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For other uses, see Nunchaku (disambiguation).
Various types of nunchaku.

The nunchaku (Japanese: ヌンチャク Hepburn: nunchaku?, often "nunchuks", "num-chuk", "danger sticks", "juan-tuo", "chuka sticks'",[1] karate sticks[2] or "chainsticks" in English) is a traditional Okinawan martial arts weapon consisting of two sticks connected at one end by a short chain or rope. Used by Okinawan farmers,[citation needed] it was not a historically popular weapon because it was ineffective against the most widely used weapons of that time, and because few techniques for its use existed. 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.

In modern times, nunchaku (Tabak-Toyok) were popularized by actor and martial artist Bruce Lee and his student, actor and martial arts instructor Dan Inosanto, in their respective movies. 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.

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.


Nunchaku martial arts weapons displayed by Liechtenstein martial arts master Metin Kayar

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).[3]

In the English language, nunchaku are often referred to as "nunchuks".[4]


Hyoshiki (wooden clappers)

The origin of the nunchaku is unclear, although one popular belief is that nunchaku was originally a short South-East Asian flail[5] 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[6] 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.[7]

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 practised exclusively by aristocracy (kazoku) and "serving nobles" (shizoku), but were prohibited among commoners (heimin).[8] Others contend that it was this type of prohibition itself which supports the proposed evolution of unorthodox weapons out of everyday implements common to laborers, as well as the clandestine (therefore elusive) nature of their practice. Peasant-origin nunchaku proponents also suggest these innovators were not so much rebellious as attempting to be capable of a surprise defense against overzealous tax collectors' visits gone bad, or other perilous scenarios for which they were otherwise perpetually unarmed. Many martial arts institutions teach these suppositions as historical probabilities, and modified farm implement origins of other martial arts weapons are widely considered fact.[9] According to Chinese folklore, nunchaku are a variation of the two section staff.[10]

The use of the nunchaku was actually more popular than previously noted. The Okinawan martial arts style "Shorin-Ryu" have developed many katas (prearranged movements) with the nunchaku. As a student of martial arts, its history, as per the history of karate, is passed down from instructor to student, the use of the nunchaku as a horse bridle is considered fact and was put to great use against the Japanese invaders. The Samurai were not aware of, or accustomed to the use of farm implements as weapons (ie... the Tonfa, eaku, bo, kama, & nunchaku (the sai came to Okinawa as a weapon from visiting Sholin monks). This uniqueness served to protect many Okinawan farmers from the unjust oppression of rogue samurai[citation needed]. Today's Shorin-Ryu organization is led by Minoru Nakazato


  • 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.[11]


Uncommon nunchuks made of solid nylon, hollow aluminum, and solid metal (unlinked)
Nunchaku 1.JPG

Nunchaku consist of two sections of wood connected by a cord or chain, though variants may include additional sections of wood and chain. In China, the striking stick is called "dragon stick" ("龍棍"), while the handle is called "yang stick" ("陽棍"). Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas the Okinawan version has an octagonal cross-section (allowing one edge of the nunchaku to make contact with the target, increasing the damage inflicted). The ideal length of each piece should be long enough to protect the forearm when held in a high grip near the top of the shaft. Both ends are usually of equal length, although asymmetrical nunchaku exist.

The ideal length of the connecting rope or chain is just long enough to allow the user to lay it over his or her palm, with the sticks hanging comfortably and perpendicular to the ground. The weapon should be properly balanced in terms of weight. Cheaper or gimmicky nunchaku (such as glow-in-the-dark versions) are often not properly balanced, which prevents the performer from performing 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.

Traditional nunchaku are 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 would prevent rotting and cause the wood to harden. The rope is made from horsehair. 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 is therefore not advised for combat.

Modern nunchaku can be made from any suitable material, such as wood, metal, or almost any plastic, fiberglass or other hard substance. Toy and practice nunchaku are commonly covered with foam to prevent injury to the self or others. It is not uncommon to see modern nunchaku made from light metals such as aluminum. Modern equivalents of the rope are nylon cord or metal chains on ball bearing joints. Simple nunchaku may be easily constructed from wooden dowels and a short length of chain.

