Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mesa Martial Arts Classes: a Hoe Lot Better at the Arizona Hombu Karate & Kobudo Dojo

The Kuwa (gawa or kue) is one of many traditional Okinawan kobudo weapons practiced by members of Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai. Better known in the West as a garden hoe; in the East it is not only a garden tool, but at one time was a common peasant weapon of self-defense or one of the many so-called classical karate weapons. When training with this weapon in a dojo, you can use a common, everyday hoe found at your local hardware store such as Lowes, or search for a traditional kuwa on the internet. You will not find them at martial arts supply houses because few instructors teach this weapon. But when you purchase kuwa; before you take it to the dojo, be sure that the blade (igashira) is securely attached to the handle (ii).

Years ago, I purchased a hoe from a hardware store in Laramie and took it to the University of Wyoming dojo and started teaching kihon (basic techniques). One of the first strikes (if not the first) I tried with my hoe was a down cut (top-of-head strike) and the kuwaba (blade) shot off the iie (handle) like it had been shot out of a cannon. At the shomen (front) of the dojo, we had a large tatami (mat) hanging on the front wall we used for jujutsu training. The blade hit the mat with considerable force that echoed throughout the Educational Building Gym. I had no idea garden hoes were so poorly constructed. Luckily, I was facing to the front of the dojo and no one was in-between; otherwise I would have had a tough time explaining to the ER physician as to how the blade of a hoe got embedded into one of our students. So now, when people visit their local hardware stores to purchase a hoe, I request they drill a hole through the metal blade jacket and wooden handle to secure the blade with a nut and bolt.

The kuwa can be used in many ways for self defense - using the kuwaba (blade) for cutting is pretty obvious, but it can also be used to hook an arm, leg, or your attacher’s weapon. This can also be used as a tsuki (thrust) for striking, particularly after hooking the attacker. The opposite end of the blade known as the igashira, is for striking and is devastating when swung like a bat. As with some weapons containing a bo (stick), the kuwa has a handle that is typically the length of a jo (4-foot long bo) that can be used for horizontal thrusts and blocks. However, blocking a katana (sword) with the iie would not be recommended unless it is a last resort. The iie can also be used for outward, inward, high and low blocks with the ijiri (pommel) used for thrusts.

Basically, only one kuwa kata has survived over the years known as kuwa no te with variations. If you are interested in a traditional kuwa, you might check the internet. My recommendation would be to buy a small hoe because kuwa are slow and cumbersome.

There is a two-person kata on the internet which uses kuwa and eku (Okinawan oar).

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