The history of the nunchaku is interwoven with the Japanese domination and suppression of the natives of Okinawa, known then as the Ryukyu Islands. Japan took military and political control of Okinawa several hundred years ago. To prevent the rural population from uprising, the Japanese dictated an order to confiscate all fighting weapons including kitchen utensils. To somewhat appease the people, each village was allowed one cutting knife. However, there was one stipulation. The knife was to be kept under lock and key and in the custody of the village constable.
Domination and brutality ran rampant, forcing the natives to seek ways to defend themselves. In order to accomplish their desire, weapons were needed. Because of the original order to confiscate all weapons, they were compelled to transform their simple everyday farming tools into effective fighting instruments. Invented in either the late 16th or early 17th, originally nunchaku were wooden flails used to crush rice. They consisted of two unequal lengths of hardwood connected by a cord made of horse hair. Thus a simple farm tool was converted into what is known today as the nunchaku.
In order to combat the mounted Samurai warrior, the farmers were forced to use unorthodox methods contrary to the Samurai ethics. Concealing themselves behind a building, tree, or other structural forms, they would wait for the mounted Samurai warrior to ride by. When the warrior was within a foot or two, the farmer would time his strike to hit at the exact moment the warrior entered his critical range. Torque from their hip and employing body weight for additional power, the nunchaku undoubtedly produced devastating results. Because of the armor worn by the warrior, it was important to pick the right target. These priorities had to be determined by the farmer. Although the head was the primary target and the torso second, it was not uncommon to see a farmer strike the legs of the horse to topple the rider prior to attacking him.
In addition to utilizing farm implements, the natural weapons, such as hands, elbows and feet, were also forged into useful and effective weapons. Thus it was not uncommon to see nunchaku moves intermittently combined with those of the arms and legs. This was especially true when the farmer was pitted against the ground soldier who was usually armed with a sword, spear, or wooden staff. In order to combat the weapons of the ground soldier, concentric circles and arcs were utilized to ward off attack. When these concentric circles and arcs were sped up, they literally formed an invisible shield that parried the weapons of the ground soldier. Furthermore, it created opportune openings. When these opening appeared, a slight change of wrist movement would conveniently alter the orbit of the circle, rapidly converting the nunchaku from a defensive to an offensive weapon. If the nunchaku was not utilized, a foot or hand took its place to take advantage of an opening.
The nunchaku can also be useful when merely held in both hands. They can be used as a defensive and offensive weapon. The nunchaku can be used to block, ward off or capture kicks, punches and strikes as well as for attacks like thrusts, jabs, hooks, and pokes.
Nunchaku are believed to have personalities emanating from the actual sticks themselves. Tradition says that after someone has practiced long and hard enough, the nunchaku will take on some of their spirit and character. The nunchaku, it is believed, are becoming a part of the practitioner. But this is not an overnight process. It takes countless hours of practice to reach this point.
The Bo is believed to have been developed from the tenbin, a pole balanced on the shoulders, used to carry buckets hanging from each end with water or grain. When having nothing else, the tenbin served as a very good weapon.
The Bo is a well known weapon used in many styles of martial arts practiced around the world. It is one of the five weapons included into a style by the early Okinawan founders of karate. In feudal Japan, it was part of early Japanese martial arts. Nobles and peasants used it in a similar way.
Bo staffs tend to be long pieces of well polished hardwood like redwood, or of rattan, that has good flexibility for snap techniques or even bamboo. The Bo varies in length ranging anywhere between 3 to 9 feet long. The length of the Bo depends on the style of the martial art. Its length makes it an excellent weapon, allowing the user to strike from a distance. Thickness of the Bo varies depending on the particular martial art one trains in. The average diameter is 1 1/4 inches. They can be round (maru-bo), four-sided (kaku-bo), six-sided (rokkaku-bo), or eight-sided (hakkaku-bo) and either be straight or tapered at the ends. The Bo must be made so that the fighter can comfortably make a fist around it in order to block and counter an attack.
In a fight, the Bo staff acts as an extension of martial artist’s limbs. All techniques are executed as one would without the weapon in your hands. An accurate jab to an enemy’s vulnerable areas could easily disable them without requiring too much effort from the person using the staff. The Bo is also able to block and parry an opponent who may be fighting with the same weapon. Other tricks that a person can use include sweeping the legs out from underneath an opponent, breaking the knees, and sweeping dust into the opponent’s eyes.
It is easy to find a good staff in a time of need. A good stick, broom handle or other long pole can be found almost anywhere at nearly all times. Physical conditioning with the staff improves one’s balance, coordination, and upper body strength, among other benefits.