Fudoshin Bukido Kobudo

The Bukido Dojo has been fortunate enough to be able to write for an online Martial arts magazine www.martialnews.co.uk but I have also posted the blogs here as well.


This month I have invited guest blogger, Gary Morris, to write a post. Here's Gary's profile:

My martial arts training commenced in 1978 with karate as my chosen art. After moving to London from Oxford I attended a variety of different classes training in shukokai, wado ryu, shotokan and kyokushinkai styles. The move up North brought me into contact with my “true” senseis - Nisar Smiler, Dave Macintyre and David Macintyre. I am a member of David Macintyre’s Bukido Kobudo weapons club where my passion for learning is continually stimulated through the expert tuition received and the wide variety of weapons practiced with. I currently run my own Wado Ryu / Shukokai karate class (Sonkei Karate) with a particular emphasis upon the traditional Japanese / Okinawan values of respect and self discipline.

Motivation and learning in the martial Arts

As a martial arts instructor I have long been fascinated by the vast difference in how students apply themselves and the very individual learning styles they bring. One question in particular intrigues me and this relates to motivation. Firstly, we can consider the attractions for any given art and secondly (and perhaps more significantly) what holds and engages students with it. Having decided we want to learn a martial art we are greeted by a bewildering array of styles and arts to choose from. It feels like visiting a market place with clubs and instructors touting for business, advertising their wares through a myriad of routes including posters, leaflets, demonstrations, internet sites or even personal doorstep visits!

The choice of club to join might also be influenced by geographic location, media influences or some other pertinent factor. Most senior martial artists I know have sampled many different clubs and styles before finding the one that best suits them. For myself, the martial art that first lured me was karate although it took over 10 classes and 4 different styles at locations across the country to finally find the instructors I wanted to train under.

In my experience the drop-out rates for those learning karate is significantly high with most leaving after only a handful of lessons. Talking to students about this I learnt that it “just wasn’t for them” or “not what they expected”. What is maybe more surprising concerns those students who appeared to be enjoying their training and then leave after persuading their parents to buy a gi and other expensive training gear. What did they expect though?

Many come to the dojo inspired by watching Jackie Chan, the Ninja Turtles or Kung Fu Panda, having witnessed explosive and dynamic techniques, flying kicks and shattering strikes. They might also have played video games, where after a relatively short space of time they find themselves embroiled in combat, warding off multiple attackers. Coming to the dojo there is the hope of emulating their screen heroes and that these skills will be quickly mastered and realised. What they find instead is that learning is slow and that instant gratification is not to be attained.

What is it though that facilitates moving beyond this point and setting more realistic achievements for oneself? A starting place might be with the motivational theorists such as Abraham Maslow although it is the point about gratification which is worth exploring further i.e. “What return do I get for all of the time and energy invested”. This is especially salient when the initial enthusiasm and energy start to dwindle and progress seems slow. It is also not helped by the advent of winter nights, a particularly gripping storyline in Eastenders or Champions League football.

Anyway, it is worth considering the various internal and external drivers which help to maintain enthusiasm and engagement with continued learning. There may be a process of trial and error with some students or even offering a broad enough “menu” to satisfy the learning styles of the wider group be they reflectors, activists, theorists etc. For some, sparring and pairs work gives a feel of instant application and a testing out of one’s abilities, whilst others prefer to focus upon their techniques through applications such as kata.

It is interesting to consider the grading system which awards belts for continued progress and attainment of skills - this is mainly a Western concept/need. I am sure other instructors have witnessed the renewed interest and passion for learning amongst students when a grading is approaching and the enticement of a new coloured belt (especially black) proves motivation enough. Take away the grading system and the number of students remaining would most likely plummet. Ask a number of students what their primary goal is and they will indicate the attainment of a black belt – as if this was the pinnacle, the Holy Grail which would enable a process of self actualisation to occur.

I always remember a fable told by an old sensei about two students who were asked why they wanted to join his class. Student A stated that he wanted to get his black belt. He was given a black belt and told he had fulfilled his goal and could now go home. Student B announced that his intention was to learn karate. He was beckoned into the dojo and asked to join training. The lure of the black belt is a powerful motivator although has a major drawback in that having achieved it, the passion for continued learning for a number of students diminishes. Having achieved this notable status symbol the drive to keep working hard and focus upon the minutiae of techniques is simply not there. The problem here is that the main motivating factor lay in an external source and not from within.

