This is just a quick update on the American Nunchaku Co shop status during this Covid-19 Crisis. We have a good stock of almost all the hardwoods and materials we use. We have a limited staff in place and are still open Monday – Thursday. Because we are an online store and our wood shops are not public, the crisis does not effect our overall production. Over the last few weeks we have purchased extra of most all our production materials and our 4-5 day (m-f) shipping turn around remains consistent.
What a great time to practice your nunchaku skills! We are all going to have to find ways to past the time as we wait this out. We Also encourage everyone to obey their local rules and guidelines.
Limited Office Hours.
We are always here to help answer your questions about our nunchaku. The best way to contact us through the week is via email or our contact page from the web site. Our office phone support may be limited in the coming weeks.
If you are reading this page the odds are you are looking for the best nunchucks in the world. You have come to the right place. 20 years ago we started making custom crafted, handmade nunchaku to use in our martial arts studies. The idea was based on having a martial arts weapon that was personal to the user and not some generic soulless cookie cutter product from a factory overseas. The other concept was to have a martial arts weapon be made in America with only American materials. While the exotic hardwood tree is grown in other countries, we only buy hardwoods from American hardwood importers and dealers. People all over the world study martial arts with a passion. It is more than a sport and in many cases it is a way of life. The study of any martial art is a life changing positive experience. We simply believe that the tools you use to do that study of these arts should have a special and personal connection to it’s user. Here at American Nunchaku Co we make real nunchaku or serious martial arts and free style users who want something more than a cheap imported item. IF you are looking for the best nunchaku in the world, we are the beginning and end to that search. We are absolutely hated by the import outlets that sell martial arts supplies because we do what they can not. We sell handmade nunchaku, custom made and strung by real martial artists. This site is best viewed on a tablet or computer to display all the different nunchaku that we offer. GO TO SHOP PAGE
Over the years we have expanded our hardwood selection that is second to none. and we offer size options you will simply not find at the karate outlet online store. The best part of it all is that they are all still handmade nunchaku.
One of the biggest problems with finding the best nunchucks in the world is the same problem with finding anything these days, knowing what to call the thing you are looking for. There may not be another item on the planet with more names all describing the same thing. The nunchaku (Japanese: ヌンチャク Hepburn: nunchaku, often “nunchuks“, “chainsticks“] “chuka sticks] or “karate sticks” in English . Other variations like Numb sticks, chucks, numchucks, and Tabak-Toyok The real most correct term to describe them is the Japanese word “Nunchaku” Many of the other English versions are just slang terms derived from movies and TV shows.
Whatever word you used to get to this page, The more important part is that you also did in fact find the best nunchaku in the world. American Nunchaku Company makes handmade nunchaku right here in the United States. We offer the largest variety of the nunchaku and highest quality while still maintaining the best prices. We invite you to take some time and look at all the nunchaku we have and as always, if you need help picking the best nunchaku for you or you just can;t decide, please just drop us a note and we will be more than happy to help you in your quest for a quality real handmade custom crafted American Nunchaku. Other can try to claim it but we know it, the American Nunchaku Company is where you go to get the Best Nunchucks in the World.
Unlike most sports people study, the martial arts hosts a range of different styles and applications. Furthermore, beyond the hand to hand (empty hand) study, martial arts normally also has a component that is the study of weapons. Each style of martial arts depending on the country and place of origin features different combinations of weapons that the practitioner studies. When it becomes time to study and learn the weapon a number of factors come into play that are not evident initially but with time become painfully clear. The factor we are talking about is “durability”
When the study of a modern weapon begins we must first understand that what we see in the movies and television is not really a true representation of how most things work when using a weapon. The basic premise of a weapon used in martial arts is that it is a pre gunpowder way to attack people. Hundreds of years ago, before the concept of the modern gun people used hand held weapons like swords and hammers in conflicts. Of all these weapons fix into two categories. Cutting and Bludgeoning. Knives, swords, axes would all fix into the cutting category and staffs, hammers and weapons like nunchaku fit into the bludgeoning category. We have all seen movies and tv shows where magical swords cut through concrete or slice a person into a hundred pieces in an instant. These are not realistic applications of these weapons and while some of the actions may be doable, they would also be the end for the weapons used as the blade would become destroyed with one use. The same would be true for most extreme actions of the bludgeoning weapons. The basic idea is that weapons were used as a tool and in a world where they were used, the weapons all had a very finite life span. In today’s world not many people use weapons like swords and staffs in day to day life. You will not see them on any battle field except the martial arts class room. This is the setting where much of the abuse will take place aside from an oak tree in your back yard. While it’s use and application is very different than the battle fields of 100’s of years ago, the study of the weapon and it’s applications will produce wear and damage to your weapons over time.
