Within Tensoku Ryu we offer weapons (Buki) training relatively early for students. There are no weapons skills taught to those who have a White Belt, but once a student has a colored belt (starting with the Yellow Belt) they begin to train on weapon usage.
Traditional Stick Weaponry
Students who hold the rank of Yellow Belt and Orange Belt study various traditional Japanese stick weapons. At the Yellow Belt ranking (students studying to achieve the Orange Belt ranking), students study the Jo weapon – generally a one inch diameter stick a bit over four feet in length. In addition to basic handling drills and skills development students learn and practice three Kata specifically designed to further understanding of Jo weapon usage.
Once students have achieved their Orange Belt ranking (now working to achieve their Purple Belt Ranking) they work on a few more advanced skills using the Jo weapon. This includes two additional Kata that involve advanced applications. Students also study the long Bo weapons and the shorter Hanbo weapon. Both of these weapons have unique handling and usage characteristics. There are two Kata for each of these weapons.
Additional Wooden Weapons
By the time a student achieves the Purple Belt (working toward a Blue Belt ranking) they are truly proficient at using stick weapons. So it is time to begin studying something else. Instruction begins with work on the Tonfa. This weapon, commonly known as a police nightstick, is much more complex and difficult to handle than a relatively simple stick. An added complication is that a person might wield two of these weapons concurrently. So this is the first time when students train to use two weapons concurrently. It can be challenging at first to have each hand doing something completely different than the other while spinning, strike, or changing the grip position on a weapon.
Purple Belt students also study use of the Yantok or Escrima stick weapon. A substantial number of drills and Kata are used to explore the fast paced movements and subtle behavior patterns of this traditional Philippine weapon. The Kata for the Yantok continue the practice of utilizing two weapons concurrently.
But Purple Belt students are not done yet. They also study application of smaller wooden weapons including the Tambo (similar in length to the Yantok), Yawara, and Kubotan. There are a lot of very painful things you can do with a small piece of wood.
Higher Skill Weapons
Having achieved a Blue Belt ranking students begin to study more sophisticated weapons. This includes the Sai and the Nunchaku. The Sai behaves in a manner somewhat similar to the Tonfa so most students perceive how to use this weapon fairly readily. The Nunchaku (often called Numchuks – a term we do not use) takes much longer to master. Students practice numerous spinning, passing, and striking drills to learn and improve the requisite skills. There are two Kata for each of these weapons. For the Sai both Kata involve concurrent utilization of two weapons.
Bokken and Bladed Weapons
Students who have earned a Green Belt ranking begin to study the Bokken. This is the primary weapon focus of this belt. Numerous practice drills work on skills and handling development. Three Kata augment this training.
Practitioners also study various small bladed weapons such as knives of various types and sizes. The advantages and disadvantages of each weapon type is covered along with reasonable defense approaches and strategies. The ETD model is covered with relation to bladed weapons.
Advancing to Brown Belt enables students to begin practicing with the Katana. Initial skills development involving drawing the weapon (Nukikata) and returning the weapon to the Saya (Noto). This takes extensive practice and occupies the largest portion or initial Katana training. From that point forward most training is done via Kata. We teach many different Kata sets using the Katana. This training continues throughout the Brown Belt and well into Black Belt training.
Yudansha practitioners may investigate other weapons as well. There is not fixed curriculum or specific weapons to study, but senior practitioners are encouraged to explore additional weapons and their usage as part of their ongoing development as martial artists.