The Yawara Stick
A short but interesting look at the history of the forgotten Yawara Stick.
Please forgive me for redundancy. People have passions. Websites tend to be about personal interests, this website is no exception. I have a deep interest in edged weapons and the Arts that surround them; especially practical and/or covert edged weapons. These Articles about various types of pocket sticks may seem repetitive to some people. But this is part of my own personal interests when it comes to Martial Arts. If you find them boring, I’m sorry. If you find them informative, that’s great. I’m trying to give each Article its own feel knowing from the start that there is so much overlap between the various pocket sticks that some people might be bored by the constant drone about them.
The passion involved is not merely collecting pocket sticks of various types. The passion involved is giving everyone in an incredibly violent and litigious society something very simple that is far more effective on the street than the otherwise innocuous appearance of the pocket stick would suggest to the casual observer. They can be carried inconspicuously in almost any locale from downtown streets to a seemingly safe stretch of Sanibel Island real estate.
The passion is in the joy of researching various types of hand weapons and their development over the years...historically, etc.
And the passion is in the quiet confidence that although the pocket stick in its various incarnations may be banned, Yawara Sticks, Kubotans in some places, Koppo Sticks...all of these things along with edged weapons may be banned by name or description... But there are so many things that can be pressed into service as an improvised pocket stick and the movements are so brutally effective and easy to learn that they can never totally "ban" the pocket stick unless they make Citizens write with Crayons. Something that would crumble when used like a pocket stick. That’s a strength. These are excellent Self-Defense Tools.
The only way they can "ban" pocket sticks is to actually "ban" the Act of Self-defense outright. While I believe that some countries, Britain a screaming example, have in fact done everything possible except come right out and say, "Self-defense is now illegal and punishable by law," they have not taken that final step to legislate Martial Arts or Mini-Maglite Flashlights, etc. Thank God.
Understand that I mean no offense when it comes to citing various references and I make no claim that any "guess" I come up with as to origin or development is 100% accurate. It is one person’s best estimate given the best information at hand. I have an opinion, that’s all.
When I cite Linck’s book and his "Linck Stick" and state that this book was published some five years before Matsuyama invented the Yawara Stick, this should not be taken as a condemnation or indictment of Matsuyama. There is something called "Simultaneous Evolution."
Likewise, when I hint that Tak Kubota Sensei did not really "invent" anything, I believe that to be true. I don’t think Matsuyama necessarily "invented" the Yawara Stick, in that, apparently the Yawara Stick in one form or another, has been around for hundreds of years. It might not have been called that, but the concept has been around for a long, long time. The credit, the innovation of Matsuyama, cannot be questioned, however.
Tak Kubota invented the Kubotan, which was a new twist on an old concept. He deserves credit, as does Matsuyama, for bringing forth excellent tools, re-birthing old concepts and weapons, to help people and that is the important thing. But I don’t think you can "invent" a pocket stick, although you can most certainly invent modifications to them that are your own. Matsuyama and Kubota most certainly deserve credit for their modifications and developments.
Matsuyama proved the effectiveness of the whole concept of a pocket stick and Kubota streamlined the concept and made it an every day item for some. Matsuyama paved the way for Kubota.
Much like the "Koppo Stick," I did not "invent" it. I saw one in a book and decided to have a Custom Knifemaker produce them with modern, high-quality materials, Titanium. I popularized something very old but I did not "invent" it. They are known as "Chizikunbo" in Okinawa, I never invented them, but to a certain group of people, I re-discovered and popularized them.
Some people say that Jujutsu was referred to as "Yawara" hundreds of years ago in Japan. That is something for Martial Historians to debate, I merely place it here so everyone can get a glimpse of The Big Picture.
Some say "Yawara" was a specific Ryu, or School, of Jujutsu. Again, no matter...
According to the excellent website, Yawara.Com, Frank Matsuyama originally wanted to teach Tantojutsu to Police Officers, use of edged weapons, in case their service weapon was lost in a struggle so that the Officer could instantly transition to another weapon and continue fighting. He was then persuaded to teach them a smaller replacement for the nightstick.
Instead of copying every single thing, which is not very creative and quite rude, there is enough of that on the Internet; I encourage you to visit that wonderful website which has the original Yawara Manual online.
