A Brief History of Okinawan Kobudo: Bringing Ancient Weapons Arts into the Modern Age
Each of our arts has a rich history backed by an intact lineage of lifetime instructor-student relationships. Shihan Crosswell has amassed a stunning collection of weapons forms from a distinguished lineup of authentic kobudo masters.
A historical encyclopedia of empty-hand forms & technique
Preserving the wisdom of masters renowned & obscure
Honoring the roots of an ancient samurai tradition
Okinawan kobudo: An ancient practice shrouded in mystery
Clockwise from top: sai, kama, nunchaku, tembe/tsuruchin, tekko, tanto, nunti sai, manriki-gusari,
Left to right:
The history of kobudo is as long and multifaceted as humankind’s use of weapons itself. Though weapons techniques and loosely organized systems of weapons study predate empty-handed martial arts, it is more accurate to consider karate and kobudo as interrelated aspects of a single approach to defense and combat. The core of today’s Okinawan weaponry can be traced back to a handful of masters from the late 1700s whose knowledge is said to have come from extensive study in China—knowledge that was then preserved through either family or village tradition or through Okinawan groups designed to preserve the region’s rich kobujutsu heritage.
Kenwa Mabuni with Shinken Taira & other masters of his day
Taira sparring with tonfa
Rescuing a dying tradition
In an era when traditional weapons arts were rapidly fading from view, Shinken Taira (1898–1970), was one of the few martial arts masters who dedicated his life to amassing as much kobudo knowledge as he could from a wide variety of sources. One of those sources was Kenwa Mabuni, who had collected a formidable amount of kobudo knowledge while travelling throughout the Okinawan islands in his work with the police force. Shihan Crosswell (full biography) recieved the core of his weapons training via Shogo Kuniba and Teruo Hayashi, both of whom were dedicated students of Shinken Taira. Teruo Hayashi’s kobudo syllabus is now collectively taught as Kenshin-ryu, a name he chose to honor his two primary weapons teachers, Shinken Taira and Ryuei-ryu master Kenko Nakaima.
Crosswell & Hayashi
Crosswell & John Sells demonstrate Japanese sword vs. tonfa
Honoring and preserving a priceless art
In addition to the extensive bo, sai, tonfa, nunchaku, and kama knowledge he received from Shogo Kuniba and Teruo Hayashi, Shihan Crosswell worked closely with renowned kobudo historian and practitioner John Sells for over a decade amassing a broad collection of older and more rare weapons forms. During this time and in the decades that followed, he got direct source information on Shinken Taira’s kobudo from Don Shapland and Hidemi Tomoyose as well as information on lesser-known village-style kata from instructors like Roy Hobbs and Terry Stanton, who studied directly under the Okinawan masters as well. Other notable instructors who shared their kobudo knowledge with Shihan Crosswell include George Alexander, Fumio Demura, Kotaro Iha, Masahiro Nakamoto, and Lee Gray.