The Flying Kama: More Serious than the Standard Kama
Having first started its life as a farming tool used to cut down crops, the Okinawan weapon known as the Kama (Japanese word for “sickle”) took its place over time among the several different weapons taught in the Okinawan or Japanese Kobudō systems of martial arts in Asia and around the world. The term Kobudō refers to the study of a specific group of weapons. These include the wooden staff (Bo), the short Tambo – which is a kind of hard wooden stick – the Tonfa (today’s modern police baton), the famous Nunchaku, and the Kama. There are sometimes others grouped in with the general study of Kobudō, but these five weapons are the main ones taught. All of these weapons are on display in the online catalog at bukiyuushuu.net
As far as the serious looks and potential to create mayhem that lies in a Kama, there are probably no other Japanese or Okinawan martial arts weapons -- except for the samurai’s Katana long sword -- with as much overall attack ability, especially when it’s used in close-quarters battle. In an effort to add a bit of long-range reach to the Kama’s already-impressive short-range capabilities, a variation of the weapon was developed. Called the “Flying Kama,” a strong rope cord was added to the butt-end of the handle. In this way, the serious Kama user could slide his or her hand down the handle and onto the cord, which allowed the Kama to be swung around in the same manner in which the Nunchaku can be used. The added bonus is that there’s usually a razor-sharp blade at the end of the Kama.
The development of Kama and Flying Kama movements and defense tactics came mostly from Okinawa, at first. In fact, most katas (forms) involving the Kama center around the stances and techniques involved in classic systems of Okinawan or Japanese karate (“empty hand”). Because of the type of weapon the Kama is, though, some parts of each of the standard katas in which the Kama is used have been altered just a bit. This is because there’s a slight possibility of injury to a student using the Kama in pairs while performing a traditional kata if he or she isn’t careful.
Because standard Kamas are most useful when used in close to an attacker, but of less use when the attacker is farther away than arm’s length, martial artists who were skilled in the use of the Kama took to attaching those lengths of cord that allowed them to swing the Kama out and around as they needed, especially when up against a person armed with a long staff or anything else that extended the attacker’s own reach. Flying Kamas are almost always used in pairs, and their motions can resemble what you’d see when an airplane’s propellers are spinning. Another common technique by skilled Kama users are dual figure-eight kinds of forward counterattacks. Their movements not only are difficult to defend against but can distract or even mesmerize a poorly-trained attacker.
Our Outstanding examples of up-to-date and high-quality Flying Kamas are available here to purchase from our highly skilled craftsmen of Buki Yuushuu. Our handles are made of classic and durable hardwoods, with blades that are constructed of the finest laser-cut aircraft aluminum alloys and powder coat finishes. Numerous handle and blade color combinations are available, with plenty of cord length for students of all abilities. Our flying kamas are second to none and have our "go to hand" technology incorperated.
The Flying Kama and its Cousin, the Kusarigama
If there ever were a weapon based on the Flying Kama (also known as the “Rope Kama”) that could be even more fearsome than the razor-sharp bladed sickle that the Kama is, then the Kusarigama fits that description nicely. Historically, we know that the Kama itself originated on Okinawa as a traditional farm tool used to cut down crops. Its semi-curved blade, sitting on top of a short wooden handle, was perfect for that job.
The Flying, or Rope, Kama is a direct descendent of the standard Kama, and is set apart from its ancestor by the use of a length of cord or rope at the butt-end of the weapon. This rope allows the Kama’s reach to be lengthened so that it can be swung about in arcing and circular motions. This makes the Kama even more effective than it already is in close-quarters combat against an attacker. The cord or rope also extends the Kama outward so that it can reach an opponent who may be armed with a long staff or length of pipe or even a sword. Plus, the circular or figure-8 motions that are created when using the Flying Kama can serve to distract an attacker long enough to devise an effective defense.
In an even more effective improvement on the Flying Kama -- and having nothing whatsoever to do with farming -- the weapon was eventually modified in a way that it became what the Japanese call a Kusarigama (“chain sickle”). This weapon is made up of a standard Kama, a length of metal chain – called a “Kusari” – and a metal weight at the end of that chain. Because it was obviously a weapon, the Kusarigama could not be carried openly by the farmer or peasant classes on Okinawa or in Japan back in the days when they were forbidden by royal law from carrying actual weapons.
Like the art of using the Kama, the system for use of the Kusarigama has a name all its own. Called “Kusarigamajutsu,” it is the art of the Kusarigama. This version of the Flying Kama was also very popular with different Ninja clans of the 17th and 18th centuries in Japan. There will be more on Ninjutsu and the weapons of Ninjas themselves in later articles.
The Flying Kama can distract or mesmerize an attacker with those wide swinging arcs and circular or figure-8 motions. The chain and weight on the Kusarigama do the same thing, while also serving to tangle him up so that the Kama itself can be used to deliver a strike. An added bonus is that the weight at the end of the Kusari can be swung around and then propelled forward in such a way that it can strike the attacker in an easy-to-hurt spot on his body.
There’s a common, but mistaken, belief that the Kama part of the Kusarigama can be effective when it’s swung around by the chain. The result, though, is usually that the Kama will just bounce off an opponent. There is one small system of study of the Kusarigama that seems to have figured out how to use the weapon in that way, but for the most part it looks far more effective than it really is.
If you’d like to see the Flying Kama as a modern and up-to-date weapon, please go to the online catalog at bukiyuushuu.com. There are a number of colors, finishes and custom styles available to both the serious student and one who may just be starting out.
The Flying Kama and the Ninja of Japan
Sometime in the 15th century of feudal Japan, when warring lords and their samurai servants fought against each other for dominance, a total system of martial art developed that eventually came to be called Ninjutsu. As in every other “jutsu,” which means “art” or “technique” in the Japanese language, it came about slowly but with great impact.
