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Nunchaku History (English Version)

  The word nunchaku comes from nun (ヌン), meaning "twin" and shaku (尺), the approximate length of each arm of the nunchaku, although the word is also pronounced as nunchiyaku in some Okinawan contexts. On the other hand, the on'yomi reading of kanji used for writing nunchaku (雙節棍) is effectively sōsetsukon.

  The popular belief is that the nunchaku was originally a short Southeast Asian flail used to thresh rice orsoybeans (that is, separate the grain from the husk). It is possible that it was developed in response to the moratorium on edged weaponry under the Satsuma daimyo after invading Okinawa in the 17th century, and that the weapon was most likely conceived and used exclusively for that end, as the configuration of actual flails and bits are unwieldy for use as a weapon. 
  Peasant farmers in that time used forbidden conventional weaponry such as arrows or blades so they improvised using only what they had available, farm tools such as the sickle. ​
  However, it seems that mythology surrounding the origins of nunchaku has little historical accuracy. Unlike Okinawan rice flail (utzu), original nunchaku had curved arms, resembling an Okinawan horse bit (muge), which gave rise to the theory that nunchaku was originally a horse bridle.[1] Yet another theory asserts that it was adapted from an instrument carried by the village night watch, made of two blocks of wood joined by cord. The night watch would hit the blocks of wood together to attract people's attention and then warn them about fires and other dangers.[2]. On the other hand, associating nunchaku and other kobudo weapons with rebellious peasants is probably a part of romantic imagery. Martial arts on Okinawa were practiced exclusively by aristocracy (kazoku) and "serving nobles" (shizoku (士族)), and commoners (heimin (へいみん)) were prohibited to do so. Furthermore, Okinawan disarmement was never total; nobles were still allowed to carry their swords and members of the royal family and princes were even allowed to have rifles for hunting.[1]
  Whatever its origins were, nunchaku was probably not a popular weapon, since there's no known traditional nunchaku kata. This was possibly a result of its lack of efficiency against weapons such as sword and staff.[3]


  A nunchaku is two sections of wood connected by a cord or chain, though variants may include additional sections of wood and chain. Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas the Okinawan version has an octagonal cross-section (allowing one edge of the nunchaku to make contact on the target increasing the damage inflicted). The ideal length of each piece should be long enough to protect the forarm when held in a high grip near the top of the shaft. Traditionally both ends are of equal length, although asymmetrical nunchaku exist. The ideal length for the connecting rope/chain is just enough to allow the user to lay it over his or her palm , with the sticks hanging comfortably and perpendicular to the ground. Weight balance is extremely important; cheaper or gimmicky nunchaku (such as glow-in-the-dark ones) are often not properly balanced, which prevents the artist from doing the more advanced and flashier 'low-grip' moves, such as overhand twirls. The weight should be balanced towards the outer edges of the sticks for maximum ease and control of the swing arcs.

  The traditional nunchaku is made from a strong, flexible hardwood such as oak, loquat or pasania. Originally, the wood would be submerged in mud for several years, where lack of oxygen and optimal acidity prevented rotting and caused the wood to harden. The rope is made from horsehair. Finally, the wood is very finely sanded and rubbed with an oil or stain for preservation. Today, such nunchaku are often varnished or painted for display purposes. This practice tends to reduce the grip and make the weapon harder to handle, and so is not advised for a combat weapon.

The modern nunchaku can be made from any suitable material: from wood, metal, or almost any plastic orfiberglass material, commonly covered with foam to prevent self-injury or the injury of others. It is not uncommon to see modern nunchaku made from light metals such as aluminum. Modern equivalents of the rope are nylon cord or metal chains on ball bearing joints. Simple nunchaku may be easily constructed from wooden dowels and a short length of chain.

  The Nunchaku-Do sport, governed by the World Nunchaku Association, promotes black and yellow Styrofoamnunchaku. Unlike readily available plastic training nunchaku, the ones they promote are properly balanced.

