Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chandler Gilbert Mesa & Tempe Martial Artists train with Sai - Okinawa Karate Weapon

Dai Shihan Neal Adam (6th dan) trains with sai to counter
bo attack.

Classes in Sai, an Okinawan martial arts weapon, are taught at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Tempe. The classes are part of the traditional martial arts curriculum taught to all students of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu by Grandmaster Soke Hausel.

After months of training with the classical Okinawa weapon known as sai on Thursday evenings, six members of the Arizona School of Traditional Karate on the border of Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa tested in expertise of kihon (basics), kata (forms), bunkai (self-defense) and kumite (sparring) with sai and were certified in the weapon. These Arizona Sai Martial Arts Classes are taught to traditional karate students. This was followed by presentation of diplomas by Grandmaster Hausel, on May 9th, 2013. Sai was one of the first weapons learned by Soke Hausel, who has been teaching the Okinawan weapon for more than 4 decades.

“You don’t pick your teeth with sai – you pick your attacker’s teeth, feet, hands or anything else that presents itself” – Soke Hausel

The six members from various parts of the East Valley of Phoenix included Sensei Bill Borea, Senpai Patrick Scofield, Adam Bialek, Amanda Nemec, Ryan Nemec and Alexis Pillow. All demonstrated expertise in the ancient Okinawan weapon. More than 2 dozen members trained with the weapon from Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. Nearly all of the students noted this was one of their favorite weapons but one of the more difficult to learn. Learning the sai is part of the Shorin-Ryu karate curriculum and in the past, Soke Hausel taught students and faculty at the University of Utah, University New Mexico and University of Wyoming the traditions and use of this ancient weapon. Unlike many other martial arts schools in Arizona, students at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa learn more than a dozen traditional martial arts weapons as part of the basic karate program.

Karate and Kobudo can be likened to tires of a bicycle. Both are needed to make the bike move.

The sai is one of several Okinawan weapons, or converted Okinawan farming implements that are taught for self-defense and for historical purposes in Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo. Students from the Arizona School of Traditional Karate had to learn four of six sai forms (kata) including all applications (bunkai) along with use of the weapon against staffs, swords, night sticks and knives. This meant that they had to learn as many as four dozen self-defense applications.

"Personally, I love the sai", explained Grandmaster Hausel. "This was one of the first weapons along with nunchaku I learned more than 40 years ago.  Those who certify in this Okinawan weapon, must become proficient in its use". "The simpler the techniques (bunkai) the better - this is because the weapon, like the nunchaku, sometimes has a mind of its own and tends to get caught in the gi (karate uniform)."

Hall-of-Fame martial artist and Who's Who in Martial Arts, Grandmaster Hausel, poses with Okinawan
sai at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa, Arizona. 

Attacking with bo.  Ryan Nemec's bo strike is blocked with juji uke (cross block) using sai.
Sensei Bill Borea uses sai to block attack during kobudo certification
Training with sai can get a little 'sticky'. All edges of the sai are used in self-defense - here Adam Bialek defends
Sensei Scofield attacks with bo while Senpai Harden defends with sai.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kata (Forms) for Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Sai

It's Thursday evening - time for Traditional Kobudo Classes at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate at the border of Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona. Class starts at 6:45 pm and continues until 7:45 pm. This is followed by a second 30 minute advanced kobudo class. Make no mistake, this is not twirling seen in some of the McDojo around town. Here you learn the way of the art (kobudo) as well as the combat arts (kobujutsu).

Arizona martial artists from Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale train in the ancient Okinawan art of Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo at the Arizona Hombu in Mesa. Part of the training involves traditional Okinawan weapons, such as the sai.

Adam (left) trains with Sensei Patrick using sai during kobudo classes at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in the East Valley of Phoenix in Mesa, Arizona. Every Thursday Evening is Kobudo (weapons) night.
The Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Renmei (西洋少林流空手古武) system incorporates many Okinawan and Modern weapons into its kobudo (古武道) system. The sai () is an example of one ancient weapon that has some modern equivalents found in many garden shops.  The sai is considered to be an Okinawan weapon and in Seiyo Martial Arts we have a group of six kata (). These kata all employ a variety of blocking, striking, hooking, choking, capturing and throwing techniques and assist the Shorin-Ryu martial artist with proper application, stances and ma (timing).
Sensei Borea (right) blocks bo strike from Shihan 
Adam (left) during kobudo class and bunkai training.

