Nunchaku History

Nunchaku

 Nunchaku History

12.5 inch Bloodwood Nunchaku

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.[5] 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.


Etymology

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”.

Origin

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[9] 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.[10]

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).[11] According to Chinese folklore, nunchaku are a variation of the two section staff.

Parts of the Nunchaku


 

Parts

  • 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.
  • Kontoh: the top of each handle.
  • Jukon-bu: the upper area of the handle.
  • Chukon-bu: the center part of the handle.
  • Kikon-bu: the lower part of the handle.
  • Kontei: the bottom of the handle.

Formal Styles of Nunchaku Use

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

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

Nunchaku

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.

The History of Nunchaku

The History of Nunchaku

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.

Nunchaku Re-String Service

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.

 

American Handmade Nunchaku

American Handmade Nunchaku
American Handmade Nunchaku

American Handmade Nunchaku

Given the choice wouldn’t you rather buy American Handmade Nunchaku than a nunchaku with no soul? all of our martial arts weapons are made one at a time by martial artists. we don’t buy them over seas or from a big warehouse store. We think this makes them special and unique. This gives the weapon the character that the user possesses.

Handmade vs Robot made

USA Nunchaku is not a warehouse in China, or a large manufacturing factory. USA Nunchaku Co. is a small American company making handmade nunchaku from 100% American materials in our small workshop. We make handmade nunchaku in different shapes and sizes in small batches, each featuring a selection of various hardwoods. While they do cost a bit more than a $9 Chinese “chuck in a bag”, our nunchaku are Handmade and each one of a kind.

Stop in and check out the store, your perfect nunchaku is waiting for a spin. If you have any questions or need help picking the perfect nunchaku for your training, please do not hesitate to contact us directly and we will be more than happy to help out with your choice or any other information you may need.


Read moreAmerican Handmade Nunchaku

Chain linked Speed Chucks

Chain linked Speed Chucks

9.5" Katalox Speed Chucks

As we hit the dog days of summer in 2017 the shop is finishing out the Dragon Fly run of nunchaku to end the first part of the season.  With the introduction of our chain linked nunchaku this summer, we wanted to add to the mix with some cool variations from the old days of kung fu and karate with a similar variation of the classic speed chuck.  We have made the handles shorter and the chain longer to match the total length of a standard 12″ chain set.  We are going to be making these in a variety of shapes, woods and lengths for our next batch along with 3 sectional staffs and chain linked cocobolo nunchaku.  These will finish out the dragonfly run 2017.

These nunchaku hard a bit different than the normal size to swing.  It doesn’t take too long to get used to them.  Look for us to try out a variety of woods in the coming batches to give a good weight mix for nunchaku swings of all styles.

 The debut are two pairs, one red heart at 10″ and a katlox set of 9.5″ weighting in a full 16 oz pound!  As always, join our newsletter to get updates on new nunchaku in the shop.