The nunchaku, or, as we more commonly know them, nunchucks, is a martial arts weapon made from two sticks connected by a short rope or chain. Nunchucks, like many other martial arts weapons, come from eastern Asia. This weapon is known to have originated in Okinawa, a strip of land between Taiwan and Japan, that at the time had its own culture and language. Today, Okinawa has become a part of Japan.
There are a number of myths as to the first appearance of nunchucks. Some say that Japanese farmers were the first to use them, as they had no “real” weapons, but often had to protect their homes or crops. It has been attested that common horse bits were what led to the first nunchucks, as the size and heft of the bits were perfect for making a blunt hit.
Another version of the story says the original weapon was a night-watchman’s rattle, or it was the tool used to scrape bark off the banana tree, which has been used to make paper for many centuries. And according to many, nunchucks were brought to Japan from China. This theory makes sense as far as the name is concerned, as nunchaku is adopted from a Chinese word.
No matter how it began, it is fairly well accepted that this deadly tool for self-defense came about, at least in part, as a way of using a common farmer’s tool in self-defense. In the 18th century, many noblemen had to find other work as farmers and laborers, and they were no longer allowed to carry official weapons. They often had to use staffs, which became weapons in their own right, and any tools they had on hand.
Nunchucks were likely not a prevalent weapon during this time, as very few older examples of them are remaining today. With a growing interest in martial arts in the west, however, nunchucks have proven to be a fascinating and elegant tool for this disciplined dance.
Nunchucks are very prominent in pop culture. We see them all the time, in comics, stories, and especially in movies. Martial arts films had a great surge in popularity, especially those starring such incredible martial artists such as Bruce Lee. In the late 70’s, however, many movies featuring scenes with nunchuck fights were censored, or shelved altogether. People worried that they promoted too much violence.
By the late 80's, the concern over the violence shown with nunchuck usage and other martial arts weapons was no longer much of an issue, and films started popping up once more. During this time we saw cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a turtle wielding nunchucks, to horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, giving a new, supernatural edge to their usage.
These days, they are often being used for creative purposes like LARP events (live action role playing), where each person involved plays a character. Because of the nunchuck’s ability to spin so quickly, they have been used by clubbers and dancers, with the addition of lights, to make beautiful, hypnotic patterns in the night. And for an audience, there are many different fascinating tricks and spins that can be done with nunchucks, and it is a thrill to watch a heavily disciplined person wielding them. It takes practice, but once you have the gracefulness needed to use these tools, they can be a great source of entertainment for anyone.
There are a number of different types of nunchucks for sale, many to suit your tastes and needs. They often are made from strong wood, and you can choose from different colors, or different beautiful finishes. Some wooden nunchucks have intricate woven fabric decorating them, to give you both a better grip, and a unique-looking tool. Heavy rubber is also an option, and with any you have the choice of tough-as-nails stainless steel chains, or incredibly strong and lightweight rope to connect the two pieces.
Some come in heavy duty stainless steel. While these nunchucks are for martial arts purposes only, they do double as weapons which are only to be used in self-defense. Some nunchucks can be unscrewed at the end to reveal a blunt spear point. It is very important to remember, when choosing nunchucks, that you are buying something that has the ability to cause serious damage to another human being. Though they may be acquired for use as part of a costume or game, they are weapons and can be perceived as such.