Sometimes short conversations can make you think about your art differently, sometimes in a fairly fundamental way. I was in Okinawa in January and at one point while taking a short pause in training Ishiki sensei and I started talking about some of the smaller weapons in the system. We had been working with the tekko and san bon nunchiyaku and had played a little with some ticchu and some chizikunbo I had made for him. We were discussing the various techniques these weapons shared and how they related to the other weapons in the system. In particular we were talking about the techniques for each that emphasize concealment in deploying them, keeping them hidden until they are in use as well as keeping them hidden from sight during use. In lumping them together to more easily discuss these connections I used the term “kakushi buki”. (隠武器) It is a term used more frequently in mainland koryu arts and essentially means “concealed weapon”. Ishiki sensei made a rather sour face but was just going to go on when I stopped and asked him why the look?
“I don’t like that term”, he replied. I asked why and he had a very clear answer. “It has some really unpleasant connotations. It means you, as an individual, have decided to conceal a weapon on your person. That implies you mean to use it. Do you want to be the kind of person that carries around a concealed weapon? I don’t. I don’t want to be a thug, or an assassin, or someone who likes to fight and hurt other people. Those would be the only reasons to carry a concealed weapon, because you planned to use it.”
Ok, I answered, that makes sense. But these weapons are meant for concealment, and we were just talking about how those techniques are built into their use. Isn’t carrying them their purpose? The purpose of any self-defense weapon, really?
Yes, he said, but mind set is really important and I think the word Concealed Weapon creates a bad mind set. It moves you towards an immoral place. I like to use a different term, “Nigeru Dogu”. (逃げる道具 This translates pretty well as “tool for running away or tool for escaping”.) That sums up the real use: it is for getting away if you get in trouble, not for fighting or attacking.
OK, I thought, not much difference but sure, why not? But as I thought about it more, it is actually a much better, and more precise, term for those implements. It cuts directly to the chase- if you are attacked your goal is not to fight, not to harm or punish your attacker or surprise him with your armaments, but to get yourself out of the situation. It eliminates a bunch of the macho BS that can accompany discussions of self defense and concealed weapons, at least in my experience, by making it clear the entire purpose of the tool is to escape, to run away. Like a chicken, if that suits you terminologically. I won’t get into the possible permutations of protecting a loved one or other victim, or the differences between civilian and law enforcement responsibilities. They are not relevant- your goal if you are protecting someone is get both or all of you away, not fight or defeat someone, and the responsibilities of law enforcement personnel is a different conversation entirely.
Perhaps in part due to the language barrier we can forget our teachers have spent decades thinking about the various combative, social, philosophical, moral, and practical aspects of their arts. In this particular instance, Ishiki sensei’s perspective also has some back up from modern science- there is evidence that carrying a weapon makes one more aggressive. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-psyched/201301/the-weapons-effect
By re-framing the purpose of the tool internally, Ishiki sensei was saying, one can also reframe one’s mind-set around the tool. Not thinking of it as a weapon may in fact change how you act and how you respond to aggression.
Obviously there is no data to back up that particular possibility. However, the tactical perspective is pretty useful. The point is to be thinking of how to stay out of trouble and get out if you fail at staying out. It is not to be thinking about how your weapon can help you in a fight. It is also a clear moral perspective- one uses one’s art to evade and escape, not to start fights or stay and fight unless necessary.
Anyway, the conversation has me thinking about a variety of things. How our applications relate to the concept of escape and evasion. How concealing our intent is different from concealing our weapons. How surprise can be used in different ways depending on your goal. How your starting point informs your tactics. How morals are practical. That kind of stuff.
It is also nice to have a term for some of our weapons that gets to the heart of their use.