Kusarigama (a chain and a sickle) (鎖鎌)

Kusarigama (a chain and a sickle) is a weapon that has a form like a kama (a sickle) for cutting grass attached to a chain weight and it was developed as a weapon from a farming tool. Kusarigama was mainly used as a weapon of self-defense for the rank of people who were not permitted to wear a sword (peasants, merchants, craftsmen) and in addition it was used as a hidden weapon in various schools of Japanese martial arts. Kusarigama is also considered one of Bugei Juhappan (18 skills of martial arts).


As a form of kusarigama, one having a chain weight at the bottom end of a handle of kama is generally known, but depending on schools, various forms of kusarigama have been confirmed, such as one having a chain weight at the top end of kama so that it may be used with one hand, one having a 4 shaku (about 120cm) length of a handle which is referred to as "dai-kusarigama (big kusarigama)" (or nagi-kusarigama), and yae-kusarigama which is a 7 shaku (about 210cm) length of yaegama (nagikama) (sickle-weapon) with a chain.

Art of handling

As a general art of handling, a person holds a chain in his right hand and kama in his left hand to take aim at the enemy's head, face, shank and forearm to hit with the weight, use the chain to knock off the enemy's weapon, entangle the chain with the enemy's wrist or leg while containing the movements of the enemy and then slashing the enemy with a blade of kama held in the left hand to kill him. Kusarigama is a good weapon which can be used in various ways depending on the skill of the user, but on the other hand, the handling of kusarigama is difficult and a beginner is likely to hit his own body with the chain weight and thus kusarigama is a weapon requiring intensive training. Since the kusakarigama offers little in the way of defensive capabilitiies, if the opponent dodges the first blow and comes in close, the wielder is likely to have great difficulty dealing with his opponent.

Kusarigama has a image that the portion of chain is several meters in length according to the expression in a novel or drama, but in practice there is no such kusarigama with several meters of chain weight attached and the actual length of chain is as much as 1.5 to 2 meters. When throwing a chain weight to a distant opponent, the situation in which one brandishes a long chain weight as can be seen in a work of fiction is practically impossible (in addition to slow movement of the chain weight with more than one second per round, one can launch an attack on the opponent only based on the timing of rotation of the chain weight and thus the opponent can see the timing of throwing) and therefore it cannot be said that it is a practical method of attack. In practice, a method of attack is adopted in which a suspended chain of several dozen centimeters is rotated to gain momentum and then kusarigama is thrown linearly and it is like a method used in the art of manriki-gusari which is similar to stone throwing using a sling (in some schools, one holds the chain weight and throws it). Once a chain weight is thrown, it takes a very long time to retrieve the thrown chain and brandish the chain again to be ready for the next attack. For this reason, pupils in schools teaching the art of the kusarigama repeatedly practice a close quarters combat style (utilizing the portion of kama) that takes into account situations in which the opponent has managed to dodge the chain weight.

It can be said that kusarigama is a weapon which allows its user to cope with various situations, but is difficult to handle and requires training. The images of Musashi MIYAMOTO shown below as well as those that can be seen in games are considerably dramatized.


Well-known kusarigama masters include Baiken SHISHIDO, who appears in the novel "Musashi MIYAMOTO"; Baiken, a fictional character created by Eiji YOSHIKAWA, is based on "a certain SHISHIDO" of Iga Province as recorded in the "Niten-ki," the biography of Musashi MIYAMOTO. Musashi combated with Baiken SHISHIDO in a way that Musashi held a long sword against Baiken and at the same time he drew a short sword and threw it at Baiken, then he immediately came forward and cut Baiken in two with a single stroke of the long sword.

[Original Japanese]