TINBEI & ROCHIN
Okinawa kobudo - Matayoshi tradition
We do not know for sure the exact place of origin of
shield and a sword combat system found on Okinawa today. The legend says
this weapon was used in the past wars during the period of “three
kingdoms” (the fourteenth century). Nowadays, various shapes of this
weapon can be found on Okinawa. Objects and tools such as harpoon, dagger
or a machete, straw hat or a suitable metal plate are of a great use,
since they are imperceptible and used for everyday labor as well. Turtle
armor was often used as a shield, too. In the past, metal was extremely
rare and expensive, but the okinawan beaches had many big turtles, so
their armor was perfect for making shields. There are several traditions
involving this weapon, but application principles are alike. Technique
differences are due to the form of the shield and the sword.
On Okinawa today, a few schools cherish this weapon,
whereas the tradition of Matayoshi family is the most active. Matayoshi
Shinko, sensei, also known as “Kama Matayoshi” was born in Naha (Okinawa)
in 1888. He is founder of the Matayoshi kobudo school. As a young boy, he
learned bo-jitsu (the staff), eku-jitsu (oar), sai-jitsu
(iron rod) and kama–jitsu (sickle) from master Agena Chukubo from
the Gushikawa village. He also learned tonfa–jitsu (wand) and
nunchaku-jitsu (mallet) from master Irei of Nozatoa (Chatan
village).He traveled a lot with the purpose of expanding his knowledge. In
Japan, he learned samurai horse riding. In Manchuria, he had spent much
time with nomad tribes, where he practiced ba-jitsu (horse riding),
shuriken-jitsu and nagenawa-jitsu (lasso throwing). In Shanghai, the
master Kingai taught him tinbei-jitsu (a sword and a shield),
suruchin-jitsu (lasso), nunti-jitsu (javelin) and use of the medicinal
herbs and acupuncture as well. In the province of Fukien (China), he
practiced Shorin chuan fa and finally, he returned to Okinawa in 1935.
In Shangai, Matayoshi completed his knowledge
practicing in the legendary school Jing Voo. It is known that Chojun
Mijagi (founder of Goju style) spent there a couple of months in 1936,
practicing. (Patrick McCathy, Bubishi, page 60). Perhaps the technique of
shield and sword was brought to Okinawa exactly from this Chinese combat
school. Any way, in the present days Matayoshi tradition nourishes one
form (kata) with a machete and a shield. The purpose of this article is to
explain the basics (kihon) and the advanced technique of “Matayoshi no
The picture shows
the shield made of turtle’s armor, a straw shield, metal shield, the
typical rochin of Matayoshi tradition and a short spear that is used by
the Hozon tradition.
The basics (kihon)
The first thing one should learn about manipulating
with machete and shield is proper guard (kamae). Guard is a position that
provides good defense and a quick way to attack. Shield is held in the arm
that is in front and it is used for parrying of the opponent’s attacks.
Techniques of blocking are identical to the ones in karate. Machete is
held in the arm that is in back ready for use and protected by shield so
that the opponent cannot get a hold of it.
kamae Blocking techniques – uke wasa
Knees are slightly bent and the weight is equally
divided onto both feet. When moving, so called “spearman step” (yori
ashi) is used. This one does not require a full step. The rear leg
makes half a step, just a little in front of the leg that is at front, and
then the front leg makes another half of the step. This method of stepping
enables spearmen to have a hold so that weapon is always ready for use.
Concerning Machete and shield, it is necessary to emphasize that a shield
should always be in front hand. If a man made full steps, with each his
step the position would change, so shield would alternatively be a little
in the front hand, a little in the back hand.
Machete and shield are in such position, so that the
opponent cannot see machete due to shield. When using “yori ashi” for slow
approaching to the enemy, this position can look very intimidating.
Stabbing and slashing (tsuki and
With machete, one can
perform both stabbing (tsuki) and slashing (uchi). Stabbing
techniques are aimed to the opponent’s stomach or neck. Slashing
techniques (uchi) are equally practical for the attack and defense. In
defense, machete parries each of the opponent’s attacks with blade.
Offensively, limbs, neck or the opponent’s head are slashed.
Tsuki – stab with machete is usually pointed towards body or neck
of the attacker. According to the rule, stab is done by involving the
whole body by performing full step, similar to oi tsuki in karate.
Soto uchi – outside slash. This one is for both defense and attack.
In defense, blade is used for blocking the upper attacks (pointed towards
the head or body). When attacking opponent’s hand, face or neck is
Gedan uchi – low slash. This blocking technique is used when the
attacker strikes with the staff at legs or trying to stab the body.
– inside slash. Everything said for the previous technique stands for this
one, too. The only difference is that here the stroke is performed on the
means “hidden techniques”. Almost every form or combat style has a few of
these. Kakushite includes performing of sudden technique, trick or a
maneuver that is not expected. This also includes technique that cannot be
understood just by simple observing. Kakushite requires explanation
provided by the instructor. Shimabaru form has three of these techniques.
video title (including tinbei kata and application).
Kakushite gedan tsuki
– stab by rolling over forward. This is an unexpected maneuver, roll over
is used for shortening the distance and it is followed by a sudden stab.
This technique appears twice in Shimbaru no tinbei kata.
