A Little About Martial Arts Weapons

Posted by SwordsSwords on Jul 5th 2018

The systematized or arranged varying systems for combat are known as the martial arts. Even with all the different forms and styles, the purpose is the same: to physically defeat an opponent and defend against potential threats. An interesting fact: The word martial comes from the word Mars, and Mars is the Roman God of War. Fighting, war, and hunting was a part of every persons’ life in the ancient times. Hence, in every civilization, there were different versions of martial arts or combats. But the continent that comes to mind, whenever martial arts are discussed, is Asia. According to historical data, when in 600 BC, the trade between India and China began that is when both sides shared information regarding their respective martial arts. However, we aren’t here to discuss the history of martial arts, but we will be telling you about some of the weapons used in martial arts. Let’s begin with the list…


Sai is a Japanese martial arts weapon. It's a three-pronged weapon that is quite useful for trapping or blocking the attacks from an enemy. Additionally, the hilt of the Sai is used for striking the opponent. Since these Sais were developed in Asia, these are most associated with the Japanese martial arts like Karate and Okinawan Kobudo. During the ancient times, there used to be a variation of Sai known as the Jutte, and it was usually used by the feudal police to disarm and control the criminals. However, Jutte was a little different, these were used as single weapons and were also called the sword breakers. The parts involved in Sai are:
  • Yoku - the two shorter prongs extending from the handle, much like a guard.
  • Tsuka - the handle, usually wrapped in leather
  • Monouchi - the shaft of Sai, is either round, hexagonal or octagonal
  • Moto - the convergence of Yoku and Monouchi
  • Saki - tip of the Sai, generally blunt and not pointed


The Nunchaku is also referred to as Nanchuks, and these are the traditional martial arts weapons that originated from Okinawa, Japan. These consist of two batons that are connected together with a chain or a rope. According to historical facts, the Nunchaku were developed from the farming tools that were used to thresh rice. The Okinawan tradition held the Nanchaku from the bottom of the weapon in order to get advantage from the weapon. However, in the Chinese tradition, the styles and freestyle techniques held the Nanchaku closer to the top of the baton. The purpose of Nunchaku is to strike at the vulnerable areas of the opponent’s body. The ideal Nunchaku have their batons 12 inches long with 4 inches of cord. However, there are Nunchaku that has 8 inches long baton with a relatively longer cord. The shape of the batons in Nunchaku is round or octagonal. The octagonal shape allows the user to split the skin of the opponent, and also one’s own skin if not handled with care. Therefore, it is always advised that beginners use only foam Nunchaku for practice.


The martial arts styles, like Hapkido, Bartitsu, Kali and Goju-Shorei Karate, use the canes or walking sticks as weapons. Though canes are considered an item only used by the elderly; however, many martial arts schools use walking sticks frequently as a weapon. The biggest advantage this weapon has in martial arts is that canes are street legal, and are easily available. The advantages a walking stick has in martial arts is the use of its tip for poking and thrusting. The long wooden shaft is effective for striking, blocking and joint locks. Another unique factor is the use of its hook that helps in tripping, choking and trapping the opponent.


Bokken is Japanese martial arts wooden practice swords. These are mainly used for training. These wooden swords are used in Kendo, Kenjutsu, Ninjutsu, Budo and Aikido, all that are part of Japanese martial arts. Bokkens are designed from hardwood, i.e. red or white oak, and it has almost the same size, shape and weight as a katana. There is also a heavier version of bokken called the Suburi bokken. The Suburi is designed to help the users in increasing their speed and develop their muscles in the sword-based martial arts. Though a bokken is meant to be used as a practice sword, if used properly, these can be used as an effective weapon.


A katana is a steel sword used originally by the Japanese Samurais and is now used in traditional martial arts like liado, budo, kenjutsu. The average length of a katana is around 27 inches long, and the handle being usually 12 inches long. Traditionally, the katana is forged by folding various layers of steel with an arduous cutting edge while retaining its flexibility. The blades, katana, wakazashi, and tanto are conjointly known as Nihonto, i.e. Japanese Blades. This Nihonto, in martial arts, is split in two i.e. Shinken, the sharp blades, and liato, the blunt blades. Shinkens are used in the Japanese cutting techniques called the Temeshigiri and the liato are used to practice the quick draw techniques.


Karambit is a martial arts weapon that originated from Southeast Asia, and it looks like a single claw. There are various martial arts styles in which karambits are used, in different countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. These weapons are used in close combats. The blade of a karambit is double-edged, with an outside curve that makes it effective in slashing tactics. Moreover, the inside curve of the blade can be used for ripping or hooking attacks. The design of the blade is based on the savage claws of large cats. The ring in the handle ensures that the user does not lose the weapon. There are folding karambits as well, but they do not have the balded edge on the outside; however, a slash or curve from it will still make an impact.


Kunai is a Japanese Ninjutsu dagger-like weapon, which is usually used by a Shinobi, also known as Ninja. A kunai is a versatile tool with many uses. It could be used for digging holes in walls, stabbing, and even as a climbing tool. The Kunai was originally designed based on the Japanese farming tools, and only the tip of the kunai was sharpened.

Shuang Gou

Shuang Gou is a Chinese hook sword, used in the martial arts such as Kung Fu. These swords could easily grapple the opponent's weapon with the hook and cut with the long blades, as well as stab with the pointed tips. Nowadays, these hook swords are only used in demonstrations and exhibitions, where the unique look and the ability of the sword are displayed.


Shurikens are the throwing stars, that can be thrown at the enemy or can also be used in close combat to slash or stab. The shurikens are associated with the martial arts style of Ninjutsu. However, these can be found in other styles like the Bujutsu and Kenjutsu. Shurikens have varying shapes and sizes, but they are generally divided into two groups i.e. Bo Shuriken and Shaken Shuriken. The Bo Shurikens are short spikes, including needle shurikens, and Shaken Shurikens are multi-pointed.


Tanto is a Japanese short blade, also referred to as Aikuchi. The average lengths of tanto blade knives are around 6 to 8 inches, and the handle is around 5 inches in length. The use of tanto is taught in Kenjutsu and Budo because of its concealed size. Just like Wakazashi and Katana, Tanto can be used in parry attacks and is best utilized in close combat.


Tonfa is a baton-like wooden weapon that originates from Okinawa, Japan. Traditionally, Tonfa is used in pairs, and the purpose is to use them for increasing the blocks and strikes that are used in karate. In most of the techniques of Tonfa, it is held in the fist by the side handle, while the main section is across the underside of the forearm.