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The kusarigama (鎖鎌?, "chain-sickle") is a traditional Japanese weapon that consists of kama (the Japanese equivalent of a sickle) on a metal chain (manriki) with a heavy iron weight at the end.

Though the kusarigama is derived from a farmer's scythe, and though the sickle was often carried as a weapon during the feudal era of Japan, these farmers did not carry kusarigama. Its purpose as a weapon was very obvious, so unlike a sickle, it could not be carried openly. The art of handling the kusarigama is called kusarigamajutsu.

Method of use

Attacking with the weapon usually entailed swinging the weighted chain in a large circle over one's head, and then whipping it forward to entangle an opponent's spear, sword, or other weapon, or immobilizing his arms or legs. This allows the kusarigam user to easily rush forward and strike with the sickle.

A kusarigama wielder might also strike with the spinning weighted end of the chain directly, causing serious or deadly injury to his opponent while still outside the range of the opponent's sword or spear.

Kusarigama have also been employed as anti-siege weapons, with the chain allowing the weapon to be retrieved after it was thrown downwards at an attacking force.

Many fictional accounts of kusarigama sometimes show fighters swinging the sickle with the chain, rather than the weighted end. Though entertaining, this is usually not a proper use of the weapon, as the sickle is likely to bounce off a target without causing much injury. One of the few exceptions to this is the Hōten-ryū discipline of the kusarigama.

Historical accounts of kusarigama

According to some accounts, the kusarigama is a weapon that is well-suited against swords and spears. Records show that the kusarigama was extremely popular in feudal Japan, with many schools teaching it, from about the 12th to 17th century, including by Kōga-ryū.

A notable example of the use and misuse of the weapon is the story of the great 17th century kusarigama teacher Yamada Shinryukan. Shinryukan was known to have killed many swordsmen with his weapon, until he was lured into a bamboo grove by Araki Mataemon. There, because of the terrain he was unable to swing the chain and trap Mataemon's sword, and was thus killed.

Perhaps one of the most famous historical users of the kusarigama is Shishido Baiken. A swordsman of great skill, he was proficient with the kusarigama, but was killed by the legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi when the latter used a throwing knife to cause a non-fatal injury from outside the radius of the chain, and then moved in for the killing blow with his sword.

In popular culture

The kusarigama are popularly believed to have been used exclusively by ninja, and as such are usually given to ninja characters in the works of fiction.

For example, the kusarigama is used by Hattori Hanzō in the video game series Samurai Warriors. The weapon of the character Shūhei Hisagi in the manga/anime series Bleach resembles a Kusarigama, or the manga/anime Soul Eater character Black Star's weapon Tsubaki (usually a kusarigama that she uses an extra sickle instead of a weighted chain, though she often takes the forms of other ninja weapons and tools). The character Kusari in the webcomic Sluggy Freelance is named after her favorite weapon.

Some exceptions to this is trend include the character Anubis from anime Ronin Warriors, who uses a kusarigama with a bladed weight, the character Umanosuke from anime Samurai Champloo, using an incredibly enlarged version of kusarigama, the character Kamatari of the Juppon Gatana from Rurouni Kenshin who also uses a very large version of the kusarigama, the character Axl Low from the video game series Guilty Gear (using two kusarigamas chained together), or it's use in the fantasy video game Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom. In addition, the character Kohaku from the manga and anime Inuyasha is a demon slayer who makes use of the kusarigama, although he and other demon slayers in the series are occasionally mistaken for ninjas.

The manga Vagabond depicts the character of Tsujikaze Kōhei, an in-universe successor to Shishido Baiken, wielding the kusarigama with the weighted end as the primary attack. The mechanical aspects of the technique (in particular the reach and range) are crucial to his duel with Musashi; his defeat comes not from the use of a throwing knife, but from Musashi surprising him by intentionally drawing both swords.

On Spike's television program Deadliest Warrior, the kusarigama was one of the ninja weapons, tested against the Spartan shield. The sickle couldn't penetrate the armor of the Spartan, but the ball and chain could provide enough force to kill the Spartan, providing the ninja 220 kills for his 347 kills in 1,000 simulated battles against the Spartans (the other "ninja weapons" used were ninjatō, fukiya and shuriken, supplemented by metsubushi). On the show, the kusarigama was said to be disguised as a sickle when in use by a ninja.

"Kusarigama" is the name given to one of Aoi Umenokouji's moves in the Virtua Fighter video game series. It is a move consisting of an axe kick with a heel drop.

Gallery

See also

Sources

  • Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan (1973)
  • Ellis Amdur, Old School: Essays of Japanese Martial Traditions (2002)bg:Кусаригама

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