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- For other meanings of this and similar words, see Nunchaku (disambiguation).
The Nunchaku (Japanese: ヌンチャク Hepburn: nunchaku , often "nunchuks" or "chainsticks" in English) is a traditional Okinawan weapon consisting of two sticks connected at one end by a short chain or rope. It was used by Okinawan nobles rather than rebelling peasants, but was not a popular weapon since it was not efficient against the most widely used weapons of that time, and few techniques for its use exist. The two sections of the weapon are commonly made out of wood, while the link is a cord or sometimes a metal chain. The nunchaku is most widely used in martial arts such as Okinawan kobudō and karate, and makes for a good training weapon, since it allows for developing quicker hand movements and improves posture. Many varieties of nunchaku are available.
In modern times, nunchakus (Tabak-Toyok) were popularized by Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto in their respective movies. Organizations like The North American Nunchaku Association, World Amateur Nunchaku Organization, Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku de Combat et Artistique, World Nunchaku Association and International Techdo Nunchaku Association teach the use of it as a contact sport.
Modern day nunchaku can be made from metal, plastic or fibreglass. In addition, toy and replica versions are available, made of styrofoam or plastic. Except for use in professional martial art schools, possession of this weapon is illegal in some countries.
The word nunchaku comes from the Japanese Ryukyuan languages, though the origin of this word is unclear. One theory indicated it was derived from pronunciation of the Chinese characters 兩節棍 (a type of traditional Chinese two section staff) in a Southern Fujian dialect of Chinese language.
The origin of the nunchaku is unclear, though one popular belief is that nunchaku was originally a short South-east Asian flail used to thresh rice or soybeans. This gave rise to the theory that it was originally developed from an Okinawan horse bit (muge), or that it was adapted from a wooden clapper called hyoshiki carried by the village night watch, made of two blocks of wood joined by cord. The night watch would hit the blocks of wood together to attract people's attention and then warn them about fires and other dangers.
The association of nunchaku and other Okinawan weapons with rebellious peasants is most likely a romantic exaggeration. Martial arts on Okinawa were practised exclusively by aristocracy (kazoku) and "serving nobles" (shizoku) but were prohibited among commoners (heimin). Furthermore, Okinawan disarmament was never total; nobles were still allowed to carry their swords, and members of the royal family and princes were even allowed to have firearms for hunting.
Regardless of its origins, the nunchaku was not a popular weapon, since no known traditional kata (choreographed practice movements) for it exist, possibly as a result of its lack of efficacy against contemporary weapons such as the katana.
- Himo: the rope which connects the two handles of some nunchaku.
- Ana: the hole on the kontoh of each handle for the himo to pass through, only nunchaku that are connected by himo have an ana.
- Kusari: the chain which connects the two handles of some nunchaku.
- Kontoh: the top of each handle is called the kontoh and if there is a hole for rope to go through that is called the ana.
- Jukon-bu: the upper area of the handle.
- Chukon-bu: the center part of the handle.
- Kikon-bu: the lower part of the handle.
- Kontei: the bottom of the handles.
Nunchaku consist of two sections of wood connected by a cord (himo) or chain (kusari), though variants may include additional sections of wood and chain. In China, the striking stick is called "dragon stick" ("龍棍") while the handle is called "yang stick" ("陽棍"). Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas the Okinawan version has an octagonal cross-section (allowing one edge of the nunchaku to make contact on the target increasing the damage inflicted). The ideal length of each piece should be long enough to protect the forearm, when held in a high grip near the top of the shaft. Both ends are usually of equal length, although asymmetrical nunchaku exist. The ideal length for the connecting rope/chain is just long enough to allow the user to lay it over his or her palm, with the sticks hanging comfortably and perpendicular to the ground. The weapon should be properly balanced in terms of weight; cheaper or gimmicky nunchaku (such as glow-in-the-dark ones) are often not properly balanced, which prevents the performer from doing the more advanced and flashier 'low-grip' moves, such as overhand twirls. The weight should be balanced towards the outer edges of the sticks for maximum ease and control of the swing arcs.
