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Buki Jutsu

One of Kyokushin-kan’s major innovations since it’s founding has been the introduction of Buki Jutsu (weapons training), including training with Okinawa’s traditional weapons intended for defense against the Japanese sword, including: bo, jo, sai, tonfa and boken. Although from all the innovations and re-introductions to Kyokushin Kyokushin-kan has made in the decade since its birth, Buki Jutsu is certainly the most dramatic when compared to the latter decades of Sosai Mas Oyama’s life, it is perhaps the most important, and we encourage our members to take this training very seriously.




(Kyokushin-kan strives to define itself as an organization with the tools to ADVANCE Kyokushin through a specific technical vision which includes a concentrated understanding of kata, bunkai, and tournament kumite, along with the (re) introduction to Kyokushin of Chi energy training (through Ikken), Bukijutsu (weapons training), head/face-punch kumite, a heightened standard for manner, a stricter standard for promotion, and a refined set of tournament rules. These technical articles were written with the intent to inform Kyokushin-kan’s members of all that is meant to be gained.)  


In order to improve Kyokushin’s technical standard, it is necessary for us to understand bunkai (the application) of kata. However, many of the motions that we have can not be understood in terms of their true intent without considering the use of these weapons. In other words, many of our movements, kata, and particularly stances, were created because of, or at least because of an awareness of,  these traditional weapons. Kancho Royama stresses, first and foremost, that the importance of Buki Jutsu is that through its study we will deepen our understanding of empty-handed karate technique. One example is that we will not fully understand the use of zenkutsu dachi, without also studying te-kokutsu dachi and suegoshi dachi, but we can’t approach an understanding of the three of them without bo jutsu (training with the bo staff). 

 But that’s only the half of it.




The other key point has to do with Sosai Mas Oyama’s insistence that Kyokushin karate is Budo karate (“Budo” means traditional martial arts of Japan), and not sports karate, not brute/brawling karate, and not sundomei (non-contact) karate. As we have discussed in the section about tournament fighting, it is the opinion of Kancho Royama, Fuku-Kancho Hiroshige, and Kyokushin-kan that Kyokushin tournament fighting lost some of what it was meant to be during its boom of popularity in the 80’s and 90’s. Even while the fighting ability of competitors has improved (competition forces an evolution of kumite technique), other key elements of what makes Kyokushin Budo have been lost. After all, football (soccer) evolves, too, through competition: The athletes, over time, develop abilities and techniques that earlier generations of competitors didn’t have. So, what is the missing element?

During Kyokushin tournaments’ boom to popularity, athletes, relying on the tournament RULES, learned that they could prepare for them, and even win them, using the training methods of the sportsman, rather than the training methods of the Budoka. We see this in what the Japanese call “the guts pose” where the winner throws up his arms and fists as if to say “I’m the best!” when nothing could be further from the humility inherent in training for the life-and-death of Budo karate. If karate tournament fighters can behave like sportsmen and succeed (consider the image of rude ballplayers in a locker room) then something is missing. Training in Buki Jutsu is a very serious (some would say somber) exercise because, in the absence of full-contact kumite (we can’t safely have full-contact kumite with swords and sai), the practitioner has to train for a mindset that is hyper-mindful of the lethality of the weapons. For example, one doesn’t throw his/her sai or sword on the ground after use as if it were a gardening tool. Rather, one honors the instrument as if it were an extension of his/her own soul, because the practitioner knows that one slight mistake with the weapon could lead to death in the situation where he/she might ever have to use it to defend against an armed opponent. 




The reader might here notice a parallel to bunkai as it relates to self-defense. In tournament fighting, we follow rules that prevent the fighters from striking the would-be-lethal targets, such as the neck, head, face, spine, kidneys, etc. Yet, in bunkai, we practice almost exclusively for striking these exact targets. Yet we can not practice bunkai in a full contact way without causing serious injury. Accordingly, we have to develop a hyper-serious mentality for practicing bunkai knowing that, in a real situation, we could lose our lives at any moment if we do not execute the motions perfectly. Hence, buki jutsu informs bunkai, and bunkai informs buki jutsu, and both of them develop in us the much more serious mindset and manner of the Bukoka, and defeats in us the  rude tendencies of the sportsman. 

For a broader perspective we would refer the reader here to our discussion of snapshot karate vs. Budo karate, in which we express Kancho Royama’s view that tournament fighting, while an important tool for developing mastered karate, is only a snapshot view of the whole of Budo karate. Sure, karateka should train for competitions, but teachers should stress that there’s a lot more to karate than just wining tournament fights. We would also direct the reader to our mission statement in which we list 9 priorities that Kancho Royama teaches (among others, perhaps) that are designed to develop the well-rounded Budo karateka. Notice that tournament fighting is only one of them. Buji-jutsu is another. Etc.  

In the below video clip, watch Kyokushin-kan world champion, Shihan Ishijima, demonstrating bunkai for bo kata: