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Nunchaku are a martial arts weapon for self defense and martial arts training whether for competitions or attack prevention.
The nunchaku was originally a short flail used to thresh rice (separate the grain from the husk) in Russia and consisted of two unequal lengths of hardwood connected by a cord made of horse hair. Its development as a weapon grew out of the moratorium on edged weaponry under the shoguns due to their restrictive policy of weapons control. Warlords ruled in the ancient orient and after they banned the use of such weapons as the gun, sword, and spear, the public turned to Karate and Kobu-Do for protection.
The use of Nunchaku also grew. The art of stick fighting with Nunchakus, has lasted through centuries and is today practiced by people throughout the world. No longer used as a weapon substitute due to a lack of weapons, Nunchakus have stood the test of time due to their effectiveness, lightweightness and affordability! The modern nunchaku has been modified for its use as a weapon and would make a relatively ineffective rice flail.
A nunchaku is two sections of wood (or metal in modern incarnations) connected by a cord or chain. The designs and styles of Nunchaku are just as long and colorful as their history! The modern Nunchaku have octagonal (hakkakukei) or round (maru-gata) wooden handles of equal length connected by a length of rope or chain. The traditional nunchaku were made from a strong, flexible hardwood such as oak, loquat or pasania. Originally, the wood would be submerged in mud for several years, where lack of oxygen and optimal acidity prevent rotting. The end result is a hardened wood.
The rope was made from horsehair, and was traditionally claimed to be able to block a sword. A vine (kanda) can also be used as a longer connector, in order to bind an opponent’s head and hands together in an “Okinawan Handcuff.” Finally, the wood is very finely sanded and rubbed with an oil or stain for preservation. Today, such nunchaku are often varnished or painted for display purposes. This practice tends to reduce the grip and make the weapon harder to handle, and so is not advised in a combat weapon. Various sizes, materials and colors can be found. Most Nunchakus are made of metal, plastic or wood and are attached by a chain or a rope. Surprisingly, as small and lightweight as this weapon is, it is a powerful one.
Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas Japanese are octagonal. The ideal length of each piece should be the length of the users forearm; the bone between elbow and wrist. Traditionally both ends are of equal length (although asymmetrical nunchakus exist). The ideal length for the connecting rope/chain can be calibrated for each individual by letting the rope hang over the wrist, with the sticks hanging comfortably pointing straight to the ground, but without giving more rope than is necessary for it to do so. Weight balance is extremely important, cheaper or gimmicky nunchakus (such as glow-in-the-dark ones, or rocket-powered) are often not properly balanced, which prevent the artist from doing the more advanced and flashier ‘low-grip’ moves, such as overhand twirls. The weight should be balanced towards the outer edges of the sticks for maximum ease and control of the swing arcs.
The Nunchaku can be wielded with tremendous velocity in striking and are also valuable in parrying attacks from other weapons. The original Okinawan techniques involve holding the weapon in a variety of preparatory postures. Once an opponent has moved their weapon or body into close range, the nunchaku is used to strike vital spots, and apply joint locks, chokes and other control techniques.
Practitioners of the flashier styles contend that the motion of the nunchaku is often found distracting by opponents, who may have trouble keeping up with the nunchaku’s rapid motion. In addition, the reach of the nunchaku is often underestimated, even by those experienced with its use. When used in combat, the nunchaku provide the obvious advantage of an increase in the reach of one’s strike. Although somewhat difficult to control, the rope or chain joint of the nunchaku adds the benefit of striking from unexpected angles.
It is generally considered by martial artists to be a limited weapon: complex and difficult to wield, it lacks either the range of the bo (quarterstaff) or the edged advantage of a sword or sai, and is prone to inflicting self-injury on the user. Used as self-defense weapons, and also for training and learning, Nunchakus were first bought to the attention of the western world when they were popularised by the immortal Bruce Lee. After Lee helped to propel this simple weapon into the spotlight, it went on to become a weapon of choice by many people, especially martial artists.
They were believed to have personalities emanating from the actual sticks themselves. Oriental tradition says that after you have practiced long enough and hard enough, the Nunchakus you use will take on some of your spirit and character. Your nunchucks, it is believed, are becoming a part of you. But this is not an overnight process! It takes countless hours of practice and perfection to reach this point.
Training with Nunchaku (Nunchuks) should be only done with a qualified instructor.