Kakushite uchi –
squat slashing. Similar to previous one, as this is also an unexpected
one. The point is in performing the sudden slash of the attacker’s leg in
the middle of struggle, which according to the rule, the attacker doesn’t
Kakushite tsuki –
feint and stab. First, there is retreat by jumping backwards in crane
position (tsuru dachi). Machete is in position so that opponent
will think that I want to counter attack with upper slash (soto uchi),
but then the direction is changing and a sudden stab with full step
forward is performed.
The advanced use
tinbei kata bunkai)
In the next few pages, I will show you the use of
techniques from Shinbaru (Matayoshi) kata. There are only few techniques;
actually, it is about one sequence repeating eight times in kata and a few
extra ones. However, simplicity is what makes this combat system brutally
efficient. Personally, I consider this kata “the pearl of Okinawan
tradition“. I admit feeling slight awkwardness due to showing the use of
technique. J For years, I have
been keeping this only for advanced members of my dojo. Nevertheless, I
think it is much better to share, so that other instructors can show to
their student. This way tradition will flourish.
In my opinion, you cannot learn karate through books
and that is why techniques shown here can only help as a reference for
those who already have previous experience with this weapon. I will not
deal with theory, as my opinion is that the use can be best understood
through application. On the pictures, the attacker (tori) has white
kimono, the one defending himself (uke) has black lower part of
This is the basic
combination. The attack is parried with the shield, followed by the
counterattack by stabbing to body or neck of the attacker (tsuki).
Attacker stabs with the
stick in the head.
This is an advanced
combination. The first attack is blocked by moving away aside and the
sudden slashing on the outside (gedan kakushite uchi) of the attacker’s
legs. The point of the technique is in false swing and lifting the leg,
which actually is a feint because the opponent is expecting an upper slash
to the head, but instead a sudden squat and down slash is performed.
(gedan uchi – soto uchi –
uchi uchi – tsuki )
This is the most important combination in tinbei kata
and I will call it “main sequence”. It is repeated eight times in
different angles and manners. It represents a foundation of handling
machete and shield. Actually, it is about four basic techniques of
slashing and stabbing, that are previously explained, put in the
TSUKI – GEDAN – UCHI – SOTO UCHI –
UCHI UCHI – TSUKI
Techniques are performed continuously, so it is
difficult to determine where one technique ends and where another one
starts. This way, one learns how to perform the appropriate technique and
continue the sequence in any position and moment. This method of practice
is called renzoku and it can be found in many karate katas
First, I will explain the most obvious application of
the main sequence and then one variety of this sequence. In its simplest
form, all attacks are parried with machete and sequence is finished with
The attacker first tries hitting the legs with the
stick which uke blocks with low slashing (2-gedan uchi); both of them
continue preparing for the next technique (3). After that attacker aims to
the head, uke parries by slashing on the outside (4-soto uchi).
Right away, there is another swing to the head, but coming from the
opposite side, which uke parries from the inner side (6-uchi uchi). The
fourth attack uke stops, not using machete, but with shield and counters
to the neck (8-tsuki).
Make sure to remember that this is the simplest use.
The attack could have started with some different technique and slashing
techniques (uchi) can be used not only for blocking, but for
counterattack, too. It will become clearer if you look at the next
combination (pictures 4A – 7A). The techniques are the same, but the
application is different.
In this variation slashing techniques are used for
offence. The opponent starts by attacking the head; uke parries with
shield and slashes the attacker’s arm at the same time (4A). Right away,
he follows by slashing the neck (6A) and stabbing (7A).
I hope this is not too complicated and that you can
grasp the idea. It is obvious why this sequence appears so many times in
kata. It represents the basic of manipulating with machete and shield.
4 (kakushite tsuki)
Attacker uses big
swinging motion aimed to legs.
Uke retreats jumping back
in “crane position” (tsuru dachi ). Shield is close to knee, machete is
ready for upper slash.
Attacker misses legs and
continues the swing, so that he is immediately ready to attack again or to
parry my counter attack with machete.
Actually, this is the
feint (kakushite). When the opponent attempt to parry machete, uke
deflects his weapon with shield and instead of the slash, performs the
stab to the attacker’s body or neck.
Here is the analysis of
the third kakushite technique, when the sudden roll over forward is
used for shortening the distance. At first glance, this technique looks
silly, but in real life situation, attacker gets confused and by the time
he reacts, it is already late. After rolling over uke stays in squat
position, blocks the opponent’s attack and stabs the attacker’s stomach or
The Author Milos Stanic (4.dan) promotes old
okinawan empty hand and weapon traditions (shorin ryu karate &
matayoshi kobudo) in Belgrade (Yugoslavia), teaching as professional
instructor in Tsunami dojo. He is helping prospering popularity of
traditional karate in southeast Europe by organizing karate demonstrations
on all important martial art events. In addition, he is also trying to get
global attention through Tsunami dojo website (www.karate.org.yu)
where he publishes articles and produces educational video material.
Assistants Milutinovic Mirko (1.dan) and Ivanovic
Predrag (1. Dan) provided great support while making this article.
All copyrights reserved 2002. (The Author’s right are
reserved, this article cannot be copied, published and cannot be used
without the written permission of the author.)
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