Traditional nunchaku are made from a strong, flexible hardwood such as oak, loquat or pasania. Originally, the wood would be submerged in mud for several years, where lack of oxygen and optimal acidity prevented rotting and caused the wood to harden. The rope is made from horsehair. Finally, the wood is very finely sanded and rubbed with an oil or stain for preservation. Today, such nunchaku are often varnished or painted for display purposes. This practice tends to reduce the grip and make the weapon harder to handle, and so is not advised for combat.
Modern nunchaku can be made from any suitable material, such as wood, metal, or almost any plastic, fiberglass or other hard substance. Toy and practice nunchaku are commonly covered with foam to prevent self-injury or the injury of others. It is not uncommon to see modern nunchaku made from light metals such as aluminum. Modern equivalents of the rope are nylon cord or metal chains on ball bearing joints. Simple nunchaku may be easily constructed from wooden dowels and a short length of chain.
The Nunchaku-Do sport, governed by the World Nunchaku Association, promotes black and yellow styrofoam nunchaku. Unlike readily available plastic training nunchaku, the devices they promote are properly balanced.
There are some alternative nunchaku, made solely for sporting such as:
- Bleeder (nunchaku with sharp or dull razor blades) and sharper (nunchaku with nails) are used as components of the basic training and grading programme (Programme Verhille) in French nunchaku de combat.
- Glow-Chucks, made either with fiberglass and a coloured light fitted in the ball bearing or fluorescent tape wrapped around the sticks,
- Penchaku or "Prochux", which are flashier Lissajous-do sticks available for artistic performances. These are more colourful and sometimes fluorescent with a modified anatomy which favors control in expense of power; they have longer length sticks and extremely short ropes. The idea is based on a mathematical model, the Lissajous curve, which allows the user to keep a continuous flowing form.
- "SPEEDCORD", a new version of a cord and bearing Nunchaku called NEO SPEEDCORD and NEON SPEEDCORD Nunchaku, Fast lightweight purely freestyle or demonstration type nunchaku.
There are also some types of nunchaku with no use in sport noted, such as:
- nunchaku with knives, nunchaku with metal branches with a concealed blade in the end of each branch.
- Telescopic nunchaku, nunchaku with retractable metal sticks.
The nunchaku is most commonly used in Okinawan kobudō and karate, but it is also used in eskrima (accurately, the Tabak-Toyok, a similar though distinct Philippine weapon is used, as opposed to the Okinawan nunchaku), and in Korean hapkido. Its application is different in each style. The traditional Okinawan forms use the sticks primarily to grip and lock. Filipino martial artists use it much the same way they would wield a stick, striking is given precedence. Korean systems combine offensive and defensive moves so both locks and strikes are taught. Nunchaku is often the first weapon wielded by a student, to teach self-restraint, and posture, as the weapon is liable to hit the wielder more than the opponent if not used properly.
The Nunchaku is usually wielded in one hand but they can also be paired. It can be whirled around, using its hardened handles for blunt force as well as wrapping its chain around an attacking weapon to immobilize or disarm the opponent. Nunchaku training has been noted to increase hand speed, improve posture, and condition the hands of the practitioner; and so it makes a useful training weapon.
There are some disciplines that combine nunchaku with unarmed techniques:
- Mouhébong Taekwondo combines Korean nunchaku with taekwondo.
- Nunch-Boxing combines nunchaku with kicking and punching techniques. Nunch-Boxing itself is part of the broader discipline Nenbushi.
- Nunchaku en savate combines savate techniques with the nunchaku.
Freestyle nunchaku is a modern style of performance art using nunchaku as a visual tool rather than as a weapon. With the growing prevalence of the Internet, the availability of nunchaku has increased greatly. Combining this with the popularity of other video sharing sites, many people have become interested in learning how to use the weapons for freestyle displays. Freestyle is one discipline of competition held by the World Nunchaku Association. Some modern martial arts teach the use of nunchaku as it may help students improve their reflexes, hand control, and other skills.
Since the 1980s, there have been various international sporting associations that organize the use of nunchaku as a contact sport. Current associations usually hold semi-contact fights where severe strikes are prohibited as opposed to contact fights. Full-Nunch matches, on the other hand, are limitations-free on the severity of strikes and knockout is permissible.
- The North American Nunchaku Association was founded in 2003 in California, USA by Sensei Chris Pellitteri. NANA teaches all aspects of the nunchaku, traditional and free-style: single and double.
