For those who don’t know, Okinawa – which is one of several islands in the Japanese Ryukyu chain – is the traditional home of the fearsome self-defense weapon known on the island, and the rest of Japan and throughout the world, as the Kama. It consists of a wooden handle approximately 12 to 14 inches long that has a sharpened, curved blade attached to one end of the handle.
Introducing the Viper Kama. The Viper Kama is a special version of the above mentioned Kama. The Viper Kama has an additional pointed blade end on the bottom of the handle made for a stabbing motion.
Kama is useful in close-quarters self-defense situations, where it can be used to slash or cut an attacker, and trap a wooden staff or pole and even a sword, if one were used against you today. This weapon was designed to be used in one hand but it can also be used as one of a pair. In fact, it could really make an attacker regret he’d ever run across someone armed with them.
The Kama can be a perfect companion for styles of martial arts which combine hard, straight-ahead movements and in-close punching or grappling techniques with softer, more sweeping motions and open hand blocking and take-down throws. For the most part, many of these kinds of martial arts had been growing on Okinawa for centuries. Gōjū-ryū Okinawan karate is just such a system. The word itself means “hard-soft style” in Japanese, and it readily accepted the Kama, the Nunchaku, the Tambo, and the Bo into its school of study.
Different versions of Te, which was a common style of fighting with roots in Chinese Kenpo, had been growing on Okinawa for a century or more when the farming class of people felt they needed a few weapons to supplement their Kara (Japanese for “open hand”) and Te skills. This was mainly because of the 1429 “Policy of Banning Weapons” that was put into force on the island at that time. This law made it illegal for the common people to own swords and other military weapons, and it was enforced throughout the rest of Japan. Of course, the samurai warrior class that was ruling over occupied Okinawa at the time felt that it was the right thing to do there, too.
When Kara and Te artists selected the Kama for one of their personal self-defense weapons, they really knew what they were doing. The handle and blade together made it easy to basically pick up the instrument and practice blocks, traps, throws and the various katas (“forms”) with one or a pair of them gripped in the palm of each hand. Soon enough, actual techniques for blocking or trapping a wooden staff or a samurai sword began to come to life. Over time, the Kama soon became important to the practice of every Okinawan karate student. And when it was gripped and used correctly, in fact, it was an enormously effective tool.
There are many styles of Okinawan karate, and almost all of them teach Kama techniques along with unarmed self-defense. All of the weapons mentioned in this article can be viewed here at Buki Yuushuu, where truly fine examples can be seen. They’re modern versions of the classic Japanese weapons, and are sure to appeal to even the casual martial artist.