Friday, January 23, 2015

Sansetsukon at the Arizona Hombu, Mesa

Suzette blocks bo attack using sansetsukon during kobudo class at the Arizona School of Karate in Mesa.
A few months ago, Ben, one of our more dedicated students at the hombu, arrived with san-setsu-kon (translates as ‘three-segmented-bo’) in hand, asking about its use and if we would learn to use this weapon in class. Ben is into martial arts weapons and periodically shows up with uncommon weapons. Not too long ago, he came to our karate school (dojo) with an odachi in hand – a samurai sword that is as long as most people are tall.

You will find little information about sansetsukon on the Internet even though a few books have been written by Chinese martial artists on the subject. I have not seen these books so I have no idea if they are of value, but I warn people to be careful of purchasing martial arts books: most have little value and most are poorly written and not worth reading, but there are a handful of martial arts books that are good.

A sansetsukon is a Chinese martial arts weapon adapted by Okinawan karate practitioners for kobudo. In Chinese, sansetsukon is known as sanjiegum (三節棍) and referred to as a coiling dragon, probably because it gives the impression of a coiled dragon, and also because it bites its user like a coiled dragon until they can tame this beast with considerable training. The weapon consists of three  sectional staves with a combined length typical for many bo. These are attached by rope, chain, or rings and originally used as a flail by Chinese farmers. In martial arts it is used similar to surujin, bo and nunchaku combined. And like the surujin, it causes problems even for the most adept kobudo practitioners. 
A coiling dragon, sketch copyright by Soke Hausel

In the past, staves were manufactured from bamboo, white oak, wax wood, red maple or metal. Today, most are made of aluminum, bamboo, rattan, foam rubber or a variety of hardwood.

So, if you forgot to ask Santa-san for one of these (with band aids), you might consider getting one this spring because we will introduce the weapon on kobudo night in the spring of 2015 at the Arizona Hombu (a.k.a, Arizona School of Traditional Karate). It is a brutal weapon particularly to those new to its use, whether you are on the receiving or attacking end. Even so, you will find it is an effective weapon. And just like the nunchaku, I recommend starting with foam padded sansetsukon

Some suggest that the sansetsukon was introduced to Okinawa from the Chinese Fuijian province by Soke Shinko Matayoshi (1888-1947) who also created two kata for the Matayoshi Shorin-Ryu Kobudo system. The two kata were referred to as sansetsukon dai ichi and sansetsukon dai ni. At the Arizona Hombu, we will learn basics, bunkai and sansetsukon no kata

The sansetsukon, or three staved nunchuku, is a
difficult weapon to master. 
Soke Shinko was succeeded by his son Shimpo Matayoshi (1921-1997). Following the death of Shimpo, Matayoshi Kobudo fragmented into different groups with one headed by Yasushi Matayoshi who operates the Matayoshi hombu dojo in Okinawa known as the Kodokan. Kodokan refers to a place where one can receive “Instruction in the Way”; and there is more than one Kodokan training center. The best known is that of the Judo Kodokan (35o42’28”N; 139o45’13”E) founded by Jigiro Kano in Tokyo, which is an incredible, 8-story dojo. If you use the above coordinates on Google Earth, you can visit the Judo Kodokan on aerial photography.

In 2003, the University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo club brought the well-known Okinawan martial artist Tadashi Yamashita to the university to teach a clinic, which some of you reading this newsletter likely remember. Yamashita is one of the more famous students of Shimpo Matayoshi

If you are into martial arts movies, this weapon was used by Jackie Chan in the 2000 movie Shanghai Noon. It was also seen in the 1980 movie The Victim and the 2006 movie Fearless. 

"Optimism" - pencil sketch of a coiling dragon,
copyright by Soke Hausel

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