Sample kobudo kata

Tonfa no Hamahiga from Itosu ryu kobudo

The Okinawan tonfa are perhaps the most familiar of the weapons of the Ryukyu islands to us due to our police force carrying the similar side handled batton. However they both look different, and are used differently. The side handled battons are available to UK police forces in a number of designs and lengths both extended and extendable. Common versions include the Monadnock style PR22 and PR24 which are carried extended and singly. Tonfa were traditionally used in pairs allowing the practitioner to make use of the independent blocking surface of one weapon whilst using the other to damage the opponent. Unfortunately it takes many hours of practice to wield the tonfa effectively, so police forces, with a limited training budget only learn to manipulate the weapon basically. It is for this reason that the versatile weapon is often used as a simple clubbing device.   When choosing tonfa try to find weapons which are pegged and stick out beyond your elbow. The length allows for effective blocking and elbow striking. The cross pegging is not found on cheap tonfa which tend to fall apart when used against bo in sparring exercises! Tonfa are priced between £5 and £70 and it is true to say that you get what you pay for!

It is generally thought that the weapons developed from the mill handles used for the grinding of flour in agriculture. As with the other Okinawan weapons, the real weapon could then be hidden alongside the farming implements.

Tonfa (sometimes pronounced tuifa) can be held either retracted or extended and it is necessary to be able to rotate the weapon between these two positions quickly. The retracted position allows a powerfull punch to be delivered with the short end, as well as giving one a strong reinforced blocking surface. While extended a greater range can be covered using either the ends for thrusting strikes, or the sides for whirling strikes. During basic training blocks and strikes are practiced, including the figure of eight whirling strikes often associated with other weapons. It is
interesting to note that the blisters and callouses gained whilst using the
tonfa are in slightly different places to those experienced from the other Okinawan

After basic training students begin to work on kata which are long sequences designed to, amongst other things, let the student practice his various waza-a common tonfa kata in Itotsuryu is ‘Tonfa no Hamahiga’.

Begin facing the front with both tonfa in the right hand. Bow to the front.(pic 1) As you bring your left foot out to higo shizen dachi take hold of both tonfa in defensive grip (with the blades protecting your forearms) and bring the tonfa up and out to the sides in a ‘V’ shape.(pic 2) This is done slowly with inhalation. Next step back with your left leg and move the tonfa round in the opposite direction-executing two gedan barai low blocks. This is also done slowly, but with exhalation.(pic 3) Now pull your right leg back into neko ashi dachi and bring the tonfa round and together in the middle. They should be snapped together sharply.(pic 4) Slide
the right foot forwards and execute a double punch to the groin area directly
ahead.(pic 5) Now move the left foot forwards in line with the right and
perform a simultaneous low and high block with your right leg bent and the
stance long.(pic 6) Perform this same move to the right.(pic 7) Note that the
tonfa are still held against the arms throughout these opening moves.

Now slide the right leg forwards into a high zenkutsu and punch with the right hand to the solar plexus. (pic 8)Follow this with a double swinging combination, coming from the right first, and then the left. This should be done as if you are swinging the tonfa in a figure of eight motion.(pic 9) This is followed by swinging the tonfa round from the outside, prior to finishing the combination with a punch-again with the right hand, and to suigetsu. (pic 10)Next repeat this combination with the left hand as you step forwards with the left. Again there are five strikes. This combination is the shortest of the combinations in the kata, but is initially difficult to master as the tonfa is used in two different grips. Slide
diagonally to the left and punch with both hands to the face. Repeat this
attack on the right –again punching to the head.(pic 11) Both of these attacks
are with the right foot forwards This section finishes with a left handed jodan age uke with the left leg forwards.(pic 12)

With the left leg forwards, and still facing the front begin to swing the right hand tonfa(illustrated in picture 16) forwards in figure of eight motion. During the second strike move your right foot across so that you are striking to the rear. This time the combination has four diagonal strikes finishing with a right diagonal strike. The combination continues with a horizontal strike from the right,(pic 13) a horizontal strike from the left, and a chudan punch all with the right hand(pic 14). The combination is made up of seven strikes. Step in with the left foot and repeat
the seven strike combination with the left hand. Next, step in with your right
foot, still facing the rear, and complete the combination again.

