Veteran martial artist Andrea Guarelli, an eighth-degree black belt, provides a detailed overview of Matayoshi kobudo, a rare Okinawan martial art that focuses on traditional weaponry.

[Sponsored Post] As a child, did you wish you had a nunchaku so you could fight alongside Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael? The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are fictional, of course, but Matayoshi kobudo is a very real martial art, and it's making a resurgence around the world thanks to Andrea Guarelli of Verona, Italy. Guarelli is a master of goju-ryu karate-do and an eighth-degree black belt in Matayoshi kobudo. He’s the only Westerner to have received a sixth dan and the title of renshi directly from master Shinpo Matayoshi. That is possible because Guarelli trained under him for many years, and the two developed a deep personal friendship — as evidenced in a 1996 certificate of thanks that reads: “Mr. Andrea Guarelli, for a long time you have been applying yourself to the growth, diffusion and development, by your students in your country, of our cultural heritage, which is karate-kobudo of Okinawa. The extraordinary results you have reached have contributed to the prosperity of Zen Okinawan Kobudo Renmei. To pay you tribute for your contribution in the association and to honor the result of your effort, I would like to demonstrate my gratitude.” As chairman and founder of the International Matayoshi Kobudo Association, Guarelli has set out to preserve the history and teach the techniques of the Matayoshi style to students and instructors around the world. As part of this goal, he wrote Okinawan Kobudo: The History, Tools, and Techniques of the Ancient Martial Art, which Skyhorse Publishing has just made available for the first time in English. The book delves deep into the history of the Okinawan martial arts and includes many never-before-seen photographs given to Guarelli by the Matayoshi family. Of particular interest to the Black Belt readership are the full-color technique photos of eku no kata and related bunkai (fighting applications) that pit the eku (oar) against the bo (staff). The use of "white weapons" for self-defense has always been part of the cultural heritage of Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, which include Okinawa. Karate and kobudo are two wheels on the axle of the Japanese martial arts. And while karate is practiced more widely around the world, kobudo can add a similarly rich dimension of fitness to students of any martial art. Making the pursuit even better, training in weapons is a whole lot of fun. Below is a video of two of Guarelli's students demonstrating nunchaku renzoku kumite.

The Matayoshi style of kobudo dates back to the 1500s. It was systemized and modernized by Shinko Matayoshi early in the 20th century. After his death in 1947, his son Shinpo Matayoshi assumed responsibility as soke and codified the art further, creating hojoundo (basic training exercises), kata and bunkai. When Shinpo Matayoshi died in 1997, his son Shinsei Yasushi Matayoshi inherited his father's dojo — although he’s not a practitioner of the style. Shinsei Yasushi Matayoshi wrote the preface to Guarelli's book: "I congratulate Andrea Guarelli sensei, direct student of my father Shinpo, on the publication of his book about the history, techniques and kata of our school. In spite of national and language differences, no distance exists between people who aspire to the same martial way (budo), and I am deeply grateful for his love and respect toward my father, grandfather and family." The weapons of Matayoshi kobudo are divided into four categories: long, short, soft and double. In combat, long weapons have two advantages over shorter weapons. They have a higher potential efficacy, thanks to their length and trajectory. And their range of action is wider than that of shorter weapons, which permits the user to strike first and from a safe distance. Matayoshi kobudo long weapons include the bo, eku, nunti (perforating weapon) and chogama (long scythe). Short weapons are easier to carry. For this reason, historically they were more often used for defense than for offense. Matayoshi kobudo short weapons include the jo (medium-length staff) and kuwa (similar to a hoe). The so-called "soft weapons” of Matayoshi kobudo include folding weapons and limber weapons. Their lengths vary, and they’re most frequently considered secondary weapons intended for use after a main weapon. They can be hidden around the waist (suruchin, or rope with weights at the ends), in the sleeves (nunchaku) or on the back (sansetsukon, or three-section staff) before deployment in a confrontation. Also in this category is the kuramanbo (“stick that turns”). Historically, the double weapons of Matayoshi kobudo were its primary tools of defense. The sai and tunkuwa (also called tonfa or tuifa) are still in widespread use and viewed as basic weapons suitable for beginners. Others, like the kama and tinbe (shields), are intended for more advanced practitioners. A few, including the tekko (fist-load weapon) and tecchu (hand-held striking implements), are rarely taught and, therefore, reserved for students at the highest level of the martial art. This post is intended to whet the reader’s appetite. No doubt martial artists across the English-speaking world will want to learn more about Matayoshi kobudo and Andrea Guarelli. They can do so by visiting the International Matayoshi Kobudo Association website. Andrea Guarelli’s text Okinawan Kobudo: The History, Tools, and Techniques of the Ancient Martial Art can be purchased from Amazon.com as a paperback book or an e-book. More good news for American martial artists: Andrea Guarelli plans to conduct a seminar in Connecticut in August 2016. For details, visit the Matayoshi Kobudo Association of America website. About the author: Kimberly Rossi Stagliano is a student of Andrea Guarelli, as well as the secretary and treasurer of the International Matayoshi Kobudo Association and the vice president of the Matayoshi Kobudo Association of America. She trains in shito-ryu karate and Matayoshi kobudo with Kyoshi Danilo Torri, a founder of the IMKA and president of the MKAA, at Hanko Ryu Martial Arts in Trumbull, Connecticut. She’s a nationally recognized author, blogger and speaker who’s been published in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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