Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Kusarigama is a traditional Japanese weapon that consists of kama (Japanese for sickle) on a metal chain with a heavy iron weight at the end. 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 kusarigama user to easily rush forward and strike with the sickle.
A kusarigama weilder 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.
Though the kusarigama is derived from a farmer's sickle, and though the sickle was often carried as a weapon by farmers during the feudal era of Japan, it is important to note that these farmers did not carry kusarigama. Its purpose as a weapon was very obvious, so unlike a sickle, it could not be carried openly.
According to some accounts, kusarigama was traditionally used by ninja as it is a weapon that is well-suited against swords and spears. Whether or not ninja embraced the weapon, records show that the kusarigama was extremely popular in feudal Japan, with many schools teaching it, from about the 12th to 17th Century.
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, he was unable to swing the chain and trap Mataemon's sword, and was thus killed.
Fictional accounts of kusarigama sometimes show fighters swinging the sickle with the chain, rather than the weighted edge. Though entertaining, this is not a proper use of the weapon, as the sickle is likely to bounce off a target without causing much injury.
- Ellis Amdur, Old School: Essays of Japanese Martial Traditions (2002)
- Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan (1973)
- An image of a kusarigama can be seen at .
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