Kama (weapon)

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Kama (? or ???) are Okinawan and Japanese traditional farming implements similar to a sickle used for reaping crops and also employed as a weapon. Before being used in martial arts, the kama was widely used throughout Asia to cut crops, mostly rice. It is commonly used in martial arts from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines where it is found in many forms. The kama has also been used in Chinese martial arts but not often. From one or both of these areas the kama was brought to Okinawa and incorporated into the martial art Te (hand) and later Karate (empty hand).

The Kama is a formidable weapon, traditionally used in pairs, though in agricultural use it would be used one-handed, whilst the other hand grasped the stalks for cutting. Agricultural use of the Kama can be seen in Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai during the harvesting sequence. As a weapon, both the point and sharpened edge of the metal blade are called in to use, Okinawan kata (forms) suggesting that the kama could also be used to block, trap and disarm weapons used against the wielder. The hard edge of the kama blade would traditionally be kept razor-sharp to enable efficient cutting of crops, which made it a lethal weapon in the right hands, though this is sometimes a cause of training accidents by unskilled wielders, for whom blunt training versions of the weapon are created. They were often used by ninjas.

Kama are often included in weapon training segments of karate, tae kwon do, silat and more obscurely in some kung fu systems. It is also a popular modern forms competition weapon. Modern forms competitors often simply adapt their empty hand routine while holding kama with little actual kama technique, or employ elaborate weapon-juggling routines that differ radically from the focused Okinawan forms.

When a ball and chain are attached to the end of the Kama, it becomes a kusarigama, a formidable (if hard to master) weapon because its range makes it extremely difficult for opponents to approach the wielder.