The sasumata is a pole weapon developed in feudal Japan over 400 years ago, by the samurai class and their retainers. During the Edo period, the samurai were in charge of police operations. The samurai police, with help from non-samurai commoners, developed several types of non-lethal weapons to capture suspected criminals for trial.
Chief among them were the torimono sandōgu (three tools/implements of arresting) comprised of the sasumata (spear fork) together with the tsukubō (push pole) and the sodegarami (sleeve entangler). The head of the sasumata would be used to catch around the neck, arms, legs, or joints of a suspect and detain him until officers could close in and apprehend him (using hojōjutsu). The sasumata had a long hardwood pole with sharp barbs or spines attached to metal strips on one end of the pole to keep the person being captured from grabbing the pole.
Today, a modern version of the sasumata is still occasionally used by the police as a self-defense tool. These modern sasumata are often made of aluminum, without the sharpened blades and spikes found on their medieval counterparts, but sometimes with sophisticated catches.
Journalists Seiki Suda and Keiko Sato, writing for the highly respected daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, report that the sasumata is again seeing use, after a horrific attack. On July 26, 19 residents at a home for disabled people near Tokyo were stabbed to death by a former worker at the facility. He bound the caregivers first. The man later said he wanted to eliminate disabled people from the world, according to police.
In response, caregivers at similar facilities are receiving self-defense training in use of the sasumata.
“I like doing these exercises just in case, because not everybody knows how to put up resistance,” said Shino Oshio, 44, who works for a facility for people with severe disabilities.
Use of the sasumata has also been provided to teachers and administrators at elementary and secondary schools. The tool has proven useful as well for subduing armed attackers on the street.
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