View Full Version : Farmer Warriors...

24th October 2000, 05:39
I was wondering, how many people that study Ryukyu Kobudo firmly believe that it was the farmers that came up with all the kata and fighting techniques attributed to them. Did they have the time, the necessary knowledge, did they even care? Why do we believe that for some reason only these farmers decided to use their tools to defend thmselves?

I look forward to an interesting discussion.

Thank you.

Doug Daulton
24th October 2000, 06:05
Dear Joe,

You could not have picked a better first topic for this forum.

While early literature reported that all Okinawan weapons were modified farm implements, more recent research would seem to debunk that myth ... at least in part.

Zen Kobudo, Mark Bishop's generally excellent book, discusses links to the Okinawan Royal Court as well as the martial traditions of mainland China.

That said, some of weapons, such as the staff (bo or kon) would have surely seen double duty as a weapon and general farm tool.

Anyone else care to share?

24th October 2000, 06:56
'Anyone else care to share?'

Certainly, and thanks for creating the new forums, feel right at home here.

Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the Samurai or peichin class of Okinawa being given homesteads at one period, and the fact that, traditionally, when they weren't at war or in official service, the peichin, like the Japanese samurai were farmers?

Of course farmers could come up with martial arts, if they were already martial artists.

Another thing to take note of:When Japanese samurai were called on in Japan to resist farmer uprisings, they almost always got the worst of it in the exchanges.

Farmers are tough people.They carried water with bo, cut rice with ni cho kama,ground it in a mill whose handles were tonfa, and bridled their horses with original nunchakon.

If you fight a blacksmith with a sledge hammer, who is going to win, a guy who practices with one three hours a day and three hours a night, or one who works with one forteen hours a day?

Look at the Okinawan weapons- they come from the farm and the fisherman's boat, and off sailor's ships.

A nunte bo is a fish spear, you want to fight a fisherman with one of these, who spears moving fish with one all day long? Not me, brother!:-)

I remember working in a commisary on an Air Base, nine ten hours a day, stamping boxes and cans with a stamper and slicing them with a box cutter, all day long.

No one I repeat no one armed with anything short of a Bowie or a gun would have wanted to take on anyone in that facility, who was able to reach either tool.

When someone offered to fight, the worker would whip that box stamper out and aim it right between the offender's eyes,and, no kidding, fast, too!

Other hand would have the razor bearing box cutter ready, just in case getting three fifty or so,:D stamped on the brow, hard, wouldn't deter an attack, but even the thought of it, always did.

That may sound funny- but consider- we threw hundred pound bags of pet chow around, lifted heavy cartons of canned goods all day long,and pushed one ton hand trucks laden with goods all over a large facility.

I worked hard all day and practiced sanchin and tensho kata at night, judo during breaks for lunch.

It made us strong, insured fast reflexes(ever been run over by a one ton hand truck?) and we got very, very good with the tools of our trade.

In just a few months.

Now consider the Okinawan farmer, who is working with his hands and the above mentioned implements all day and nto the night, at times.For years and decades.How dexterous wil they be with a staff, kama, tonfa, nunchakon, etc.
How strong will they or a fisherman be?Very much stronger than most people today understand.

The sai was a seed planter and a linchpin as well, and a smaller version was used as a samurai hairpin.Got good with those as well.

Now if you already knew martial arts or someone taught them you, how soon after working like this, would you start to play with your tools?

We did, why wouldn't they,. and they had more reason too, because of pirates and bandits and animals, that do we.

Farmers often had to fight, and the American Minutemen, too, were farmers, as were the samurai of Japan.

Just a few thoughts here.

[Edited by kusanku on 10-24-2000 at 01:01 AM]

24th October 2000, 14:21

I personally do not believe that the Okinawan farmers/fishermen ect had much if anything to do with the systematic developement of the Okinawan MA. These people would have been much to consumed with eaking out a simple living day by day. This is not to say that they could not fight or did not have some crude techniques of thier own. Violence is a natural human trait. but I am talking about the true "developement" of the arts. If we examine the biography of the old Okinawan masters, they were almost all from the socially elite. Teachers, Pechin classes, bushi, and members of the royal family.

