Sai is in the category of weapons known as kobudo developed from Okinawan martial arts. Practitioners who have mastered the skills attendant to sai consider the weapon most elegant of those from the East. Based on the skills required to master the weapon, it is in many ways comparable to the Japanese samurai sword. It is said by those who know, that a master who handles sai with dexterity is a most dangerous foe. In the hands of a master, the exquisite functionality of sai becomes obvious.
Modern sai are generally blunt and unsharpened, octagonal, or rounded in shape. Many novelty patterns are readily available for the novice market, though they do not enhance the weapon or its true intent. Antique (older and fully functional) sai had sharpened saki: points, while others had a flat monouchi: blade. Sai are distinct in usage, but in the hands of a novice, and regardless of superficial technique, they are meaningless pieces of iron or metal. They do not maintain their significance in that manner. To properly use sai, your mentality must be above the norm of most so-called “warriors.”
The principle use of sai is to deal with sword attacks. Used primarily in a pair, sai are wielded in a twirling, flipping, and thrusting manner and can also be used as projectiles. Both ends of sai are functional. As an example, the pointed end can be used to pin an enemy’s foot to the ground, while the pointed end can be used as a skewer. The butt end, gashira, is used as an extension of the fist as in a karate or kempo punching technique. The weapon is deadly when used in an efficient and effective manner.
No one knows for certain where sai originally came, but the logical transition suggests that they came through China and Korea after having possibly been developed in India. Allegory can be used to intuit sai as a “court weapon,” a “fishing spear,” this or that. Some authorities believe sai were used to prod oxen or were originally derived from a dagger. Speculation is meaningless.
This book is a master text and great care has gone into its development. It is for mastering the technical aspects of sai for classical bujutsu, the development of martial skills for combat, budo skills, and as a meditative and aesthetic application for higher realization of the self as a trained warrior. Study of proper technique will enable you to become proficient with sai, which should be a committed goal. For further clarification of the above ideas, it is suggested that you study Hanshi’s version of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings.
You will master the skills required for competency of Sai if you focus your training on excellence. Sai should be considered as a valuable adjunct to your martial arts repertoire.
© SFKaufman 2010
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