Weapons in TJR jujutsu overview


TJR deals with unarmed defences against various weapons as well as the use of various weapons.  The use of weapons forms a crucial part of the TJR syllabus.  The main weapons used are:

  • Tanbo (short stick or baton);
  • Hanbo (walking stick);
  • Jo (4 foot stick);
  • Jujutsu stick (yawara stick, pocket stick or kubotan);
  • Sword (bokken or wooden sword);
  • Manriki kusari (weighted chain).

It is important to know how weapons are regulated.  In Western Australia (as in many other jurisdictions) there is legislation directly dealing with weapons in general and martial art weapons in particular.  See the discussion of the Weapons Act.

Overview of weapon syllabus

The use of weapons in the syllabus occurs in the more senior grades.  From and including second kyu, there is a section in each grade dealing with various weapons.  Students are encouraged to commence training weapons before they reach those grades.  In fact, after fifth kyu, students may grade the weapon sections of higher grades.  For instance, having graded fifth kyu a student may grade the weapon part of second kyu whenever they are ready.

The most important part of training in weapons is that the use of the weapon is an extra level that is built upon the foundation and underlying structure of the empty handed syllabus.  This is a significant matter.

Historically, traditional martial arts schools were "composite" schools.  They practiced warfare in all its forms.  There were sound practical reasons for this approach.  Schools may have had their specialities or things that they were well known for, however, a sound working knowledge and understanding of all weapons was essential for a warrior.  Schools specializing in individual weapons was a development that commenced in Japan in the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868).  This development is a topic worthy of separate study.

Rev knives opt 7.5

The modern soldier is no different to what can be regarded as the traditional samurai warrior, in so far as reliance on weapons was concerned.  It is the weapons that are the most important part of their training.  Soldiers work their way down from their machine gun, assault rifle, sidearm, bayonet, trenching tools and anything else they can lay their hands on, before resorting to an unarmed combat as a last resort.  The traditional samurai warrior was the same.  Archery, spear, sword and smaller weapons all came before having to resort to unarmed combat.

When it comes to deciding upon a training regime and the time that needs to be devoted to the various skills and weapons that warriors (both past and present) must gain high levels of skill, it is difficult to justify vast amounts of time being devoted unarmed combat.  This is perfectly understandable.  It is the same for elite military forces.  Overall, their training is more extensive and more thorough in all areas, but still they have to prioritise their time.  Unarmed combat is generally perceived to be a low priority.  The result is that despite the hype that seems to surround the unarmed combat of elite forces, they are not necessarily the repository of particularly good unarmed combat skills or knowledge.  Further, the unarmed combat suitable for military use diverges from the self defence requirements of ordinary civilians;  quite simply, the rules of engagement are different.

Closer to the civilian context may be police forces.  However, police rely on a number of weapons and force options such as side arms, batons, tasers, pepper sprays and the like.  And with the military, the allocation of training time to all the facets of the work is a difficult task.  Whenever, an issue involving the police hits the media, usually, somewhere along the line the suggestion is that their training in a particular area should be increased.  This is all very well, hoever, very quickly the police would find themselves spending all of their time training and not on the streets.  For the same reasons, the levels of unarmed combat or self defence skills in police forces is generally found to be very limited.

The reason for diverging, is to explain that often the development of unarmed combat for warriors, from whatever age, is addressed from the perspective of coming downwards from weapon arts.  The result for unarmed combat is that the end product is heavily influenced by the pathway to get there and the use of primary methods of combat being the weapons.  The civilian context is different.  The most important part is the unarmed skills used in self defence.  The use of weapons is more remote in the civilian context, usually simply because of their lack of availability at the appropriate time.  The use of weapons is therefore a lower priority in the self defence context.  Both the law and morality require proportionate responses to an assault.  Using a weapon may only be appropriate in the more extreme circumstances.  If a weapon is held, there may have to be "soft" option chosen when deploying it

The influence flows both ways.  The use of weapons flows on to the use of no weapons just as the use of no weapons flows on to the use of weapons.  However, it is the starting point that is quite important.  The starting point in the civilian context is unarmed self defence and the methods that are used must allow for the ease of building a weapon defence structure onto the same  methods used for unarmed self defence.

The modern civilian requirement of self defence is the starting point of the use of voice, negotiating skills and then unarmed self defence.  If the situation warrants it, the use of a weapon (if available) may be justified.  The first rules here is that anything available should be used as a weapon.  It may be anything in a person's grasp or within easy reach.  It may be any kind of ordinary everyday object.  Movie buffs will remember the fight scene in the apartment between Jason Bourne and the assassin in the Bourne Identity!  A good example of using anything available as a weapon.

After learning the basics of unarmed self defence, the next level is to train with some objects that are reasonably likely to be available in everyday life.  This is why, historically, martial arts are full of farming implements and utensils of everyday life that have been turned into weapons.  Not necessarily because of their innate design or functionality for the purpose, but rather because they were simply available.

An example of this interaction of unarmed with armed self defence is that the methods of foot movement to avoid attacks, unbalancing to provide opportunities to counter can apply consistently.  The methods of movement to achieve this are equally applicable to self defence without weapons as it is with weapons.  This is to be contrasted with, for instance, the bobbing and weaving of a boxer which is appropriate for that particular sporting situation, however, those methods do not lend themselves to building a weapon system upon them.  Of course it will be said that boxing has a self defence application and it does.  However, its methods do not derive from weapons and do not lend themselves to building a weapon capability upon the structure of its methods.  So whilst things may have self defence applications, if they do not derive from a combat heritage, extension to dealing with weapons (both the use of and defending against) becomes difficult indeed without learning a new set of methods.

Weapons training is an invaluable means of learning about engagement intervals (maai), timing (hyoshi), lines and trajectories of attack (hassuji), and movement (taisabaki).  These are aspects that translate directly into techniques used for unarmed combat.

Often it is claimed in some martial arts that sticks and knives are used in precisely the same way as the hands.  Well, there can certainly be some similarities.  However, it is important to understand the differences and what changes need to be made to accommodate the unique aspects of each weapon.  A simple example of this is a thrusting strike with a fist and with a knife.  The hand is only a threat on the extension whilst the knife is a threat both on the extension and the retraction.  This additional threat needs to be understood and addressed.

So the weapon system of TJR is constructed to be compatible with the unarmed methods.  It also helps to enhance the learning of unarmed methods as it involves the application of consistent methods already in place.

The next element is weapons being useful and practical for self defence.  This applies to all of the sticks as they (and close substitutes) are a part of everyday existence.  It does not apply to the sword, but the sword has such an intimate connection with jujutsu that it cannot be ignored.  Some sword methods have a closer connection to unarmed methods than others.  Only sword methods that have a high correlation to unarmed methods are used in the system.

The teaching of bladed weapons is something that is approached with some reticence.  An edged weapon has potential for considerable harm.  The focus of the system is to defend against aggressors armed with such weapons rather than actually using them.  However, in order to acquire good skills in defence, training partners need to acquire some good skills in learning to attack with and edged weapon.  Training with edged weapons is approached from this perspective.

The manriki kusari (weighted chain) is a more novel weapon.  It is a difficult weapon to master.  Originally, its primary purpose was to ensnare and allow the disarming of a swordsman.  In TJR it is used primarily for controlling techniques.  Possible everyday substitutes are ropes, belts and dog leads.