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What is a Nunchuk?

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Nunchuks is more of a short cut for nunchaku which is a weapon made of two sticks (usually of equal length) joined together by a rope or chain.  This weapon can be used to strike, wrap around opposing weapon to neutralize them, as well as for choking and locking moves. 

There is some debate as to where this weapon came from.  What is almost certain is it is not an original Japanese weapon.  This weapon came from the island of Okinawa which had its own kingdoms and own unique culture and language before it was eventually taken over by its much larger Japanese neighbor.  

The name nunchaku itself leans towards Chinese origin referring to a two section staff.  While there have been many versions of how the weapon came into being, most appear to be romanticized stories of Okinawan struggles and need for protection.  


This weapon was said to have been developed from farm implements like the flails which was used to separate grain from the husk.  Another version is that it came from a horse bit.  This weapon was said to be developed by the common folk during times when possession of weapons was illegal. Factual evidence does not seem to support this and if there were any weapons that were developed it would most have likely come for the noble class who had more time and means to develop this weapon. 

Another thought is that is originated from China since there was a time of Chinese migration to the Okinawa island.  In China there is a similar weapon known as a two section staff.  Unlike the nunchaku, one of the sticks was much shorter and the other longer. With the longer stick being the handle and the shorter stick for hitting.

The ideal length of the sticks of the nunchaku should be able to cover the length of the forearm.  The sticks itself is made of hardwood.  The traditional rope used to connect the two sticks was made of horse hair. The length of the rope should be slightly longer than the width of the hand. 

These days nunchakus are made of different materials. There are nunchakus that are all steel from the sticks to the chain. Others are combinations of wood and steel. There are rubber padded and see-through acrylic ones. Plastics and Styrofoam materials are also being used. 

Nunchucks are used with different forms of martial arts like karate, taekwondo, and a form of boxing as well. It has also become a form of visual art, used in performances as visual instruments instead of a weapon.

There are quite a number of organizations particular to nunchaku as a contact sport.  Most fights held are semi-contact in nature, although there are fights that allow participants to be knocked out.

In terms of legality, it varies from country to country. In some countries it is illegal, others countries require a license or a permit to own one, some like China consider it legal.

In the U.S. there is no nationwide uniform law on this and can vary from state to state.

By Daryl Taylor