Back in those days, there was a need by the samurai military elite for people who could engage in spying, assassination, and other forms of so-called “dishonorable behavior” because the Bushido Code – or “Way of the Warrior” – prevented samurai from doing such things themselves. Bushido was very strict in matters of how a samurai could take part in war or other forms of fighting. And as far as spying or assassination went, well…that was strictly off-limits.
But it wasn’t for a group of people from the lower classes in Japan – who were usually referred to as “non-humans” by the samurai -- and their “Ryu,” or schools of warfare training. These men, and sometimes women (who were called “Kunoichi,” “koo-no-ee-chee”) developed what came to be known as “Ninjutsu” over centuries, and their weapons training and combat skills were added to it like a huge wall is built up brick-by-brick.
In much the same way the traditional Okinawan and Japanese Kama (“sickle”) came to be used as a martial arts weapon, so too did that Kama come to be adapted into an even more effective weapon known as the Flying, or Rope, Kama. After that, these ninja or kunoichi – who at first came only from the Iga and Koga regions of Central Japan – took the Flying Kama and changed it into the Kusarigama.
Ninja (the English plural would be “Ninjas”) were very open to the thought of taking all of the weapons used by the samurai (and many that weren’t) and using them to their own advantage. The samurai, for example, would never have considered something like a Kama to be a weapon worthy of study, so it and all the special versions like it – such as the Flying Kama and the Kusarigama – became especially favored by the ninja spy or assassin. In fact, ninja would often disguise themselves as farmers so that they could walk about with their farm sickles (Kama). In fact, they would be ready in an instant to use them or the Flying Kama or a Kusarigama against whoever it was they were contracted to assassinate or otherwise harm.
In Ninjutsu, there were usually 18 skills that had to be mastered before the student could join the rest of his clan in doing all kinds of dirty work for the samurai warriors who were not allowed to do it for themselves. Many weapons were learned, including several that are available through Buki Yuushuu. These included learning to use the Bo staff (Bōjutsu) and the Kama (Kamajutsu) in both of its special editions (the Flying Kama and the Kusarigama, the study of which is called “Kusarigamajutsu”).
There is a lot of fiction even today that surrounds the mysterious Ninja and the weapons he used. Chances are, much of it is just that; fiction. But what’s for sure is that he was every bit as eager to master a weapon like the Kama (and the Flying Kama and its cousin, the Kusarigama) as any other Japanese or Okinawan martial artist ever was over the centuries. For outstanding examples of the Flying Kama, the standard Kama, and the Bo staff, please go to the online catalog at bukiyuushuu.com. All models are updated to reflect the tastes and styles of today’s student or expert martial artist, and all are made with the finest hardwoods or metal alloys available.
The Flying Kama as the Weapon of Choice
The Kama is a traditional Okinawan farming tool that gradually came to be used as a weapon by farmers and other classes of people who were forbidden from carrying actual weapons by royal law, which was enforced by the military elite of the time, the Samurai.
Today, in many forms of Asian (or even non-Asian) martial arts, the Kama is a popular weapon that is used in “kata” (forms) competitions at numerous tournaments around the world. Its descendent, the Flying Kama, is used with just as much success in the kata as it once was against the wooden staff or the sword back in the day when the samurai ruled over Japan.
A skilled Kama or Flying Kama user can trap or block the strike of a staff or sword with a Kama in one hand while the other hand – which also has a Kama – can attack the opponent with the razor-sharp curved blade. Because the Kama was a relatively small weapon, it also came to be favored by the Ninja assassin clans all during the centuries of samurai dominance over Japanese affairs.
In ancient Japan, the Kama and the Flying Kama came to be considered one of the deadliest and most stealthy weapons available to somebody, especially when no sword or other military weapon could be held or used by someone who was not a samurai.
Today, when using the Flying Kama as a weapon of choice – and it’s one of several, including the Bo staff, the standard Kama, the Nunchaku, and the Tambo (or short staff), that should be learned – it’s important to remember that the weapon can be a fearsome tool when used properly. It isn’t a toy, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. True Kamas were often razor-sharp and they had a deadly purpose for a deadly time on Okinawa and in the rest of Japan.
Training properly with the Kama requires the student to pay strict attention to technique at first. As muscle memory and confidence begins to build, the student can explore meditation as a way to build even more skill and confidence in the use of the Flying Kama. Remember that the cord or rope at the butt-end of the Flying Kama’s handle can be used to extend the outward reach of the weapon. Be careful, though, because it can also cause the weapon to swing back around at the person who’s using it if he or she isn’t paying attention.
Because of that, just as in learning to fight with a Japanese sword like the samurai’s Katana (his long sword), it may be a good idea to make sure the blades are not yet sharpened and that the point of the blade is taped over until a certain skill level is reached. Or a wooden training version could be used. The choice is up to the student and his Sensei, or teacher.
In Japanese samurai sword fighting, the samurai would often practice using the wooden bokken, rather than his ultra razor-sharp long sword. In fact, the great Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, who lived in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, fought over 60 duels against other skilled swordsmen, many times defeating them with just his bokken, rather than choosing to fight them with his own Katana. He never lost a duel, by the way. The point to all this, is that practice and desire will make a good weapons student a great master, no matter which weapon he chooses to use.
The skilled artisans at Buki Yuushuu have made up-to-date and ultra-modern versions of all the classic Japanese weapons we’ve discussed in this article. In each weapon, there lies the soul of the ancient Japanese martial artist and warrior. Please go to the online catalog at bukiyuushuu.com if you’d like to see what each of these weapons looks like in modern-day form.