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Hatsumi, Hayes and the Hanbo (Aug 1987)

Mahoutsukai DOJO

By Masaaki Hatsumi

In this world, there are many theories about when human beings started to use weapons. It is impossible to give just one theory as the correct one. Instead of deciding upon a theory, let us begin to think about the first Homosapien, the first anthropoid and the first of the other earthly animals who/which used weapons. My thoughts continue on to the first cosmic being to use weapons. I am not leading you into a world of delusion. But by imagining these things I want you to think freely about the existence of your God. The God, creator of the creatures, what were his intentions for making weapons seem necessary. In Japanese paintings of gods, we often see the gods leaning on sticks like the ones used in hanbo jutsu. Of course, all of you know of the word “worship”. But most of you probably think of “worship” in terms of religion. In Japanese kanji characters the word worship (shin-ko) is written as a compound of two characters: to believe and to respect. To respect one’s parents, one’s boyfriend or girlfriend, instructor and one’s spouse: these are my examples of worship. To respect something or someone which/who is important to you. If the word respect holds negative connotations for you, then perhaps the word “love” would be more sufficient. My teacher, Takamatsu-sensei, often said that if one does not worship someone or something, one will not be able to succeed. But if one holds something /someone so dear that he worships him/it, he will, without exception, succeed. In Japanese, we sometimes refer to someone superior to us as “kami”, a homonym to the word god. I was able to become a ninja master because I worship my “kami”, Takamatsu-sensei.
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Now let me show you a waza technique using the staff in a vertical position (1). Stephen grabs the staff with his right hand and prepares to punch me with his left (2). At this point I drop back and kneel on my left knee to avoid Stephen’s fist (3). I now put my thrusting body into nagashi gata (flowing style). While falling, I break Stephen’s balance and then throw him over me (4). Differentiating the distance between our bodies, I gain the advantage over him (5&6). The most important point to remember when using the half staff is commanding the staff as part of your body.
The half staff'is said to have first been used in a sword-like manner with only the handle part scraped down. Another theory says it was first used to direct the troops.  Let us now consider what Raymond A. Dart, a historian, found out through his research.  Humans have been at peace only one out of seventeen days in the course of history. This means that through five thousand years, there were only three hundred peaceful years. Because of this horrible probability, some have said that culture and civilization have developed by the stimulus of violence.   Let me now give a few examples of the battles fought with the halt staff from the olden records of Japan. This battle, recorded in the Nihon Shoki and Kojiki (which are two of typical chronicles of Japan) occurred in the eighth century A.D).  Prince Yamato Takeruno Mikoto planned to defeat a brave warrior of Izurno, Izumo Takeru. Prince Yamato went to visit the warrior and sought to shake hands  with him to show Izumo his good will and friendship. The Prince then invited Izumo to take a cold bath with him, so that they might speak of battle strategies in their nakedness (Japanese have a saying “naked companionship” which means to hide nothing from each other.) While the Prince and the Izumo warrior were bathing, one of the Prince’s retainers carried out the Prince’s plan; he exchanged Izumo’s steel sword for a look-alike akagashi (red oak) wood sword (which I suppose looked like an iron sword). To put the action into a ninjutsu term, he used “mo-koton no jutsu” (a technique practised by the use of wood).  The Prince and Izumo were absorbed in a heated discourse on combat strategies. One would tell the other about a foregone battle and how he won it by using this or that technique. Then the other would say in that circumstance another technique would have been more efficient. In this fashion, the Prince led Izumo into a trial at physical confrontation. They got up out of the water to fight. Izumo unaware of the Prince’s plan, swung at the Prince with the wooden sword. The steel sword of the Prince was broken in half by Izumo’s wooden sword and the Prince was soon sadly defeated. In this way a warrior, through cunning and guile, used a wooden sword to defeat another warrior who originally had a steel sword. In 1339, another story involving another possible origin of the half staff was recorded in the battle journal (Senki) of Japan. In January of the third year of Engen (1336-39), Ashikaga Takauji and his army attacked Kyoto. Defending the city was Yuuki Chikamit-su and his troops. One of Yuuki’s retainers, Ookuni Taro Takehide battled with “Gooketsu” (an extremely strong and unusually large man) of the Ashikaga army. Ookuni was using a tachi (a fat sword) over three feet long. The “tachi” came down on Ookuni’s spear with the power of a giant axe and left only a three feet long stick. Ookuni held the stick in one hand spread his arms in the “Hira no kamae” and then bid the “gooketsu” to attack. The Gooketsu, angered by the boldness of Ookuni, raised his “tachi” high in the air and brought the blade down with the power that would have split the warrior in two, armor and all. Ookuni remained calm; he used “Taihen jutsu” to avoid the blade and forced his staff into an open space in the Gooketsu’s armor to throw it off. In the return stroke of the staff after throwing the armor off, he struck the top of the Gooketsu’s head, cracking his skull. This story is one of the theories of the origin of the half staff.  Since these olden times the ninja developed the “shinobi san jaku bo jutsu” (ninja’s half staff technique) by hiding “kusari fundo”, blade, “metsubushi powder” (sight removers) into the staff. I hope this lesson will help in your training period. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Stephen goes on the offensive. I hold the staff at hira-no-kamae, parallel to my body (1). As Stephen’s hands come close, I strike his left hand with the right side of the staff (2). While still in that position, I put my right foot forward and lead the staff to the right side of Stephen’s neck, pushing his right arm (3). Releasing my left hand, I grab the outer end of the staff and strangle him. My left knee takes Stephen’s left knee to destroy his balance (4). Now both of my knees work at breaking his balance. If Stephen tries to grab the staff, I can make him let go with slight body movement (5). Now I thrust the stick into Stephen’s left side (6). Taking Stephen’s left hand with my right and holding the butt of the staff with my left, I make my move according to Stephen’s movement (7). Regaining hold of the staff with my right hand, I work it against his elbow using my knee (8). If Stephen moves, I tighten my hold by grabbing the stick with my left hand again (9). Depending on the direction that Stephen falls down, I hold him on his back or his side (10). My hold can change in many ways (11). Look carefully at my legs. They do not seem to control Stephen’s body, but indeed they do (12). I change my position and hold him lightly but he is not able to move (13).
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Hatsumi, Hayes and the

Hanbo (Aug 1987)

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