Ryukyu Kobujutsu appeared as early as 700 years ago on the Japanese Ryukyu islands, which are today known as the province of Okinawa. At least this is the common belief. However, the exact history of the art is not certain and some historians argue that the art has actually got clear Chinese roots as examples of similar weapons have been found in China and are historically preceding Okinawan development. It is clear that Chinese martial arts greatly influenced early beginnings of Japanese martial art styles but it could also be influenced by Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai methods due to close contact these countries had in trading with Okinawan islands.

The Ryukyku islands or the Okinawan province with Okinawa being the largest island among them are situated in the south of Japan, in the South China Sea. Its history dates back to 6.000 years BC when islands were first inhabited in the south. Around 2.000 BC, the northern parts are known to be inhabited. After a number of Chinese and Japanese expeditions, the islands were appointed to Japan in 698. This fact moved trading routes between China and Japan from Korea to Ryukyu islands. Close contact with Chinese culture set first milestones in the long history and tradition of Japanese various martial arts.

In 1477, the new king Sho Shin implemented complete and overall prohibition of all metal weapons. Prohibition included both the noble class Shizoku and farmers, Heimin. All weapons had to be handed over to storage in Shuri. Noble class was moved to the capital, were they lived under strict supervision in order to minimize danger of rivals. Most historians see this prohibition as generator of Kobujutsu. Farmers and fishermen began to develop new martial art style by using simple farming tools which evolved into lethal weapons. At the same time Te gained on importance as it was intensely practiced by Shizoku class, who perfected the art of empty hands. Both styles were practiced in utmost secrecy, mostly at night. Although many great martial art masters don’t argue Chinese influence of Kempo on both arts, there is as well a strong parallel between both arts and traditional Okinawan art of dance, Odori.

Most kata known in Kobujutsu holds footprints of the early masters. Despite the many grand masters who appeared in 18th, 19th and 20th century lack of instructors and students caused great decay of the art. In the history of Ryukyu Kobujutsu Grand Master Shinken Tiara clearly stands out. Disciple of Yabiku Moden Sensei perfected 42 weapons kata, which covers 8 different weapons. This is still taught nowadays in the Ryukyu Kobujutsu fighting system, mainly due to his highest direct disciple Motokatsu Inoue.
The ancient martial arts of the Ryukyu Islands consist of Toshu-jutsu, the way of the empty hand and Emono-jutsu, the way of weapons. The former is called Karate and the latter, Ryukyu Kobujutsu.

The Ryukyu Kobujutsu appeared in history approximately 700 years ago. It is said that it was the use of weapons in the periods of heroes holding grand. Most Kata of Weapons remaining now are footprints of old masters approximately 200-400 years ago. With the prosperity of Kobujutsu many grand masters appeared in the 1700, 1800, and 1900 centuries. As time went on however, the lack of instructors and people to carry on the tradition caused the decay of Ryukyu Kobujutsu, at one time it faced the prospect of dying out all together.

In the Taisho era some masters who were deeply worried about the situation made great efforts to restore and promote Ryukyu Kobujutsu. One practitioner who stands out in history is the late Master Shinken Taira. He was a disciple of Yabiku Moden Sensei and compiled and authenticated 42 Weapons kata, which consist of eight kinds of weapon.

Continuing the Traditions

Inoue Sensei’s life in Budo was shaped by the masters of Kobujutsu to provide him with unique knowledge and ability. This enormous knowledge is continued today in Yui Shin Karate and Ryukyu Kobujutsu.

The society preserves and promotes the 42 weapons kata and the way of using the weapons in Kihon Kumite and Kata Bunkai Kumite. The late Motokatsu Inoue Hanshi at the request of Master Taira formulated many of these explanations and usage. Inoue Hanshi’s son, Kaicho Inoue, is now the world Headmaster of Ryukyu Kobujutsu.

These teachings and traditions are continued today by the generations of students who have devoted themselves to the study of Ryukyu Kobujutsu. Affiliated branches of the Honbu dojo exist in South Africa, Finland, Sweden, Holland, Belgium and now the United Kingdom. Sensei Julian Mead formed the Great Britain Branch in 1986 following his return from Japan.