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Nunchaku: The History and How It Is Used Now


The Nunchaku – those mystical weapons that all moviegoers have fallen in love with and are regularly mesmerized by. These incredible weapons have a rich history and extensive use in modern pop culture spanning time from the 1960s and 1970s martial arts craze to present with several characters utilizing these weapons. This includes the latest adaptation of those loveable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! This blog is going to explore the history of these wonderful weapons, as well as how people craft them, and the different ways in which to use them. This article will also take a look at the various uses of the nunchaku in pop culture.


The History of the Nunchaku

The nunchaku has different names such as danger sticks, nunchuks, and chainsticks. They have an incredible history, but they are more known for their modern uses in films. The origins of the nunchaku is 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 it 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 films 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 of 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 nunchaku, 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 use 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.


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 Jujitsu, 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.


Nunchaku In Pop Culture

As stated, the nunchaku has a very strong presence in popular culture. Whether it is in a martial arts film or a child’s cartoon where the protagonist attempts to learn the martial arts, the nunchaku is a household name at the very least. One of the most popular instances of the nunchaku in popular culture is, of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Michelangelo is the character that introduces many kids to these and these kids have and will grow into adults who are fascinated by the nunchaku, wanting to wield it like their favorite turtle.


Bruce Lee also made the nunchaku popular, but for fans of martial arts films. In the 1970s, Lee was the poster boy for martial arts and was oftentimes seen wielding nunchaku in several fight scenes, making it look easier than tying a shoe. Other pop culture people who utilize the nunchaku are Daredevil, the blind superhero and, oddly and hilariously enough, Napoleon Dynamite. No matter the story, it seems that nunchaku are cropping up as a plot piece or for a form of performance art to mesmerize viewers.


In Closing

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.