One common misconception is that weight equals durability. This is false. If anything weight will increase the damage factor ten fold. With the martial arts nunchaku as well as many other weapons in martial arts fashioned from hardwoods, it’s the type of hardwood that matters. Flex, hardness, density and grain all play a role in how durable your weapon will be along with how it is used.
Where to practice
The use of a weapon compared to it’s durability is maybe the biggest factor. If the practitioner is careless, or wreckless the risk of damage goes up. Where the weapon is studied also plays a role. Hard surfaces and questionable locations can mess up and damage the most beautiful weapons. The best policy is to be mindful of where you are and make sure that if a mistake is made and the weapon is dropped, it will still be safe from harm. Often times holding on to the weapon is the first trick. Make sure to avoid driveways and concrete. Try to practice in grass whenever possible. The grass and soil will cushion the blows from mistakes.
Often times it seems that something that costs more is better. This can be true for a great many things. This concept is also often wrong. In the world of martial arts weapons made from hardwoods expensive is not always best. The great example of this is cocobolo. It is beautiful and hard to find. Often instructors will use weapons made from cocobolo in class and the students will think, if the instructor is using it, this is what I should also aspire to. The problem with this line of thinking is that the student many times does not see why the instructor is using that weapon over another. In most cases it may be a favorite or preferred weapon but if striking and hitting is part of the lesson, almost always the instructor will put down the prized weapon and choose a lesser grade weapon to take the beating involved with the lesson plan for the day. The basic idea is simple, you need more than just one of each kind of weapon. The nunchaku you may use to give your arms a good workout may not be the best choice for striking into a heavy bag or combat against a staff to demonstrate a form or kata. A more durable wood like hickory or red oak would be much better in a striking application as compared to a prized cocobolo piece. For our handmade nunchaku we have found that the hickory and hard maple provide the most durability for contact. Red Oak and White oak also have good grain properties that resists cracking because the grain has give and will sooner take a dent than break in a strike. Both the Oak versions are also less expensive so in case damage does occur it is much less painful on the wallet.
All martial arts weapons that get used will eventually wear and sometimes break. Much of the durability will be dependant on the user and of course how it is used. Impact will always create risk of damage. There are no magical weapons that are indestructible. The best course of action is to keep your expensive favorites out of the class room and have less expensive back ups ready to use for your day to day studies and workouts.
One of the most asked questions we get here at American Nunchaku is normally about Nunchaku weight and durability. “Which nunchaku is strongest?” “Which nunchaku is Heavy?” On the surface these would seem to be questions about similar properties that the hardwoods have but in reality they are not. A hardwood’s “strength” is not based on it’s weight. When we are talking about strength or durability what we really mean is, how will this stand up to repeated blows in the world of martial arts. There is some inherent problems with judging any martial arts weapon based on how hard you can beat it without it breaking. Any object will break if it is subject to blows against another object, period. With a centrifugal weapon like nunchaku the weight of the woods makes huge difference in this damage, but it’s probably not what you think. The more weight the nunchaku has, the more damage to the object it’s hitting, and to the nunchaku itself. In other words, a heavy nunchaku is not going to be stronger than than a light weight nunchaku when it comes to survivability.
Light vs Heavy
The lighter weight nunchaku of course is where any beginner should start out rather than the heavy nunchaku. They are more forgiving, easier to move and will survive the inevitable drops and bumps. When a user gets more comfortable they should then move towards the heavier sets which will move slower but provide a great workout as the weight makes the movements work the arm and body muscles. Light nunchaku will always move faster and because they are lighter, they will survive better with your day to day use. The heavy nunchaku versions are normally made from the more exotic hardwoods which have beautiful and dense grains. They feel powerful and are unforgiving. Great care should be made when using them. Always practice on a surface like carpet or grass and never on concrete or asphalt.
