Special Weapons Course

Friday 20th September 2013

Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre

The special weapons course, was a great success covering an array of traditional karate weapons including the bo, tonfa, sai and nunchaku. What follows is a brief summary of the course and the weapons covered.

I have now been to a few of Sensei Cummin’s weapons courses and so at last I am beginning to feel comfortable with the bo but am not that familiar with the other weapons covered. I started the class at the point where Shushi No Kon, the first Bo kata was being taught. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I remembered a fair part of the kata since the last course (although I had only practised a few times in between) and so felt a bit more confident in performing the kata rather than the more hesitant  feeling from previous courses. Shihan Cummins went through the kata a few times starting slowly and going through every move at a slow speed so that those attending who had not used the bo before or had only used it one or two times could follow and slowly increased the count speed until by the end of the class everyone was performing the kata at a good pace. This all took place at various points during the class with the other weapons interspersed in between. Shihan Cummins also explained how the moves of the kata could be applied and then held a question and answer session so that the students could clarify the parts they were unsure of which was very informative as Shihan Cummins explained the details of the application relating to the questions and the history where applicable.

Sensei Austin Birks took the class through the use of the nunchaku, this was only the second time I have used them and thanks to Sensei Sue Hession generously donating her time to purchase weapons on behalf of myself and others on the class now had my very own pair to use. Whilst the first time I had used them they seemed to flow naturally for me, this time this was not the case initially and it took some time to be able to get a rhythm going when swapping hands. This is definitely a weapon for which practice is a must to be able to use them in any capacity and you will almost certainly hit yourself a few times whilst doing so. Sensei Birks then demonstrated how these could be used in defence against attacks from weapons or the empty hand before giving a demonstration of the nunchaku in which he would have given Bruce Lee a run for his money in that famous scene from Enter the Dragon.

Shihan Cummins returned to the helm for the Sai, explaining the origins of the weapon, and demonstrating their use in kata and kumite which in many ways is similar to that of the Tonfa and how they were traditionally used to defend against attacks by katana (Japanese swords). We all then tried to use these which again was a second time for me. I still haven’t got to grips with the sai finding it very hard to spin them with any consistency. Shihan Cummins emphasised the importance of having the blade running along the arm when performing blocks in a similar manner to when using a tonfa. He then held a question and answer session about the sai in which the students again asked questions and Shihan Cummins explained the usage and techniques.

The weapons course finished with a last performance of Shushi No Kon to the count followed by Sensei Sue Hession demonstrating the kata at full speed.

As always this was a very informative course with the attendees all asking for more courses in the future. I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t tried weapon training to attend any future course as it really does add a new dimension to your training and helps when interpreting some of the advanced kata such as Bassai Sho and Jitte.

Richard Amuzu 3rd Dan, BHSKC

Special Weapons Course class attendees


Bo and Tonfa Course 2 – Mini Reviews

Friday 1st February 2013

Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre



On Friday the second bo and tonfa course to be held at the Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre in Rubery with Sensei Cyril Cummins 7th dan took place. This time the course was open to all clubs and associations which resulted in even more karateka gaining the opportunity to learn these weapons. The course was very well attended with the hall filled to capacity for the use of weapons with attendees from both BHSKC and other clubs and associations of all grades from beginners to senior black belt instructors. Like last time the course was enjoyed by all and again many requested that another be held. The attendance of the course was again mixed with some who had attended previous bo courses or the last bo and tonfa course but a sizeable number who had never used either.

What follows are some reviews of the course from different attendees at varying stages of their karate and weapons experience and the different perspectives these provide :-

First here is my brief mini review of the second course as someone who has done karate for many years but has only used the bo a few times in the past and the tonfa for the first time during the previous course. A review of the first course can be found here.

Preparation for the course started for me earlier that day when I was packing my karate bag before work. I picked up my tonfa and couldn’t resist the urge to make a few strikes and half swivels before packing them away and then hefting the bo and giving it a quick swing before putting it next to the karate gear. Suffice to say I was really looking forward to another opportunity to use them both. I’ll confess right now that despite my best intentions I hadn’t really practised the bo since the first course and so was struggling to remember the bo kata, shushi no kon and hoped that when we started doing it again later that evening it would all come back to me.

