Throwing stars or ninja stars is the name given in the West for those sharp flat star-like objects we often see ninjas throw in martial arts movies. The original name for these in Japan is shuriken and roughly translated means “sword hidden in the hand”. While in the movies we usually see similar kinds of stars being thrown, there are basically two distinct kinds of shuriken that were developed.
The first is the flat shuriken (hira shuriken) or wheel shuriken (shaken). This is the one most often seen in movies and the kind commonly sold in stores. They are easier to use since it has many pointed sides so any side could hit a target when thrown and was said to be the most favored by ninjas. The materials used came from a variety of sources that were of metal, thin, and flat like coins, washers and the like.
The number of sharp edged points could vary anywhere from 4 and even up to 10 points.
The other is the stick shuriken (bo shuriken). These are straight spikes shaped, either round, four or eight sided and could be made of steel or iron. They are usually above 4 inches long and shorter than 9 inches. They can be sharp and pointed on one end or on both ends. Like the flat shuriken, they can be made from a variety of sources like from nails, knifes, spears and other items.
Schools or regions in Japan had their familiar shuriken designs so one could usually tell where the shuriken came from.
Like the mysterious ninja, the origin of this weapon is not known in the West. The martial arts schools in Japan may have information on the history of this instrument, but as of now what ever information there may be is not open to the public. There does not seem to have been any type of uniform approach to the making of this weapon with each school or region having their own way of producing them.
Shuriken are versatile tools aside from throwing, they can be hand-held and used to slash or stab. They can also be placed in the ground for unsuspecting targets to step on and get hurt. Poison could also be applied on them.
These were actually secondary weapons with the spear or sword being the main weapon. They were more used to distract or annoy an opponent. This was usually thrown at areas of the body that were not armored like the hands, feet, or face. Like other kinds of martial arts weapon there is an art in throwing them and is taught in the schools.
Unlike their secretive past, these weapons are now sold in many parts of the world. New shape and designs have also sprung up. There are those shaped like a swastika, pentagon shape, spider shape and other designs and variations.
While this weapon may be shrouded in mystery, for the responsible buyer, be clear and check if this equipment is legal in your place before buying one.