Thus after one learns to use the sai, they must learn the bunkai (分解) of all techniques in the kata and learn them with full power and focus. This requires considerable expertise as it is easy to hurt one's knuckles during bunkai because of the nature of the weapon. But after considerable training, one tends to block out the pain of being struck on the knuckles. Our kata are simply numbered as Sai Shodan (初段), Sai Nidan (二段), Sai Sandan (三段), Sai Yondan (四段), Sai Godan (五段) and Sai Rokudan (六段).

The Sai - sketch by Soke Hausel
Dr. Adam (Professor at Grand Canyon University & 5th degree black belt) trains with Sensei Borea (retired air force pilot) during kobudo class at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate
at 60 W. Baseline road, Mesa, Arizona.
Soke-Dai, Eric Hausel, trains with sai at the University of Wyoming Campus
Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Club in Laramie.
Adam (left) blocks Patrick's strike with hanbo using his sai during Kobudo Training at the
Arizona School of Traditional Martial Arts in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Arizona

Sarah trains with Shihan
Adam in Mesa, Arizona

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You can learn more about the Arizona Hombu and our International Training Center in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Arizona

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sai-jutsu at Mesa Karate in Phoenix East Valley

Soke Hausel teaching Sai at Corbett
Gym at the University of Wyoming
Soke Hausel, 10th dan in Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo, began teaching saijutsu to karate classes on Wednesday afternoon at the Seiyo Kai International Hombu in Mesa and Gilbert. The Hombu is also the Arizona School of Traditional Karate dojo. Those also attending evening kobudo classes on Thursdays were also introduced to the sai.

Kate Lehman, demonstrates sai at
University of Wyoming International
week. Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate &
Kobudo Club.
Members training on Wednesday afternoons (3-4 pm) focus on kara-te kata and bunkai along with kobudo. Currently this class is focusing on the sai ()(Okinawan fork knifes). The Thursday evening classes (6:45-7:45 & 7:50-8:20 pm) began training in Tonfa (トンファー) last fall (2011) and in April (2012) basically finished training with nitonfa (two tonfa) and self-defense applications (bunkai). The group will plan to test and certify in Tonfa in late May 2012 by demonstrating kihon (basics), three different tonfa kata, along with many applications for self-defense.

In Early May, the evening group began training in Sai along with the use of one tonfa for self-defense. Many law enforcement agencies around the world have used a baton similar to the Okinawan sai or are still using this baton. Training in one-sai will help our students to better understand police tactics and defenses with this weapon. However, few (if any) law enforcement agencies go into depth as our classes.
Hanshi Finley (7th dan) trains with tonfa at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa,
Arizona. Here he uses a reverse grip of the baton.
Katharine defends Adam's Bo Attack with juji uke using
her tonfa.
Training in Tonfa Kata at the Arizona School of Traditional Martial Arts in Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona
Sai Kata training in the evening beach sand along the imaginary sea at the University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Club in Laramie.
Sempai George from Boston
and his daughter Elaine from
Switzerland training with sai
at the Arizona Hombu in

Friday, June 4, 2010


"In Kobudo, one does not defend with sai, one becomes the sai"

In Arizona, both mudansha and yudansha (lower rank belts and black belts) at the Arizona Hombu Karate and Kobudo Dojo in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Tempe forcus on karate as well as martial arts weapons. It is traditional that students of the Shorin-Ryu karate systems learn kobudo along with karate. Kobudo is primarily the art of ancient Okinawan farming implements, fishing and merchant tools used as weapons – basically the tools of trade for peasants. Some students may also elect to train with bladed weapons of the Japanese kobujutsu styles (such as kenjutsu, i.e., the bladed samurai weapons). By learning kobudo and kobujutsu, it becomes apparent that a belt, pen, baton, car keys, cell phone, book, magazine, stick and most any tool can be used as a weapon of self-defense at the spur of the moment.