The evening eventually came and the time for the course was upon us. After a general warm up, those who didn’t have bo or tonfa were provided some to use and the course started with an introduction to the bo. This served as a good refresher for myself and others and a nice introduction for those who had never used one before, initially covering basic strikes and blocks and then concentrating on some of the more complicated moves from sections of the kata. Having now used the bo a few times I felt reasonably comfortable doing most of these although still was a little unsure when it came to the breakdown of some of the kata segments. Next it was the bo kata, shushi no kon, sensei Cummins briefly explained the origins of the kata and the meaning of the name before leading the class through the kata to the count, stopping to explain how to do various moves and correct people as he went. This was repeated a few times until the majority felt reasonably comfortable with the kata and the use of the bo. Finally sensei Cummins invited those who thought they could do it all the way through to a reasonably fast count to try whilst the others watched. I must admit I was unsure but decided to give it a try. The count was slightly faster than I had expected but I was able to remember the kata for the most part and only stumbled a couple of times where I missed a block before a strike but was able to continue without losing my place in the kata and fortunately finished with the correct move facing the right direction (always a bonus when learning a new kata as many people have found out over the years) .

There was a brief informal question and answer session before we moved onto the tonfa. The tonfa training started with basic strikes and blocks with the tonfa which were generally ok, and quite intuitive as the tonfa even more so than the bo is used as an extension of normal karate techniques. However I personally struggled as others seemed to when it came to the swivelling blocks and strikes. Sensei Cummins organised the class into a semi circle to demonstrate how this was done and had some of the seniors more familiar with how to use these help others to grasp this. Sensei Cummins explained the origins of the Tonfa and how these were used along with the bo in Okinawa before we moved onto basic sparring involving the kumite and the bo. This involved dealing with overhead strikes first with a simply rising block with the tonfa followed by a strike with the short end, sensei emphasising the need to push away the bo after the block so that the attacker couldn’t counter-strike. This then proceeded to more complicated cross blocks first with the short ends and then the long ends with a swivel and swivelling strikes. The last attack was a thrusting stab with the end of the bo which had to be blocked with the tonfa and immediately countered so that the attacker couldn’t switch attack. All of these were done on both the left and right sides with everybody alternating being the attacker with the bo and defender with the tonfa. The above exercises were far more difficult than they sound with the need to get the timing exactly right in order to successfully block and counter before the attacker could respond and make effective swivelling strikes and blocks. I ended up on the wrong end of the bo a few times whilst doing these. Unfortunately at that point the class ended as the time had just flown past.

It was a really good course that I found very informative and enjoyable plus it was nice to meet the people from other clubs who we may hopefully see at future events. I find that the use of weapons such as the bo really help to enhance my understanding of karate especially when you consider kata such as bassai sho and jitte which contain many movements for defending against a bo. I would recommend that any karateka who has the opportunity learn to use these weapons take it as it does enhance your karate. Weapons are not taught at many karate schools so I really enjoy the chance to learn these and look forward to the next weapons class in the future.

More pictures from the course can be found in our Flickr album here. Video from the course can be found on our YouTube channel here

Richard A. (Sandan, BHSKC – 03/02/2013)


Yet another amazing Bo and Tonfa course, with Sensei Cummins on Friday 1st February.

This is the third or fourth weapons course I have attended, and I’m still getting to grips with the basics! However, I’m happy to say that after a bit of practice on Friday, I managed to complete the Bo Kata – Shushi No Kon. It’s finally starting to sink in!

My favourite part of the evening (and of any course of this nature) was Sensei Cummins giving us more information about the history, origins and usage of the weapons. Knowing the application is great, but the history of all aspects of Karate fascinates me, so when we gather round to share in his knowledge, I’m always really pleased!

So after practising the Kata and learning some background and history, we did some basic drills to get accustomed to the weapons, before being let loose on each other!! It’s great to practise with the Bo whilst your partner works with the Tonfa and vice versa. It gives a good insight into both weapons and their application as both attacking devices and defence.

Sensei asked again at the end of the session if we enjoyed the course and would like to do more, no doubt in my mind – the answer is YES!!

Already looking forward to the next one and hoping I can remember Shushi No Kon…no count!

Holly W. (1st Kyu Ho, BHSKC – 03/02/2013)


We began the course by practising techniques used for attacking and defending against opponents. Focus was on footwork, hand placements on the bo and aiming strikes. Sensei then took us through the kata, we spent time practising the kata using the techniques we had just been practising.

