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 the training is done, we go fishing - fishing with nuntei-bo, another of many tools used by Okinawan fishermen to defend their homes and rights. Yes, some Okinawans, even though they were disarmed by their own king (Sho Shin) in 1480 AD, and later by the Satsuma Samurai clan from neighboring Japan in 1609 AD., they still found weapons of self-defense in their tool boxes and boats. One of these is a nuntei bo.

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

In the late spring of 2018, members of the Utah Shorin-Kai and their headmaster, Hanshi Robert Watson, 9th dan, gave Soke Hausel a beautiful gift of a 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 and defended theirselves 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, which characteristically is 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 ocean 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 tool can be used to select food at Long John Silvers, chase away irritating door-to-door salesmen, and even impale home invaders. 

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

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