The Smashing Goal
If your goal with your nunchaku is to simply smash them into hard objects you will be sadly disappointed if you choose any nunchaku, even metal sets. While some will hold up longer than others, in the end you will crack dent and or break them. Like any real world weapon, there is a life span that diminishes with use. The movies and tv make us think that some things last forever or have properties that are not based in reality. The best practice is to be responsible and use them wisely. Light weight for light contact and day to day practice. Heavy weight for personal workouts and technique.
The self defense factor
With many years of practice you may be able to think of the nunchaku as tool in self defense. The key words here however are “many years” It takes time and practice to be effective and while the movies and tv would have you believe that your attackers would run in fear as you produced your nunchaku and started swinging them wildly, the more accurate reality is that you would in most cases be better off not choosing the nunchaku as a practical self defense weapon. They would be equal to pulling out a board sword and threatening a sword cut. Cool in the movies, not so cool in real life. This is not to say that either couldn’t be done, it’s more of a question of “should it be done?” The best bet is to use common sense in any situation which almost always means not engaging and walking away. Nunchaku are a great tool in the martial arts world and a great way to get exercise. Always use great care and common sense and you will get the most out of your set.
If an item becomes “Back ordered“: Since we make all our nunchaku by hand, back ordered for us means that the wood has not been cut yet. This normally adds from 2-5 days to the time before an item can ship out. For more information about shipping please see our shipping page for details. If you need an item for a special event please feel free to use our contact page to get an estimate on shipping time.
Aluminum Nunchaku 12″ Round approx 36 oz. 6 link U Swivel Chain Made in USA
20% Select White Ash Nunchaku all through the month of October.
North American White Ash is the hardwood used to make most wooden baseball bats. It’s durable, strong and has a clean crisp look with grains highlighted by our finishing oils. These nunchaku are perfect for day to day use and all martial arts classes. Often overlooked, this hardwood is great to work with and we are offering it in a number of shapes and sizes to meet the needs of all martial artists. Our White Ash Nunchaku Autumn Sale runs to the end of October on select models.
White Ash Hardwood Specs:
Common Name(s): White Ash, American White Ash Scientific Name: Fraxinus americana Distribution: Eastern North America Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 2-5 ft (.6-1.5 m) trunk diameter Average Dried Weight: 42 lbs/ft3 (675 kg/m3) Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .55, .67 Janka Hardness: 1,320 lbf (5,870 N) Modulus of Rupture: 15,000 lbf/in2 (103.5 MPa) Elastic Modulus: 1,740,000 lbf/in2 (12.00 GPa) Crushing Strength: 7,410 lbf/in2 (51.1 MPa) Shrinkage: Radial: 4.9%, Tangential: 7.8%, Volumetric: 13.3%, T/R Ratio: 1.6
The black palm hardwood was introduced to the shop this year via a request from one of our @Twitter supporters and customers. Making a Black Palm Nunchaku was an experiment that turned out wonderfully. All hardwoods have certain properties that effect how well they feel and how well they can be used. A good martial arts weapon needs to be strong yet flexible. Hardness is also good but not at the expense of being to ridged which tends to lead to shattering. While the Black palm has great weight, it also has the large pour-us grains and fibers that give it flexibility. The following are the specs for the tree itself. Basically it’s a palm tree from Asia and Africa. (Borassus flabellifer) Common Name(s): Black Palm, Palmyra Palm Scientific Name: Borassus flabellifer Distribution: Tropical Asia and Africa Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall.
We love the feel and look of these heavy weight nunchaku. You can feel the power contained within when you hold a finished set. That much dense weight is hard to ignore. The hardwood does take some getting used to as far as the cutting and milling. Most hardwoods are difficult in one way or another. For us this one is
As we experiment with this great hardwood the Black Palm Nunchaku will gain some new sizes and options as we progress into the Autumn for 2018. If you are experienced with the nunchaku and want to experiment with some new hardwoods, this Black Palm is a great find. Beware, the Black Palm Nunchaku are very heavy and thus, unforgiving. Take care with fancy tricks and katas until you get used to the weight.