- World Amateur Nunchaku Organization (WANO): Founded by Pascal Verhille in France in 1988.
- Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku de Combat et Artistique (FINCA): Founded by Raphaël Schmitz in France in 1992, as a merger of disbanded associations WANO and FFNS (Fédération Française de Nunchaku Sportif). Its current name is Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku, Combat complet et Arts martiaux modernes et affinitaires (FINCA). A fight with FINCA rules lasts 2 x 2 minutes. There is not a need for changing either the nunchaku branch or the hand before hitting, just a correct recuperation is asked. There are no stops during the fight except in case of loss, lifting or penalties.
- World Nunchaku Association (WNA): Founded by Milco Lambrecht in the Netherlands in 1996. They use yellow and black plastic weight-balanced training nunchaku and protective headgear. They have their own belt color system where one earns color stripes on the belt instead of using fully colored belts. One side of the belt is yellow, and the other black, so that in a competition, opponents may be distinguished by the visible side of the belt. WNA rules fight corresponds to the kumite subsection of Nunchaku-do discipline. It is a 2-minutes "touch fight" in which the technical abilities are very important. After each scored point, the fight stops and the fighters take back their starting position.
- International Techdo Nunchaku Association (ITNA): Founded by Daniel Althaus in Switzerland in 2006. ITNA rules fight lasts 2 × 2:30 minutes. There is no stop during the round, except in case of loss, lifting or penalties. Between two strikes, the fighter has to change hand and nunchaku branch before hitting again, except if he blocks.
Possession of nunchaku is illegal, or the nunchaku is defined as weapon in a number of countries, including Norway, Canada, Russia, Poland, Chile and Spain. In Germany, nunchaku have been illegal since April 2006, when they were declared a strangling weapon.
In the United Kingdom it was thought legal for anyone over the age of 18 to buy and possess nunchaku for many years, although public possession is not allowed unless transporting between a place of training or private addresses. However, following a case brought by Strathclyde Police and the Procurator Fiscal heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court on 10 February 2010, a Sheriff ruled that nunchaku fell into the category of a prohibited weapon as defined by the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988 Section 141 (n). The nunchaku in question were the fixed length (non telescopic) wooden type handles, which the sheriff judged to be contrary to current legislation.
The usage of nunchaku was, in the 1990s, censored from UK rebroadcasts of American children's TV shows such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons and films. The UK version of the Soul Blade video game was also edited, replacing the character Li Long's nunchaku with a three-sectioned staff. In Hong Kong, it is illegal to possess metal or wooden nunchaku connected by a chain, though one can obtain a license from the police as a martial arts instructor, and rubber nunchaku are still allowed. Possession of nunchaku in Mainland China is legal.
Legality in Australia is determined by individual state laws. In New South Wales, the weapon is on the restricted weapons list, and thus can only be owned with a permit.
Legality in the United States varies at state level; for example, personal possession of nunchaku is illegal in New York, Arizona, California, and Massachusetts, but in other states possession has not been criminalized. California has made exceptions for professional martial arts schools and practitioners to use the nunchaku. In New York, attorney Jim Maloney has brought a federal constitutional challenge to the statutes that criminalize simple in-home possession for peaceful use in martial-arts practice or legal home defense. The court dismissed Maloney's Second Amendment claim based on prior case law that the Second Amendment applied only to Federal action, and this decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. However, on June 29, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari, vacated the decision of the Second Circuit and sent it back for "further consideration" in light of the Supreme Court's decision in McDonald v. Chicago, which held that the right of an individual to "keep and bear arms" protected by the Second Amendment is made applicable to the states by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In popular culture
The nunchaku has been a popular weapon in movies related to martial arts, particularly popularized in modern culture through Bruce Lee movies.
- Bruce Lee uses the nunchaku in many of his films, including Fist of Fury, Game of Death, Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon.
- The American TV show Deadliest Warrior, in the episode "Yakuza vs. Mafia", shows the Yakuza's short range weapon as a pair of nunchaku. The weapon was tested against the Mafia's short ranged weapon, a baseball bat.
- In the American comic and animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michelangelo's signature weapons are nunchaku.
- The television series Charmed, in which Billie Jenkins often practices with a nunchaku made of metal.
