Weapons of Ryukyu Kobujutsu

This weapon is the most glamorous of the Ryukyu system and exudes a feeling of history long gone. The usage however is more akin to a combination of Zulu fighting and European sword and small shield fighting.

Studied at Nidan level the Tinbe-Rochin is the most unique of all the Ryukyu Kobujutsu weapons and is seen as the odd one out. Most definitely constructed for fighting it follows in the footsteps of fighting all over the world and many of the techniques are akin to this standard approach.

The Tinbe (Shield) can be made of various material types but is commonly found in vine or cane, metal, or for presentation, in turtle shell. The shield size is generally about 45 cm long and 38 cm wide. For Kumite, fibreglass casts are often used, as they are durable and can be designed to look exactly like the real thing. Light in weight it helps the practitioners quickly get used to holding the shield in the hand.

The Turtle shell is more ceremonial and originates form the use of the Bekko Kame9Amber Shell Turtle) in Okinawa. Some use the more common Green Turtle but in this day and age the use of turtle shells is not necessary.

The Rochin (Short spear) is cut with the length of the shaft being the same distance as the forearm to the elbow if it is being held in the hand. The spearhead then protrudes from the shaft and can be found in many differing designs. The favoured style has an expanded middle section before the point, which is twisted upon insertion to make the wound larger. The weight of the blade is critical for the spear usage, which is swivelled between the fingers to use both ends, smashing with the butt end and stabbing with the blade end. If the shaft is made the same way as Kama with a tapering to a larger butt end, it makes for ease of use and understanding of length in hand without looking.

The techniques of the Tinbe are circular to avoid too much direct contact and the glancing style is introduced early in the Kihon stage. Keeping the Waki area tense and the Hara strong is paramount as extending the arm too long in blocking can result in poor technique and the inability to absorb, glance or deflect the opponents attacks.

The Rochin is predominantly used in an upward stabbing motion, piercing armour under the rib cage, armpits, and throat. It is also thrown and the study of Shingetsu Ryu Shuriken within the system aids this technique significantly. Hiding the Rochin behind the Tinbe is common and allows for the element of disguise and surprise. Kumite drills are undertaken against the Bo and distance understanding and getting close must be studied well.

Good knees are essential for the Kumite as many of the counter attacks (Go no Sen) are from a standing position dropping low quickly whilst deflecting the attack with circular blocking movements. An understanding of Ukemi is also important and this requires much study as break falling incorrectly with a sharp Rochin and Tinbe in hand can have dangerous consequences.

Clearly the origins of design and usage bear little resemblance to agricultural needs and this beautiful weapon has been designed for one thing: warfare.

Kanigawa no Tinbe
The Ryukyu Kobujutsu syllabus has one Kata, which exudes posturing, speed, agility, and balance. The Kata has a strong Naha feeling with Sanchin Dachi usage and deep Shiko Dachi usage. It also has moments of great speed resembling the more open dynamic feeling of Shuri Te whilst demanding much dexterity with Rochin usage. When the Kata is first taught the turns are executed by pivoting on the heels but later this move requires Ukemi and the ability to regain good Kamae instantly.