Just to highlight some things, I have to add this from the site. Just a little bit of insight as to how the Yawara Stick came about. But make no mistake, I like to give credit where credit is due and Yawara.Com was another mini-goldmine in my own pursuit of knowledge.Apparently Yawara Stick techniques were taken in part from Japanese Tantojutsu, specifically, using a sheathed knife. This could happen by accident or on purpose if you did not wish to draw blood.
It has long been the "guess" of many people, Ralph Grasso, World War Two Combatives and Jujutsu [Jiujitsu] Historian and Practitioner, myself and others, that a lot of Yawara Techniques that have been known over the years may have come from Tantojutsu, specifically, tsuki waza or "thrusting techniques."
We were bouncing these ideas around long before I found Yawara.Com and I was pleased to see a confirmation of our thoughts on the Yawara Stick/Tantojutsu connection.
Ralph suggested I obtain Bruce Tegner’s "Stick-Fighting: Self-Defense" Manual and another friend, Yancey, was kind enough to give me a copy of that Manual. That is an excellent little book for those interested in Yawara, Koppo, Kubotan and Cane movements, by the way.
That book was first published in 1972 and there are so many little tidbits, precursors to what we now know to be "Streetwise" Self-defense... Use of small flashlights as a Yawara Stick, use of the closed pocketknife in the same role. And the pesky habit Bruce Tegner had of cutting through all of the myth, mysticism and B.S. that surrounds Martial Arts used for Self-defense... A solid grounding in Unarmed Combat Techniques that are not pretty and not impressive to the Mainstream Martial Artists then or now. They are, however, very effective. That means, to people interested in real world Self-defense, they are impressive to people like myself. Tegner reminds the reader to have these basic and effective skills, even in the book "Stick-Fighting: Self-Defense," excellent material that many laugh at. Let them laugh and you seek out the material and decide for yourself.
While we are at it, another excellent Bruce Tegner book is "Self-Defense Nerve Centers & Pressure Points." In that, you will find good, solid information about striking and the various targets the human body has. It’s a great little book. First published in 1968. Again, people have a tendency to laugh at Bruce Tegner...it’s sad. Most of the people laughing at his material are involved in promoting fantasies. Sure, Mr. Tegner wrote a lot of books about various Martial Arts...but I’m not speaking of the whole library. Just a few pieces, absolute gold.
Back to the Yawara Stick...
The reason for the Tantojutsu link is painfully obvious. Why have an entirely different series of strikes and movements when thrusting movements with a knife will serve you well with a pocket stick? The downside to the Yawara Vs. Tanto is, the Yawara has no edge and it cannot cut. The plus to the Yawara over the Tanto is, you can strike any area of the body, including hard, bony areas with the Yawara. The Yawara’s weakness, not having an edge and not being a Tanto, then becomes a strength. An incredibly versatile weapon indeed.
As I wrote in the Koppo Stick Article, this is the same, basic concept of using a pocket stick in Filipino Arts. A double ended thrusting weapon that cannot cut. It can only thrust.
Modern Yawara and Modern Tanto...Custom Kwaiken by Mike Snody.
To continue from Yawara.Com, Matsuyama invented the Yawara Stick in 1948. This is most interesting indeed.
Consider the following picture from "Combat Jiu Jitsu for Offense and Defense" by S. R. Linck, 1943.
I know the pictures are not that clear, but hopefully, this will be just another piece of the puzzle. This book was published some five years before Matsuyama was said to have invented the Yawara Stick. Here are a few pictures of the Author’s hand weapon, "The Linck Stick," being used. In one picture, you see a striking technique that would be more effective with a blackjack than a Yawara Stick, where the hand is on one end of the stick instead of in the center as with Yawara Stick techniques. There is also another hint of Japanese Tantojutsu as the end of The Linck Stick is grounded into the palm and secured in place there by finger placement -- for thrusting. Very much like some Tantojutsu Ryu.
Some other opinions on the Yawara Stick and variants.
"The most efficient weapon I know for use in close quarters is the Yawara stick. It can be lethal, but only when used deliberately for that end...
