Wednesday, June 27, 2018

REVISED OPINION: Tonfa: Not a Huge Fan, No.

Waaaay back in the day, I wrote this post about how much I was looking forward to studying tonfa:

Why Tonfa ROCK!

To summarize, I had a fascination with that weapon since the early days of my training. Tonfa are rarely the kinds of weapons you see people tossing and catching and dancing with at performance martial arts competitions, usually to music.  So that alone drew me to them.

These are my tonfa.  Well, one pair of tonfa that I own.

I also thought that they'd be the easiest for an Arnis player to learn and get good with, as tonfa look similar to what we use in Arnis, especially if you don't insist on always gripping them using the handle (the "tsuka").

Long story short, I like practical, meaty weapons, and tonfa seemed to fit the bill.

I've trained with tonfa a few years now, and the result:

I am not a fan of tonfa.

Who knew?

Before I continue, let me make one thing clear: I like weapons. No, I love weapons.  All cultures, all types.  I'm just nutty for them.  And I'd rather have a weapon I'm not wild about in a bad situation than not have one at all.

I'm just saying if I have a choice, tonfa is not what I'd choose over other weapons, such as bo, or jo, or nunchaku even, or a stick, or a machete, or a knife.  Especially if it's for realsies and life is on the line.  But if all I have are tonfa, by all means, I'll be happy to have them.

I'll TRY, anyway!

Here's the thing.

I think tonfa is possibly the easiest weapon for you empty hand punch kickers to pick up and use, immediately. Of the weapons I've personally studied, tonfa strikes me as the one that translates directly into things you guys learn empty hand.

Think your down block/strike, knife hands. inside-out or outside-in blocking/striking, upwards block/strike...

You can literally do these as you do empty hand with tonfa in your hand and you'd be good to go.  So, IMO, from that perspective, tonfa are a pretty good intro weapon for people with empty hand training and skills.  Unlike arnis, you can actually just do karate with tonfa and be a-okay for the most part.

It's when you start flipping them around that they're losing me.

Sure, it's not like the strikes, parries, blocks, etc. from the tonfa extended from the arm aren't useful and can work. They can and do.  But learning to do it well - timing, and angle in particular - is not easy, not at all. And you have to have a pair of tonfa well fitted to your hand, or you're going to get some spectacular friction burns on your hands (I speak from experience in this).

I see people doing extended tonfa strikes against incoming longer, heavier weapons and I don't think that'll work if the attacker is coming full power. I think there is a huge risk they'll go right through tonfa, even if you are extending properly so the force is being transmitted to your arm, and not the weapon (think windshield wipers if you want to know what a hard block against improperly held tonfa look like).

And if your hands get sweaty - and in a fight, they just might - it becomes even harder to do those extended motions.  They get stuck OR they spin too freely.  If you're sweaty, heck, you might as well just punch-kick with them against your forearms, like I mentioned above.

I just find all of that more work and effort than it's worth, is all.  I think you'd be better off with a weapon like a billy club or a stick.

I also think that I might like tonfa more as a single hand weapon vs. double.  Check this out:

Image found HERE.

That's a common Arnis disarm with a tonfa, and it works well (and I know it works well against a variety of weapons because we've played with it, so it's not just sticks).  And yeah, they're doing the flippy thing that I was railing against above, but note that it's not weapon-to-weapon, it's closing in and weapon-to-body, a different matter.

So maybe my beef isn't with the weapon itself, but how it's taught?


In any case, if I'm given my druthers, I'd prefer another weapon to tonfa.  At least for now.

Hey, my opinion changed before.  It could change again.

So do you like tonfa? Tell me why I'm wrong and I SHOULD change my mind!  Or if you agree with me, let me know why YOU'RE not a fan of tonfa!