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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

4 Annoying Realities of Being a Weapons Based Martial Artist

I love weapons, y'all.

No, really, I love 'em.  Doing empty hand stuff in martial arts is fine and dandy and fun, but it doesn't hold a candle to learning how to use weapons.

I realize I'm in an extreme minority here.  If martial artists are at most 5% of the adult population - and that's a generous estimate - we weapons-based people are probably, what, no more than 25% of that group?  Most of us gravitate towards and use empty hand styles, and that's okay.

It's just not my personal preference.

As cool and fun as using weapons are - and it really, really is - there are some pretty big downsides.  Here's four annoying realities of being a weapons based martial artist.


There are very few of us in real life who know for sure that something will work with a weapon, and I don't think any of us want to be in that situation on purpose, because usually that means badly injuring or killing somebody.

Thus, blunted training weapons, safety equipment, and lack of intent all add up to a big question mark over what we do.

It's very, very difficult to pressure test weapons and honestly, most of us don't.  Most of us dance with weapons or hit inanimate objects not trying to hit us back.  Even those styles that do sparring with resistance, there's always rules for safety that mean that you don't REALLY know, for sure, if what you're doing would work in real life.

We do have "probably will work", but not "certainly will". It will always be a debate over whether such-and-such is useful, or not.


We have the same expenses that empty hand martial artists typically do - class fees and uniforms - but then we have a lot more.

Our weapons themselves are pricey, especially if we get training weapons that are meant to be durable and hold up against a beating and are not just dancing props.  But even dancing props are expensive.

Take my bo.  My 6 foot white oak bo cost $80.  Mine is a durable type of bo that can take a lot of hits against bo (and other weapons like sai and tonfa).  We've tried to find cheaper models but they get broken within a day's use.

I've seen the good bo break, live and in person, twice.  That's 80 bucks down the drain, just like that. If you hit stuff often in training, as we do, eventually your weapon(s) can and will break, and that's just the way it goes.

Heck, I've seen an expensive XMA type toothpick bo snap in half by merely grazing a training mat during practice.  That was also 80 bucks down the drain - yikes!

Another expense are the equipment you need to carry your equipment - cases and whatnot - and store your equipment (racks and shelves, chests, etc.)

I'm not even counting the armor that martial art sports like fencing and kendo have to invest in - that's also pricey, and has to be repaired and replaced from time to time with use.

It all add up, and quickly.


Toting around and storing weapons is a pain in the rear.

I'm lucky in that I have a car, and I don't have to try to tote this stuff long distances over public transportation (those of you who do, I'd love to hear how you do it).  When the time came to buy a new car a few years ago, I had to take into consideration that car's ability to tote around my martial arts gear.

Being able to fit my longer weapons in the car is not a trivial matter!

Additionally, we have lots of different gear bags for different uses, and before I go off somewhere, I have to check that what I need is in the bag.

Favorite pair of sticks? Check.  Backup pair if favorite pair gets broken?  Check. Favorite training knife? Check.  Backup training knife for either sharing with others who don't have one or for double-knife drills?  Check.  Repair tape for sticks?  Check. Palmsticks? Check. Training bolo? Check.

These are all mine. A fraction of what I actually own, and only what I was able to carry with me.

That's just my arnis bag and I didn't include belt, mat shoes/socks, and first aid stuff I usually have in my bag.  Add in my kobudo stuff and it's a long checklist.

Then there's storage.  Long weapons like a naginata, a bo, and a jo shouldn't be stored standing up, as they'll warp over time.  You should store them laying flat.  Thus, I need a place to store them flat that's out of the way.  I used to store them along my couch, but today I have a huge wall I affectionately call "the armory" that stores all of my weapons of any length horizontally.

Everything else needs a place to keep them dry and out of the way so I don't stub a toe on a tonfa or something (and yes, I've done that).

You empty hand folks have it so easy.  Even with your sparring gear.  Harrumph.


Maybe it's just me, but not only do a I have a main weapon I train with (a main bo, a main jo, a favorite pair of sticks, etc.) but I have to have a backup.

That's because things can break, especially when you hit things with them, so you end up making sure that you're prepared when you do.

After all, it would be a real bummer if you had to stop training while you wait for a replacement weapon to arrive, right?

I also find that weapons based training is kind of an addiction. There's always a better version of your weapon or protective gear that you're wanting to buy.  You spend time online lovingly saving links to shopping sites where you can buy some weapons goodies.  It's sorta like how some empty hand people get into gi addiction (the correct quantity of uniforms you need to own is "many") - we get into weapons addiction.

So there you have it - it's expensive, inconvenient, kind of an addiction, and you never are completely sure what you do will work.

It's still the BEST THING EVER.

Tell me how you manage the inconveniences and expenses of your martial arts training. Any good tips for transport and storage?  Let me know in the comments!

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