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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

For the Love of the Ropey-Whackstick

My friend on Tumblr, Graciejits, came up with the term "ropey-whacksticks" for nunchaku, and honestly, it's the most accurate description that exists.

"Numchucks", "Nunchucks" and "Chux" annoy me, but "ropey-whacksticks" is the BEST NAME EVER.


Lawd help me, I think the nunchaku have become my second favorite kobudo weapon.

These are my nunchaku. There are many like them, but these are mine.

Before I go into my newfound love of the nunchaku, let me just say that my favorite kobudo weapon is the jo. No question, hands down.

In weapons sparring (we use ActionFlex), I have found the jo to be the most useful of the weapons against longer weapons (bo) and shorter weapons (nunchaku, sticks, swords, etc.). Combine that with the size being most similar to long improvised weapons you might have around the house - like a broom handle - the jo is an incredibly versatile and practical weapon to study.

Nunchaku may not be as practical as the jo (or sticks for that matter).

"May not be"... actually, it totally isn't as practical as studying other weapons are.

Nunchaku are great for base study of flexible weapons - but I wouldn't use one of those if I have something else available, so honestly, it's a very, very long shot I'd ever use what I'm learning in a real life situation.

Add in the fact that nunchaku are basically SUPER-ILLEGAL in most jurisdictions thanks to boys hitting inappropriate things in the wake of Bruce Lee using them in a bunch of movies, and politicians freaking out.

I didn't want to learn them originally, mainly because, well, nunchaku seemed so silly and full of shenanigans and just not worth my time. 90% of "martial arts weapon fail" compilation videos features somebody hitting themselves or others with nunchaku, right?

But now... now... I understand the fascination so many people have with them.

When you relax and really understand the weapon, it's fun to chamber up and get that nunchaku flyin' around.  When I'm practicing my strikes or working on a form, and I can really let a strike go, the WHOOOSH!  sound the nunchaku makes makes me smile.

It's just plain FUN.

The risk of getting hit by your own weapon is very great.   As the joke goes, "How do you beat a guy if you have nunchaku?  Give him the weapon and let him beat himself!"

I've smacked myself in the back and arms more times than I can count. I've jammed my fingertips more than once in trying to catch a handle.  I've hit the back of my own weapon hand in a rebound.  I am a veteran of getting hit in the hands, knuckles, and fingertips with weapons and this is a whole 'nother experience on ways to get hit.

In practice, I've only hit myself hard enough to cause an actual injury once, and that was on the bone just above my ankle, because my stance was too square. It left a large black and blue bruise that took weeks to heal. It SUCKED.

Some folks have very long chains/cords or handles for tricking.  I'm not interested in that - I'm interested in hitting stuff and trapping stuff and actually using the weapon for putting on the hurt.  It's critical my weapon is sized appropriately for me, so my nunchaku are held together with a cord sized to my hands.

Speaking of hitting stuff, one time our kobudo class was outside and we practiced hitting bo with various strikes (helloooo rebound!), and then we hit trees.  I was making the bark FLY off the tree I was striking, and in the process, I riled up a whole bunch of angry ants! I was happy that I didn't get any rebound on my strikes due to doing a good job of committing to the strike and pulling through (and holding the handle properly at the end), but man, those ants were pissed.

Working with nunchaku is a lot like doing Arnis. The striking patterns, some of the footwork - heck, you could consider stick exchange in flow (from hand to hand) a very similar skill to what we do with nunchaku.

Outside of the pure joy of making these bad boys whoosh around, that might be the real reason I enjoy them so much. Nunchaku are so... Arnis-y. In fact, the Filipino version of the weapon - tabok-tayok - is what Bruce is using up there, actually, as from what I understand, Dan Inosanto taught him the weapon.

Yep, put you can me down in the pro-nunchaku camp. Do I think they're a practical weapon? No, probably not. But they do enhance my Arnis study, and well, there isn't anything wrong with doing stuff for fun, guys.

I love me some ropey-whacksticks!

Are you a fan of nunchaku, or not? Is there any weapon you didn't want to learn but then discovered you loved after you ended up studying it a bit? Let us know in the comments?

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