There are no genuine “Karate weapons.” There is, however, a list of Karate weapons that many Karateka practise with. Let’s get started and learn everything we can about them!
So, if combat weapons do not exist in Karate, where did they originate, and why are they connected with Karate?
It’s all thanks to the Okinawans.
Despite being based on an old type of Chinese martial arts, karate did not become a Japanese martial art or receive its name until 1936. It was developed in the island of Okinawa, and its name was altered to remove it from the Chinese (Japan’s adversary) when Funakoshi Gichin, the founder of modern Karate, brought it to Japan.
On Okinawa, the tale says that when the Satsuma clan took the island, the commoners and farmers were forbidden from carrying weapons or practising martial arts. As a result, they concealed their training and fashioned primitive weapons out of agricultural implements.
The practise of these Okinawan weapons became known as Kobudo. Most Karate weapons are actually Kobudo weapons, if you want to get scientific.
The majority of Okinawan martial artists are trained in both systems, and many Karate moves may be done with a weapon in hand for increased efficiency. As a result, there is a lot of overlap between the two, and it’s natural for Karateka to pick up these weapons as part of their training.
Traditional Japanese weapons were also included, resulting in a sizable armoury of “Karate weaponry” throughout time.
Of course, in the present day, you’ll see showy Asian armament like tonfa, nunchaku, and ninja throwing stars on TV and in movies, making them associated with Karate in popular culture
Let’s study about “Karate weaponry” now that we know where they came from. Many of these lethal weapons have rich backstories.
The Bo is a 5 to 6 foot (152 to 182 cm) long staff that Okinawans frequently carried around and, unexpectedly, was not considered a weapon. This multipurpose weapon’s origins are unknown.
It might have originated from walking sticks or from the tenbin, a long stick worn over the shoulders to carry buckets of water, baskets, or bags. Another notion is that it evolved from the handles of tools like shovels and rakes.
It is a formidable weapon, regardless of how it was created. The wooden staff is often constructed of oak and is rather weighty. To increase speed and agility when performing elaborate twirls and moves, the ends are occasionally shortened to save weight. This style is popular in Karate contests because it lets the practitioner to use more flamboyant techniques.
A non-tapered heavier staff is often utilised in training. This helps the pupil gain strength, and the heavier staff absorbs the impact of hits better.
The Bo enables powerful, long-range assaults while still providing superb protection for the user. It can also be used to sweep the opponent’s legs and knock them down.
The Hanbo is the Bo’s scrappy younger sibling. It is a basic wooden staff that, like the Bo, can inflict tremendous harm when wielded by an expert. This staff, on the other hand, is shorter, often only 3 feet long (91 cm), or modified to meet the length between the hip and ankle.
The Hanbo may be used with many of the same methods as the Bo, although the handling is significantly different because to its shorter length. It is more manoeuvrable, with more speed and agility. Make no mistake, a well-placed hit from this heavy (typically) oaken staff will rapidly knock someone unconscious.
The Tambo is a more compact version of the Okinawan stick weapons. It is more concealable and handy in close-quarter warfare. The Tambo can block and strike, but its smaller size allows it to be faster and more accurate. It may also function as a dual weapon.
The Tambo is typically 18 inches (45 cm) long, but the customised size is measured from the apex of the elbow to the wrist. Its exact origin is unknown, however it is fair to believe that it originated from the Bo.
Nunchaku, or nunchucks as they are most widely known, are the most well-known Karate weapon. They were made popular by Bruce Lee and continue to appear in martial arts and action films on a regular basis.
The nunchaku is made up of two small, equal-sized batons connected by a rope or chain. They can be made of a variety of materials, the most common of which being wood. They are, however, also composed of rubber, plastic, metal, and fibreglass. Most people begin with foam nunchaku since they strike themselves frequently while learning to utilise them.
The origin of the nunchaku is debatable, although most people believe it evolved from a flail used to pound rice. Another hypothesis holds that it is caused by a horse’s bit.
Regardless, it is an impressive example of Asian weapons. The nunchaku, although being small and simple to hide, provides the user with a long-range weapon that can easily hold opponents at distance.
The batons are not sharp and are mostly used for hitting, however they can also be used for chokes and other control methods. Though devastating in hand-to-hand combat, they are ineffective against other weapons.
Nunchaku are tough to master since they need a great deal of dexterity and ability. They are frequently employed as a training weapon since mastering their use increases the user’s coordination and attention.
The Sansetsukon is similar to the nunchaku but has three batons linked by a chain or rope rather than two. It is one of the few Okinawan weapons that is not based on a farming implement. Instead, it was derived from the Chinese 3-section staff as a weapon.
Its application resembles a cross between the Bo and the Nunchaku. Surprisingly, this is a tough weapon to use. The user may strike with the batons at either end while holding the middle baton with both hands.