The Nunchaku-Do sport, governed by the World Nunchaku Association, promotes black and yellow styrofoam nunchaku. Unlike readily available plastic training nunchaku, the devices they promote are properly balanced.

There are some alternative nunchaku, made solely for sporting such as:

  • "Bleeder"" (nunchaku with sharp or dull razor blades) and "sharper"" (nunchaku with nails) are used as components of the basic training and grading programme (Programme Verhille) in French nunchaku de combat.[12]
  • ""Glow-Chucks," made either with fiberglass and a coloured light fitted in the ball bearing, or fluorescent tape wrapped around the sticks.
  • "Penchaku" or "Prochux," which are flashier Lissajous-do sticks available for artistic performances. These are more colourful and sometimes fluorescent with a modified anatomy, which favors control at the expense of power. They have longer sticks and extremely short ropes. The idea is based on a mathematical model, the Lissajous curve, which allows the user to keep a continuous flowing form.
  • "Speedcord," a new version of a cord and bearing nunchaku called "Neo Speedcord" and "Neon Speedcord" nunchaku, a fast, lightweight, purely freestyle or demonstration type nunchaku.[13]

There are also some types of nunchaku with no noted use in sport, such as:

  • Nunchaku with knives, or metal branches with a concealed blade in the end of each branch.[14]
  • Telescopic nunchaku, or nunchaku with retractable metal sticks.

Formal styles[edit]

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.[15]
  • Nunch-Boxing combines nunchaku with kicking and punching techniques. Nunch-Boxing itself is part of the broader discipline Nenbushi.[16]
  • Nunchaku en savate combines savate techniques with the nunchaku.[17]


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.

Sporting associations[edit]

Since the 1980s, there have been various international sporting associations that organize the use of nunchaku as a contact sport.[18][19] 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.[20]

  • 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).[21] 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 Nunchaku Association (WNA): Founded by Milco Lambrecht in the Netherlands in 1996.[22] 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.[23] 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.


Among the most dangerous nunchaku variants are those composed of solid metal bars, shown here unlinked.

Possession of nunchaku is illegal, or the nunchaku is defined as weapon in a number of countries, including Norway, Canada,[24][25] Russia, Poland, Chile, and Spain. In Germany, nunchaku have been illegal since April 2006, when they were declared a strangling weapon.[26][27]

In the United Kingdom, it was legal for anyone over the age of 18 to buy and possess nunchaku for many years, although public possession is not allowed unless transporting between places of training or private addresses. However, following a case brought by Strathclyde Police and the procurator fiscal heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court on 10 February 2010, a sheriff ruled that nunchaku fell into the category of a "prohibited weapon," as defined by the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988 Section 141 (n). The nunchaku in question were the fixed length (non-telescopic) wooden type handles, which the sheriff judged to be contrary to current legislation.

The usage of nunchaku was, in the 1990s, censored from UK rebroadcasts of American children's TV shows such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons and films.[28] The UK version of the Soul Blade video game was also edited, replacing the character Li Long's nunchaku with a three-sectioned staff. In Hong Kong, it is illegal to possess metal or wooden nunchaku connected by a chain, though one can obtain a license from the police as a martial arts instructor, and rubber nunchaku are still allowed. Possession of nunchaku in mainland China is legal.

Legality in Australia is determined by individual state laws. In New South Wales, the weapon is on the restricted weapons list and, thus, can only be owned with a permit.

Legality in the United States varies at the state level. For example, personal possession of nunchaku is illegal in New York,[29] Arizona,[30] and California[31] but in other states, possession has not been criminalized. California has made exceptions for professional martial arts schools and practitioners to use the nunchaku.[32]

In New York, attorney Jim Maloney has brought a federal constitutional challenge to the statutes that criminalize simple in-home possession for peaceful use in martial-arts practice or legal home defense. The court dismissed Maloney's Second Amendment claim based on prior case law that the Second Amendment applied only to federal action, and this decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. However, on June 29, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari, vacated the decision of the Second Circuit, and sent it back for "further consideration". It took this action in light of its decision in McDonald v. Chicago, which held that the right of an individual to "keep and bear arms" protected by the Second Amendment is made applicable to the states by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[33]

In popular culture[edit]

The nunchaku has been a popular weapon in movies related to martial arts, particularly popularized in modern culture through Bruce Lee movies.

