February 2, 2020

Sai

Sai Traditional Martial Arts Weapon

Typically thought of as an Okinawan weapon the Sai has its origins in China and south-east Asia. This is evident in very old versions found in China and forms/Kata found within Chinese arts such as Kung Fu. As with all Okinawan weapons, many of the forms are reflective of “empty hand” techniques. The sai is a three-pronged truncheon sometimes mistakenly believed to be a variation on a tool used to create furrows in the ground. This is highly unlikely as metal on Okinawa was in short supply at this time and a stick would have served this purpose more satisfactorily for a poor commoner, or Heimin. The sai appears similar to a short sword, but is not bladed and the end is traditionally blunt. The weapon is metal and of the truncheon class with its length dependent upon the forearm of the user. The two shorter prongs on either side of the main shaft are used for trapping (and sometimes breaking) other weapons such as a sword or bo. A form known as nunti sai, sometimes called manji sai (due to its appearance resembling the swastika kanji) has the two shorter prongs pointed in opposite directions.

The Sai is a three pronged martial arts weapon useful for trapping and blocking enemy attacks. As well as the blade, truncheon part of the Sai (the hilt) is also used in order to strike the opponent. The Sai was developed in Asia but is associated mainly with Japanese martial arts such as Karate and Okinawan Kobudo.

In ancient Japan, a variation of the Sai (called a Jutte) was often used by the feudal police in order to disarm and control criminals. Unlike Sai, the Jutte was used as a single weapon and is often referred to as the sword breaker. Like with Sai, the Jutte is very effective for the trapping swords and other weapons between its prongs. In the hands of an adept user, it can be used to actually snap a sword blade.

The Sai practiced is from the Shinpo Mataoshi system.

Form and related pairs work structured as Ippon Kumite in the empty hand art.

  • Yoku – These are the two shorter prongs that extend from the handle. They form a sort of ‘guard’.
  • Tsuka – This is the handle of the Sai. It is e generally wrapped in leather or similar material.
  • Monouchi – This is the shaft of the Sai. It can be round, hexagonal, or octagonal. Round Sai are best for demonstration and octagonal Sai are better for training against other martial arts weapons.
  • Moto – This is where the Yoku and Monouchi converge. This component is usually a sort of round node.
  • Saki – This is the tip of the Sai. The tip is usually blunt and not pointed (as Sai are non-lethal weapons).

Sensei Pete Halloran is our Okinawan weapons instructor who also holds a position on the Shizendo Technical Committee overseeing standards in our Organization.