There are some alternative nunchaku, made solely for sporting such as:

  • Bleeder (nunchaku with sharp or dull razor blades) and sharper (nunchaku with nails) are used as components of the basic training and grading programme (Programme Verhille) in French nunchaku de combat.[4]

  • Glow-Chucks, made either with fiberglass and a coloured light fitted in the ball bearing or fluorescent tape wrapped around the sticks.

  • Penchaku or "Prochux", which are flashier Lissajous-do sticks available for artistic performances. These are more colourful and sometimes fluorescent with a modified anatomy which favors control in expense of power; they have longer length sticks and extremely short ropes. The idea is based on a mathematical model, the Lissajous curve, which allows the user to keep a continuous flowing form.

There are also some types of nunchaku with no sportive use noted, such as:

  • Nunchaku with knives, nunchaku with metal branches with a concealed blade in the end of each branch.[5]

  • Telescopic Nunchaku, nunchaku with retractable metal sticks.

Formal styles
  The most common martial arts to use nunchaku are the Okinawan martial arts such as some forms ofkarate/kobudo, but some Eskrima systems also teach practitioners to use nunchaku. For its part, Taekwondoteaches how to use one and two nunchaku. Nunchaku is a part of weapons training in Hapkido. The styles of these arts are rather different; the traditional Okinawan arts use the sticks primarily to grip and lock, while theFilipino arts use the sticks primarily for striking, while Taekwondo and Hapkido teach a little bit of both.
  Bruce Lee, a Wing Chun and later Jeet Kune Do practitioner, was the most influential figure in making nunchaku popular around the world. Although not a traditional weapon, his flashy and fluid style was emulated by a number of Wushu practitioners, which gave rise to a distinctive Chinese style represented by masters such as Li Yancai.[6]
There are some nunchaku disciplines that combine nunchaku with unarmed techniques:
  • Mouhébong Taekwondo combines Korean nunchaku with Taekwondo. [7]
  • Nunch-Boxing combines nunchaku with kicking and punching techniques. Nunch-Boxing itself is part of the broader discipline Nenbushi. [8]
  In the early 80s, Kevin D. Orcutt, an American police sergeant, holder of a black belt in Jukado, developed the OPN (Orcutt Police Nunchaku) system.   Since then some American law enforcement agencies employ the Nunchaku as a control weapon instead of a straight baton, tonfa or side-handle baton, also adapted from theKobudo weapons family. This system emphasises only a small subset of the nunchaku techniques, for speedier training.
Nunchaku training has been noted to increase hand speed, correct posture, and condition the hands of the practitioner.
  Freestyle nunchaku is a modern style of performance art using the nunchaku as a visual tool rather than as a weapon. With the growing prevalence of the Internet the availability of nunchaku has increased greatly, combining this with the popularity of YouTube and other video sharing sites many people have become interested in learning how to use the weapons for freestyle displays. Freestyle is one discipline of competition held by the World Nunchaku Association. Some styles of modern martial arts teach the use of nunchaku as it may help students improve their reflexes, hand control, and other skills.
In combat
  The nunchaku is claimed to be a very effective close-range weapon by its proponents.[citation needed] When used in combat, the nunchaku provides the obvious advantage of an increase in the reach of one's strike. Somewhat difficult to control, the rope or chain joint of the nunchaku adds the benefit of striking from unexpected angles. Practitioners of the flashier styles contend that the motion of the nunchaku is often found distracting by opponents, who may have trouble keeping up with the nunchaku's rapid movement. In addition, the reach of the nunchaku is often underestimated, even by those experienced with its use. However, when swung, the nunchaku loses between one to two inches in reach from its total length due to the angle between the stick held and the chain.
  The original Okinawan techniques involve holding the weapon in a variety of preparatory postures. Once an opponent has moved their weapon or body into close range, the nunchaku is used to strike vital spots, and apply joint locks, chokes and other control techniques. The chain link version of the nunchaku has also been known to be able to fend off enemies with swords or staves.