Currently the black palm is offered in rope and chain nunchaku types with some variations of 12 inch and 13.5 inch lengths. The rope colors are customer choice but many have opted to go with the leopard or cheetah colors as they tend to match the natural colors of the hardwood’s grains. The black palm nunchaku, “nunchucks” will be on sale till the end of the month for those interested in trying out a wonderful and unique new nunchaku hardwood. These nunchkau are guaranteed to stand out in the crowd and make a bold statement.
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Black Palm Specs:
Common Name(s): Black Palm, Palmyra Palm Scientific Name: Borassus flabellifer Distribution: Tropical Asia and Africa Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter Average Dried Weight: 61 lbs/ft3 (970 kg/m3) Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .79, .97 Janka Hardness: 2,020 lbf (9,000 N) Modulus of Rupture: 19,950 lbf/in2 (137.6 MPa) Elastic Modulus: 2,262,000 lbf/in2 (15.60 GPa) Crushing Strength: 10,190 lbf/in2 (70.3 MPa)
The nunchaku (Japanese: ヌンチャク Hepburn: nunchaku, often “nunchuks“, “chainsticks“, “chuka sticks“ or “karate sticks“ in English) is a traditional Okinawan martial arts weapon consisting of two sticks connected at one end by a short chain or rope. The two sections of the weapon are commonly made out of wood, while the link is a cord or a metal chain. The nunchaku is most widely used in martial arts such as Okinawan kobudō and karate, and is used as a training weapon, since it allows the development of quicker hand movements and improves posture. Modern-day nunchaku can be made from metal, wood, plastic or fibreglass. Toy and replica versions made of polystyrene foam or plastic are also available. Possession of this weapon is illegal in some countries, except for use in professional martial art schools.
The exact origin of nunchaku is unclear. Allegedly adapted by Okinawan farmers from a non-weapon item, it was not a historically popular weapon because it was ineffective against the most widely used weapons of that time, and few historical techniques for its use still survive.
In modern times, nunchaku (Tabak-Toyok) were popularized by actor and martial artist Bruce Lee and his martial arts student Dan Inosanto, who introduced this weapon to the actor. Another popular association in modern times is the fictional character Michelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Organizations including the North American Nunchaku Association, World Amateur Nunchaku Organization, Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku de Combat et Artistique, World Nunchaku Association, and International Techdo Nunchaku Association teach the use of nunchaku as a contact sport.
The origin of the word nunchaku (ヌンチャク) is not known. One theory indicates it was derived from pronunciation of the Chinese characters 双截棍 (a type of traditional Chinese two section staff) in a Southern Fujian dialect of Chinese language (兩節棍 nng-chat-kun, pair(of)-linked-sticks). Another derives from the definition of “nun” as “twin”.
Another name for this weapon is “nûchiku”(ヌウチク).
In the English language, nunchaku are often referred to as “nunchuks”.
The origin of the nunchaku is unclear, although one popular belief is that nunchaku was originally a short South-East Asian flail used to thresh rice or soybeans. This gave rise to the theory that it was originally developed from an Okinawan horse bit (muge), or that it was adapted from a wooden clapper called hyoshiki carried by the village night watch, made of two blocks of wood joined by a cord. The night watch would hit the blocks of wood together to attract people’s attention, then warn them about fires and other dangers.
Some propose that the association of nunchaku and other Okinawan weapons with rebellious peasants is most likely a romantic exaggeration. Martial arts in Okinawa were practiced exclusively by aristocracy (kazoku) and “serving nobles” (shizoku), but were prohibited among commoners (heimin). According to Chinese folklore, nunchaku are a variation of the two section staff.
Ana: the hole on the kontoh of each handle for the himo to pass through—only nunchaku that are connected by himo have an ana.
Himo: the rope which connects the two handles of some nunchaku.
Kusari: the chain which connects the two handles of some nunchaku.
The nunchaku is most commonly used in Okinawan kobudō and karate, but it is also used in eskrima (more accurately, the Tabak-Toyok, a similar though distinct Philippine weapon, is used, as opposed to the Okinawan nunchaku), and in Korean hapkido. Its application is different in each style. The traditional Okinawan forms use the sticks primarily to grip and lock. Filipino martial artists use it much the same way they would wield a stick—striking is given precedence. Korean systems combine offensive and defensive moves, so both locks and strikes are taught. Nunchaku is often the first weapon wielded by a student, to teach self-restraint and posture, as the weapon is liable to hit the wielder more than the opponent if not used properly.
