The video below recently came to me via my Youtube subscription. It is the old Okinawan kata of Chikin Sunakake No Eiku by Akamine Hiroshi. This is a weapon that originated from a humble oar.
There is a story of an old Okinawan master who was famed for being good with this weapon, who was repeatedly challenged by a Samurai. He declined the challenges several times until eventually the Samurai confronted him and told him this it is, basically you fight or die. As the Okinawan Master reluctantly picked up his oar, he used it to flick sand into the Samurai’s eyes. He then took advantage of the Samurai’s temporary blindness, to strike him in the throat with the oar, crushing his windpipe and killing him. Very crude, simple, yet highly effective bunkai from such a basic weapon.
Not many of us are likely to carry around a oar these days just in case. It’s not common to be confronted by a sword wielding Samurai either for that matter. However, it does make a good point of using everyday implements as a makeshift weapon. That is a principle that we can use today, even if we don’t practice traditional weapons.
Imagine if your home was broken into and you were attacked (or you had to defend your loved ones), what could you use around you as a weapon. How about a photo frame on the mantlepiece? Or a pen/pencil on your desk? Could you use a fruit bowl to fend of blows or even hit with it. Do you have chairs that are small enough pick up swing around. Of course if you’re in the kitchen then there are many more potential weapons.
But have you ever stopped to look around your house (in every room) and see what you could pick up and use in an emergency? Then of course, have you ever practiced a few strikes with it, or even made up your own little kata?
Then of course what about when you’re out? There’s the obvious ones like bottles and glasses. How about an ash tray or a pool que.
When Shotokan Karate was still quite young in Europe, women did not have to free fight for their black belt. Instead they had to perform self defence techniques. One scenario commonly used was that they would carry a handbag that the “mugger” would have to try to take from her. He would do this by grabbing her wrist with one hand trying to take the bag with the other hand. The defence was the twist the wrist and pull back the hand, then continue the movement in, up over the top and come down striking the top of the head with the handbag (third movement in Heian Shodan/Pinan Nidan, normally ending in a hammer-fist . . . . without the handbag).
At an early grading I took, my class was told the following story by the late Ray Fuller (our grading examiner). When his then wife, Pauline, who at that time was the highest ranking woman Karateka in Europe took her 1st Dan black belt, they demonstrated that particular defence. When she struck him over the head with the handbag, she knocked him out cold. He later asked her what the **** she had in the handbag? She apparently said “half a brick”. He asked why, to which she allegedly said, “to make it look good”.
Well women carry many things in their handbags, maybe some will start carrying half a brick now!!
Although I’ve always found that an amusing story, it does show how an effective weapon can be made out quite ordinary things. It does make sense to look around your home, your workplace, places you socialise to see what can used as a weapon in case of emergencies. In the home at least, it is also a good idea to pick them up now and then and make up your own little katas with them. It does not have to as sophisticated as the oar kata below, but just being used to handling any object that could become an unsuspected weapon could be the deciding factor.