Martial Arts Weapons

Martial Arts Weapons

Although Jujitsu is primarily an unarmed combat system, like many martial arts it has a tradition of weapons techniques designed to compliment and add to the total martial arts combat experience.

These martial arts weapons are not the exclusive preserve of
Ju-jitsu, nor are they exclusively Japanese in origin. Martial arts weapons training derived either from a heritage born out of prohibition and repression, when martial arts fighting skills were banned by a foreign invader or as a direct influence from the ancient battlefields, like Kendo or Iaido the study of traditional Japanese swordsmanship.

In some instances, these weapons techniques have been imported from one martial arts system to another. Some martial arts use weapons exclusively as part of their syllabus. These weapons, with few notable exceptions such as the tonfa, which has it’s own modern counterpart, are only used within the confines of the martial arts school, being both impractical and in most societies illegal to carry or use in public.

IAJJ students are not graded on their use of weapons techniques, although black belt candidates are expected to perform basic ‘baton’ techniques both as defence or attack. The techniques used by the IAJJ are practised as an addition to the standard curriculum, to create a little extra variety and interest.


Remember Bruce Lee’s use of this weapon in Enter the Dragon? The breathtaking fluidity of Bruce’s performance is the main reason why it’s such a favourite with students – particularly the young ones!

The nunchaku are two sticks, usually of hardwood, linked together by a rope or chain – for obvious practical reasons, children’s versions are made of plastic and foam.

Invented in the late 16th or early 17th century, during the Japanese occupation of Okinawa, the nunchaku, originally used to fresh grain, became one of many seemingly innocuous weapons used for self-defense.

The sticks could be used for stabbing, striking or parrying, while the chain could choke or trap and opponent’s weapons. The most striking example of nunchuka use is in the fast twirling ‘kata’ routines which in the hands of a practised and skilled practitioner gives the weapon it’s visually exciting appeal.


In 1906, the Japanese army outlawed the possession of arms throughout Okinawa. To continue martial arts training without breaking any laws, alternative ‘weapons’ were sought.

The tonfa was originally the wooden handle on a millstone, used to pound rice and other grains. Once detached from the millstone, it could be used as an effective bludgeoning tool in combat.

The spherical, agricultural motion employed while grinding was incorporated into the circular strikes used in combat. The tonfa is a versatile weapon which can be used for defence and attack.

Various police forces all over the world use a tonfa like baton and some of the techniques employed by these law enforcement officers derive from the original tonfa manoeuvres.


A wooden staff of well polished wood, five to six feet long which may have originated with the poles used by farmers to balance heavy loads across the shoulders. In feudal Japan, it was part of the bugei – early Japanese martial arts. It’s obvious advantage is its length, which can be employed to keep an attacker well away either as defence or while advancing for an attack. Although a different weapon the Jo, is used by children to learn Bo techniques; they are three to four feet long and thus easier for them to handle.

Eskrima Stick(s) and Sai

During the Spanish rule of the Philippines, which lasted until 1898, the native population were banned from practising their fighting arts and carrying bladed weapons. The Filipinos were therefore forced to substitute the use of the sword with that of the rattan (a stick). This was originally used to mimic the slashing and thrusting of a sword but eventually developed into a defence and attack system which, when coupled with a knife, became a highly effective combat system

Originally used for planting rice, the sai was another agricultural tool turned weapon which evolved during the Japanese occupation of Okinawa. The sai is used to stab, block, trap weapons and strike and was an excellent tool for intercepting sword attacks.

….Important warning

In many countries, including the UK, martial arts weapons are illegal to use or carry on the street. You are permitted to train with them in the dojo or in the privacy of your own home and that’s it!

It’s even deemed an offence to be found in possession of these weapons, that includes in the bottom of your kitbag, but in most instances if challenged, proving that you are a martial artist and that you are carrying them to/or from class is an acceptable explanation and would unlikely lead to prosecution.

However, carrying them to and from class uncovered and in full view is dumb! If you are stopped by the police, they could confiscate them, even if you do explain about your martial arts background, worse still, you may be charged or in the case of junior students suffer the embarrassment of an official police visit to your parents.