The Nunchaku is usually wielded in one hand, but it can also be paired. It can be whirled around, using its hardened handles for blunt force, as well as wrapping its chain around an attacking weapon to immobilize or disarm an opponent. Nunchaku training has been noted[by whom?] to increase hand speed, improve posture, and condition the hands of the practitioner. Therefore, it makes a useful training weapon.
There are some disciplines that combine nunchaku with unarmed techniques:
Mouhébong Taekwondo combines Korean nunchaku with taekwondo.
Nunch-Boxing combines nunchaku with kicking and punching techniques. Nunch-Boxing itself is part of the broader discipline Nenbushi.
Nunchaku en savate combines savate techniques with the nunchaku.
Freestyle nunchaku is a modern style of performance art using nunchaku as a visual tool, rather than as a weapon. With the growing prevalence of the Internet, the availability of nunchaku has greatly increased. In combination with the popularity of other video sharing sites, many people have become interested in learning how to use the weapons for freestyle displays. Freestyle is one discipline of competition held by the World Nunchaku Association. Some modern martial arts teach the use of nunchaku, as it may help students improve their reflexes, hand control, and other skills.
Nunchaku Sporting Associations
Since the 1980s, there have been various international sporting associations that organize the use of nunchaku as a contact sport. Current associations usually hold “semi-contact” fights, where severe strikes are prohibited, as opposed to “contact” fights. “Full-Nunch” matches, on the other hand, are limitation-free on the severity of strikes and knockout is permissible.
North American Nunchaku Association (NANA): Founded in 2003 in California by Sensei Chris Pellitteri, NANA teaches all aspects of the nunchaku, traditional and free-style, single and double.
World Amateur Nunchaku Organization (WANO): Founded by Pascal Verhille in France in 1988.
Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku de Combat et Artistique (FINCA): Founded by Raphaël Schmitz in France in 1992 as a merger of disbanded associations WANO and FFNS (Fédération Française de Nunchaku Sportif). Its current name is Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku, Combat complet et Arts martiaux modernes et affinitaires (FINCA). A fight with FINCA rules lasts two rounds of two minutes. There is no need for changing either the nunchaku branch or the hand before hitting, just a correct recuperation. There are no stops during the fight, except for loss, lifting, or penalties.
World Safety Nunchaku Organization (WSNO) : Safety Nunchaku Grandmaster Soshihan S. Kothandan, India’s Senior most Shito-ryu Karate exponent who got trained under many world level renowned Grand masters in Martial Arts, has gained rich technical expertise in that domain by his passion towards the Art, and he has achieved many milestones in Karate field particularly in Shito-ryu Karate from the past 46 years. He started researching in Safety Nunchaku from 1991 onward. He founded and presented Safety Nunchaku for the first time in front of the general public and Honorable Ministers of Tamil Nadu, India on 28.08.2005. On this day, Safety Nunchaku, Kata, Team Kata, Kumite, Team Kumite, Own style, Stand Target, Moving Target and other new techniques were demonstrated. This research is being continued by means of meeting experts from different parts of the world and sharing their view on Safety Nunchaku as a game and as a Martial art. Finally, 02-08-2015 he had introduced Safety Nunchaku in front of VIP’s, and General Public & released website (www.worldsafetynunchaku.org), demonstrated KATA’s and gave Black Belt to 1st Batch who got training more than two years during his research period. With his vast knowledge, experience and hard work he has introduced and dedicated first time in the Martial Art field “World Standard 16 unique Katas” in the field of Safety Nunchaku. If a person know the proper names of the techniques, correct method of practicing such techniques and most important is where to apply such techniques and what circumstance to apply those techniques then he will do very well in real life under critical situations where his safety is prime concern. By keeping those very important facts in mind, he has framed Katas in Safety Nunchaku in a simple and elegant way where a common people can get into interest to practice and understand the nuances of each techniques.He has also followed some unique methodology to name “World Standard 16 Unique KATAs” in Safety Nunchaku. In general Japanese, when they design a Kata, they gave their names or their master names. But, In Safety Nunchaku, Grandmaster Soshihan S.Kothandan had given names Single chaku “World Standard 16 Unique Katas ” to the patriots-freedom fighters, who made the country to proud globally, People who made proud India in Martial Arts and aid citizens to spread the Art throughout the country and People who supported, encouraged Soshihan in the Karate domain and considered his growth and success as a growth of Martial Art. Safety Nunchaku Grandmaster Soshihan S. Kothandan to insist that fact to future generation to remember those legends in the Name of KATA in near future. Also he categorized the above Unique katas as Origin Katas (4), Fundamental Katas (4) & Superior Katas (8). He also manufactured with foam and foam rubber Safety Nunchaku cheaper, different colors and different sizes to use all ages of public.
