Okinawan kobudo refers to the weapon fighting arts of ancient Okinawa. The arts consist of a vast selection of weapons with the primary weapons being bo (six foot staff), nunchaku, sai, and tonfa. These arts are unique in that they do not include the weapons most often seen in Japanese and Chinese weapons arts (such as sword and spear).
The origins of Matayoshi-ryu Okinawan Kobudo begin with Shinko Matayoshi. As a young man, Matayoshi studied martial arts from his father and the weapon arts of bo, eyaku (boat oar), kama (sickles), sai, tonfa and nunchaku under a number of instructors. Later in life he took two trips to China. On the first, he traveled through Manchuria, studying various Chinese martial arts. He was very well known on Okinawa, taking part in a number of well documented demonstrations with other famous Okinawan martial artists, such as Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of Shotokan karate) and Chojun Miyagi (the founder of Goju-ryu karate). He passed away in 1947, and his style was eventually formalized by his son Shinpo Matayoshi.
Shinpo Matayoshi studied with his father when he was young. He was heavily involved in the martial arts, and in addition to Okinawan kobudo also studied a number of karate styles. In 1960, he returned to Okinawa from Japan and began teaching his father’s weapons art. Over the years, he began to feel that while karate was becoming more popular, kobudo was not, and was in danger of dying out on the island. To help forestall such an event, he decided to establish his own kobudo school, which he called "Kodokan”. After establishing the Kodokan dojo, and organizing the material he had learned more carefully, he, and a number of other kobudo instructors organized the Ryukyu Kobudo Association. The purpose of the association was to keep the traditions and spirit that had been passed down alive, and to make kobudo more popular. In 1972, this association became the All Okinawa Kobudo Federation.
Matayoshi continued to teach kobudo until his death in 1997. He is remembered as one of the foremost Okinawan martial artists of his day. He taught many of the premier kobudo instructors of today, and his system is alive and well in Okinawa. One of his top students, Yoshiaki Gakiya formed the Okinawa Kobudo Doushi Rensei-kai in 2002. The system of kobudo includes a vast number of weapons and kata and stresses two-man fighting drills for most weapons. The system of Matayoshi-ryu kobudo taught as part of the Okinawa Kobudo Doushi Rensei-kai continues to grow throughout the world and is taught at the Allegheny County Budo-kai.