Are nunchucks a viable self defense weapon in this modern day and age?
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Skillset Fight Club: Nunchucks: Self-Defense Weapon Or 80s Fad?

Ah, the Eighties. It was a time of big hair, Doloreans driving on the streets, and ninja movies exploding onto the big screen. With the ninjas came one of their signature weapons, nunchucks or nunchaku, as the Japanese say.

Nunchucks: Just A Leftover 80s Fad?

This Japanese weapon took the world by storm in the late seventies and early eighties, and with it came controversy, debate on its effectiveness, and fear of its brutal effects if used on another human being. It became the subject of the law as it was banned from use in many states, and still, today, it has some restrictions for both its use and its ability to be shipped across some state lines.

But was this weapon’s reputation blown out of proportion back in the day? Does it hold self-defense uses for conflicts of today? Well, grab your ‘chucks.’ Here, we’ll examine this weapon’s history, its practical use in martial arts dojos, and if it can truly save your skin when confronted by an attacker. Or, is it destined to only hang on your wall as a symbolic memento of times gone by?

Can you really use nunchucks to save your life and the lives of others?
(Photo by iStock Photo)

The Nunchaku’s Origins

The origin of this devastating weapon is not one-hundred percent certain, as it could have evolved in a few ways. The first and most widely believed is that the nunchuck, like many Japanese weapons of the time, was adapted from a regularly used farming implement because peasants at the time were forbidden to possess weapons of any kind.

Though the most popular, this theory has since been discredited to a degree, with some skeptics saying it was a tale created by martial arts instructors to glamourize their schools to prospective students. Another origin possibility is that the nunchuck was derived from an Okinawan horse bit, in which shared similar characteristics and was heavily available to most people at the time.

Additionally, the nunchuck was simply a shorter version of a flail found in Southeast Asia, in which it was used to thrash grains like rice, wheat, and soybeans. However, no matter which origin is true (perhaps none are), the nunchuck made an impact (in more ways than one) on Japanese culture, which permeated quickly to eager professional martial artists (and amateurs alike) in the United States.

From The Movies To The Streets

Once the nunchuck was seen on the big screen in ninja movies and notably the famous Bruce Lee flick, Fist of Fury, its popularity and the number of units sold increased exponentially. With sales increasing through the late seventies and early eighties, nunchucks were plentiful on the streets in the hands of both adults and kids.

Though experienced martial artists were versed in their use, amateurs would soon realize that the nunchuck was not an easy weapon to master, and many incurred bumps, bruises, and even minor bone breaks when practicing (translation: playing around with) with them. After emergency rooms began being inundated with nunchuck-related injuries, as well as their use by street gangs in urban areas, the action began being taken by state officials, putting a damper on its use and even possession, depending upon where you lived.

Everybody looks cooler swinging around a set of nunchucks in a martial arts flick. But are they good weapons to defend yourself in real life?
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Dangerous And Illegal

In 1974, California banned nunchucks, stating that they were too dangerous and deadly to be used by anyone other than professional martial artists. Three states, New York, Arizona, and Massachusetts, soon followed, and possessing this deadly Japanese weapon became illegal. Other states over the years have adopted various stances on the possession and use of the weapon ranging from very relaxed laws to extremely strict ones with repercussions ranging from fines to jail terms.

Only recently, many states eased up severely on the laws surrounding the nunchuck, so much so that most of them now allow ‘chucks’ to be used as self-defense weapons (be sure to check your state for current nunchuck laws.) Now that they are permitted, the question needs to be asked…. are they good for self-defense purposes? That’s the million-dollar question.

Nunchucks For Self-Defense?

I wish this question had an easy and definitive answer with no grey area, but this isn’t the case. Using nunchucks as a self-defense weapon in a “real life” scenario is genuinely not the best option, in my opinion, and as a user of said weapon throughout my life, for a few distinct reasons. First, one must consider concealability and the space needed to be effective. Let’s face it. Most people won’t walk around with a pair of ‘chucks’ in their back pocket, in a briefcase, laptop bag, or purse regularly due to their oversized design and awkward storage capability.

This severely limits their access to you during the greater portion of your active day. Second, having enough space to use them properly would be severely hampered in tight, confined areas like a hallway, elevator, or packed entertainment venue.

The Final Scene

Finally, and this one’s the biggie, if you aren’t extremely (and I stress, extremely) skilled in using nunchucks, then you should never expect them to aid you when your life may be in danger. More often than not, you wouldn’t hit your intended target, you might have them taken away from you and used against you, or most likely, you’ll end up hitting and injuring yourself, and thus assisting your attacker by making his job much more manageable.

However, nunchucks are not a total failure in the field of self-defense, as they can intimidate an attacker, giving him pause as to whether to advance or tackle an easier target, as well as successfully keeping distance between yourself and another armed or unarmed assailant coming towards you. Using nunchucks for simple and direct strikes to an attacker’s vital areas may aid your defense. Putting on a show with twirling and around-the-body tricks will only land you in the hospital much quicker and with an embarrassing story to tell.

Are you hungry for more SKILLSET Fight Club? Look no further: Master The Front Kick

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