Using Weapons as an Extension of Your Body in the Martial Arts

There are many different stylistic approaches to the use of weapons in the martial arts. There is a common theme though. As a general rule, weapons are simply considered an extension of your body. The stances, blocks and strikes you use when unarmed are used in the same contexts when using a weapon. The only difference is that you use the weapon as an extension of your body to enhance your defensive or offensive capabilities.

In Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, we emphasize the use of weapons of opportunity. Weapons of opportunity are simply items that are commonly found in your environment that could be used in self-defense, but aren’t necessarily carried for that purpose. This includes things like a flashlight, hair brush, rolled up magazine, umbrella, stick, cane, etc. Whatever the weapon, we still use the same stance and style of movement as we do in our unarmed defenses, we just introduce ways to enhance one’s impact, reach, and overall effectiveness, using the unique qualities of the weapon used.

Other martial arts styles do this too. We recently had a guest instructor, Farshad Ardestani Sensei from Aikido Yoshinkai Burnaby, come to our dojo to run a 3-hour Iaido course. One of the things he said directly relates to this concept. He explained that it is not the sword that makes the attack, it is the one who is wielding it. This was made evident when it came time to swing a live blade to cut through pool noodles later in the course. Even with a fully sharpened blade being swung through something as soft as a pool noodle, if the person doesn’t swing with good form and intent, it is quite possible not to cut all the way through the noodle. When I was given an unsharpened sword, I certainly had difficulty making a cut all the way though the noodle, and yet the instructor with his years of experience developing his form, could do this easily. There is also a lot of psychological and philosophical elements in which weapons are not only an extension of the body, but also the mind. My blogger friend, Stu Cooke Sensei, covered this angle of weapon work in his blog post, ‘Iaido: Living Under the Sword‘ that he wrote after attending this same course.

To see all our photos from the course, check out our Iaido course photo album on Facebook. Here is a video of all our Iaido course participants cutting pool noodles with a live blade:

All the different martial arts I’ve trained in use weapons as an extension of the body and mind, from Karate with the use of the Bo, Tonfa, etc, to Filipino martial arts and their use of knives, sticks, etc. I find it somehow comforting that we all are unified by these principles. Do you train in weapons? How does it relate to your unarmed techniques? Please share in the comments. 🙂

Comments (6)

6 thoughts on “Using Weapons as an Extension of Your Body in the Martial Arts

  1. Training empty hand has allowed my own body-mind system to be settled/acquainted with itself first. My comfortability level with the bokken has only gone up even through I’ve only trained with it a handful of times in the past couple of years.

  2. Excellent post Lori! In Filipino martial arts, the use of weapons is taught first with an emphasis on the use of the centerline and body structure. Obviously, those concepts should translate to empty hand movements/self defense techniques. One great point in your post concerns the psychological aspect of weapons training. If there is no intent in your rattan cane technique, how can there be any intent in your empty hand technique? I often find a correlation between lack of intent in handling weapons and in performance of empty hand techniques. So I encourage my students to have confidence in handling the rattan cane. Repetition, repetition! 🙂

  3. It should be all be the same, I think – everything comes out of the basic body conditioning. The real challenge is to get your intent out to the end of the weapon, whatever it is.

  4. Excellent post. I’ve always loved weapons and as my primary art is Aikido, there is a lot of emphasis on weapons as the majority of Tai Jutsu came from Ken Jutsu. I reccomend watching Nishio Sensei videos.

    Training with weapons creates discipline and is good for learning good ma ai, learning movement, a great way to learn lines of attack and defense and to establish and good sense of responsiveness, control and sensitivity.

    Regardless of what art one follows, I personally think it is an essential part of ones training to practice on a regular basis, the use of weapons.

    In this day and age, often weapons are used as a means to attack, rob, threaten e.t.c, yet how many of us actually think about the use of weapons as a defensive tool also? Or the use of what is around you as a means to defense. Perhaps even use the item someone is trying to steal as a weapons itself.

    So many items can be used for attack, defense or distraction, such as lighters, rolled up newspapers, wallet/purse, coat, dustbin lid, door, telephone, drawer, bag, a cup of coffee or even for the guys, turning around and urinating on someone who tries to jump you in the bathroom for instance. A vast amount of possibilities.

    Training with weapons is fun and will also develop a healthier respect for your training partner and hone that technique down as you develop a stronger sense of positioning and timing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jiu-jitsu Sensei
Martial Arts Blog