The Nunchaku – Tool or Weapon?

The Nunchaku - Tool or Weapon?

The Nunchaku – Tool or Weapon? Both is the answer. In today’s blog we are going to explore the history of these tools and weapons, as well as how people craft them, and the different ways in which to use them. The Nunchaku have a rich history and extensive use in movies spanning time from the 1960s and 1970s martial arts craze to present with several characters utilizing these weapons. Everyone’s seen Bruce Lee in action with these right?

The History of the Nunchaku

The nunchaku has different names such as nunchucks, and chainsticks. They have an incredible history, but they are more known for their modern uses in movies. The Nunchaku – Tool or Weapon? The origins of the nunchaku are murky at best, and it is still not clear as to where it came from and what it was originally used for. The most common belief and answer is that it originated somewhere in Southeast Asia as a tool for threshing things such as rice and soybeans.

Many people also believe that it originated in Okinawa as a wooden instrument made of two wooden blocks connected with a cord. The night watch used as a form of warning system. They would clap the blocks together to gain attention and then inform people of dangers such as fires or other common dangers in Okinawa. Historians believe it was from these wooden blocks that the nunchaku became a weapon.

Some also believe that the nunchaku’s origin is not as murky as others believe. Some historians believe that it originated in China and was brought to Okinawa in the 17th century. It was brought over in the same manner that many of these weapons were. As stated, this was brought over as a “farming” tool, which made it impossible for the authorities to take the weapon away. This “farm” tool began to be used in the martial arts practiced by the lower class, but it is still unclear just how often its people used it for “farming.”

However, it is constantly stressed that the origin of the nunchaku most likely did not come from peasants who were rebelling against their rulers. This is because the martial arts practiced in Okinawa were not available for the poorer classes to participate in. Regardless of its origins, the nunchaku was used predominately in Okinawan martial arts and not used in rebellions. In addition, the nunchaku was also not quite as popular as many movies suggest. The reason historians believe this is because of just how murky the origins are. If the nunchaku were used significantly in martial arts, then the origin would be clearer.

Out of all the different weapons, it seems that the origins of the nunchaku are quite different to many different people and changes depending on those beliefs. Regardless of where it came from and how often it was used, this weapon is still one of the most romanticized Okinawan weapons in media and popular culture today.

Construction and parts of The Nunchaku

The nunchaku has two different blocks of wood that connect to each other with a cord, which is usually a chain. Different types of nunchaku will have different designs with some having more blocks of wood or chains, but these are not the norm for a nunchaku. It has a different appearance in China from the nunchaku in Japan. The Chinese weapon tends to be more rounded, whereas the Japanese weapon is more octagonal. The Japanese nunchaku also has a cross-section; with the octagonal shape and cross-section, this weapon injures people much more than the Chinese form of weapon. This can cause significant head trauma and incapacitate a person. However, it is also a great self-defense weapon. The wood blocks should be as long as the forearm so that when a person holds the weapon across his or her arm, the weapon can protect a person’s forearm from harsh blows thrown by an opponent. The majority of nunchaku will have blocks that are of the same length, yet it is not uncommon to see a set that is asymmetrical.

As for the chain or cord, it is usually just long enough to be held in a person’s palm, which helps the wielder control the weapon easier and inflict maximum damage. The weight of the weapon should have balance, in order to perform flashier tricks and to be used as it should. If they do not have balance, it will be harder to control the weapon, which can cause significant damage to a person when either sparring or performing tricks with the nunchaku.

If you purchase a traditionally made set of nunchakus, then it will most likely be made of flexible, yet durable materials such as oak or loquat. A traditional set of nunchaku is also crafted using horsehair as the cord, instead of the chain we all know. While there are individuals who want to own traditional nunchaku to add to their Okinawan martial arts collections, many want to purchase modern nunchaku.

Modern nunchaku uses different materials such as metal, plastic, or wood. The majority of nunchaku people purchase is some variation of plastic or fiberglass. When a modern variation uses metal, it is usually something such as aluminum or something similar. A chain is also what will connect the two blocks, instead of leather cords or something flimsier. Sometimes they are connected by ball bearings or nylon.

Foam Nunchaku for Safety

Foam-padded nunchaku are ideal for beginners and for training. The foam padding offers cushion for your comfort while learning how to use them. Use foam-padded nunchaku to learn new tricks and build your confidence before trying your skills out on harder material types such as wood or fiberglass.

I know only too well, one slip with the real ones and you can be in for quite a painful experience. Bruises, cuts and even broken bones can and does happen. It takes time to become proficient, so start of steady and safely.

Formal and Freestyle

There are two different ways one can use a nunchaku; these are formal styling or freestyle. The most popular form is that of the freestyle because this is what many people see in movies and television shows. The differences between the two are as follows:

When used in a formal style, the nunchaku is used for different martial arts such as Ju-Jitsu, karate, and martial art systems from the Philippines and Korean martial arts. These different systems incorporate various moves that help with offensive strategies and defensive. People are taught not only how to spin the nunchaku around, but also how to use it as a weapon to strike out with and protect themselves from their opponents. When going through formal training, you will learn the importance of self-control and posture. If you do not master these, you run the risk of hitting yourself and not your opponent, which will hurt just as much and carry embarrassment for you.

When used in freestyle, you will learn a form of performance techniques that you might not learn in a formal style like karate. The nunchaku is only used as a visual instrument to wow audiences and give people a great chance to learn about these items, instead of being used as a weapon. Freestyle is becoming quite popular thanks to the Internet and the availability of training videos on YouTube. It is important to note that individuals should go to someone to learn the basics before trying to learn on their own to avoid significant injury.

Regardless of which style you choose to learn, the fact remains that many martial art teachers want their students to learn how to use the nunchaku. These weapons have shown that they increase hand-eye coordination as well as overall coordination and balance. It also helps to improve posture, reflexes, and many other wonderful benefits that can vary from student to student.


The nunchaku seems to hold the unofficial title of most popular martial arts weapon, and it seems to be the most romanticized of all. As stated, these weapons are incredible to use when training in the martial arts, improving coordination and giving people the ability to learn things such as self-discipline, which is important to any martial art. The Nunchaku – Tool or Weapon?

Author: Nigel Taylor

I`m Nigel Taylor – originally from England – owner of The Backyard Gym in Round Rock Texas. We specialize in personal training, kickboxing cardio and self-defense. With over 25 years experience as a personal trainer, I know what works! From weight loss to bulking up to toning up, I can help you get your desired look and achieve your fitness goals. I can also offer you the privacy of a 100% private personal training studio in which to enjoy and get the most out of your workouts.