It is a shame as it is hoped that martial artists appreciate the responsibility that is inherent within the Dan grade of putting something back into the art, namely by helping others learn. This is vital, especially if we want our arts to stay alive – there a number of styles and techniques which have reached the end of their lineage and simply died out, at best preserved in part through writing or diagrams. For me the primary motivational drivers were internal.

The award of 1st Dan was merely an occasion to move from the top of one ladder to the bottom of another. The more I learn the more I realise I still have to learn and after 30 years training my appetite remains undiminished. The joints and bones might be creaking a bit now and I can see the kicks getting lower but nonetheless I have a lot more to achieve and pass on. For this reason, it is the core of “switched on” students who I have most time for within my class. I would rather have a smaller class of these students than a large number of ambivalent and unfocused ones. It is the small core group who will after all pass on the learning that we give to them. 


After receiving a welcoming invite to attend and demonstrate at the Manchester Japanese Doki Doki Festival, martial artists from the Bukido Dojo and other martial arts dojos were about to embark upon something that is different from a traditional demonstration.

The Manchester Doki Doki Festival is a celebration of all things Japanese, from traditional Taiko drumming to modern day Manga and Cosplay, food from Sweet Octopus and lessons on Origami; there really was something for everyone. The Bukido dojo was invited to exhibit the philosophies and teachings of traditional Okinawan weaponry alongside other dojo’s to show many different martial arts.

Warming the audience up with an example of empty hand katas were students from the Shōsha dojo, with a sharp and precise routine they presented the crowd with a more traditional style of karate. Following on from this, other weapons kata was performed by Bukido students showing how the farming tools can be adapted to be used as weapons.

Now captivated, onlookers were treated to displays between students from the Shōsha dojo and Bukido dojo, in which the bo, hanbo, naginata, katana, tanto, nunchaku, sai and kama were used. Members of the Nippon dojo also showed there unarmed battlefield ju-jitsu combat skills with free flowing drillsThe Bujikan Senki dojo followed on with a demonstration of Ninjitsu skills with many attacks from armed and unarmed attackers, whilst showing many different weapons that would have been used by the Ninja.

Away from the martial arts displays, it was hard for anyone not notice Japan’s love for Manga and Anime, with hundreds of guests sporting Cosplay; this is a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Alongside Cosplay there was also a fashion show and competition for Lolita Fashion; afashion subculture that originated in Japan and is based on Victorian-era clothing as well as other costumes.
Keeping the rhythm flowing were the Kayobi Taiko, a community group who practice the Japanese art of Taiko Drumming, they performed a piece thought to be thousands of years old, once used to ‘welcome’ the Gods.Other stalls were also present, some translating and selling Kanji, others drawing your very own Anime portrait, face painters, Manga stalls selling comics and clothing and stalls with a vast array of art works on sale, it was hard not to be pulled in by the Japanese culture. This being the first event of its kind in Manchester it proved a sure fire hit for everyone involved. Both educational and fun, I’m sure Manchester will be pleased to welcome back Doki Doki.

Fundraising for an old Master

October is a busy month for me, and my family. Not because of Halloween or the build up to Bonfire Night and Christmas; it’s a month when we fund-raise for my late father’s charity: The National Aspergillus Centre in Wythenshawe, Manchester.

I personally ask for all the people that I train with for a donation of £1 and this is supported by many of my friends and family in and out of the arts. I try to train as many times as I can and also try to train with a new dojo, to keep the arts alive for future generations. I teach 3 lessons a week on a normal week in which my pupils also support me in my month of training.


I started the month on Saturday 1st October, training with the Satori Kan Kenjutsu dojo in Sunderland and with a good friend of mine, Sensei John Barrass. We were taught in an extended 4-hour class and were taken through many mutto waza of unarmed battlefield techniques.

