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The art of using the kusarigama (sickle and chain).


The precise origin of the kusarigama and its use are probably lost to us. However, it is likely to have evolved from the standard kama, or sickle. This was an agrarian implement for cutting plants, such as rice, in the field, but also used in stables to quickly harvest grass for the horses or even used to cut horses free in the event of a fire. The kama dates back to at least the seventh century. Serge Mol dates it to Nakatomi no Kamatari (614-669), later called Fujiwara no Kamatari, who defeated Soga Emishi and his son Iruka in 645. He observes that Sho Shô Ryu claims their kama techniques come form Nakatomi no Kamatari's Koden Ryu.

The addition of the chain may have come from the combination of the kama with the konpi (a weighted chain). Isshin Ryu is considered, by some, to have been the pioneer school of kusarigamajutsu.. In the Edo period, this became a popular weapon of women.

Different schools of kusarigamajutsu use different kusarigama. Some have the chain attached at the base of the handle, others have it attached at the blade. Some blades are straight, others are curved. Some are only sharpened on one side of the blade, others are sharpened on both. These factors also influence the use and the techniques.


  • Mol, Serge (2003), Classical Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts, Kodansha International, Tokyo, Japan.