Sai - Rosowski Budokan Institute

Rodokan Combat Karate Kempo

Rosowski Budokan Institute
Rodokan Combat Karate Kempo
Go to content

Main menu:


Exercises with sai are fundamental to this practice. Daily training brings universal benefits. Sai techniques relate closely to empty hand training and fighting with a knife, short sword or stick. The weight of this metal weapon also strengthens the arms and wrists whilst simultaneously improving hand speed in combat.
The sai is a three ponged weapon similar to a trident. It has roots in many Asian countries including India, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan. The name sai derives from the Chinese word chai. Names vary in other countries. In Indonesia it is called a cabang, in Malaysia a tekpi.
Some martial arts historians posit the theory that sai / tekpi / cabang evolved from depictions of the Hindu god Shiva’s sacred trishul (trident). In Hinduism the trishul represents three aspects of deity: creator, guardian, destroyer.
The symbolism of the trishula in Hinduism is similar to the triratna in Buddhism. In Hinduism the three prongs also represent power, action and wisdom and the three three energy channels - ida pingala and shushumna – by which Kundalini energy traverses the chakras. In Buddhism, trirate symbolizes the triple gem or three jewels - Buddha, Sangha and Dharma. Some practitioners of sai jutsu refer to this tradition allocating specific meaning to the three tines of the sai. Our training with sai offers physical, mental and spiritual development.
The construction of a sai:
a) Monouchi (main arm)
b) Saki (tip of the main blade)
c) Yoku (side arms)
d) Tsume (the tip of the side blade)
e) Tsuka (handle)
f) Tsuka gashira (head)
g) Moto
Sai most commonly have a round or octagonal main arm. Normally the tip of the main arm is not sharp but rounded or flat. It is possible, however, to find weapons with a sharpened point or even a cutting edge on the main arm.
Originally sai were forged from iron. The weapon was designed to fit the hand size, arm length and strength of the owner. The side arms of these wrought iron sai were welded onto the main arm. Training with iron sai is considerably more challenging than using contemporary sai made of lighter metals.
The use of Sai in Okinawa is well known to contemporary historians. Over five hundred years ago, King Sho Hashi installed himself as ruler of Okinawa and issued an edict forbidding residents from carrying a weapon. Systems of fighting using handheld everyday objects were subsequently developed. The metal Sai was perfect for fighting against Japanese samurai swords or other long-range weapons.
In Japan, a combat system based on Sai techniques was developed using the Jitte, which usually has only one side arm. It is possible, however, to find Jitte with two side arms, as seen below, like a Sai.
Jitte were used mainly by the police. It could effectively intercept and immobilize an attacker’s sword, making it effective against armed samurai. Due to the small distance between the main arm (monouchi) and the side arm (yoke) it was relatively easy to trap the blade of the attacker’s weapon. Jitte were also used to strike and apply pressure to sensitive points on the body.
manji sai
Another interesting variant of this weapon, with a long history in China and Okinawa, is the Manji Sai. Manji means "vortex" and shares a symbolic meaning similar to the swastika in Buddhism (seen below).
manji sai-buddism swastika
The symbol consists of a vertical axis representing the connection of heaven and earth, with the horizontal axis representing the interdependence of Yin and Yang.
manji sai
The four connected arms symbolize the balance between all these elements. A left-handed action represents love and mercy and a right-handed action, strength and intelligence.
Another weapon resembling both Sai and Jitte is the Hachiwari, alternatively named the Kabutowari. This weapon was used during battles to parry blows and attack weaknesses in the opponent's armor. The hachiwari was reminiscent of the Tanto (Japanese fighting knife). The hook was used to prise apart the layers of steel and leather in an opponent’s armour making them vulnerable to attack. In addition this blade could be used to block or parry the attacker's weapon(s). In both cases, the hachiwari was used in the left hand.
left hand dagger
During the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe a similar weapon was used in the left hand. This dagger shares many similarities to the sai and was also used to parry and block incoming blows. It could also be used to attack or to immobilize the enemy's weapon, a great advantage in combat. It was used in tandem
sztylet lewak
A further development of this weapon was a type of spring-loaded dagger. Used in the Renaissance period, this weapon had a tripartite shaft that sprang open into a trident shape when the locking mechanism was released. The opening of the blade served to block the opponent's weapon between the handguard and the side of the blade, gripping or breaking it.
Sai can also be used to fight at a distance. Throwing techniques are an important part of the training. In some kata - training forms - there are many such elements. In ancient Japan certain warriors, such as ninjas, specialized in throwing the sai.
The basic techniques of fighting with sai do not differ greatly from the techniques used in karate. There are strikes and blocks and these techniques have a similar trajectory of motion.
sai jutsu -sai
The weapon can be held in various positions. Shown here is honte mochi (blade outside). This is a grip that feels natural in the hand. This weapon and training offers many possibilities for hand positions.
This is gyakute mochi (body blade). The hand position is the same as in karate.
The tactics of sai jitsu are very simple. Blocks and strikes are delivered until a situation arises that allows the opponent's weapon to be immobilized by the sai’s forked blade. That then allows a blow that finishes the fight.
sai kata
When training individually practice consists of improving individual techniques or several techniques in combination. We also practice a sequence of forms that represent combat with several imaginary opponents at once(kata).
sai kata
Kata is found in many martial arts and sports. Combinations of defense and attack techniques are combined with proper breathing, proper movement in different directions and taking the right position depending on the opponent's attack. By regular repetition of the same movements, we strive for perfection, improving coordination, increasing speed and building physical strength.
sai jutsu bunkai
Group training involves the improvement of forms (kata) and interpretation (bunkai). It also offers the opportunity of sparring with sai.
sai kumite
Sparring requires a a high level of skill and is intended only for advanced practitioners. When training without protectors only weapon on weapon contact is allowed. While exercising with protectors, controlled contact with the body is permitted.
The sai can be used in training against a variety of other weapons: sai, sword, staff etc.
Striking static objects is used to improve contact and distance. The techniques can be performed with full force without fear of injury to an opponent.

sai jutsu
For those keen to start their sai adventure, I will post a few basic exercises that mark the beginning of the journey from white belt to black belt.
All right reserved Krzysztof Rosowski

All right reserved Krzysztof Rosowski

Back to content | Back to main menu