Friday, July 6, 2018

NUNTEI BO: Okinawan Fishing License for Traditional Martial Artists

Soke Hausel at Arizona hombu karate dojo in Mesa with
nuntei-bo 
"After we train hard in kobudo, we may spend the rest of the day fishing with nuntei-bo."

Yes, some Okinawans, even though disarmed by their king (Sho Shin) in 1480 AD, and later by Satsuma Samurai clan from neighboring Japan in 1609 AD., still found weapons of self-defense in tool boxes, mill houses and boats. One of these is nuntei bo used to catch fish and capture fishing nets.

Each spring, the Arizona Hombu Karate Dojo in Mesa, schedules a traditional Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Clinic with members of Utah Shorin Kai from the Salt Lake valley. Karate-ka  drive to Phoenix, or fly to Sky Harbor airport to attend the annual clinic, that is typically scheduled a few weeks prior to the Juko Kai National Black Belt Clinic in New Braunfels, Texas. A few members from the Arizona Hombu, University of Wyoming, Gillette Shorin-Ryu, Casper Shorin-Ryu, Cheyenne Shorin-Ryu, and Grand Canyon University attend the JKI clinic to learn more about traditional martial arts.

In the late spring of 2018, members of the Utah Shorin-Kai and their headmaster, Hanshi Robert Watson, 9th dan, gave presented Soke Hausel with a beautiful gift of nuntei-bo (Okinawan dialect) referred to as nunti-bo (Japanese), and sometimes spelled nunte-bo. Many great Okinawan karate and kobudo masters of the past fished with this tool as well as defended against muggers and samurai. Similar fishing tools include yari, tinbe, and eku: tools of trade of Okinawa fishermen.

Nuntei-bo is a fisherman’s gaff, mounted on a bo. It has a central sharp shaft bordered by opposing short shafts similar to manji sai. The nuntei-bo is designed to stab wayward fish, while the bordering yoko tsuka (opposing prongs) include a backward curved prong to assist in pulling fish nets from the water, while the forward curved prong is used to push nets away from a boat, or to trap a net between the short and long prongs. But for members of Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai, this can be used to select food at Long John Silvers, chase away irritating door-to-door salesmen, or train as Okinawan peasants in Mesa, Arizona. The tool is an extension of the empty hand (karate) and like any traditional Okinawan martial arts school, we teach all of our students to use these tools from the beginning of their martial arts path.

Soke Hausel (center) with Hanshi Rob Watson to his left and Renshi Todd Stoneking to his right, at the Arizona Hombu
 Karate Dojo in Mesa, May, 2018
Often, nuntei-bo is practiced with two manji sai. The sai are thrown during execution of kata. The throwing of sai is done either outside in the dirt, at a thick wooden block on a dojo floor, or most often just taken from one’s obi and placed on the dojo floor to symbolize where one would throw the weapon. 

In the Okinawa hogen (dialect), the tool is referred as nuntei, and means ‘thrusting hand’. At first glance the weapon looks like a spear, but is composed of bo used as a handle with a manji sai mounted on one end of the bo that is used for piercing and trapping. Because it was a common tool of Okinawan fishermen, these martial artists were allowed to carry it during the years when weapons were banned initially by King Shoshin of Okinawa, and later by Satsuma samurai. The tool was a effective in dealing with pirates, samurai, and fish, because of the length of the tool.

The origin of the weapon is thought to be China and likely imported about 6 centuries ago. A similar weapon is mentioned in the Bubishi known as sabu. As a martial art, nunteijutsu resembles bojutsu and even sojutsu.


Modern nuntei-bo are mostly made of Red Oak hard wood with a chrome manji sai on one end. Woods such as White Oak, Hickory, Jatoba and Purpleheart are all good for use as the bo shaft of the weapon. The total length of a nuntei bo is not set, but many are around 81 inches. The nuntei-bo has attributes of bo, with the added attraction of various strikes, traps and hooks using the manji sai.


Training in sojutsu with yari (Okinawan spear) at the 2018 clinic.
Black belts Amira and Suzette train in tanto (knife) and tekko (Okinawa
Horse Shoes). 
Maezato no tekko - training with tekko at the Arizona Hombu Karate Dojo

1 comment: