Martial Arts Weapons, Durability Factor 101

Iron Wood Nunchaku 2020-015
Handmade Nunchaku

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.

Red Heart Slim Nunchaku
Handmade Nunchaku

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.

Picking the correct wood

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.

Which Nunchaku is Right for Me?

Which Nunchaku is Right for Me?

While most martial arts stores and warehouse have lots of stuff, unlike USA Nunchaku Co,  they only have 12″ nunchaku which raises the question, “Since I have options, which nunchaku is right for me?” This site is best viewed on a tablet or computer to display all the different nunchaku that we offer. GO TO SHOP PAGE

The 12″ nunchaku is the standard size.  The tapered octagon tied with rope it is the most common nunchaku found in the martial arts of karate and kung fu styles and the schools who teach it.  Some schools use plastic and foam nunchaku as well which are tied together with plastic chain.  While many schools use them for practice, they are the worst example of what a real nunchaku is.  The next kind of nunchaku is fastened with chain.  These are designed more for sport and swinging tricks than a martial arts form, but both can be used either way.

If you are looking for nunchaku for a smaller frame, shorter lengths can work very well as well as the thinner 1″ models which are better for smaller grips.  Sometimes experimenting with nunchaku lengths and rope and chain lengths is the best and only good way to get  a nunchaku that works for your size.  The most important thing with nunchaku is having it feel comfortable while you practice.

Ropes vs Chain

Red Oak Straight Octagon U Swivel Nunchaku
Universal linked Chain nunchaku

The chain linked nunchaku swing and feel very differently as compared to the rope tied nunchaku, but the basic rule is that you need more chain than rope for the same swinging feel. Rope is better for your kada and form work as it is best with joint locks and using the nunchaku leverage to inflict holds and breaks.  Yes it’s true, there are other uses beyond swinging them into things!  The chains are far better to use when trying out tricks and spins that wrap around the body.  They do require more length than the rope, and if you put too much length of chain between them you have to shorten up the nunchaku which then moves us into the speed chuck.  

The speed chuck is basically a shorter nunchaku handle, with more chain.  These are harder to control, but tons of fun. One basic rule would be to start out with rope and then move on to experiment with chain. While there is a noticeable difference, some people find that they prefer one over the other while others like and use both. If you are studying a certain martial arts style, it is always advised to ask the instructor which kind they prefer to be used in class and they also may have some insight as to how the nunchaku will be used in class which will also dictate the length of the chain or rope and how to it used in the forms you study.

Wood Types and Weight

If you are new to the nunchaku, stay with lighter woods. They are much more forgiving and easier on the mishaps. If you are familiar with them, choose the heavy ones only if you do not drop them all the time. Unlike a piece of plastic or foam, if you crack wooden nunchaku into hard surfaces, you may damage them, or the hard surface or both. It’s basic physics. The more weight and speed, the more impact. The lighter woods are faster and spin with more speed but do not pack the punch and damage of the heavier nunchaku. This is why they are the best for the student to practice with. If you want to see what will happen when you swing your nunchaku into a tree or rock please understand that you would be setting yourself up for a broken nunchaku.

We recommend practice on grass or carpet. Do not purchase with the impression that cocobolo or other hardwoods means “indestructible” If anything, it’s the opposite. Like all other martial arts weapons, great care should be taken when using them. They should only ever be used under the supervision of a martial arts instructor in a class setting.


If by chance you still need help please feel free to contact us. If you are stuck which the which to choose and we will be more than happy to help. Just use our contact page and will will return your answer within 12 hours or less. This site is best viewed on a tablet or computer to display all the different nunchaku that we offer. GO TO SHOP PAGE

Why is Cocobolo so Expensive?

The Rare Preferred Hardwood of the Martial Arts world. Why is Cocobolo so Expensive?

Cocobolo Dalbergia retusa is the long sought after hardwood in martial arts.  It is in the family of the Rosewoods Dalbergia nigra. In part it is very popular because of it’s weight and density but also because of the beautiful colors and patterns that appear in the wood’s grain.  With this wood however it is not the demand that is the problem as much as it is the supply.  So Why is Cocobolo so Expensive? The first price point that drives it up is being able to find it.  The second is how much it costs once you have located something you can use.  Unlike red oak or ash, cocobolo is a medium to small sized tree that has fewer straight branches.  It is much harder to mill and even harder to get good undamaged straight boards so you can work with them.  Hardwoods of this nature eat through expensive cutting bits in weeks, where as the same bit would last a lifetime with normal woods.  The last price point that adds more to the final cost is how hard it is to work with.  The first problem; the saw dust is poisonous to humans.  Don’t get me wrong, all saw dust is bad for people and use of a mask is the general practice, but with cocobolo it is down right hurtful.  It is much like getting poison ivy on the inside of your lungs.  Not fun.  So we use suits and masks and it’s hot and miserable doing so.