As far as weapons go..... It is ludicrous for us to say that they were a weaponless society. True, the commoners were banned from carrying weapons but the Okinawan bushi and Kings armies would certainly have had all weapons common to the period. Okinawa was a center for trade throughout SE Asia and could have imported anything (weapons) that they needed or couldn't produce at home.

The myth that it was the farmers who developed kobudo began after the Okinawan king was overthrown in 1609 by the Japanese Samurai and many of the Okinawan Bushi found themselves un-employed or had to flee with a price on thier heads. They dispersed through out the country side and lived as farmers, fisherman, whatever. They continued to train with whatever was available IE: tools of thier trade and developed fighting techniques around them.

BTW, this is a great topic to kick of this forum with.


24th October 2000, 16:42
I wanted my first post to be kind of neutral just to get the topic going.
I’m glad that things are going well.
Here are my thoughts.

Could farmers / fishermen defend themselves with their tools?
Yes, I believe so. But did they have the time or need to develop kata, hojo-undo,
And the various exercises that went along with them. Here I have to disagree.

I believe that it would be a more personal endeavor.
A fisherman for instance might say to his son “If you ever come across some trouble take your
Iyeku and throw sand in his face and hit him on the head with it.” Here ends the lesson.
I doubt that they would spend hours practicing this move.

I remember my dad telling me “If you have trouble in school take your heaviest book and wack
Them across the head” it worked. But I didn’t start Schoolbook Jutsu lol.

I doubt the sai or nuntibo were farmer weapons. With metal being so expensive a person could use a bamboo spear or pitchfork with the same results.

I’d like to start several threads discussing origins and so forth of each weapon. :idea:
This is gonna be fun!

Thanks Doug

Doug Daulton
24th October 2000, 17:31
Originally posted by JS3
I’d like to start several threads discussing origins and so forth of each weapon. :idea:


Ask and you shall receive! I've started threads for nine of the major Ryukyuan weapons. Enjoy!

24th October 2000, 17:40

27th October 2000, 07:54
It's wonderful to see e-budo back up and running with new forums on Ryukyu Martial Arts. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's posts and they all have some very interesting and provocative ideas. At any rate, I will jump into the frey with my 2 yens worth.

With respect to Okinawan farmers contributing to the development of kobudo. I find this HIGHLY unlikely for several reasons.

The primary teaching vehicle for kobudo has been kata. Using the Taira-lineage kata, if we examine the kata that have been handed down to us from past generations, without exception the development of the kata has been associated with an individual from the keimochi (privilaged) class.

For example:
Sakugawa no kon - Todi Sakugawa

Soeoshi no kon - Soeishi sensei
Choun no kon

Chatan Yara no kon - Yara of Chatan

Sueyoshi no kon - Sueyoshi sensei


Tsukenshitahaku no sai- Shitahaku sensei
Chatan Yara no sai - Again Yara of Chatan
Hamahiga no sai - Hamahiga sensei

Hamahiga no Tonfua
Yaragwa no Tonfua

Second, (and Istand to be corrected) I know of not one example of a "farming kata". What has been passed down in rural Okinawa are kumi-bo sets and dances performed at yearly festivals (for an excellent over-view of rural festival bo traditions, I highly recommend Hokama Tetsuhiro sensei's research which is published in " Karate-do Kobudo Kihon Chousha Hokokusho" by the Okinawan prefectural board of education).

Taira Shinken, founder of RKHSK states in his 1964 Encyclopedia of Kobudo, that no doubt kobudo existed in rural villages, but this was the result of it being brought to the villagers by the upper class, especially during the 18th century when many of them became disenfranchised so to speak.

If we flip things around a bit and take it from a western historical perspective, how many European serfs would have had the chance, time, ability, committment and resources to pursue training in the fighting arts? I don't think it would add up to many.

Like most on the list, I do not believe Kobudo developed in a cultural and social vacum and that undoubtedly there would have been some influence of the lower classes in the development of kobudo, but it is a relatively minor contribution. The major impetsu behind the development of Kobudo was the upper class IMHO.

As for kobudo weapons being farm implements. I'll take a break before I handle that one.


Nagasaki, Japan