I have done two of these in the past and this kata is really starting to make sense. It is not an easy kata especially with a weapon in your hands but it is a fantastic kata that I am excited about doing again in the next weapons course. We had a demonstration from the more senior students and it is inspiring and encouraging to see others who have got the moves show the rest of us that we will be able to get it soon and we just have to keep practising.

After practising a few more times we had some history from Sensei. I really enjoy being taught about the history of Karate, the weapons and the kata, I always find it fascinating to know the origin of the weapon and how it was used in the past.

We moved onto practising techniques with Tonfa. I find this weapon even harder to use but spinning the Tonfa around feels really quite powerful, so I am planning to practice so I can do it better on the next course. We practised blocks and strikes independently before pairing up with a fellow student for blocking and countering attacks from the Bo.

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable course where we learned so much about the different weapons and how to use them to defend ourselves. I really hope I have the time and space to practise before the next course which I am hoping happens very soon. Big thank you to Sensei for putting the course on for us.

Emily P. (7th Kyu, BHSKC – 06/02/13)


The Bo & Tonfa Course A Mini Review

Friday 30th November 2012
Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre

The Bo and Tonfa course took place on Friday at the Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Centre and was thoroughly enjoyed by those who attended with many requests for another course to be held in the future made on the same day. The attendance for the course was good with a mixture of those who had used the Bo on previous courses and not the Tonfa and those who had used neither in attendance. For those unfamiliar this dojo it is located inside the gym complex upstairs. It is a moderately sized room with a sprung wooden floor, air conditioning and one of the walls is completely mirrored from the floor to the ceiling.

What follows is my mini review of the evening as someone who has used the Bo a handful of times on a few occasions in the past and never used the tonfa :-

The evening started with an introduction to basic techniques with the Bo including sweeping and stabbing strikes and blocks to help everyone get a feel of using the Bo. Next came the Tonfa with upper, inside and outside blocks and strikes with the edge of the tonfa along the forearm and the ends along with swivelling strikes and stabs. Using the tonfa to me felt a lot like a simple extension of standard karate techniques such as the inside and outside blocks and rising block, straight and reverse punches making their use far more intuitive than one might expect. The swivelling action however was something new having to hold the handles of the tonfa loose enough to swivel without them flying out of your hand and into the mirrors fortunately nobody lost control and the mirrors lived to see another day.

With people now a little familiar with the weapons we returned to the Bo and started with a break down of some of the key sequences in the Bo kata Shushi No Kon that we would soon be learning. Once these had been examined we moved on to the kata itself slowly building up the sequences until we had completed the whole kata and the class was able to perform the kata to a fast count.

Next up came the kumite with the class splitting into pairs to learn how to defend against the Bo with the Tonfa. First it was defending from an overhead strike with the Bo on the right hand side and then blocking with an upper block using the Tonfa against the forearm and counter striking with the edge tonfa across the throat. Once we were comfortable with this we then switched weapons so that both sides had a chance to attack and defend with the Bo and Tonfa. The key to this was to ensure that after the block you used the tonfa to push away and maintain control of the bo so the attacker couldn’t return with a counter.Just as you were beginning to think that this wasn’t too bad then came the twist, do the same thing but on the left side, all of a sudden blocking the Bo and getting in the counter suddenly became a lot harder.

Next we moved on to defending from a stabbing attack with the bo, by using the tonfa to block the attack whilst simultaneously evading the strike and then almost instantly countering with the same hand before delivering the finishing blow with the reverse hand using the end of the tonfa. This was done whilst close to the attacker so you had very little time to get your body out of the way of the strike and get your initial counter strike in rapidly followed by the finishing blow before the attacker could respond. This was a lot harder than it sounded with my partners and I ending up on the wrong end of the tip of the bo on more than one occasion. This was done on both the right and left sides for each pair.

We then returned to Shushi No Kon for a final run through and then had a question and answer session to clarify any points from the kata or kumite before our time was up and the session had to end.

I personally really enjoyed the session and thought that the use of the weapons complemented karate training very well and helps provide some insight into some of the Shotokan kata and others expressed similar opinions after the session.

I hope you enjoyed my mini review and I would definitely recommend coming the next time there is another weapons class. In my experience not many karate schools cover the use of these weapons but they do add a new dimension to your training.

Richard A. (Sandan, BHSKC – 02/12/2012)