The tonfa (Okinawan: トンファー tonfā, Malay: topang, Chinese: 柺; pinyin: guǎi), also known as tong fa or tuifa, is an Okinawan weapon. It consists of a stick with a perpendicular handle attached a third of the way down the length of the stick, and is about 15-20 inches long. It was traditionally made from red oak and wielded in pairs. The tonfa is believed to have originated in either China or Southeast Asia where it is used in the respective fighting styles. A similar weapon called the mae sun sawk is used in krabi krabong and might be the original version of the weapon. This article will reference Tonfa from this point forward.
There are three grips, Honte-Mochi (Natural), Gyakute-Mochi (Reverse) and Tokushu-Mochi (Special grip). The last one is not common but is very effective. This grip is used in the kata Yaraguwa. The usage of Tonfa is in pairs and is red oak or white oak by preference. The length is about three centimeters past the elbow when gripped. The starting grip, Honte-Mochi, places the Tonfa handle in the hand with the long arm resting along the bottom of the forearm. This grip provides protection or brace along one's forearms, and also provides reinforcement for uraken (back fist), hiji waza (elbow techniques) and punches. In use, the tonfa can swing out to Gyakute-Mochi grip for a strike or thrust. Martial artists may also flip the tonfa and grab it by the shaft, Tokushu-Mochi grip. This allows use of the handle as a hook in combat, similar to the Kama.
Although the Tonfa is most commonly associated with the Okinawan martial arts, its origin is heavily debated. One of the most commonly cited origins for the Tonfa is China, although origins from Indonesia to Thailand are also possible. The most widely accepted theory is that the Tonfa is based off a millstone handle.
- Robert Paturel and Alain Formaggio, Tonfa sécurité, Chiron éditeur, 2001. OCLC 421954363. ISBN 978-2-7027-0667-1.