Gripping the nunchaku is usually a matter of preference. Gripping it close to the chain or rope link increases control but decreases both striking power and reach. A grip further down would have the opposite effect of increasing reach and power while decreasing control and, with the link further out, would also render it susceptible to capture. Unless in expert hands, it is unadvisable to use a nunchaku against a staff or a stick since disarming is often only a matter of striking at the link and jerking it hard out of the hands of the nunchaku practitioner. It is primarily because of this specific vulnerability of the nunchaku that most styles tend to minimize striking.
  Critics of the nunchaku often point to the level of difficulty to control the weapon and question whether the extended reach and unpredictability provide sufficient offensive advantage to offset this disadvantage. The Chinese consider the nunchaku to be the diminutive of the three-sectioned staff, as the dagger is to the sword, and therefore an inferior weapon in comparison.
Sportive associations
  Since the 1980s, there have been various international sportive associations that organise the use of nunchaku as a contact sport. [9] [10]. Current associations usually hold semi-contact fights where severe strikes are prohibited as opposed to contact fights. Full-Nunch matches, on the other hand, are limitations-free on the severity of strikes and KO is permissible.[11].
  • World Amateur Nunchaku Organization (WANO): Founded by Pascal Verhille in France in 1988.
  • Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku de Combat et Artistique (FINCA): Founded by Raphaël Schmitz in France in 1992, as a merger of disbanded associations WANO and FFNS (Fédération Française de Nunchaku Sportif). Its current name is Fédération Internationale de Nunchaku, Combat complet et Arts martiaux modernes et affinitaires (FINCA).[12] A fight with FINCA rules lasts 2 x 2 minutes. There is no need changing neither nunchaku branch nor hand before hitting, just a correct recuperation is asked. There is no stop during the fight except in case of loss, lifting or penalties.
  • World Nunchaku Association (WNA): Founded by Milco Lambrecht in the Netherlands in 1996.[13] They use yellow and black plastic weight-balanced training nunchaku and protective headgear. They have their own belt colour system where one earns colour stripes on the belt instead of using fully coloured belts. One side of the belt is yellow, and the other black, so that in a competition, opponents may be distinguished by the visible side of the belt. WNA rules fight corresponds to the kumite subsection of Nunchaku-do discipline.[14] It is a 2-minutes "touch fight" in which the technical abilities are very important. After each scored point, the fight stops and the fighters take back their starting position.
  • International Techdo Nunchaku Association (ITNA): Founded by Daniel Althaus in Switzerland in 2006. ITNA rules fight lasts 2 x 2:30 minutes. There is no stop during the round, except in case of loss, lifting or penalties. Between two strikes, the fighter has to change hand and nunchaku branch before hitting again, except if he does a block.
  Possession of nunchaku is illegal in a number of countries including Belgium, Germany, Norway, Canada[15], and Spain. In the United Kingdom it is legal to own for martial arts purposes, although public possession is not allowed unless transporting between a place of training and a private address; its usage was, in the 1990s, censored from broadcasts of American children's TV shows, such as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. The UK version of the Soul Blade videogame was also edited, replacing a character's nunchaku with a three-sectioned staff. Legality in the United States varies at state level, e.g., personal possession of nunchaku is illegal in New York, Arizona, California and Massachusetts, but in other states possession has not been criminalized. Legality inAustralia is also determined by individual state laws. In New South Wales, the weapon is on the restricted weapons list, and thus can only be owned with a permit. In New York, attorney Jim Maloney has brought a federal constitutional challenge to the statutes that criminalize simple in-home possession of nunchaku for peaceful use in martial-arts practice or legal home defense.[16] As of March 2009, the case was awaiting the filing of a petition for certiorari for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the subject of several legal blogs, including the Volokh Conspiracy.[17]
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