Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ouch, momma mia, thud, whomp, eeeek. Some sounds expressed by real people when learning nunchaku - an Okinawa peasant tool converted into a weapon. Yes, in the old days, it was a pain to learn to use nunchaku, that’s because all nunchaku were hand made from hard wood and chains. But nowadays, this is remedied by foam-rubber chuks, paper chuks, etc. 

It wasn’t until about 1970 or 1971, that I was introduced to kobudo (6 or 7 years after I began training in karate). The first Okinawan weapon I was introduced to was nunchaku. Nunchaku at the time was new in the US, but made very popular by Bruce Lee’s movie Enter the Dragon and also introduced by Sensei Yamashita about the same time. The origin of this weapon/tool is controversial, but thought to be indigenous to Okinawa, with possibilities of originating in China. 

At the time I was introduced to Nunchaku I was a student of geology at the University of Utah. Apparently, no one had thought to make nunchaku out of a material that would not bruise those of us who trained with it. In fact, nunchaku was not available on the market in the US as far as I’m aware, so we typically made our own using two pieces of hard wood, added a crown bolt to the end of the sticks, and attached a short chain between the crown bolts.

Soke Hausel, grandmaster of Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo
demonstrates nunchaku at the Arizona Hombu Dojo
in Mesa, Arizona
So bruises were self induced during kobudo training. Swinging a nunchaku around the head, against ones hip, under the arm, between the legs either made one tough, or quit. Me, I continued to train and periodically negative reinforcement from hitting myself in the shin or elbow began to imprint in my mind that if I wanted to survive kobudo, I had to remember not to bring that stick so close to my shin when swinging downward. Self-preservation kicked in and I seldom hit myself again. But learning nunchaku provided some unique sounds in the dojo when various individuals would strike shins, elbows, groins, and even their heads as each appendage provided a different sound and different response from the person learning to use nunchaku

Today, nunchaku is a lot easier to learn. Martial arts supply houses sell padded chucks, and one can even make their own chuks using magazines and/or duct tape. And I still teach nunchaku to my students around the world and at my Arizona Hombu Dojo in Mesa, Arizona. The tool is not as popular as it once was, but it is something that I still love to train with in kata and self-defense applications known as bunkai.

Soke Hausel teaching nunchaku clinic at the University of Wyoming

Training in kobudo at the Arizona Hombu Karate Dojo in Mesa, AZ

Soke Hausel demonstrates applications of nunchaku to members of the Utah Shorin-Kai at an outdoor clinic at the East
Canyon resort near Park City, Utah.


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