Information on the Nunchaku - Martial Arts Weapon

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Information on the Nunchaku - Martial Arts Weapon

Nunchaku (or Nunchucks) is a traditional martial arts weapon from Okinawa/Japan. It consists of two short batons connected together by a chain or rope. History has it that Nunchaku were developed from farming tools used to thresh rice.

In traditional Japanese/Okinawan NunchakuJutsu, the Nunchaku is held towards the bottom of the weapon in order to take advantage of the weapons reach. However, some Chinese styles and freestyle techniques advocates hold the Nunchaku closer to the top of the baton. The primary function of the Nunchaku is striking vulnerable target areas of the body (temple, wrists, elbows, knees etc). Like all Kobudo weapons, the effectiveness of Nunchaku relies primarily on Tai Sabaki (footwork and evasive techniques). As well as strikes, the Nunchaku is also used to block and trap offensive maneuvers from oncoming attacks from other weapon wielding opponents.

The batons on Nunchaku are traditionally around 12 inches in length with around 4 inches of cord or chain connecting them. There are also 8 inch versions that have a slightly longer cord or chain but the overall length of the Nunchaku more or less remains the same. The batons on Nunchaku are usually round or octagonal. The octagonal variety have a much greater possibility of splitting the skin (both of the opponent or the handler… if you are not proficient with the weapon). It is highly advisable for all beginners of Nunchaku to use foam or safety Nunchaku because they are perhaps the most notorious weapon for self injury to beginners! However, with correct instruction and practice, the Nunchaku is a devastating weapon. No wonder, the Nunchaku is perhaps the most iconic martial arts weapon of all.

When practicing with Nunchaku, beginners often start with foam Nunchaku in order avoid injuring themselves or others.

Muge Nunchaku

Some Kobudo practitioners and historians dispute the popular rice flail theory as the origins of the Nunchaku, and the second most popular theory is that the Muge (the traditional Horses bit) is the origin of the weapon. Muge Nunchaku are slightly curved, with flatter edges (more square as opposed to round or octagonal), there is a pronounced hump toward the centre of the inner curve, the overall shape of the staves are designed to fit either side of a Horses face.

Muge Nunchaku are still used by some Kobudo/Nunchakujutsu practitioners and though the techniques are basically the same, some of the techniques are more difficult to execute owing to the asymmetrical shape of Muge staves.


Another contender for the origin of the Nunchaku is the Hyoshigi. The Hyoshigi is a traditional Japanese percussive instrument consisting of two rectangular wooden blocks attached by a length of cord. They were traditionally carried by night watchmen and fire men in ancient Japan and used as an alarm.

A new sport form of Nunchaku was developed in the Netherlands in the mid 80's known as Nunchaku Do. The combatants in this sport use safety Nunchaku and wear padded head guards. The object of the sport is to score points with strikes to the head or body while evading the opponents strikes. The ultimate technique in Nunchaku do is to snatch away the opponents Nunchaku with your own.

For information on other traditional martial arts weapons, please visit the main Martial Arts Weapons section. For more on Nunchaku kata, please visit Nunchaku Jutsu.

Bruce Lee with Nunchaku (Nunchucks)

Nunchaku Demonstration Video

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