The first Thursday of each month the Aspergillus Centre hosts a patients/carers support group in which people get a chance to get together and share ideas and stories but also hear how things are progressing in the treatment and prevention of the disease.
This Thursday, 6th October, I made people aware of my intentions and everyone was supportive. Before my father died he was studying at the Open University and unfortunately never found out his results from finishing his diploma.
My mother and I made the trip to collect his certificates in his memory the day after the meeting which was Friday 7th.

Sunday 9th I made the trip up to one of my father’s old friends in the arts, to the Shosha dojo headed by Sensei Adrian Ward to train together in Kobudo. There were members from other dojos as well who joined in and we worked on bo and sai.


On Saturday 15th I trained with the E.S.D.C.S dojo in Warrington where they ran a 6 hour street combat and dan grade course. A great but punishing day was had and I wished I’d had a day off from training after this session, but it was back to the dojo in the morning.

Sunday 16th I was teaching bo at the Ryu Do, Warrington where we practiced contact partner work, going through a short kata and bunkai.

Wednesday 19th was the anniversary and at class we lit a candle and held a moment’s silence in which we were supported by members of the Manchester Martial Arts Academy. We had a very productive class running through Iaido Setei kata and some kama.

Sunday 23rd I was back in Warrington to discuss with other interested members about keeping the old ‘Ippon, Wazari’ style of refereeing, something I remember fighting under in my days of Shukokai Karate.

My final training session was with the TYGA dojo in Garstang with Sensei Mike Dickinson. We had an hour’s ‘introduction’ to Japanese and Okinawan Kobudo before a 2-hour training session on the jo and sai, again a very productive session for keeping the arts alive and another future dojo I shall be keeping in contact with in the future.

I managed to present a cheque at the next Aspergillus patients / carers meeting for £225, not the biggest but I’m sure it will go to good use. I want to thank everyone who helped me in my fundraising and for also supporting me in my martial arts training, the arts have so much to offer many types of people and I know I would not be the person I am today without them.


Open Minded

I started my martial arts training at the age of 5. Like most children who train my father took me down to the local club near home. It could have been any art really, Ju-Jitsu, Boxing, Judo, Aikido the list is endless. It wasn’t the art that was important at the time, it was more to introduce some form of training to me, but it was karate.

I continued to train and then started to enjoy the weapons that were taught sometimes in class. I was never interested in the history or where the art came from when I was younger, like most kid’s all I wanted to do was kumite and throw nunchaku round like a ninja turtle! Other people used to say why don’t you try another art but I always had this closed mind that no I’m a karate man, no other art will be able to offer me anything, how wrong I was.

Its only once you get older and start to read about the history and where the arts came from, especially the Japanese arts for me, then you realise they are all linked together. Kobudo training for when you have weapons or tools, Ju-Jitsu for throwing and joint locking on the battlefield, karate for the kicks and strikes of the farmers.

Unfortunately some people who have studied one art for many years seem to become close minded and hate the thought of standing in line and learning rather than teaching, kind of scared that they might be starting again. I’m a great believer in having a go at something else to understand what other arts there are and what they offer. Don’t dismiss an art until you have at least tried it and can say its not for you. To try something helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own art and helps you as a martial artist.

Everybody is different in sizes, shapes, fitness levels and there is too much information to learn everything in all the systems. This would be impossible but to at least have a go and try something, even if its just on a course or few classes opens the mind to new ideas.

I recently taught on a course with two other instructors, there were many different people training from all different arts. I was the youngest and least experienced of the other two instructors and I started by explaining to everyone what today mean’s to me, and it was to be ‘open minded’ today. Try the different arts being taught and take from them what you wish, if you don’t like them that’s fine but at least you had give it a go.

So what am I trying to say, be careful not to get ’stuck in a rut’. Teaching is not learning. Yes we learn from our pupils but there is no replacement to standing in line and learning yourself. It helps your own training and knowledge but also opens your mind to what other people do in there dojo’s. You never know you might even enjoy it!



We all know that were living in tough times. Unemployment is high, were supposed to be out of the worst of this recession but I‘m not too sure we are. Everywhere we look prices are rising, food and fuel, and the cost of living is going through the roof. Work is also hard, myself I’m feeling the pinch being self-employed and the amount of money left in people’s pocket at the end of the week / month after paying all the bills is decreasing.

