One of our newer students asked if our focus is self-defense why we still train with classical weapons like the katana. They felt it was very unlikely that they would run into anyone with a Japanese sword. I can understand a new person’s perspective believing they may not see these particular weapons in a fight but weapons in general are a part of our society so we need to be able to deal with them.
The problem I believe is in labeling. If you call something a ‘classical weapon’ does that mean you won’t ever see it in a fight? If you Google Japanese sword attacks you will see the answer to that is obviously no. If you are practicing sword fighting does that mean you can’t kick? A can of fruit cocktail can get the same effect as a shuriken and did in one story I read online.
People tell me that they are ground fighters and you need to learn to fight there as if it is somehow different than standing. So I play on the ground with them and pull out a training knife to see how they deal with it.
A friend of mine asked me as I was walking into his karate studio to work out how a ninja would deal with nunchaku. He was spinning his nunchaku through the air between the changing room and me. I tossed the change from my pocket gently toward his face and then took the nunchaku away as he flinched.
There are knifes in your kitchen, sticks and ropes in your garage, rocks on the ground and cans of fruit cocktail on the shelves. I learned to think of weapons in categories: sticks, blades, projectiles, flexible weapons, and combinations. Any and all can be found in some form at any moment including on your body.
There is no such thing as a knife fight or a ground fight or an unarmed fight if you are talking about self-defense and not sport. There is just a fight and weapons are always potentially part of that fight. We are fortunate that our art has the ability to teach us how to deal with this.
To-Shin Do is practical self defense for our time in history. The principles taught today apply to today but were passed on from a time when fighting unarmed was extremely rare. The principles learned by studying historical weapons can still apply today. It goes to show how much more our art is then just a series of memorized movements.
Basic sword cutting can teach you proper punching if you understand the principles. The body movements used to spin a bo staff while doing bofuri can teach you how to kick extremely well. The ideas and concepts or our art are timeless and limitless.
Training with weapons acts like a magnifier; if your taijutsu is good the weapons will magnify it. If your taijutsu needs work it will be much more evident when you use a weapon.
So when someone new questions why he or she is studying ‘classical’ weapons, they may just need the simple answer, because it’s part of our art that teaches you how to survive.
Be careful not to limit your training to only the way you think it should be.