Some people look at martial arts and self protection and think that you should only train to deal with situations which you are likely to come across. This does hold water as an argument and is very logical. This leads us to conclude that training in sword, long staff (bo) and other traditional weapons has little point to it and should be ditched.
I personally believe that within the context of Bujinkan arts weapon training including traditional weapons is important to retain but the emphasis should be on your main context. Therefore we focus mainly on defence against knives and sticks/bats plus use of short sticks (hanbo) when we look at weapons as these are the likely threats and situations we will find ourselves in (within the UK). However, recently we have been revisiting material from the sword and training in this helps underline some of the key messages present within the unarmed and other contemporary weapon work we have been doing. Training in traditional weapons does give you a broader understanding of why certain unarmed movements are present in the Bujinkan system. For example the stepping punch can be seen as a way of hitting someone away as you protect your weapon side and draw the sword in the space created. It also highlights the importance of accuracy in your movement, distance, angles and timing. Mistakes are thrown into stark relief when looked through the prism of weapons work. Traditional weapons training also helps you appreciate the martial arts in a broader context and see why differences occur between systems – even in the Bujinkan as it’s scope is so wide how you use different swords varies because of their respective contexts.
Traditional weapon training has its place within our training as the Bujinkan evolved through the use of weapons – it would be like asking a Filipino martial arts teacher to stop teaching use of the knife (as this is the bedrock of most of their martial arts). I feel there is a balance to be struck – in my training I am not looking to run a historical reenactment society focusing on traditional weapons use. I use the traditional weapons training as a vehicle to help develop a broader understanding of the martial arts we train in, as a means to highlight the importance of particular principles and then relate these to other areas of practice (e.g. unarmed) and to ensure the students have the ability to work with and without weapons. This allows us to develop into rounded martial artists who can operate effectively in the likely scenarios we are to face – ie hand to hand and unarmed against an armed assailant, but helps us draw on skills that translate across from the traditional arena.
See you at training.