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Kobudo a Japanese term that can be translated as "old martial way of Okinawa".
It generally refers to the classical weapon traditions of Okinawan martial arts, most notably the rokushakubo (six foot staff, known as the b?), sai (short unsharpened dagger), tonfa (handled club), kama (sickle), and nunchaku (nunchucks), but also the tekko (knuckledusters), tinbe-rochin (shield and spear), and surujin (weighted chain). Less common Okinawan weapons include the tambo (short staff) and the eku (boat oar of traditional Okinawan design).
It is a popular story and common belief that Okinawan farming tools evolved into weapons due to restrictions placed upon the peasants that meant they could not carry arms. As a result, it is said, they were defenseless and developed a fighting system around their traditional farming implements.
However, modern martial arts scholars have been unable to find historical backing for this story, and the evidence uncovered by various martial historians points to the Pechin Warrior caste in Okinawa as being those who practiced and studied martial arts, rather than the Heimin, or commoner. It is true that Okinawans, under the rule of foreign powers, were prohibited from carrying weapons or practicing with them in public. But the weapons-based fighting that they secretly practiced (and the types of weapons they practiced with) had strong Chinese roots, and examples of similar weapons have been found in China, pre-dating the Okinawa adaptations.
Kobudo traditions were shaped by indigenous Okinawan techniques that arose within the Aji, or noble class, and by imported methods from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the other countries that traded with the Ry?ky?s. The majority of modern kobudo traditions that survived the difficult times during and following World War II were preserved and handed down by Taira Shinken (Ry?ky? Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai), Chogi Kishaba (Ryuku Bujustsu Kenkyu Doyukai), and Kenwa Mabuni (Shito Ryu). Practical systems were developed by Toshihiro Oshiro and Motokatsu Inoue in conjunction with these masters. Other noted masters who have kobudo kata named after them include Chotoku Kyan, Shigeru Nakamura, Kanga Sakukawa, and Shinko Matayoshi.
Kobudo arts are thought by some to be the forerunner of karate, and several styles of that art include some degree of kobudo training as part of their curriculum. Similarly, it is not uncommon to see an occasional kick or other empty-hand technique in a kobudo kata.
The techniques of the two arts are closely related in some styles, evidenced by the empty-hand and weapon variants of certain kata: for example, Kanku-dai and Kanku-sai, and Gojushiho and Gojushiho-no-sai, although these are examples of Kobudo Kata which have been developed from Karate Kata and are not traditional Kobudo forms. Other more authentic kobudo kata demonstrate elements of empty hand techniques as is shown in older forms such as Soeishi No Dai, a Bo form which is one of the few authentic Kobudo kata to make use of a kick as the penultimate technique. Kobudo and Kobujutsu are older and have undergone less "modern development" than Karate and still retain much more of the original elements, reflections of which can be seen in more modern karate kata.
The connection between empty hand and weapon methods can be directly related in systems such as that formulated in order to preserve both arts such as Inoue/Taira's Ry?ky? Kobujutsu Hozon Shinko Kai and Motokatsu Inoue's Yuishinkai Karate Jutsu. M.Inoue draws direct comparisons between the use of certain weapons and various elements of empty hand technique such as sai mirroring haito/shuto waza, tonfa reflecting that of urkaken and hijiate, and kama of kurite and kakete, as examples. The footwork in both methods is interchangeable.