Bring your left leg across and block to the front with gedan barai, immediately followed by a jodan age uke-again with the left hand.(pic 15) Pic 16 shows the application of one move from Tonfa no Hamahiga.

Move the right foot forwards so that it is in line with the left, dropping in to
shikodachi as you perform a simultaneous right gedan barai and left overhead
block(pic 17). Bring your left hand back to your hip and begin an eight move
combination with your right hand as follows. Begin to swing the tonfa in a
figure of eight(infinity)(pic 18) pattern from the right so as to strike
diagonally down right, left, right, left four times. This is done in a
continuous flowing motion, and still in shikodachi. After the fourth strike
from the left, turn the hand over and strike out to the rear in an upwards
direction with the blade of the tonfa to your right(sometimes this move is seen
as a block depending on the interpretation)(pic 19)(pic 23 shows one
application of this move). On termination of this strike you should have
brought your right leg up sharply-with the right foot held behind the left
knee. As you place your right foot back on the ground strike up with the tonfa
to the front-still with the blade on the outside and to your right. The seventh
move of this quick flowing combination is to bring the tonfa round from the right
striking horizontally to the front-this time finishing with the tonfa in
defensive grip with the blade down the underside of the right forearm.(pic 20)
The combination finishes with a right punch to suigetsu(solar plexus) again in
shikodachi. (pic 21)This combination is then repeated with the left hand, and
on the left side. Begin still in shikodachi by executing the double block to
your left,(pic 22) and complete the eight move combination with a left
gyaku-tsuki with the left hand forwards.

The next combination is completed in a relaxed forwards stance with the right hand and is very similar to the last one with two changes. This combination begins with a strong oitsuki(pic 24) with the right hand, followed with the eight strikes as before, and ending with a second front hand punch.(pic 29) During this nine move combination the foot is not drawn back to the knee-as in the last combination. This combination is then repeated on the left as you step forwards with the left leg. Again it is a nine move combination.

Next draw both hands back to the hips and strike in defensive grip, with both hands, to the face as you step forwards with your right foot.(pic 30) Draw both tonfa out to your sides(pic 31) and then strike round with them in striking grip.(pic 32) Both tonfa should be brought together with a loud ‘crack’ during this move.

Flick both tonfa back into defensive grip with the handles facing out horizontally to the left and right.(pic 33) Follow this by striking down with both weapons
vertically to the front changing to offensive grip.(pic 34)Now change direction
circling both tonfa in to the middle before striking out to the rear with both
simultaneously(pic 35). With the left tonfa this is a clockwise motion, whilst
with the right this is anti-clockwise. When striking back the blades of the
tonfa are on the outside and to the rear. Finish this sequence by flicking both
tonfa up into defensive grip blocking to the front with both weapons at the
same time.(pic 36)

Now step forwards with the left leg and change direction to the rear blocking down with the right hand and up with the left.(pic 37) The right leg should be in the front, and facing the rear. Step forwards with the left leg, repeating this double block with the left leg forwards.(pic 38) You should still be facing the rear.(pic 11 shows the application of this move)

Now repeat the nine move combination that myou executed in part two of the kata. This begins with a chudan oi-tsuki strike to the solar plexus with the tonfa held in defensive grip. This is followed by four flowing strikes in figure of eight fashion with the blade of the tonfa.(pic 40 shows one possible application of this circular strike) After the fourth strike from the left, strike to the right rear and then up to the front. Follow this by striking round from the right, and then forwards in kizama-tsuki to suigets to complete the nine move combination. Repeat this combination with the left hand with the left hand forwards. Finish this section by stepping forwards with the right foot and punch three times to the solar plexus-right, left, right.

Next complete the long combination again with the right hand, but without the initial punch. Execute the same combination, again with the right hand, but this time to the front with the right leg forwards. The turn is made in time with the initial strike by pivoting on the spot, and then stepping back with the left leg.

Bring both tonfa together in front of you with a loud snap, as you bring the right foot back into necko-ashi-dachi(pic 37). With the right foot forwards complete a double gedan barai.(pic 38) Now step forwards with the left leg into higo-shizen-dachi and perform a double inside block.(pic 39) Finish by bringing both hands down to ‘yoi’ and then step in with your left leg, transferring the left tonfa to your right hand and bow.

This is a long kata with a staggering 133 moves.

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