How does this effect the regular martial artist trying to run a club? Some clubs ask for direct debits, high training / grading / membership fee’s, and it really is starting to be a luxury to be able to train, but should it be like this?

I know some people have to made a living from teaching but most clubs are happy to break even and when you start seeing numbers dropping from your class due to the amount it costs to train what should you do? I personally have had to give up one of my weekly training sessions, and the only reason is because I cannot afford to go. The class was excellent but Its not just the training fee, there was fuel to get there, the evening I miss from work, licence fees, grading fee’s ect ect.. so there must be others in the same situation.

Have the boom days of the 80’s and 90’s gone when dojo’s where full to the rafters, 4 classes a night with 50 pupils in each! I was speaking to a old friend about this and he said ‘in the 70’s martial arts were only for the die hard, people who wanted to train no matter what, then in the 80’s and 90’s every street corner had a karate class. This was the Karate Kid or Bruce Lee era but now were going back to how it used to be, just the hardcore martial artists who will train come rain or shine. Is this a good thing?

I’m a great believer in share and share alike. I teach not for the money but the sheer buzz of sharing an art which was around hundreds of years ago and keeping the arts alive. It’s the same reason I stand in line and learn with others who have the same passion. I believe this is what people in the past would have wanted from all the traditional styles. I have been learning and teaching with some very close friends recently and we’ve all been sharing information and I’ve loved every minute but what about if it is your occupation? If numbers are down in your lessons, what should you do? I personally would like to teach a class of 3 or 4 pupils who want to be there and learn rather than a class of 20 who don’t but I do know that its not my profession. I have had pupils in the past who are keen to train but been going through a bad time, just lost there job and I tell them not to worry about the money, just come and train. I don’t know many businesses on the high street can afford to do that!

I’m a martial artist full stop. Is it my profession? No. Is it my hobby? No. Its part of me. Its my passion and my life. If I cannot afford to train, I train at home. If I‘m injured I still visit the dojo if possible or read about the history of the arts. I visit other peoples dojo’s to keep in touch and support others. I look online at websites, look at clubs in different countries. Every day I’m either teaching, training or studying, and why do I do this? Because the arts are part of me but I am worried about how financial difficulties will effect us all. I know we’ll all get through this but its something to think about.

A Japanese Garden

When you think of a Japanese Garden what springs to mind? Bonsai’s, Koi, Bamboo, them temple shriney things…. did I mention bonsai’s!!!! That was my thoughts as I had never visited one before but I was about to have my eyes well and truly opened as we had arranged to go one the guided tour of the Tatton Park Japanese Garden.

The garden was made after Alan de Tatton, the owner of Tatton Estate visited the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition in White City, London back in 1910 and got the inspiration from there. He decided in the private family garden he would have a team build a Japanese themed garden along side his western themed gardens. The location was to be on a small island, which was in the middle of his small lake. Work took place and the garden was completed and enjoyed by the family but unfortunately the garden was not kept correctly looked after and was left.

In 2001 the garden was restored with money from Cheshire Council and the National Heritage on the conditions that it was restored to how it was originally. Work was carried out and plans of the old garden were followed to bring the garden back to life.

To enter the garden you have to cross a rustic bridge, which was made from Japanese cedar from the trees, this bridge has a steel skeleton as it had to be re-enforced to get machinery onto the island for the renovation but was then coated in the original cedar. Once on the island you first see that is very well kept. There is star grass on the floor with white stones and large rocks on the white stones. There are also very tightly clipped bushes. The star grass represents the earth, the white stones the sky and the rocks are clouds. There is also a cedar tree, which the branches have been pinned to grow out straight, this represents a ladder for the spirits to climb down and sit on the bushes.

You then follow the path around and are then meet with a ‘Torri Gate’ which originally was very high and was a place that the farmers could have there chickens perch, it then became known as a gate to important places to is place near shrines. The gate in the garden has be made quite low so you must bow your head in respect to enter the garden. Once through the gate you then arrive at the Shinto Shrine. The shrine is made of Japanese cedar again and is a ‘homing’ place for spirits to visit. It is very basic inside as it was not supposed to be for humans. The shine pictured is 100 years old and the wood has never been treated. The only damage you’ll see was caused by the heavy snowfall we had back in 2009.

