East Valley of Phoenix including students from Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe and even Glendale to train at the Arizona Hombu Dojo. Why? Possibly because of the unique 'traditional setting and atmosphere of the dojo' - and much of the training is in Japanese.

Tonfa was introduced to our students in the fall of 2011 in kobudo classes and we began learning basic blocks and strikes with the Okinawan traditional weapon and continued training in bunkai (applications) including kata (forms), ippon kumite (controlled sparring) with the tonfa vs. bo (6-foot staff) and tonfa vs tanto (knife).

Dave blocks Patrick's bo attack with tonfa
at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Adult Martial Artists learn Tonfa in Arizona

Rich defends strike from Neal Adam.
Members of Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai train each week in kobudo, the ancient art of Okinawan weapons. Training includes kata, bunkai (applications) and ippon kumite (controlled sparring), whether they are in Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, India, Vietnam or were ever they might be.

Members also train in kobujutsu, or better known as samurai weapons. In September, 2011, members of the karate school (Arizona School of Traditional Karate) in Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert were introduced to one of the many kobudo weapons of old - the tonfa, and we'll continue learning the tonfa well into the next year prior to focusing on some other weapon.

So what is a tonfa?  The tonfa became popular worldwide as a night stick used by law enforcement personnel. A skilled tonfa practitioner can defend against a variety of attacks as this is a very practical weapon.

After the students learn kihon (basics), bunkai (applications), ippon kumite (sparring) and kata (forms) of tonfa, they will be tested for proficiency in this tool and then move on to learn other weapons along with karate (empty hand) training.  We have the greatest students in the world who support one another and work with each other. Our classes include about 30% female. If you are looking for something to do each week that requires only a good nature, come join us at 60 W. Baseline Road.
Watch out for that tonfa! Dr. Adam blocks attack by
Ryan Harden and follows up with a classical tonfa

Charles trains with Ryan Harden at Mesa Gilbert dojo

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tonfa - Shorin-Ryu Kobudo Weapon

Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix - Photo by Soke
Similar to all other Kobudo weapons & Okinawan martial arts, the tonfa has an enigmatic history and may have more than one genesis. This is one of many kobudo weapons that is used at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert in the east valley of Phoenix.

Weapons similar to the tonfa are found in other Asian countries including China, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Keep in mind few things ever develop without the influence of others and there is a tendency by Mankind to build on or modify earlier creations.

Dr. Neal Adam with tonfa attacks Ryan Harden 
with bo at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Chandler 
Mesa and Gilbert of the Phoenix East Valley.
It is suggested by some historians & martial artists that the tonfa was developed somewhere else in southeast Asia and later introduced and modified on Okinawa. But others suggest the weapon was indigenous to Okinawa and there may have been a parallel evolution of weapons in other Asian countries.

A similar weapon was apparently created in Thailand known as the Mae Sun Sawk. The Thai weapon includes a rope at the elbow end of the weapon that is tied to the person’s arm unlike the Okinawan tonfa. The Chinese version of tonfa is known as guai, which roughly translates as crutch (or walking stick). Guai is thought to have originated in China prior to 700 BC. A variation of guai is made from iron and is called a ma guai (horse crutch). With the close relationship between China and Okinawa any connection between these two countries must always be considered.

Okinawan folklore states that during the reign of Okinawan King Shō Shin, restrictions were placed on the use of bladed weapons in order to stabilize the country after a period of civil war. This restriction is said to have favored development of secretive agricultural and fishing tools as weapons of self-defense by Okinawan peasants and possibly by the Okinawa samurai caste known as Pechin. In this context, it is thought that tonfa may have been developed from a wooden handle of a millstone, a common agricultural tool. But keep in mind that the Okinawan tonfa used today is distinct from the millstone frame.

Also referred to as tong fa or tuifa, feudal Okinawans made tonfa from native tree species similar to white oak. Typically, two tonfa were used in vertical and horizontal millstones with projecting knobs inserted into sockets on either side of the stone. At this point, the millstone was driven along a trough to grind grain into flour.

University of Wyoming's Professor of Martial Arts, Soke 
Hausel poses for Hall of Fame induction photo at the
Sandan School of Martial Arts, Saratoga, Wyoming. See
news articles and letter from the University of Wyoming
president at the bottom of this blog.
If the tonfa actually originated as millstone handles, they had to be modified to produce modern tonfa, which are now manufactured in quantity. In its original form, the handles most likely couldn’t be spun since most millstone handles were not cut precisely nor are they typically rounded and many appeared similar to a wooden hammer. Most primitive tonfa also lacked a handle pommel (tsukagashira).

