Thursday, January 14, 2016

Self-Defense on a Stick - Hanbo

Sensei Paula Borea applies kote jujiki waza to Sensei Bill Borea's fingers using hanbo at the Arizona
Hombu in the Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa dojo. 

The hanbo (半棒), or ‘half-bo’ is a practical martial arts weapon   since anyone can carry a stick, even on commercial flights. 

Similar to  hanbo is the  'bo'. The bo is a 6-foot staff (or stick) used for transporting goods over one's shoulders in many regions of Asia; thus the hanbo represents a stick half the length of a bo. Both are considered traditional martial arts weapons and the bo is employed in the martial art of bojutsu (棒術) which is part of kobudo and part of nearly every traditional Shorin-Ryu karate school.

Hanbo, however, is not part of most Shorin-Ryu karate and kobudo curriculum, but usually is part of traditional jujutsu and ninjutsu systems. But because of Soke Hausel's past experience, hanbo was added to the kobudo curriculum of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu karate and kobudo. Hanbo also goes hand in hand in training with the ASP (kioga) and cane (tsune) and many of the same techniques can be applied to each of these weapons - so when you learn one, you learn all three.

Legend suggests that during a battle between Kuriyama Ukon and General Suzuki Tangonokami Katsuhisa in 1575 AD, Kuriyama was armed with yari (spear) and Suzuki with katana (sword). During the battle, Suzuki sliced Kuriyama’s spear cutting it in half, but Kuriyama was able to continue the battle and overwhelm Suzuki with the remaining spear handle or hanbo (Kukishin Ryu).

Thus, Kuriyama realized the importance of a short staff for self-defense. Hanbo has now been incorporated into several martial arts including taijutsu (体術). Taijutsu is a term used interchangeably with jujutsu and most koryu (old) jujutsu systems use arresting techniques developed for law enforcement. In particular, munadori waza (lapel grab techniques) are the focus of many.

Hanbo traditionally measures three shaku (35.8 inches) in length, or essentially half the length of a traditional bo, which is roku-shakubo, or a stick of 6 shaku. Shaku is the archaic unit of measurement used in Japan until the metric system was adopted in 1961. Prior to 1961, shaku was a common unit of measure equal to 11.93 inches, or nearly one-foot. The shaku was derived from nature and is the average length between mature bamboo nodes.

But the Japanese also had another shaku which confused things. This latter shaku was equal to 14.9 inches or the length of an average whale whisker and was adopted in 1881 to measure cloth. To distinguish between these two, the cloth shaku was referred to as kujirajaka (kujira meaning whale); and the bamboo shaku was referred to as kanejaku

The hanbo is still used in training by many Japanese law enforcement agents and became prominent during the late 19th Century in the Edo Period, when some law enforcement officers were armed with wooden staffs and responsible for disarming samurai. These people worked in teams and attacked criminals simultaneously to disarm and restrain them with a rope - another art taught at the Arizona Hombu dojo - hojojutsu.

In 1868,  the Meiji Restoration began and Japan entered  the modern era. During the previous Edo period, samurai were still privileged. But a chain of events led to major changes in the political and social system in Japan resulting in opening the door to gaijin of the Western World. Thus, during the Meiji, members of the samurai class were eliminated and the honor of wearing swords was prohibited. 

Ben performs kubi waza on Sensei Bill Borea at the Ariona Hombu dojo, Mesa, Arizona
These events caused considerable unrest with samurai, who prior to this event, were allowed to bear arms – unlike peasants. A samurai rebellion resulted and many hanbo waza were developed at this time to evade strikes by katana that were followed with strikes to head or sword hand, or thrusts to the attacker's body. Included in this were many take downs followed by devastating restraints.

Members of Arizona Hombu Dojo, also known as the Arizona School of Traditional Karate on the border of Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, learn to use the hanbo. They practise against an uke (partner) with samurai sword as is tradition (as well as against an attacker with other weapons such as tanto [knife]). As they progress, they work up to juji-kumite to develop spontaneity and accuracy of action - in other words, to learn how to react. Restraints are also taught so that the hanbo can be used as a pragmatic instrument for law enforcement. The classes are open to the public at the 60 W. Baseline Center near the Cross Roads of Baseline and Country Club.

The HanboKioga (expandable police baton) and Tsune (Cane) are now taught Wednesday evenings at the Arizona Hombu beginning in 2016. An interactive map on our website will help you find our dojo (martial arts school).

In Seiyo Shorin-Ryu, to progress in hanbojutsu, students demonstrate basic strikes, blocks and stances and several self-defense ippon kumite against unarmed and armed assailants. They also learn very restrictive juji-kumite or sparring with the weapon. The kumite must be controlled with safety in mind. In the traditional martial arts - there are no contests - only self-improvement.

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