Weapons of Ryukyu Kobujutsu

This is the most well known weapon in the Ryukyu Kobujutsu series and probably the most controversial.

Made famous by Bruce Lee the weapon attained great exposure in the 1970’s and has since been popularised in competitions and styles unique to this weapon only. Such exposure and exploitation has in the traditional sense and combat approach been quite damaging to this remarkable weapon.

There are three types of Nunchaku taught in the Ryukyu Kobujutsu syllabus, the 2 section, 3 section and the 4 section. Made preferably of red or white oak, or a heavy wood, the sections are tapered from the chord end (2.5cm) to the predominant strike end (3.3cm).

The shafts vary from octagonal to round in shape and the weight is dependent on the strength of the user. Again too light and there is no power, and too heavy and the movement is slow and ponderous. Traditionally this weapon is not used in pairs, as the actions of the one should be sufficient.

The grips are similar to that of the Sai in name, Honte-Mochi” (Natural), “Gyakute-Mochi”(Reverse) and Tokushu-Mochi”(Special grip). The special grip falls into “Ippon-Tsuki”(single thrust) and “Tatami-Tsuki” (folding thrust). Nunchaku belongs to the family of Bo and is known as the “portable Bo”.

The initial training in this weapon is arduous as the swing practise and handling efficiency takes time. It should be noted that all Kihon is undertaken with a good weighted wooden Nunchaku and not the soft foam and plastic types used by many. The weight is important as after practising the kihon swings and handling for 30 minutes fatigue ensues. This is when the understanding of “Hara” is realised and the need for the shoulders to remain low as if practising Shuto waza in Karate. One of the key errors in the study of Nunchaku is the lift in body when swinging rather than retaining body height and in many instances dropping as Kamae is understood.

The essence of the weapon is the kumite, exploring distance, angles and footwork. Impact should be on the tip of the weapon or it will bounce back on the user. When studying the Kumite care should be taken to use the full range the Nunchaku gives you. The need for continuity in swing flow is important along with being able to retain the combination swing movements without breaking the natural generated energy. Kumite is practised against the knife and mush attention should be paid to the first phase attack. Nunchaku is the study of Sen no Sen and the initiative must be taken as soon as there is movement from the opponent. Many do not keep the cord tight and the tension stable to swing quickly. This must be learnt well.

Once the first phase has been understood the second and third phase should be practised for flow and continuity. Joining all phases together is the challenge and the goal. Remember that good footwork is important otherwise a determined attack with a knife disregarding your Nunchaku will find its mark. Initially do Yakusoku Kumite to work but in time this should be reversed and pressure applied.

As with all the weapons the multiple attack environment is a must for distance (Maai), awareness (Zanshin) and Timing. The pressure builds the need for speed and teaches you the weapons strengths as well as its weaknesses. This must be learnt well

Whilst it is noted that there is a farming implement of the Nunchaku design, it should be pointed out that again China was using this weapon concept long before it was recorded as a Ryukyu weapon.

Nunchaku Kumite Click on the play buttons to view a clip of Nunchaku Kumite.
Nunchaku Sho
Nunchaku Dai
San Bon Nunchaku
History has not endowed this weapon with traditional kata as shown by the content of those handed down. They are by design training kata to enable better handling and combination work.