Okinawa has a long history of weapons arts. The history of Okinawan Kobudo or Kobu-jitsu, like that of other martial arts, has been passed down by oral tradition. Oral tradition of Ryukyu Kobudo goes back to the thirteenth century. Written record of the martial arts of Okinawa started when the Satsuma clan of Japan occupied Okinawa in 1609. During this period, because of the restrictions on martial activity under the Satsuma clan, Kobudo training was practiced in secret. Over the centuries Okinawan Kobudo has developed into a martial art that has become popular worldwide.

There were many famous Kobudo masters. From Okinawa and the island of Hama-Higa (noted for Kobudo) come many famous masters: Yamaki Chinen, Shikiya Chinen, Masu Higa, Aburaya Yamaki, Yabiku Moden and Taira Shinken. Taira Shinken (1902-1970) was a student of Yabiku Moden and has become known as probably the most famous of Kobudo masters. Shinken traveled to Japan during the 1940s-1950s teaching Kobudo. Kata and training techniques from the various Kobudo masters are propagated through the Central New York Karate Schools.

The exact origin of the Bo (kon) or staff is as obscure as the origin of many other ancient weapons. It is known that the staff was among the first tools used by early humans to help them survive. Over the ages, the use of the Bo or staff as a weapon has been developed and refined. The Bo itself originated with the Tenbi, a stick held across the shoulders usually with buckets hanging from each end. When need arose the Tenbi, or Bo as it is known today, was manipulated to block and strike.

Development of Bo fighting techniques can be traced to the Shorin-ji Temple in China around 500 A.D. These techniques greatly influenced the later development of Ryukyu Kobudo (the Okinawan art of using weapons) which first gained prominence around 1314 A.D. Over the centuries the Kobudo masters of Okinawa developed the art of the Bo to its highly held position as an effective weapon. The kata, drills and fighting techniques of the Okinawan masters have been passed on to Sensei Labbate and from Sensei Labbate to Central New York Karate Schools students.

Master Iha Kotaro

Iha Kotaro Sensei is President of the Ryukonkai Ryukyu Kobudo Association. He is a Kudan (9th dan Black Belt).

Iha Kotaro was born February 12, 1939. He started training in Shorin Ryu Karate in May of 1958 under Choshin Chibana.

Iha Sensei trained under several great masters, and he is an expert on many weapons, in particular the Bo.

In 1961, Iha Sensei began training under Yuchoku Higa. In May he started training Bo under Shigenobu Tamai.

In May 1968, he started training Nunchaku, Sai & Kama under Iloei Ishikawa. In January 1970, he started training Sai and Bo under Shiko Toma.

In March 1971, he started studying Bo under Kantoku Izumikawa. In March 1972, he started training Eku under Takasha Kinjo. In July, he began studying Bo under Shinchin Tawata.

In 1974, Iha Sensei opened his first dojo at his own house in Gushikawa City, Okinawa.

In June 1981, Iha Sensei founded Ryukonkai, the Ryukyu Kobudo Association, and he was appointed the President of the association.

Encounter with Karate
Iha Sensei was interested in combative sports even when he was small. When he was in high school, he joined the Judo Club at school and started to practice Judo at a private dojo in town. Iha Sensei, however, had to suffer a lot in his efforts to win because there was no classification according to weight, and he was rather small in physique. After graduation from high school, he decided to take up Karate because he thought Karate would give him a fair chance of winning despite the disadvantage of his physique. He soon found out, however, that even in Karate, one with finer and bigger physiques could have an advantage over the smaller opponent. This further thinking made him decide to take up Kobudo since through the use of weapons – especially the Bo – anyone could have a fair chance of winning regardless of his or her physical condition. Iha Sensei has been fascinated by the Bo ever since.

Iha Sensei’s Favorite Motto

“You should not love to fight, but, not even for a moment, forget to prepare for fighting.” {Musashi, Go Rin No Sho (tr. The Book of Five Rings)}

Dojo Mottos

Be civil, courteous, disciplined and well behaved.
Aim to train your mental and spiritual power as well as your physical power. Endurance is the key to success.
Respect your seniors and love your juniors. Regard every member of the dojo as brothers and sisters and treat them as such.
Try to master the most efficient skill of self-defense, preparing for the emergency.


Ryukonkai Kobudo Association has devoted itself to the practice and training of various martial weapons– Bo, Sai, Tonfa, Nunchaku, Kama and Eku, because the association regards Kobudo as a traditional Budo, or matial art, just like Karate.

Ryukonkai stresses the importance of the skill of perfect self-defense and the power to incapacitate the opponent with a blow and urges the members to master them through the hard and severe training of one kata after another. At the same time, the association emphasizes the importance of acquiring the mental and spiritual power – the sense of life and death – through the training. The beauty of kata is developed into the higher level of beauty and power only through the stability and smooth movement of the lower part of the body. The mere acceptance of the traditional kata may cause the danger of distorting the fundamental ideas and principles of the kata. The kata of Karate and Kobudo are inevitably essential to Budo, or martial arts, as seen from the historical point of view. Up until forty years ago, each master learned only one kata and took it to another country and taught it there. Those masters were quite old and because they were dispersed around the islands, it was quite difficult to collect the kata of the masters. The kata were, however, finally collected and the collection of the kata became the foundation of Ryukonkai. That was why Ryukonkai is proud of proclaiming that all the members of the association have been devoting themselves to training and mastering Kobudo days and nights, trying their best to properly inherit the traditional value of Budo – Okinawa’s valuable cultural legacy – and seeking the best way to hand the legacy down to the future generations.