Next to the shrine is a ‘Inari’ fox. Inari is the god of rice and food and would be placed there to bless the people that they would never go hungry. The fox also wore a red bib, which stopped any evil forces on making children ill. They would usually come in pairs but because the garden only had one at the shrine originally it has to remain that way. We then crossed the river via the ‘Almond Eye Bridge’ that is named due to its reflection in the water, which looks like an eye. The bridges were made like this so any intruders on horseback would have to dismount as the horse couldn’t cross due to the steep angle leaving the rider weakened, also any archers would not be able to fire at a person fleeing over the far size of the bridge due to the angle of the arch.

Once across the bridge you arrive at the waiting pavilion. Here you would wash away any bad thoughts using the washbasins and would wait for the tea to be prepared. The more important a guest was, the longer they would be asked to wait! The garden would also be ‘wetted’ as it said to look nicer when wet. From there you would follow the path down towards the teahouse but you would see a crane and its partner. This was a sign of maturity and added 1000 years to the garden.

Along the path was another small bridge which was in the shape of a bird in flight, it was said that if you ever wanted to escape the devil then to cross the bridge as he could only travel in straight lines and would fall into the water. The path again was covered in white stones as before but with closely placed stepping-stones. These stones were close together to allow the person slowly walk and enjoy the garden’s scenery but every now and again to longer stones would be placed as a sign to the person to stop and enjoy the view.

You then arrived at the teahouse where you would lay your weapons at the door on the long stones, as it was a sign of peace and enjoy your tea. This ceremony may take hours and the first cup of tea would always be discarded to show that there is no sign of poisoning. The water used to make the tea would be sourced from the streams running in the garden and collected with the bucket pictured. In the teahouse itself it would only have one window, which faces the east (the rising sun) and would also look onto the Shinto Shrine.

At the back of the teahouse was a turtle, this would be placed in the water facing upstream and denotes the path that life takes sometimes but to continue with your quest and as the turtle we will conquer or problems. The turtle again denotes maturity and age to a garden. Next to the turtle was a stream of youthfulness. It was said that if your drink from here you will turn back the years but if you drink too much you will become a baby so be careful!

All the way through the gardens were lanterns; these were a very important part not only for light but their aesthetical appeal. They would be designed to give out light but also hold as much snow on top as possible. There was also a frog lantern, which is said to bring the person who touches the frog good luck and that they will return to the garden again in the future.

I never knew so much thought, planning, details and meaning went into designing a garden but it opened my eyes. I’ll take this in mind when I’m next at my local DIY store buying a shed!

It is somewhere I will be defiantly visiting again.

Kenjutsu Course

Saturday 26th March was the date of the Kenjutsu course, myself I had been looking forward to this for months. 6.00am my alarm was set for but like a child at Christmas I found myself not needing it! I was one of the lucky ones to only live an hours drive away, some had travelled down on the Friday and was not going home till the later in the week but this shows how much people wanted to learn a small part of the art taught by Sensei John Barrass. Before the event we decided to cap the event at around 25 due to the size of the hall and room needed to train. I had spoke to Brian the night before and everything was set, the room all cleaned and food prepared for lunch, I just needed time to hurry up! When I arrived to the Ryu Do Martial Arts Academy there were already a few getting changed and at 10 we got under way. Around 25 people were there to take part in the 6 hour Kenjutsu course.

People who had trained in many arts were taking part from street fighting, karate, ju-jitsu and other kenjutsu / weapons arts. We all strated by being introduced into the Kurai Nami Satori Ryu Kenjutsu club and some of the basis ways to hold the katana and Kamae positions. We then run through some basic cuts with full bunkai and then followed with the kata shodan of the system. Everyone was given time to practice and ask questions during our training.

When then had a small break for dinner which we incorporated two awards, the first was to Sensei John Barrass, made by Sensei Jason Olsen to induct John into the Molum Combat Arts Honour on behalf of Shihan Tim White for his contribution to the arts and Sue Zammit received the Dave Macintyre Memorial Shield which is awarded every year for the student who gives the art there all.