World Nunchaku Association (WNA): Founded by Milco Lambrecht in the Netherlands in 1996. WNA uses yellow and black plastic weight-balanced training nunchaku and protective headgear. They have their own belt color system, in which participants earn color stripes on the belt, instead of fully colored belts. One side of the belt is yellow and the other black, so that in a competition, opponents may be distinguished by the visible side of the belt. WNA fight rules correspond to the kumite subsection of Nunchaku do discipline. It is a two-minutes “touch fight,” in which technical abilities are very important. After each scored point, the fight stops and the fighters take back their starting position.
International Techdo Nunchaku Association (ITNA): Founded by Daniel Althaus in Switzerland in 2006. ITNA rules fights last two rounds lasting 2:30. There are no stops during the round, except for loss, lifting, or penalties. Between two strikes, the fighter has to change hand and nunchaku branch before hitting again, except if he blocks.
MANOR TOWNSHIP, Lancaster County — Police are searching for a 29-year-old Quarryville man accused of trying — and failing — kill the same man twice in two days.
Robert David Sheets, of Buck Heights Road, is charged with two counts of attempted homicide, according to State Police. He is currently at large.Police say Sheets shot a male victim in the chest on Sunday, according to a criminal complaint. The next day, when he discovered the victim was still alive, he shot the victim again — this time in the head — and then allegedly stabbed him.The victim survived both attempts, police say.The victim told police Sheets took him to a residence near Main Street in Conestoga and led him to the woods behind the residence, allegedly telling the victim he wanted to show him something there. The victim told police Sheets ordered him to sit on a rock with his hands behind his back. Sheets then grabbed the victim from behind, as if he was attempting to break the victim’s neck. The victim told police he elbowed Sheets in an attempt to escape, but Sheets allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot the victim in the chest. The victim told police he fell between some large rocks and laid there, bleeding, until the next morning. When he awoke, he said, he began yelling for help. The victim told police that Sheets heard his cries and returned, apparently angry that the victim was not dead. Sheets then allegedly shot the victim again, this time behind the right ear. He also allegedly stabbed the victim, who told police he passed out. The victim told police that when he awoke again, he walked away from the residence to a nearby cornfield. He said he was disoriented and walked around the field in circles until he reached a property on the 200 block of Oak Road, where he was discovered. According to the criminal complaint, the victim told police that Sheets removed the victim’s wallet, which contained approximately $400, after shooting him the first time. Sheets also took the victim’s cell phone at that time, the victim said.
Police say they showed the victim a photo lineup with eight males, and the victim identified Sheets as the man who shot him.
In a popular myth which has been repeated in book after book, we have been told that the nunchaku was originally a rice flail which was converted by Japanese farmers into a deadly weapon to fight against samurai. This myth, however, is incorrect on all four points: The nunchaku was not a Japanese weapon, it was never used as a rice flail, it was not developed by villagers and it was never used against samurai. The nunchaku, as we know it, comes from Okinawa (Uchina), today a part of Japan. Okinawa lies almost midway between Taiwan and the Japanese “mainland”, and is the largest island in the Ryukyu (literally “rope”) archipelago, a 650 mile long chain of small islands between southern Japan and Taiwan.