They can also grip the two outside batons, albeit due to the existence of the third baton in the middle, this needs skill. They can also grab one of the outside batons and use it like a whip.
Needless to say, the Sansetsukon is extremely adaptable and powerful in the hands of a trained practitioner.
A tonfa is a short stick (usually made of wood) with a handle approximately a third of the way down. It is a versatile and commonly used weapon. Have you ever seen a police officer’s baton? It’s essentially the same.
Officers of the law often carry only one baton. Tonfa, on the other hand, are considered dual weapons, which means the wielder normally holds two. They can be held in one of three ways.
To begin, place the short end on top and the long end down the forearm. This hold strengthens close-combat blocks and strikes.
They may also be gripped in the opposite direction, with the longer end extending out from the fist, providing the user more reach for longer-range combat.
Finally, the user can grasp the long end of the tonfa and hit or hook the opponent with the handle. Consider it similar to a dull hatchet.
The tonfa is thought to have evolved from the handle of a millstone used for grinding grain. The photo below shows a set of wooden tonfa, as well as a set of sai and a kama, which we’ll discuss later.
The Kama is a short stick with a blade that protrudes from one end. It resembles the Grim Reaper’s scythe, except it’s a little smaller. It coincidentally emerged from the sickle used by Okinawans to harvest their fields.
The Kama is another dual weapon that allows the user to protect with one hand while attacking with the other. The crescent-shaped blade, tip, and handle can all be utilised to inflict harm.
This weapon, like Nunchaku, is difficult to master, thus most individuals practise with a bladeless or blunted variant until they are proficient enough to use the genuine thing. One improper motion might quickly sever something you’d rather have tied to your body!
Unlike the other weapons we’ve discussed thus far, the Katana was not an Okinawan weapon fashioned from a farm implement or another commonplace thing. The Katana, on the other hand, is an exquisite steel sword – one of the ancient Japanese weapons of the Samurai.
The blade is approximately 27 inches long, with a handle length of 11-12 inches. Traditional Katanas were fashioned from numerous layers of folded steel, which allowed the blade to have a firm cutting edge while being flexible. However, they are too costly, and many people prefer mono steel or “practical” Katana for everyday usage.
The Sai is another well-known Okinawan weapon that frequently appears in films. It is a short weapon that is typically employed as a dual weapon. It has a handle that branches out into three points, similar to a candelabra, although the central one is far longer.
It can be used to attack and block, and an experienced practitioner can catch and shatter a katana blade with a swift twist. The Sai’s defensive ability made him indispensable. It was not only tiny enough to be concealed, but it could also compete with Katana and Bo.
It is unknown how the Sai evolved, however it may have originated from a little rake.
The Eku is a relatively unknown Karate weapon. It resembles a boat oar and, unexpectedly, was fashioned from one.
It is used in the same way as a Bo staff, but has a bit greater hitting force due to the larger size of its striking surface.
The Tekko is a good choice for readily concealable firearms. The Tekko, like the more well-known brass knuckles, is worn on the hands to lend a harsh edge to striking methods and can also be used in a cutting motion.
Okinawan Tekko from the past were horseshoes that seemed benign. A competent practitioner, on the other hand, would hold the shoe by the bottom of the U section, enabling the ends to extend around their fist and annihilate their opponent.
Modern Tekkos are usually constructed of metal or wood, are custom-sized to the user’s hand, and contain one to three spikes.
The Nunti Bo is a long spear with hooked ends. It was inspired by a fisherman’s gaff, a long pole with a sharp hook used to catch larger fish.
The shaft is normally 5-6 feet (152 – 182 cm) long, and the Nunti Bo may be utilised with a variety of Bo methods. However, with the deadly sharp hooks on the end, the user may take things a step or two further.
The Tinbe Rochin is an Okinawan spear/shield combo. Some Okinawans were fortunate enough to have a turtle shell to use as a shield, while others had to rely on their conical straw hats.
The shield, as you might expect, is used to block and protect, whilst the spear is usually utilised to stab and slash. If required, it can also be utilised to obstruct.
A weighted chain or rope is the Surujin. In ancient variants, stones were affixed at either end, while current versions often include metal weights or points on either end. The Okinawans coveted it since it was so simple to hide while yet being a powerful weapon when properly trained.
The short version is about 5 feet (150 cm) long, and the long version is about 7.5 to 8 feet long (230-240 cm).
The Surujin may be swung or thrown to attack with the metal points, and there are chain trapping tactics.
The Kuwa is based on the garden hoes used by the Okinawans, and current versions still resemble garden hoes. The handle is slightly shorter, but it includes a broad, flat blade on one end that may be used for slicing and chopping. Bo methods can also be employed with the handle.