Kobudo is a martial art that blended with karate in the Okinawan martial arts systems. It is thought that the practice of kobudo began in earnest sometime after Okinawan King Shoshin issued a proclamation (1480 AD) requiring all peasants of the kingdom surrender their bladed weapons. This was done because King Shoshin was a apparently a non-violent Buddhist who felt all Okinawans should share his beliefs, but others believe it was done to keep the Okinawan peasants from rising up against the Okinawan government. As a result, Okinawa was later invaded by Japanese samurai and since there was no Okinawan army, there was little to no resistance to the invasion. The Okinawan trade industry then became the possession of the Satsuma clan of Japan and the Okinawans became subjects of the samurai.

In recent years, many Asian and American hybrid systems of karate elected to remove kobudo from their curriculum for unknown reasons, even though original forms of karate included kobudo. Even many of the Japanese karate styles eliminated kobudo after karate was introduced to Japan in the 20th century. This likely was because kobudo was seen as a peasant art to the Japanese, whereas karate was both a peasant art and art taught to royalty.

Okinawan kobudo includes weapons such as the sai, nunchuku, tonfa, kama, nitanbo, tsue, bo, kobutan, eku, ra-ke, kuwa, manrikigusari, hari, nireki, surichin, tetsubo, tekko, tinbe, yawara, suruji, tanto and more.

The sai is a three-pronged trident with a pointed shaft surrounded by two curved prongs that project from the handle. The most common sai have parallel prongs, although others exhibit opposing prongs or just one. Typically two zai (plural for sai) are used, but three may be employed with two held by the hands and a third in the obi (belt) available for throwing. The origin of the weapon is thought to either have been as a farming implement, or more likely to have been a trident imported from China.

Some people suggest that the sai was originally a farming implement. In other words, the weapon could have been some a kind of hoe used to dig furrows. As such, a sai mounted on a stick would have produced a central deep furrow (seed trench) surrounded by two outside shallow guide furrows used to line up the next seed trench.

Another concept is that the sai was introduced from China, India, or some southeast Asian country. There are ancient Chinese, Indian and Indonesian weapons that have similar appearance to sai. The Chinese Tiger’s Fork used by many Southern Chinese Kung Fu arts such as Hung Gar is similar to a Hindu weapon known as the trishula and the southeastern Asian weapon known as the tjabang. These have trident-like sai mounted on long wooded staffs.

In the past, Okinawans didn’t care about the length of the sai, as the weapon would have been uncommon with few choices. Today, when held in a reverse grip, the long blade of the sai is often measured to cover the forearm of the individual so that it extends to the tip of the elbow, or about one inch past the elbow (typically 18 to 23 inches). This will allow one to strike with an outward elbow strike (soto hiji uchi) and projecting the point of the blade into an attacker. The pommel is often round, square or multi-angled.

I usually tell students that the best measurement would be a shaft that extends just short of the elbow. But more important is the balance of the weapon – be sure it is well-balanced so that it can easily be rotated from normal to reverse grips.

Soke Hausel teaching Sai-jutsu at the University of Wyoming.
Sai techniques parallel techniques and movements in karate, thus a karate-ka can quickly learn to use this weapon. And just like in karate, the sai will be more effective using effective koshi no chikara (hip power) and suri ashi (sliding movement). Training in sai kata and bunkai is part of the art. 

At the Seiyo Hombu in Mesa, Arizona (Arizona School of Traditional Karate), members train in most weapons of Okinawa Kobudo.


Our training center is open to the public - we focus on Adults and Families. Come learn the traditions of Okinawan Karate & Kobudo. Much of the class is conducted in both Japanese and English to help students learn Japanese. We also teach meditation, philosophy and martial arts history interjected in karate classes.

Ryan Harden shows his power in blocks at the
Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa,
Gilbert and Chandler in the East Valley of Phoenix