Okinawa today is part of Japan, but the Okinawans are not Japanese and have their own culture and language, although the latter is gradually being replaced by Japanese. The Japanese language does not even contain a word for the nunchaku. When one needs to write “nunchaku” in Japanese he may do it in one of two ways: He may use katakana, the syllabic/phonetic alphabet used in the Japanese language to write foreign and loan words, writing the syllables “nu-n-cha-ku”. Or, instead, he may use the Chinese characters for “two member stick” (or “double part baton”), which is pronounced “shuang jie gun” in Chinese, “nun cha kun” in Okinawan and “so setsu kon” in Japanese.
Many think that the nunchaku has descended from the rice flail (utzu), but this is erroneous. To understand why, imagine that you want to use the nunchaku to thresh rice stalks laying on the ground. In order for the swinging arm of the nunchaku to land flatly, you would have to bend over with your head close to your knees or kneel on the ground. In the former position, every time you swing up the flailing arm you might be struck on your back, while the latter position is not really functional as anyone who has had to kneel on rice can tell you. The actual Okinawan flail, like the European flail, has a handle as long as a man’s height to make the threshing process easier. So the belief that the nunchaku descends from the Okinawan rice flail is definitely baseless. Another reason for this error, besides the obvious resemblance of the flail to the nunchaku, may be the existence of the a combat flail (uchibo), which really is a modified rice flail, among the weapons of Okinawan kobujutsu.
There are a few more rational beliefs about the nunchaku’s prototype. The most credible version (attested to by a number of Japanese masters of kobudo) is that the nunchaku descends from an Okinawan horse bit (muge). Initially the handles of the bit were curved as you can see in the photo. Later it was changed to the straight-handled weapon that we know today.
There also exists versions of the nunchaku’s history which state that it was once a night-watchman’s rattle or a tool for barking banana trees (the best fabric on Okinawa was produced from banana bark). Finally, one additional version, supported by such experts as Miyagi and Ikeda, says that the nunchaku was copied from a Chinese weapon brought to Okinawa by Chinese immigrants. Indirect evidence of this version is the fact that the word used for “nunchaku” is borrowed from the Chinese language.
How did a farmer’s tool evolve into a deadly weapon and who used it? To answer these questions let’s take a tour through Okinawan history.
In 1429 king Sho Hashi, founded the Sho dynasty by uniting three principalities of Okinawa, Hokuzan, Nanzan and Chuzan, creating the Ryukyu kingdom with the city of Shuri as its capitol. Sho Hashi now had a region with a number of united domains, not a single country. Each lord sat in his own castle, governed his fiefdom by himself, had his own army, imposed his own taxes, and had his own code of law and courts. The process of uniting these domains into a united country was completed after about 50 years by one of Sho Hashi’s successors, king Sho Shin who turned the domains into a single country with one government, one army, and a single code of laws, like today’s modern countries.
To reduce the possibility of a revolt in Okinawa, Sho Shin gathered all the princes (aji) in Shuri and declared a prohibition against carrying weapons. Only the king’s army and nobles were allowed to carry weapons and no one but the king could possess considerable amounts of weapons. As a result, the king’s army became the only one on Okinawa.
Muge – Okinawan horse bit, the most probable prototype of nunchaku In 1609 the Ryukyu kingdom which, until then, had existed as an independent country, was occupied by the Japanese princedom of Satzuma and became its vassal until 1879 when, after the Meiji revolution, Okinawa was annexed by Japan. However, during all the years between 1609 and 1879 the Japanese presence on Okinawa was minor; there were only a few dozen samurai for the whole country and most of them lived in the city of Shuri. The Japanese government confirmed Sho Shin’s decree against weapons and also added prohibitions against importing weapons and the possession of firearms. However, the legends about the total disarmament of the Okinawan population are no more than legends. Okinawan nobles were still allowed to carry their swords and members of the royal family and princes were even allowed to have rifles for hunting.
In karate books it is often written that farmers developed Okinawan martial arts, but this does not make any sense. Okinawa was never a rich country and, after the onset of the Japanese occupation in the 17th century, it became poverty-stricken. Farmers had to work from sunrise to sunset just to feed themselves. Villagers just didn’t have the time or the vigor to practice fighting and to develop sophisticated martial arts.
It was the nobles who developed Okinawan martial arts. The aristocrats (kazoku) practiced fighting arts mainly as a pastime, but for “serving nobles” (shizoku) knowledge of the martial arts was a must as many of them served the government as army or police officers, tax collectors, and so on. If we look at the genealogy of any style of Okinawan karate or kobujutsu, we see that the founder of the style is the scion of a noble family, or that he learned martial arts from a noble.
