Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Oh hai, Sai!

In kobudo, we've started the sai.

Now we're talking some SERIOUS weaponry, y'all.

If you don't know what sai are, they're the three-pronged weapon that you've seen Elektra from Marvel Comics (we won't mention the films she's appeared in as a character) or Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles use.

I am a katana and an intelligent rat mentor away from being one of these guys.

The other weapons I've trained with in kobudo - bo, tonfa, nunchaku - are derived from everyday objects, and you can find analogues to all of those weapons in your daily life.

Sai are different, though.  These bad boys are weapons, and there's no analogue that I know of in regular everyday objects.

I actually ended up with two pair of sai.  I bought my steel pair years and years ago, but they're really small (almost too small for me, and that's saying something, as I am a small person).  I was given another pair of sai by a great friend, and they're black and a little bigger, and these are the sai I'm using in class.  They're a little longer and they're safer for blocking and whatnot than my original pair.

Golly, I have two pair of sai.  That's tragic.

Sai are not short swords with really big guards or tongs, mind you.  The middle portion - the blade or shaft (or monouchi) is round or octagonal.  The tip (or saki) is more rounded than pointy, even though it is pointy enough to stab someone with.  It's still (basically) a blunt weapon - there is no edge like a sword or knife.

Not that it can't and won't break the skin - it will.  But the key word is "break" (or "tear") versus "cut".  They're heavy enough that it shouldn't take a lot of force to do so, either.

The thing about sai is that they are substantial.  They're metal - mine are steel, not aluminum, and good traditional sai, I've been told, are iron.  The first thing we are learning is how to manipulate the sai and how to properly block with them (it's tricky, as the shaft is very thin and there is zero margin for error).

You drop these bad boys tip-down on the floor, especially a wood floor, and there will be a hole or divot in that floor.  Drop them on your foot... well, let's just say DON'T.

It's also important to learn how to change your grip so that you are not at risk of having your fingers smashed when the sai is used to block or trap using the tines (yoko).  This is the part I'm struggling with the most as I work on learning how to manipulate this weapon.

Yes, but... no.
I thought tonfa were heavy (and they are) but wow, sai take the cake.  It's not like I don't already have relatively strong wrists or forearms, given what I do.  Sai are taking me to a whole new level of training my arms.  My shoulders, my forearms, and my wrists are getting a hell of a workout, and I'm having to work very hard on not stabbing myself.

That'll help me in arnis, and I'm always happy about that.  Sai manipulation is a nice little workout.

But honestly, I don't know how I feel about the sai just yet.  With bo, it took me a while to enjoy the weapon (and now I do, even if it is not my favorite).  I was disappointed by tonfa but I'm good with them now, and nunchaku are a blast to learn and manipulate.

Sai though...

I'm finding the manipulation required a little complicated in a life and death situation - I don't understand the point of holding them where the shaft is against your forearm (what I'd call reverse grip) - why not shaft out, in "traditional" or "saber" grip?  It seems simpler and more flexible in application.

But I'm new to it, and I'm sure I am missing important things that make perfect sense once I train a little more.

I will be learning new material on sai in kobudo class, plus practicing everything else I've learned, for the rest of the year.  I may be looking at a black belt grading at the end of the year or the early part of next year.

So the sai represent me entering the home stretch to black belt.


Awwww yisssssss.

So no matter how I end up feeling about the sai, it is a huge milestone for me as I train in kobudo.  So I will work hard on learning how to use the sai, as hard as I did the other weapons I'm training in.

Have you trained in sai?  What was your experience?  Have any sai stories?  Let us know in the comments!