In the end it’s always worth it but much more time and work go into things made of cocobolo.  It’s a rare wood loved by all the martial arts.  The time may also be coming when cocobolo is gone from the planet.  I wonder what those cocobolo nunchaku would be worth then? At USA Nunchaku Co. We hunt down cocobolo every week to use in our wood shop so we can bring you great nunchaku pieces.  It’s a time honored hardwood in the martial arts world, but don’t forget all the other great woods we have available.


Other Choices

While cocobolo is a great hardwood, there are others that will also serve the same purpose.  We encourage our nunchaku users to try out different weight hardwoods and test out some of the many other exotic hardwood options we provide. Most of our customers will wind up with nunchaku they use privately and nunchaku they use in class for strikes and contact with other weapons which spare the more expensive nunchaku from harm. As always, if you have more questions about any of our nunchaku please feel free to contact us and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Blonde Cocobolo Nunchaku

Blonde Cocobolo Nunchaku

Blonde Cocobolo NunchakuThis pair was a special cut fro the master block of cocobolo we used.  The oils have set out the great colors in the wood grain.  These are not stained.  The lighter pulp wood looks blonde next to the fiery red in the dark cocobolo grains.  I have number of other cocobolo in the store now but this one we are listing alone in the store. This is why I’ve decided to call it Blonde Cocobolo Nunchaku.

Stop  by the shop to check them all out.

Coming up on the next round we will be cutting blood wood and will be featuring the return of the Lignum Vitae (ironwood)nunchaku.

Lignum Vitae (Genuine) is an exotic wood native to the tropical regions of the Americas. It is a very hard, dense, and heavy wood, with a fine texture. The heartwood color ranges from a dark greenish brown to black. Lignum Vitae is excellent for wood turning, as well as being used for bearings, bushings, some marine applications, and mallet heads. It has an oily to waxy character and takes a high polish.

American Nunchaku Handmade

Handmade Nunchaku American Nunchaku Handmade

We make Traditional Octagon Wood Nunchaku from real hardwoods.  Real wooden American Nunchaku.  We have a selection of great dense hardwoods.  All our nunchaku are strung and oiled ready to go.  They are fast, easy to swing and control.  Perfect for school and form study.  We also have chain linked nunchaku featuring the ever sought after U swivel.  They are available now in a number of woods and lengths.  Each nunchaku we make is special and our goal is to match them with special people who use them. We do it all here in the USA while using American products and materials.  There is no robot factory, we don’t import anything to make them.   The one you pick is the one you get.  Stop by the store and check out the selection.  usanunchaku.com

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Martial Arts: Your First Real Weapon

Your First Real Weapon

Martial Arts Jo staffMost martial artist start out with the three most common weapons.  jo staff, nunchaku and a sword associated with their respective styles.  Aside from the sword of course,  many of the traditional weapons are based form farm tools that people had around.  Most people were not allowed to own weapons so they developed skills using the things they had on hand.

A staff is as simple as it gets.  It’s a 5 to 6 foot pole.  It can be a broom, or a hockey stick or a long piece of cocobolo wood.  While the later would be the best for effect, anything will do.  you can buy good poles from just about anyone, great ones however are harder to find.

A sword is something that you have to explore separately as there are many kinds and many styles.  You can buy a $49 dragon sword based on something from a movie or you can sell your first born to a warlord and commission a $200,000 dollar sword.  That and everything in between, bottom line, you get what you pay for.  Your movie sword no matter how cool, will be ok for one cut in one fight.  It’s not combat steel and it is made of plastic and tin.swords

Nunchaku are a bit different.  Bruce Lee made them popular.  They can be found in many forms from a foam “nerf” like thing, to metal, to plastic with prism reflectors.  While you can get the basic concept with any of these, many of a modern mass produced models made of plastic would not be very effective in real life.  My first set was purchased online from some Asian martial arts outlet store.  My instructor had told us we would be using traditional Chinese roped octagon shaped nunchaku, so that is what I tried to buy.  What arrived in the mail a few days later can only be summed up as a an awful waste of $19 dollars.  I’ve never really even used them.  They were too fat, stained so they got tacky when you start to sweat, they were unstrung.  It too me all day to figure out how to string them up. Basically looked like what they were, cheap.  I’ve been making nunchaku for people ever since that day.  I nunchaku we make fit in your hands.  They are cut from beautiful hardwoods and they are oiled, polished and strung.  They are not for demonstration, they are for real.  They are for study in real martial arts classes on the topic of nunchaku.  They are also just like the ones that were fashioned from farm equipment 2000 year ago.

The concept is simple.  Learning a real weapon in martial arts means taking a serious attitude about what you plan to learn and how well you will be able to sue your skills should the need ever rise.

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