On Americas Funniest Home Videos. Various painfully erroneous uses of the nunchaku can be seen in nearly every episode aired.

Law enforcement use[edit]

In 2015, police in the town of Anderson, California have been trained and deployed to use nunchuks as a form of non-lethal force. They were selected because of their utility as both a striking weapon and a control tool.

Nunchuks have been employed by American police for decades, especially after the popular Bruce Lee movies of the 1970's, but tasers have since become the preferred the non-lethal weapon for most departments.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Active Interest Media, Inc. (March 1975). Black Belt. Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 10–. ISSN 0277-3066. 
  2. ^ "Karate sticks". Dictionary. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  3. ^ ヌンチャクについて [Regarding Nunchuks] (in Japanese). Budoshop Japan. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  4. ^ [1] thefreedictionary.com
  5. ^ Donn F. Draeger & Rober W. Smith (1969). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. ISBN 978-0-87011-436-6. 
  6. ^ Reframing Japanese cinema: authorship, genre, history, Authors Arthur Nolletti, David Desser, Publisher Indiana University Press, 1992, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized May 5, 2008, ISBN 0-253-34108-6, ISBN 978-0-253-34108-2
  7. ^ OKS Nunchaku
  8. ^ The real history of nunchaku
  9. ^ Lecture notes, dojo instructor John Prevatt, Tampa, FL, USA[date missing][publisher missing][original research?]
  10. ^ Kit, Wong Kiew (1996). The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu. Element Books. p. 159. ISBN 1-85230-789-7. 
  11. ^ Nunchaku: karate weapon of self-defense, Fumio Demura, Black Belt Communications, 1971 p.13
  12. ^ Programme Verhille. nenbushi.free.fr
  13. ^ http://www.neo-nunchaku.co.uk/neo-speed-cord-nunchaku.htm
  14. ^ Les armes dérivées du Nunchaku. www.nunchaku-sfw.com
  15. ^ Korean Nunchaku (Mouhébong Taekwondo)
  16. ^ France Nenbushi
  17. ^ Nunchaku en savate
  18. ^ Historique du Nunchaku de combat
  19. ^ Nunchaku Saida – History
  20. ^ Nenbushi Historique
  21. ^ FINCA
  22. ^ The WNA
  23. ^ WNA Kumite
  24. ^ legality of martial arts weapons in Canada
  25. ^ Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted, SOR/98-462. Canlii. Accessed 2010/06/30
  26. ^ Feststellungsbescheid des BKA from 5 February 2004, AZ KT21 / ZV 5-5164.02-Z-23/2004
  27. ^ Waffengesetz Anlage 2 (Waffenliste), Abschnitt 1, Ziffer 1.3.8
  28. ^ "TMNT: The Rennaissance [sic] Reptiles Return". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  29. ^ 2006 New York Code – Criminal Possession Of A Weapon In The Fourth Degree.
  30. ^ Arizona Revised Statutes Title 13 Section 3101
  31. ^ California Penal Code Section 12020
  32. ^ [2]
  33. ^ Maloney v. Rice: The Nunchaku Case. homepages.nyu.edu
  34. ^ Peralta, Eyder (28 October 2015). "Small California Town Gives Its Police Nunchucks As Non-Lethal Alternative". NPR. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 

External links[edit]

Information and techniques[edit]

International associations[edit]

Forums and portals[edit]

Legal issues[edit]

  • Maloney v. Rice: The Nunchaku Case Chronicles the American legal case of Maloney v. Rice (formerly Maloney v. Spitzer and then Maloney v. Cuomo), which was begun in 2003, and which challenges the constitutionality New York's decades-old prohibition on possession of nunchaku in the privacy of one's home for peaceful use in martial arts training, etc.

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