In combat, tonfa with a rounded handle can be maneuvered easily. Those tonfa with rounded shafts typically can be swung with force but some people don’t like these as they are not as effective as the flat or square tonfa in blocking heavier weapons. A rounded tonfa will not absorb the force of a blow from a bo as effectively, since it tends to focus the energy of impact into the forearm at the point of contact of the rounded surface with the forearm. The half-moon and flat tonfa more effectively redistribute energy from a blow of a heavy weapon throughout the flat surface of the weapon.
Patrick and Neal practice tonfa bunkai at Arizona
Hombu dojo in Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert in the East
Valley of Phoenix.

The tonfa is just one of many weapons in the arsenal of Okinawan kobudo (古武道). Okinawan kobudo is also referred to as Ryūkyū kobujutsu or koryū and is known as "old martial arts way" referring to ancient weapon traditions of Okinawan martial arts. The weapons of kobudo are thought to have connections with farming and fishing cultures of Okinawa. Some of these kobudo weapons include: nunchuku, sai, kama, hanbo, nitanbo, kuai, bo, kobutan, eku, ra-ke, kuwa, manrikigusari, tanto, hari, nireki, surichin, tetsubo, tekko, tinbe, yawara, suruji, tinbe-rochin, etc.
George Mumford from Boston, trains with tonfa at the
Arizona Hombu (Arizona School of Traditional Karate)
in the Phoenix East Valley

It is common belief that these tools evolved into weapons and were developed by Okinawan peasants due to restrictions placed upon Okinawans by King Sho Shin and later by the Japanese Satsuma Samurai. However, modern martial arts scholars have been unable to verify this hypothesis and some historians now suggest that karate and kobudo was restricted to the Pechin (samurai) caste on Okinawa, rather than the Heimin (commoner). I suspect there was some influence by Heimin societies, simply because it is often discussed in Okinawan folklore and also these kobudo weapons were tools of trade for the commoner, something a member of the high society of Okinawa (Pechin) would likely have ignored.

The genius of Okinawan kobudo was the development of kobudo kata which became an extension of karate. The same strikes and blocks used in kobudo are used in karate with some minor modifications. Thus most kobudo kihon (basics) mimic karate kihon. The kobudo traditions were shaped by indigenous Okinawan techniques that were modified from imported methods principally from China.

The characteristics of tonfa (see photo on right from Nasiakos Spyros, Hanshi/9th dan, World Okinawa Seishinryoku Karate Do Federation, Athens, Greece) are that it is gripped by the short perpendicular handle (nigiri) or by the longer main shaft (monouchi) at the back end (ushiro atama). When the handle is grasped, the shaft protects the forearm and hand while the knob (tsukagashira) and (tsuka) protects the thumb. If the end (ushiro atama) of the shaft is held, the shaft (monouchi) can be used to ward off blows while the handle (tsuka and nigiri) is used as a hook to catch the opponent's weapons, arms, legs and/or neck.

In offense, one can swing the shaft to strike. Large amounts of energy can be imparted to the shaft by twirling the tonfa by the handle. The tonfa can also be wielded in such a way as to use the knob as a striking implement similar to a hammer. One can also thrust either end of the shaft (ushiro atama or zen atama) to strike an attacker.

Tonfa are traditionally wielded in pairs, one in each hand. This is unlike law enforcement agencies that typically use one nightstick. The effectiveness of the tonfa as a law enforcement tool was seen in its use worldwide.

The size of tonfa is determined similar to sai and should extend about one inch beyond the elbow for combat: however, it is recommended that for dojo use and practise that the weapon only extend to the tip of the elbow. The shaft is typically 20 to 24 inches in length.

The weight of the weapon is important. The weapon should not so light that you lose power and focus, and should not be too heavy that it cannot be maneuvered with speed. Three traditional grips (1) natural (honte mochi), (2) reverse (gyakute mochi), and (3) special grip (tokushu mochi) are used. 

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University of Wyoming martial arts professor and research geologist at the
Wyoming Geological Survey on the UW campus inducted into two Halls
of Fame in the same year for two different professions.

You can learn more about the Arizona Hombu and our International Training Center in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Arizona

Visit our WEBSITE & apply for membership to our international organization.

Join our training sessions at 60 W. Baseline (mesa)

Letter from University of Wyoming President Philip Dubois
acknowledging induction of Soke Hausel into two Halls of Fame