- On Power Rangers Jungle Fury, Casey Rhodes, the Jungle Fury Red Ranger, used a pair of nunchaku called the "Junglechucks".
- The Nunchaku are prominently used in several video games, particularly in fighting games:
- Johnny Cage and Liu Kang of Mortal Kombat have wielded nunchaku as their weapon style. The latter is fitting, considering the character was inspired by Bruce Lee.
- Kim Wu of Killer Instinct uses a pair of nunchaku as her weapon.
- Maxi and Li-Long from the Soul Series of weapon-based fighting games always use a variety of nunchaku.
- Selphie Tilmitt in Final Fantasy VIII wields nunchaku in battle.
- Ling Tong, from Dynasty Warriors 5 and 7, used nunchaku as his main weapon. As in 7, it was his EX weapon while in 5, it was his main weapon.
- In Lego Ninjago, a golden weapon of lightning is a nunchaku, used by Jay.
- In Marvel comics, superheroes Daredevil and Moon Knight often use nunchaku.
- In the ThunderCats animated series, Panthro uses a pair of nunchaku.
- Might Guy from the Naruto series uses nunchaku as a weapon, as does his student Rock Lee. Both characters are a tribute to Bruce Lee.
- American guitarist Buckethead is known for performing nunchaku in the middle of his sets.
- American martial artist Romeo Magruder is known for doing a double back flip while spinning his nunchaku around him. He raised 5,000 dollars for an Arizona children's hospital doing this stunt on CBS 5 KPHO.
- Rapper Tyler The Creator and singer Frank Ocean collaborated on a song called 'She', in which they refer to both the use of nunchaku and Shuriken
- In the movie Napoleon Dynamite, the character Napoleon claims to have trouble fitting his nunchaku into his locker.
- In the movie Black Dynamite, the titular Black Dynamite uses nunchaku to fight off associates of the character Chicago Wind.
- The Nintendo Wii console features an attachment to its controller, the Wii Remote, called the "Nunchuk". Its appearance when attached resembles a nunchaku.
- "ヌンチャクについて" [Regarding Nunchuks] (in Japanese). Budoshop Japan. Retrieved 2012-01-15.
-  thefreedictionary.com
- Donn F. Draeger & Rober W. Smith (1969). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. ISBN 978-0-87011-436-6.
- Reframing Japanese cinema: authorship, genre, history, Authors Arthur Nolletti, David Desser, Publisher Indiana University Press, 1992, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized May 5, 2008, ISBN 0-253-34108-6, ISBN 978-0-253-34108-2
- OKS Nunchaku
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- Kit, Wong Kiew (1996). The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu. Element Books. p. 159. ISBN 1-85230-789-7.
- Nunchaku: karate weapon of self-defense, Fumio Demura, Black Belt Communications, 1971 p.13
- Programme Verhille
- Les armes dérivées du Nunchaku
- Korean Nunchaku (Mouhébong Taekwondo)
- France Nenbushi
- Nunchaku en savate
- Historique du Nunchaku de combat
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- legality of martial arts weapons in Canada
- Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted, SOR/98-462. Canlii. Accessed 2010/06/30
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- 2006 New York Code – Criminal Possession Of A Weapon In The Fourth Degree.
- Arizona Revised Statutes Title 13 Section 3101
- California Penal Code Section 12020
- Massachusetts General Laws Part IV Title I Chapter 269 Section 10
- Maloney v. Rice: The Nunchaku Case
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nunchaku.|
Information and techniques
- World Nunchaku Association English homepage for the World Nunchaku Association, based in the Netherlands.
- International Techdo Nunchaku Association English homepage for the International Techdo Nunchaku Association, based in Switzerland.
Forums and portals
- Freestyle (Nunchaku) Forum English forum for freestyle nunchaku artist, collectors and enthusiast.
- Pro-Nunchaku German nunchaku site featuring a map of Europe showing the nunchaku laws in different EU-countries (German) (English)
- Maloney v. Rice: The Nunchaku Case Chronicles the American legal case of Maloney v. Rice (formerly Maloney v. Spitzer and then Maloney v. Cuomo), which was begun in 2003, and which challenges the constitutionality New York's decades-old prohibition on possession of nunchaku in the privacy of one's home for peaceful use in martial arts training, etc.