After dinner we continued with kata nidan with the help of the assistant instructors Sensei Geoff Douglas and Sensei Peter Bagnall helping out, both who skills shone on the day and made a great course even better. We finished the day by going through some Muto Jutsu (battlefield combat) with a 2 on 1 combat scene.

The 6 hour day was full with facts, information, detail and techniques which gave the pupils a chance to open their eyes and see how people used to fight back in the 1600’s on the battlefields of Japan. I went to the course with a very open mind on what to expect and I truly enjoyed myself and learen’t many, many things. I can’t wait till the next one!

Thanks to everyone who made the day special, the course run exactly how they should be, available to all in the arts who wish to learn and was run, not to make money but to simply share information.



Now that’s a knife!

I remember looking in the martial arts shops, or the weird gift shops on holidays and in town and seeing the famous ‘Samurai Sword set - £49.99’ with free stand! I’m sure we all have seen them, or gone into some ones house and seen it balanced on the fire place, or on a window ledge, normally with the BT bill wedged behind it! One thing we never give any though about is to how they were made originally. How they were made in the times of the samurai. Why is a katana so special? Why do we not have ‘medieval swords’ on the wall? Why do we always think about a katana being the true king of all swords?

There are many reasons why kabanas are seemed to by ‘mystique’ and the best sword available but some facts speak for themselves. They are the only sword to have removable fittings and have not changed design in the last 1000 years. The wealthy samurai would buy different colour fittings for different occasions, going round town, into battle, different seasons. The katana became his shadow, his best friend. Whenever a blade was made it was signed by the maker, the polisher, the clan printed on, the town, and the date so the history could be traced back in years to come. Can’t remember Little John having a Bo to the same quality!

So how is a blade made? Well we start our journey with a piece of steel. Steel is full of carbon which makes a cutting edge very sharp on a blade, but is brittle from side impact. If we was to remove all the carbon from the steel then it would make the steel more flexible so there was less chance of it snapping on impact, but the edge would dull and chip over time… so the makers came up with a system of making a inside core of steel with very little carbon to make the blade flexible but a cutting edge made of steel with the carbon in to keep a sharp cutting edge (like a kind of bi-metal blade) Not bad for 1000 years ago! They first started welding the two pieces together but later started rolling the two types together, so there were no joints. The sword maker started with a block of steel and heated it in a ‘tatara’ furnace, once heated they would hammer the molten into a block twice the size, then fold it over and weld the side together, cleaning the joints with steam on the anvil and quenching in water to avoid contamination. Standard steel has a carbon content of around 2.5% but once it is heated, hammered, folded and quenched it loses 0.2% of this. The process is then repeated till the piece of steel is left with roughly 0.5% of carbon left. This piece of steel will form the inner core of the blade.

The outer cutting edge the blade is then formed from a separate piece of steel but without the carbon being removed, the two are then folded and hammered together so it looks similar to a sausage roll! The whole blade is then ready to be shaped and hardened. The blade would be straight at this point and would look nothing like the curved blade we recognise today. The blade would then be coated with thin layer of sticky clay and left to dry, once dry a thicker layer of clay would be applied to just the back half of the blade to create a layered effect of different thickness clay, it would then would be heated back in the furnace. Once hot the blade is quenched to harden the steel and this is when the blade takes its curved shape as different parts of the steel cool at different levels due to the clay and thickness of the steel. The layers of the clay once removed leave a distinctive mark on the blade called the ‘hamon’. This is where the blade has been at different temperatures. Sometimes you will see little bubbly, wiggly marks on the hamon called ‘choji’, this was a sign that bubbles had risen up the blade in the quenching period. This was a sign that the blade had been ‘rushed’ due to high demand during the times of war, it’s not a defect of the blade though, just shows a different pattern. If you looked carefully at the rest of the blade you should be able to see the grain of the steel, it looks similar to the grain of wood running up and down the blade from the folds in the steel. The sword maker would also apply slight breaks in the cutting edge, these are called ‘ashi’ which would be designed like a fuse in a plug, a weak point to stop any cracks that might appear due to battling from travelling the full length of the cutting edge and destroying the blade.