Once you become expert in its use, you will be able to employ any number of substitutes almost as effectively. The most convenient of these ersatz devices and one of the most innocuous is the German made Mont Blanc 'Meisterstuck' fountain pen. This is not only a devastating weapon, properly used, it is also the best writing instrument I have ever seen. I am seldom without one."
~ Mel Tappan, "Survival Guns""With the exception of the cane or walking stick...none of the martial arts weapons are legal for street carry and self-protection. These include the Yawara stick (a short piece of wood designed to reinforce a punch or an edge of fist strike, also used in Bo-Kibo fighting techniques to hook into the corner of a man's mouth, punching out his teeth and then ripping his cheek open to his ear). Often improperly called a Judo stick, the Yawara is more often taught to Jujitsu students.
...The Kubotan was an evolution of a previous system developed by Kubota called pen fighting. Seeking a simple self-defense method that could be used by average American Citizens with little training, Kubota built techniques around solidly constructed ballpoint pens."
~ Massad Ayoob, "The Truth About Self-Protection"
Massad Ayoob "invented" his own form of Kubotan he calls "The Dejammer." It is smaller in diameter than most Kubotans and is designed to clear various stoppages and jams related to Defensive Handgunning like cartridges stuck under the ejector stars of revolvers and bullets possibly lodged in barrels [more of a range than combat problem with underpowered handloads] as well as other problems. It is also threaded at the end to accept a standard cleaning brush and has a swivel on the other end for a split ring to carry the keys.
"One alternative to the blackjack is the yawara stick. In professional police models this is an eight-inch cylinder of plastic or aluminum, one inch in diameter, usually with a device such as a spike or sharp ring, to prevent its being snatched away. The Yawara has become fairly popular since F.A. Matsuyama introduced his back in 1947. Monadnock Lifetime Products in Fitzwilliam, N.H., makes several types of plastic yawara sticks including some with chrome steel balls on the tips (which unfortunately increase the lethality of the device; these balls focus the force of the blow to a much smaller area than would a conventional stick or blackjack, making them likely to penetrate the soft parts of the skull). An aluminum ‘Judo Stick’ is made by Kel-Lite/Safariland of Monrovia, California."
~ "Blackjacks and Billies" by David Steele, Soldier of Fortune Magazine, January 1978
The Yawara Stick pictured above is identical to the one pictured in Mel Tappan’s book, the Manufacturer in Tappan’s book is cited as "Ra-Mana." It is obviously the Yawara that David Steele spoke about in his article.
The picture below is a vintage ad from Safariland, also cited as "The Judo Stick" in Tappan’s book under the Company name "Kel-Lite." Same thing. Steele also wrote about this one.
The Monadnock PR-24 Side-Handle Baton, The Prosecutor, has a Yawara Stick for a handle. A lot of people do not realize this... David Steele wrote about this as well in the May 1980 Issue of Soldier of Fortune article, "The Nutcracker and The Prosecutor, New Punch for Policemen."
He wrote about the strikes incorporated into the movements that are modified Kobudo Tonfa techniques for The PR-24 Baton. Excellent material.
In fact, the "Nutcracker" portion of the article is about the Mon-Pacâ, Monadnock Nunchaku that was marketed for Police Officers. More on that in an upcoming article as well...
In the article, a Police Officer who advocates the Nunchaku as a police impact weapon has a Monadnock "Yawara Mace Stick." A picture of that is below. It has the single steel ball... Cross reference that to my Metsubushi Article on this site with the advice to use an empty can of O.C. Pepper Spray as a Yawara or if it has no effect, to immediately transition to the can as a Yawara Stick.
Continuing on with the historical material on the Yawara Stick, I must say, I am rather happy to be able to save this information from these old articles and then, people can examine the material. Material they might not have ever otherwise been able to read.
"In 1947 Professor Matsuyama developed an 8-inch plastic stick he called a yawara stick, named for an early Japanese martial art. Incorporated into the design were small one-quarter-inch track spikes imbedded at the ends to prevent an assailant from snatching it away. Some departments required the that officers remove these spikes since they were occasionally used in an unprofessional manner, e.g., pinching them against a suspect’s ear to make him come along."
