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Evaluating Yawara Stick Systems For Law-Enforcement

In a past article for Arresting Solutions (see: "The Yawara Stick: A Weapon for Taiho-Jutsu?") I discussed the Yawara Stick’s practicality for inclusion in the basic taiho-jutsu course. The conclusion arrived at was that the Yawara Stick’s use would be more appropriate for those in the belt rank program. For those officers who choose to learn the Yawara Stick, there are five basic systems to choose from. One is the classic Yawara Stick techniques as seen in the 1948 publication by F.H. Matsuyama, How to Use the Yawara Stick. The second is the set of techniques developed by Tak Kubota, and first published in the 1967 title Official Kubotan Techniques. A third system to examine is that developed and taught by Bruce Tegner from the 1950s until his death in 1985. There is also the system of the Yawara Stick taught by jujutsu and ninjutsu grandmaster, Shoto Tanemura.  And last, there is the system that is taught as part of RyuKyu Kempo.

Looking at the Matsuyama Yawara Stick, we read that he designed it as "... a light piece of electro-plastic, grooved to fit the hand, and shaped into a smooth knob at both ends". Below the knobs are "metallic spikes which are harmless unless a person attempts to wrest it from the user’s grasp". One major use of the Yawara Stick is to strike nerve centers and vulnerable areas either in defense or to ensure compliance. In the Matsuyama system, a variety of ready stances are taught, along with proper grips. The publication shows realistic scenarios, with initial movements that are not inconsistent with the principles of taiho-jutsu. The Yawara Stick is taught as an adjunct weapon, almost as another part of the officer’s hand. After the target area is struck, a restraint or come-along is employed, always keeping the Yawara Stick in hand.

In a realistic and honest comment in the 67 page manual, Matsuyama offers the following caution: "It must be understood that a blow with the Yawara Stick to the crotch, face, etc., may be used in any of the holds shown... They are not shown here because the use of such blows is objectionable to the public when used by officers". The transition from the initial move with the Yawara Stick to whatever follow-up technique is chosen seems smooth, realistic, and not overly difficult to learn. Written at a time before patrol cars had "cages", instruction is given for the proper way to hold the Yawara Stick while driving an "adversary" seated alongside the officer in a patrol car. Additionally included is the Yawara Stick’s use in searching techniques and against multiple assailants.

The Kubotan is the modified Yawara Stick designed by a well-known figure in the karate world, Tak Kubota. The Kubotan is a 5-½ inch long cylinder, made of plastic. "... when used properly, (it) will control and support, regardless of size, even by the smallest officer". In sharp contrast to the Matsuyama manual, the Kubotan manual states that "the Kubotan is not taught or used as the lethal Yawara Stick". It cautions that the Kubotan should not be carried unless the officer is trained in its use.



Regarding the techniques themselves, there appears to be a most unrealistic approach to their use. By viewing the photos, it seems to assume that people are going to be compliant and somewhat cooperative. This statement is made since many of the techniques show the officer reaching for the suspect’s hand or arm, with the individual putting up no resistance. As any episode of COPS will confirm, suspects often react in ways from passive non-compliance to violence. In a real street situation, the methods, which appear to be a form of modified aikido, will not work without a "weakening" technique first. By contrast, in the Matsuyama system it is the Yawara Stick which does the "weakening" before the restraint or come-along is applied.

The third system to consider is one which was not developed specifically for law-enforcement. Bruce Tegner’s method was a hard, direct one, which emphasized self-defense. Strikes with the Yawara Stick were not limited to the "safer" areas of the body, but included areas of the face. In addition to the strikes with the Yawara Stick, kicks were taught to stop an attack. Various grips and stances were included in his style. While Tegner’s system appears to be a practical, "no-frills", and effective method of utilizing the Yawara stick, the style seems to be geared more towards street survival than the more restrained parameters a law-enforcement officer must remain within.

The next system of Yawara Stick use is that taught by Shoto Tanemura, a master and scholar of numerous jujutsu and ninjutsu styles. His system of the Yawara Stick is taken primarily from two classical jujutsu ryu. Taisabaki is used in almost every technique, with vital points, many of them only taught by Tanemura himself in a dojo, either bringing on excruciating pain or immobilization. Throws and restraints are employed as well. While it is evident that Tanemura’s teachings are both classical and most effective, the fact that they are combat oriented and oftentimes complex does not make them practical tools for law-enforcement.

Lastly, there is the system taught in RyuKyu Kempo, as well as a small handful of other Okinawan styles.  Here, the weapon, 6" long and 1/2" in diameter, has a heavy string attached to it in the center on both ends, through which the middle finger is placed.  The system uses kata, and generally, two sticks are used.  The sticks are called Chizi Kun Bo.  Essentially, they are used to enhance striking techniques, tuite, the joint locking techniques, and kyusho, the system of nerve and pressure points unique to some Okinawan systems.  The kata are not simple, and many of the moves one would observe are not readily understood.  An instructor would have to explain to the student not only the application of the techniques, but why they are applied in the manner they are.  While an effective system, the complexity of the techniques requires extensive training.  Coupled with the harshness of the style, it does not seem this system would be an ideal choice for law-enforcement.  

In conclusion, we find that the Yawara Stick is indeed a formidable weapon. It is the choice of system to study which will determine its value to law-enforcement in general, and individual officers in particular.

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