Once the blade was complete it would then be sent to a polisher whose job was to make this lump of steel look like a katana. He started by hunching himself over a wooden water barrel and setting the lines in the blade with a course piece of stone, this took many hours of rubbing and washing the excess steel away. Once this was completed he then has to remove the scratches he has made with a finer stone, and would finish with tiny slithers of stone, glued onto pieces of paper to fine polish the blade. This process would take around two weeks of solid work to polish one katana. The stone used was taken from Kyoto in Japan and is limestone, the quarry what is used is running out fast and is charging upwards of £1000 for a stone today! Cheap polishes made are around £1000 a blade a polish from Mr Mujishiro, one of the top polisher’s charges around £5000. No wonder they are all riddled with arthritis at an early age! The fittings would then be added to a blade and it was then complete, ready for the samurai to take to the battlefield.

There were 5 main time periods and areas for making blades, all making different styles and designs:

Gokaden (blades made up to 1600‘s)

Yamato / Yamashiro (Made near Kyoto - made blades for noblemen)

Bizen (70% blades made before 1600’s - curved near the tang)

Soshu (Wide and thin blades made near the Shoguns Court)

Mino (Average blades with even curves and hard edges)

Not also did the Samurai wear a katana, but up to the 1500’s they worn a ‘tachi’ as well which was longer and worn upside down for use on horseback, the katana was easier to use when on foot so was saved for combat, a ‘no-dachi’ (shoulder sword) was sometimes used without a saya (scabbard) on the battlefield and the samurai would sometimes employ a peasant to carry this for him. A ‘Wakizashi’ (short sword) would be worn sometimes around town to show authority and was a samurai‘s way of saying ‘look at me‘. Wakizashi were often made from old ‘Naginata’ (spear) blades that had there wooden shaft broken, so not to waste the blade.

Sword Smiths prided themselves on the quality of there work and the blade spoke for themselves on the battlefield but when there was no wars being fought they had to be tested another way. They were often tested for sharpness on human corpses or prisoners. This is called ‘Tameshigiri’ (test cutting) If a prisoner got an idea that they would be used for this purpose they would swallow stones the night before so it would chip the blades if they were to be cut!

As you can see there is a lot of work, time, effort and history into making a blade and the ones I have described don’t sound like the £49 set! These were proper traditional blades designed to be used and took months to make, all by hand, not the cheap ones from Spain everyone has now and that makes me think about an old saying from the words of Crocodile Dundee ‘now that’s a knife!’


A trip to the Yoshiwara in Edo, Japan

I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture in February at the Manchester University with Professor Timon Screech on some of the history of Japanese people and art in the 19th Century. There was many things he mentioned, but I have typed up the notes I made (and could remember!)

If you look at a map of Edo, Japan (Tokyo today) you will notice in the middle of the map is the Shogun’s castle. Ki has it that all spirits (not good or evil) come from the North East so the Shogun had most of the Buddhist temples built in the North East of the town to stop the spirits turning evil. He also had placed in this area a Yoshiwara (red light district) which could only be visited by males and had to be a common person (no samurai or monks).

If a person wished to visit the area he would leave the town at around 6pm when the bells rang in the city to denote night time (the edo clock only had 12 hours so 2 hours = 1 edo hour) and would have 1 edo hour to get there. He could make this journey many ways but would usually go my the river as not to get noticed. There would be boats waiting near a bridge called the willow tree bridge. The willow tree is known for holding the spirits of females who have come to the end of there life in pain and hurt and there hair would hang down and be messy, like the willow tree’s branches. This would be the first warning a man would get at what he is doing is wrong, working all day to provide money and food for his family, but choosing to leave them for a night of fun in the Yoshiwara. After boarding the boat and travelling for 10 mins he would see upside down tree called the topsy turvy pine, which was a pine tree growing from a cliff edge, but the branches grew down and the top of the tree would be below the roots, meaning the life of the man will be turned ‘upside down’.

