Monday, December 14, 2015

Why Tonfa ROCK!

Of all the kobudo weapons I knew I was going to learn in the AKATO program, the one I was looking forward to most was the tonfa.

These are my tonfa. There are many others like them, but these are mine.
I've been fascinated with tonfa since I first saw them early in my martial arts training.   I know that for many of us, tonfa is probably the least favorite kobudo weapon.  It's hard on the arms (wrists, hands, shoulders and oh, my forearms) and if you don't have a bunch of calluses like I do, developed from Arnis, it can really be hard on the hands, especially the thumb.  It doesn't give a huge advantage in reach compared to other weapons.

They certainly aren't very flashy or impressive looking compared to other weapons.

I think I like the basic nature of the tonfa.  It's a solid, no-nonsense kind of weapon, and I like solid, no-nonsense weapons.  I'm a solid, no-nonsense kind of martial artist.

Exhibit A.
Tonfa are not flashy.  Tonfa don't lend themselves well to spinning and dancing about.  You rarely see tonfa wrapped in reflective tape or sold as "Speed 'Fa" or people doing tonfa forms and tricking set to music.

Oh, crap, somebody's going to do this now, aren't they?

My bad.

There are some amazing strikes in tonfa that may look complex but really, when you look closely, it's not that difficult (well, not that difficult to do in principle - good execution is another matter, something I'm learning myself right now, because I do suck hard at this right now).

I also like the idea of the force multiplier and support in blocking tonfa gives you. Tonfa are solid chunks of wood (round, square or flat - they're all solid). They are wide enough to provide a bit more protection against incoming attacks vs. other weapons.  Getting punched with tonfa in natural grip (held by the handle) is gonna hurt no matter where you take the strike.  Get good with swinging it around, and you get a nice extension to your reach, as well as a pull-through striking motion.  I'm primarily a weapons-oriented martial artist, but it seems to me like tonfa would be the easiest weapon for your empty-handers to catch onto and use properly in a pinch.

Tonfa are also versatile.  Hold it by the handle, hold it by the end, hold it in the middle, hold it in various grips... there's all sorts of ways to use it to your advantage, offensively and defensively (do that with a sai or a kama and see where the tonfa is far more versatile).  As someone who is very committed to the idea of improvised weapons, I think tonfa training is good for that attitude.

Watch this - just watch this, and see how awesome fighting with tonfa can be.  It's a form, but you can see how devastating this man would be with the tonfa.

DUDE!  Wow!

So right now I'm camping very happily in my kobudo class, as it's tonfa time.  I missed our first session (I was at a seminar with +Datu Hartman), which I understand was all basics, so MY first class went straight into our 16 count blocking set, our one-hand strike set, our double strike set, and the beginning of our form Tonfa Ichi, which is basically the same as our Bo Ichi but adapted to tonfa.

I'm already seeing the commonality between things we do in Arnis, and things I'm doing with the tonfa, especially when it comes to the position and angle of certain blocks.

Oh, I have to keep practicing bo, the weapon I hate less than I used to, but I get to add in tonfa, the awesomest weapon EVAH to the mix.  So I do bo first (the vegetables) and then I do tonfa (dessert).

So what's your favorite kobudo (or other weapon)?  Why is that your favorite?  If you haven't studied weapons, what's the one you wish you could study if you had the opportunity?  Tell us in the comments!