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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

The Big Surprise

The kobudo program I went through taught four weapons on the way to black belt: bo (staff), tonfa, nunchaku, and sai.

I liked to tell non-martial artists that I was studying to be a one-woman Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles squad.

I was really excited about learning those weapons, except... one.


I was not happy about having to learn nunchucks.

First off - there is a lot of nonsense and shenanigans out there with this weapon.  Not only are nunchaku often featured in "martial arts fail" videos, but even "good" nunchaku is mostly just dances with weapons.  You never actually see them HIT ANYTHING - and y'all know how much I love weapon arts that dance around in the air, right?

Secondly, I actually respect nunchaku as a dangerous weapon to face (and to wield). I jammed my fingers pretty darn good when I timed a block wrong when sparring against nunchaku (Actionflex, y'all - real deal nunchaku would have shattered the bones in my fingers).

I went to my first class in the weapon with less-than-total enthusiasm.

Class started, and they lectured us on the correct name for the weapon.  It's "nunchaku", not "nunchucks" or "numchucks",   Now, hear this being said in a Texas accent.


Kinda fun to say, isn't it? BUT DON'T.  They are noon-chah-koo.  Got it?

At the start of class, our teacher said, "At this point, it's a better strategy, if you have nunchaku and your opponent does not, to hand THEM the weapon, as it's more likely that they'll hurt themselves than hurt you."  I believed him (and still do).

We started with some basic exercises to get used to the weapon.  One major point is that we hold the weapon at the END of the handle, not "choked up" next to the cord (or chain).  Now that I know the difference, I see that choked-up grip in 97% of every nunchaku video I see on the internet; this "choking up" to make the weapon go faster in the air.

Next, we were shown that we strike through ("lobtik" in the terminology we use in Arnis) the target, vs. hitting and stopping. That's how you get rebound and how you end up hitting yourself in the head.

The neat thing is that these exercises, once we got used to catching the moving handle in our hands, were literally identical to classical strikes found in Arnis.

I'm talking about specifically arco, banda y banda, and ocho-ocho.

HEY! I know this stuff already!  It's... ARNIS!

How is he *always* right about this stuff?

By the end of my first class, I was surprised to find out that I didn't hate nunchaku.

In fact... I sorta like them.

Scratch that... I sorta love them.

That was a huge surprise.

Sure nunchaku aren't the most practical weapon in the world. But so what? They're fun, even when you aren't tricking with them. The old-school traditional use of nunchaku are still a blast.

It just goes to show that if you get the chance to seriously study weapons, don't avoid the weapons that don't immediately appeal to you.

You never know - that weapon you're not excited to learn could be for you what nunchaku ended up being for me.

Did you study something in the martial arts you weren't very excited about before you started, but then just loved to pieces? Are you a nunchaku fiend like I am? Let us know in the comments!

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18. Okt. 2019

I love your perspective on this! I came at it from the opposite direction from you. I was a kobudo student for years before I started to study arnis. So by the time I started taking arnis classes, I had already fallen in love with nunchaku. And as we started going over the ways of swinging arnis sticks, I thought, "Hm. That's something I would do with nunchaku."

In one of my tests, I actually took something that is much more explicit in arnis and used it in a nunchaku bunkai.

I think study is wonderful when we can remain open to how different arts interpret similar things and then we can apply them to our own expression :)

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