~ David Steele, Warriors Magazine, "Impact Weapons, Self Defense without bullet or blade." 1984
The Brutal Reminder
Understand that there is absolutely nothing that screams simplicity like a pocket stick of any kind. Do not allow that simplicity to be confused with stupidity. There is nothing "stupid" about pocket sticks, there is nothing "magical" about pocket sticks. The "magic" is in your skill level and that is all.
In the hands of someone who knows what they are doing and somewhat practiced in knife movements, the simple and some would say, "stupid," pocket stick can kill. Never forget that as you are working with them and a partner. One slip and someone is dead, in a coma, paralyzed or bones broken. These things are so simple and they are all around us in numerous, disguised variations, we take them for granted.
We pick up a kitchen knife and we know they are used all the time to kill people. We understand and respect that. We pick up a large, wooden spoon or spatula in the kitchen and we shrug our shoulders and mutter, "So what..."
Many things, including Balisong Knives have been used as pocket sticks, many are shown below...including metallic body magic markers...
A Sure-Fire Flashlight is almost identical in size to the vintage Police Yawara Sticks like the Safariland/Kel-Lite "Judo Stick" shown below next to a Sure-Fire 9P flashlight.
But the large spoon or spatula is simply a Yawara, Kubotan or Koppo Stick in disguise. The same lethal possibilities exist. Like the Lady’s high-heeled "spike" shoes of yesteryear, they can be lethal. It is not the Yawara, Kubotan or even a Lady’s wooden hairbrush that is lethal, it is you, you and your skills, that add the lethal element.
When the rubber meets to the road and the device hits the trachea or skull, the body cares not if you have a purpose-driven Yawara Stick, a $5.00 plastic Kubotan or a $3.50 hairbrush, the effect is going to be basically the same.
In the picture below, from left to right, we see the following; The Safariland Judo Stick, a slim Monadnock Kubotan, a magic marker, a common hairbrush, and a titanium Koppo Stick. There is but one degree of separation between all of these objects.
This is why it is perfectly stupid, if not insane, to spend a lot of money and valuable time legislating against things like Yawara Sticks and Kubotans. You cannot ban hairbrushes...not yet anyway.
If the conventional wisdom demands that criminals will use Yawara Sticks, Kubotans, Koppo Sticks or anything like this, we go right back to staring absurdity directly in the face.
If criminals start to smash people in the heads with ends of hairbrushes, do we ban them as well? They are perfectly legal for ANYONE, even a convicted FELON, to CARRY...
But, I know I’m just venting, many people have been killed by baseball bats, for example, many more than have been killed by Switchblades and Balisongs combined, yet they remain legal for anyone to own and in a lot of cases...to have in the car or otherwise readily available.
Begin to look at every day items as weapons.
Learn to use the knife in forward and reverse grip and learn how that relates to the pocket stick and you will never be totally unarmed, ever. No matter where you are or what you do, what you have or what you are denied, you will always be able to translate that movement over to an improvised weapon of some sort.
A big Thank You
Just a short time ago, I started exchanging E-mails with a Federal Agent with regard to Koppo Sticks and the Ju-jo. That led to him sending me, as a gift, a mint condition Ju-jo, the Original Manual, personal correspondence with the Inventor of the Ju-jo, Mr. Lewis as well as the ParaCombatives Instructor’s Program of Instruction on the Ju-jo.
The kicker to that was, he also sent me a mint condition Safariland/Kel-Lite "Judo Stick," a rather vicious Yawara Stick that is no longer manufactured…as far as we know.
I’m sending him a Titanium Koppo, I think this is great, obviously. More than that…it is the sort of thing the Internet could be, but often is not. Sharing and exchanging information should be what we are all about. He stands in a very short line of people, along with friends like Jay, Seth, Ken, Ray and C.D.…you all know who you are and you make this Website more interesting with information and various devices, knives, etc., you provide from time to time… I just wanted to say thanks to you all.
This Anonymous Agent wishes to remain that way. You will see this same thank you message in the new Ju-jo article coming up. And more.
For now, let me close with a picture of this Safariland Yawara Stick. This thing…man, too bad these things are not produced anymore. It’s a very nicely manufactured piece of equipment.
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