History: Theories of the origins of Nunchaku (or Flail) and tools resembling nunchaku are quite varied.  It should again be pointed out that the Chinese were using a variety of this weapon, the “Shuang-chin-kun” long before it was recorded in Okinawa.  It is said that tools resembling nunchaku were used by rice farmers to assist with gathering rice from the ponds (by sweeping around the plants in an arc and pulling them into the boat).  Another variety was used for threshing grain, wheat and rice (that is for beating harvested plants to remove the seed from the husk).   A similar tool may also have been used for crushing beans.   Yet another theory is that it was adapted from an instrument carried by the village night watch, made of two blocks of wood joined by cord.  The night watch would hit the blocks of wood together to attract people’s attention and then warn them about fires and other dangers.  And lastly, it is believed that a similar device was used as a horse bridle (the handles were originally slightly curved to fit on either side of the horse’s head, and the thick joining rope was the actual bit that went into the horse’s mouth.)  Many people were introduced to the Nunchaku by Bruce Lee in the 1970s.  It can be a “flashy” weapons and because of this it is frequently seen in Karate demonstrations.  Many police departments used to carry nunchaku, although this practice is not as common anymore because of the perception of excessive force.

Description: The Nunchaku is made from two hardwood sticks (red or white oak is common) connected by nylon cord or chain.  The connection was originally made by horse hair rope or an Okinawan vine called Kanda.   The sections are tapered from the chord end to the larger predominant strike end.  The sticks can vary in length, size and weight, as well as the length of the connection between the two sticks.  The length is normally as long as the forearm, but it can vary (having the proper length nunchaku will allow the karateka to hold the nunchaku together at the top of the shaft, using each shaft as a protection or guard for the forearm.)  The round stick variety is called maru-gata nunchaku.  The octagonal (eight sides) variety is called hakakukei nunchaku.  There are many variations to Nunchaku, including three section and four section weapons, as well as sticks of varied size attached together.

1 HIMO – Rope
2 KONTO – Top
3 ANA – Hole
4 JOKON BU – Upper Area
5 CHUKON BU – Middle Area
6 KIKON BU – Lower Area
7 KONTEI – Bottom

Technique:  The Nunchaku is used to jab, strike, block, hit, twist, pinch, choke and trap an opponent.   Strikes are made overhand, underhand, from the left or right side, and often incorporate a Figure 8 motion.  The sticks can be used for spearing, striking and blocking.  The rope or chain can choke, block or trap.  Use of the Nunchaku requires the martial artist to be equally proficient with either hand.  During it’s use the weapons is switched from one hand to the other as needed.  The grips are similar to that of the Sai in name, Honte-Mochi” (Natural), “Gyakute-Mochi” (Reverse), and Tokushu-Mochi” (Special grip).  The special grip falls into “Ippon-Tsuki” (single thrust) and “Tatami-Tsuki” (folding thrust).  Traditionally this weapon is not used in pairs, as the actions of the one should be sufficient.  History has not endowed this weapon with traditional kata.  In the past, the essence of the weapon has been the kumite, exploring distance, angles and footwork.   Impact should be on the tip of the weapon or it will bounce back on the user.  Kata are being designed in the present by those who are proficient in their traditional Okinawan use to enable better handling and combination work.  Unlike the exotic flailing actions portrayed in martial arts movies, the exponent of nunchaku was very conservative in his movements.  No true exponent would spin the nunchaku under his legs or around his neck while his enemy was attempting to kill him.  The skill was in effective blocks and instant, accurate strikes at the enemy.  If the flail hit a target then it would bounce back and had to be brought within the user’s control quickly.  Nunchaku power was developed through repetition of Kata, which developed a powerful and accurate strike.  These techniques complemented the empty-hand styles.  Nunchaku are glamorized by their swinging ability.  A swinging nunchaku can reach in excess of 85 miles per hour.  Swinging techniques are grouped by the direction of the swing.  Examples are: up strike, down strike, horizontal strike, and the figure eight motion.  Swinging techniques can also be used defensively where the karateka swings the nunchaku to deflect or otherwise stop a strike (i.e. in defense of a low kick).  Truly, tremendous forces can be created via swinging the nunchaku.  But, they can also be as an effective defensive/control tool.

Defensive techniques include: using the shafts of the nunchaku held together as an augmented block along the forearm; using the rope or chain to catch and control strikes and grabs; and using both shafts separated as a cross block technique for overhead and low strikes.  Finally, the nunchaku can also be used in a punching or clubbing motion.  It can virtually imitate most karate hand strikes.  For example, it can be used in an augmented punch or chop.  However you use the nunchaku, it compliments empty hand karate training immensely.  It also develops good hand-eye coordination and a “feel” for body position and technique.  Popular myth say nunchaku were originally used as a flail, but this is a mistake since the Okinawan flail, like the European variety used a long (human-height length) handle.  The lower popularity of nunchaku as a weapon (as evidenced by the lack of formal kata) came probably from its low effectiveness when used against a sword or staff.  Against these common weapons the tonfa or kama give more chances to defeat the opponent.  But one who was skilled in nunchaku usage was able to easily defeat a few opponents, who were unarmed or armed with knives.

Yamanni-ryu Nunchaku Katas (Modern Bojutsu)

1) Kyon no Nunchaku Ichi (Practice Kata I)
2) Kyon no Nunchaku Ni (Practice Kata II)

Yamanni-ryu Nunchaku Katas (Traditional Bojutsu)

3) Tomo Yoshi no Nunchaku Ichi
4) Tomo Yoshi no Nunchaku Ni