“Sorry,” one who is familiar with Okinawan kobujutsu weaponry may say at this point, “but if the martial arts of Okinawa were really developed by nobles who were allowed to carry swords and spears, why did they develop fighting techniques with sickle, oar, hoe and other farmer’s and fishermen’s tools?” The author of this text also asked himself this question and then he asked experts in Okinawan history. Here is the answer:
Master of kobujutsu Ryusho Sakagami breaks beton block by nunchaku “Serving nobles” on Okinawa, as you may guess from their title, served the government as military and police officers or as state officials. They protected and kept “law and order” and received wages from the king. They had no other source of income as the law prohibited them from any other occupation. At some point in time, this wage became insufficient to feed their families and many of them were reduced to beggary. In 1724, in order to solve this problem, the nobles were granted permission to become merchants, farmers, or craftsmen. Many of them left the state service and had to move into villages with their families just to feed themselves. After a century and a half, following the Meiji revolution, Okinawan nobles (as well as Japanese samurai) had their privileges revoked, including the right to carry swords, and they were deprived of their wages. If you read “Gone with the Wind” you will surely remember the story of the aristocrats of yesterday who had to become shopkeepers and bakers to survive. And so it happened to the aristocrats on Okinawa. Members of the royal family worked as teamsters and night watchmen. Princes became hewers of wood and sellers of pigs in the marketplace. Many of the nobility moved into villages. The farmers, of course, weren’t happy to meet their new neighbors and they tried to drive them off the villages’ lands. These efforts often resulted in fighting. The number of thieves and robbers also increased in the country where food was a valuable. As a result, “farmer-princes” had to refresh their fighting skills.
The nobility, of course, would have preferred to fight with their swords rather than with their bare hands, but they were prohibited from carrying weapons. But what does a warrior do when he can’t use his weapons? He arms himself with anything in reach. Shaolin monks developed fighting techniques with slippers and baskets; ninjas learned to kill their opponents with chopsticks. And Okinawan nobles, deprived of their arms, also developed weapons from any improvised means they could.
Staffs and sticks of different lengths (the six foot rokushakubo, four foot jo, three foot hanbo, etc.) always were used as auxiliary weapons, so they were adopted first. Sickles (kama), oars (eku), hoes (kuwa), gaffs (nunti-bo), millstone handles (tonfa) and other objects that could effectively be used in a fight were also not forgotten. Two sticks connected by rope caught someone’s eye. A warrior swung them, pictured himself bashing an opponents head – and nunchaku was born.
The nunchaku wasn’t a very popular weapon. We deduce this because no traditional nunchaku kata is known today. By contrast, we currently know more than a dozen traditional staff katas. The lack of popularity for the nunchaku probably came from its low effectiveness when used against the staff or other long-reach weapons, not to mention the sword. On the other hand, one who was skilled in nunchaku usage was easily able to defeat a few opponents who were armed with knives or who were unarmed. The nunchaku was also an easy to conceal weapon, suitable for carrying everyday. So, in Okinawa, the nunchaku was mainly used as a tool for street self-defense against hooligans and robbers.
Famous kobujutsu master Shinken Taira preforms nunchaku kata Weapons similar to the nunchaku exist in many martial arts around the world. To mention only a few of the best know ones: Chinese erjiegun; Philippine tabak-toyok; Korean ssangjulbong; and European combat flails. All these weapons are built like the nunchaku. Some of these are simply imported nunchaku from kobudo. For example, the Philippine chako and tabak-toyok are just the Okinawan nunchaku made from the local Philippine wood. Other martial arts have their own “stick-and-chain” weapons, like the Shaolin sanjiegun or the European combat flail.
The nunchaku is so popular today, that almost any new martial art incorporates this weapon into its training. Because of its simplicity of manufacture, its high effectiveness in street combat, and its soaring popularity due to Bruce Lee’s films, the nunchaku has had a new birth in our time. Today the nunchaku is one of the most popular weapons after the knife and the baton. But I will tell you more about the nunchaku in our day on the “Nunchaku Today” page.