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Modern Training With Traditional Okinawan Weapons, Courtesy of Andrea Guarelli and Matayoshi Kobudo

[Sponsored Post] Most Black Belt readers are familiar with the basic weapons of the Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, like the bo and nunchaku. That’s because those ubiquitous self-defense tools are taught in a variety of systems, both traditional and modern.

The Matayoshi style of kobudo is unique in that it teaches techniques for wielding those traditional implements of self-defense along with many, many more. In fact, the system is renowned for the emphasis it places on weapons that otherwise would have been lost in the distant past.

Andrea Guarelli (left) and Shinpo Matayoshi (with the suruchin)

Andrea Guarelli sensei is a master of goju-ryu karate-do and an eighth dan in Matayoshi kobudo. He is the only Westerner to have received his sixth dan and the title of renshi directly from Shinpo Matayoshi. That recognition followed an extended period during which Guarelli trained under the master and the two developed a deep personal friendship. Guarelli’s accomplishments are lauded in this certificate from 1996.

Translation: Mr. Andrea Guarelli, for a long time you have been applying yourself to the growth, diffusion and development, by your students in your country, of our cultural heritage, which is karate-kobudo of Okinawa. The extraordinary results you have reached have contributed to the prosperity of Zen Okinawan Kobudo Renmei. To pay you tribute for your contribution in the association and to honor the result of your effort, I would like to demonstrate my gratitude.”

Below is an exclusive video in which Andrea Guarelli demonstrates suruchin no kata and its application (bunkai) against the tinbe (shields).

Shinpo Matayoshi was known as an expert in suruchin-jutsu. Some believe this weapon dates from far back into history — to a time when it was used primarily against animals. When it’s deployed against a modern human attacker, Matayoshi kobudo teaches students to twirl the weapon with the aim of hitting or ensnaring the adversary’s limbs or neck.

The suruchin comes in different lengths. In the Matayoshi school, the length is proportional to the size of the user. The weapon’s length comes from the cord that runs between the two stones, each of which has a hole through its center. Shinpo Matayoshi liked to use the device to trap an enemy’s weapon, disarming him with apparent ease. He also would demonstrate blocking techniques against weapons that entailed first immobilizing the attacker’s fighting implement with the suruchin and then using the other end to quickly counterattack the person’s vital points.

The use of suruchin in Matayoshi kobudo encompasses numerous tactics and techniques, including the following:

•     Rotation (furi)

•     Defense (uke)

•     Grasping changes (mochikae)

•     Grips (hikitori)

•     Stop in the air (furidome)

•     Hooking (karage)

•     Lengthening (nobashi)

•     Shortening (chijime)

As chairman and founder of the International Matayoshi Kobudo Association, Andrea Guarelli has set out to preserve the history and teach the techniques of the Matayoshi style — including everything that’s related to the suruchin — to interested students and instructors around the world.

To achieve this goal, he wrote Okinawan Kobudo: The History, Tools, and Techniques of the Ancient Martial Art, now available in English from Skyhorse Publishing. This book delves deep into the history of the Okinawan martial arts and includes many never-before-seen photographs given to Guarelli by the Matayoshi family.

In addition, readers will enjoy a step-by-step photo tutorial of the oar kata known as chikin akachu no ekudi (techniques of the red man of Chikin) and eku no kata bunkai (oar-vs.-bo fighting techniques).

Okinawan Kobudo: The History, Tools, and Techniques of the Ancient Martial Art also discusses two rare weapons disciplines: tekko-jutsu and tecchu-jutsu.

Originally, the tekko (above), whose name means “iron hand,” was a horse stirrup. It was readily available and easy to transform into a knuckle-duster, aka brass knuckles. The tekko was favored because it was easy to carry and conceal. Consequently, it became a popular street-fighting weapon in the 1920s.

In 1934 the tekko was officially adopted into Okinawan kobudo. That occurred after Shinpo Matayoshi returned from China, bringing with him several models of tekko. He then devised techniques for wielding the weapon.

Matayoshi shared the tekko with few of his students. While no original kata are known to exist today, the tool was adapted for use with some karate-do kata. Matayoshi advised Guarelli to incorporate the tekko into the goju-ryu kata known as sesan. Some students of Shinpo Matayoshi and Shinko Matayoshi went on to create their own tekko kata — including forms that have been dubbed kakazu, odo and kanei.

Although the origins of the tecchu (above) are unknown, there is a version that descended from a tool that was used by fishermen to repair their nets. Intended for fighting in the water (like the tekko), it fits over the hand so it can be used for thrusting and slashing strikes, as well as for throwing. The Micronesian “shark knuckle” is a similar weapon made of mangrove wood into which sharks’ teeth have been set.

To learn more about Matayoshi kobudo and its weapons, visit the International Matayoshi Kobudo Association. The website hosts a list of member organizations around the world, including the Matayoshi Kobudo Association of America, whose president is Kyoshi Danilo Torri of Hanko Ryu Martial Arts in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Better yet, make plans to train with Andrea Guarelli. The master conducts seminars around the world. His 2016 USA seminar will take place in Connecticut on August 27-28. Members and nonmembers are invited to attend. Visit the Matayoshi Kobudo Association of America for details.

About the author: Kimberly Rossi Stagliano is a student of Andrea Guarelli, as well as the secretary and treasurer of the International Matayoshi Kobudo Association and the vice president of the Matayoshi Kobudo Association of America. She trains in shito-ryu karate and Matayoshi kobudo with Kyoshi Danilo Torri, a founder of the IMKA and president of the MKAA, at Hanko Ryu Martial Arts in Trumbull, Connecticut. She’s a nationally recognized author, blogger and speaker who’s been published in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.

Andrea Guarelli’s book is available at Amazon. Click here to purchase.

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