Is Namihira-bō the original Tsuken-bō?

As part of my ongoing research into village staff fencing (mura-bō), I stumbled upon this this performance, which took place in Hawaii. I posted about it on Facebook in January 2104.

Back then, the following information came to light.

It is a village bōjutsu of Yomitan called Namihira-bō. According to tradition it was handed down by a servant coming from Tsuken Island. Namely, 250 years ago there was a brave and skilled man named Tsuken Akanā who taught bōjutsu to the youth of Namihira. This was referred to as Tsuken-te (Chikin-dī), or otherwise Tsuken-bō.(*1)

As weapons, Namihira-bō uses 3-foot-staff (sanshaku-bō) vs 6-foot-staff (rokushaku-bō) as well as 6-foot-staff vs 6-foot-staff.

From the place of origin, name of the person as Tsuken Akanā, and the name of the technique as Tsuken-te (Chikin-dī) or otherwise Tsuken-bō, it is possible that this is an original old version of Tsuken-bō as described by Majikina Ankō 100 years ago as follows.

 There was also a staff method handed down by Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku as Tsuken-bō, which was very similar to the swordsmanship of the Jigen-ryū

Bōjutsu in Okinawa used the 6-foot-staff and 3-foot-staff. The first represents the spear, the latter represents the sword.

Using both 3-foot-staff vs 6-foot-staff, with the first possibly still resembling the swordmanship of Jigen-ryū after so many generations, Namihira-bō might actually be among the most original survivals of an original Tsuken-bō.

In short, while long ago Tsuken-bō might have originated on Tsuken Island, it spread out variously long ago to places such as to Namihira in Yomitan and other places.

Namihira-bō uses a characteristic way of looking at each other called mijichi, and a special way of shouting called yagui.

What is clearly visible here is that this village bōjutsu uses a different timing than the yakusoku kumite of the kobudō schools. In village bōjutsu many strikes are actually “pulled through” and would penetrate. For this reason, the defending part must signal his defense as being ready before an attack is launched. Other techniques like thrusts (tsuki) are simply shortened while maintaining actual combat distance. In conjunction with performing to the rhythm of musical pieces, these precautions results in a sort of off-beat. However, it is real striking simply adjusted in timing, directions, and extent for safety reasons.

So what about the question raised in the title, “Is Namihira-bō the original Tsuken-bō?”

Well, it can be, or not.

*1: This shows that te () as a suffix refers to techniques, or a martial art skill, irrelevant of it being an armed or unarmed martial art.

© 2023, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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