A little further down the river he would then come to a section which contained lots of birds, old folk law had it that a man once banished from Kyoto came to Edo and was crossing the river and asked the man rowing the boat what bird is that? Which he replied ’a capitalist bird’ of which there was no such creature but the man started crying saying it was ironic he had been banished from the capital and seen a bird of the same name. Another story say’s a lady was looking for her son and she seen the birds and asked the man, and he said the birds would fly near death and a young boy had been killed only a few days ago by slave merchants as the boy could not work hard enough, it turned out it was the ladies son that had been killed and she built a shrine which is still there today. The Japanese people say if a story is to be told and someone else tells the same story, it must be told with more extravagance otherwise there is no reason to tell it! Once the man reaches here, after ½ edo hour travelling he has a 20 min walk to the Yoshiwara, he will walk or be carried along the ‘Nihon Embarkment’ which was made by the Shogun to transport people quickly to the entrance as this shuts strictly at 7pm edo time. Along the way any samurai wishing to enter, as they was not allowed could leave there swords with a minder in the yellow huts along the paths and monks could rent doctors outfits as they could be recognised by there bald heads, but doctors also shaved there heads so they could sneak in as doctors!

Once inside the Yoshiwara they were locked in until 5am the following morning and could drink and hire prostitutes and basically party the night away, once returning home they would sleep in the boat so when they arrive back at the willow bridge they would say it was a dream and can go back to there usual lifestyle.

Most of the art work was done in the Winter of the river to denote a sad time returning, the pictures of the Yoshiwara was in Spring with cherry blossom denoting the change of the season / person but like cherry blossom is only short lived, the Shogun was always painted in the summer to denote the sun and the last leg of the journey in Autumn to again denote the change of the person.

The samurai only ever traded in rice as coins was no good to nobody except for merchants so he could also swap his rice to coin at the yellow huts along the way.



I’m getting old!!! Or my body is?

History … ZZZzzz … I hope I have not lost you yet! History is something that as a child most people take no interest in, I remember when I was a child turning up to class and the Sensei wanting to tell us about the farmers in Okinawa, the samurai and how people lived and all I wanted to do was either fight or throw brightly sparkled Nunchaku around! As you get older, rounder and greyer you start to realise there is more to any martial art than beating each other up to a pulp and getting up the next morning! Your bodies can’t withstand the type of punishment that they used to, so you are left with a gap in your training. This is when history becomes a big part in my training.

My late father used to spend hours looking at websites, reading books, speaking to people and I never used to understand why as a child but now I truly do understand the interesting part that it plays. I like most people started my training in one of the empty hand styles and as you progress through the system your hunger to learn something new and interesting grows so I turned my hand to Kobudo, because I had learned my empty hand training in karate, it made sense to follow my training down the same path, and I decided to learn how to use the tools that farmers would have used to also defend themselves with.

Again at first the only interest I had was learning new katas, learning how to fight with the weapons and when the next grade was but as a child you are blinded and don’t understand why sometimes you are doing something. Since then I have gone back and started to find out why the farmers ended up using the tools that they did for weapons, and why they never had weapons in the first place. My training took a turn from all physical to lots of theory and it is something I try to pass on to others in my classes and courses I teach.

So what is Kobudo? to find out now anyone can punch it into there computer search engine and find a list as long as your arm full of people’s explanations but back in the day when I was watching cartoons and looking forward to PE in school we could only find out from asking other people or reading books. What I was taught is Kobudo was an art that the farmers of Okinawa studied which incorporated their tools to protect themselves, as the Satsuma Samurai clan banned any weapons to be carried, the roots were similar to that of karate so the strikes are similar. I’m of an open mind so before everyone emails in with there stories of how it came from China, or a wandering Ninja Turtle I like to say that there could be many different places this could have originated, just like other styles history is sometimes clouded, but this is what as a student I was taught. The weapons used again would have all been tools. The Bo being a water carrying device, Nunchaku being a horses muzzle ect… but I will go through these in more details.

Are the people who taught us always right? No I think is the answer but what is important is as martial artists is that we are willing to change the way we train and if that means being open minded and wiling to do some research into what we were told as students then it can only make us better and more knowledgeable martial artists and in turn pass on the correct information to future students.

Questions are the best way to learn, ask questions but make sure the answers you get are correct, understandable and have a reason behind them. This is all about walking down a new path of training; this path does not need any gloves or swords, just a pen and paper, and an open mind.

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