Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Force and Power of Okinawan Nunchaku

Dai-Shihan Ben Froidevaux, 6th dan and All-Europe 
representative of Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate
Kobudo Kai

With today's unrest, one might consider carrying self-defense weapons, such as nunchaku. Nunchaku can generate tremendous forces when handled by a properly trained martial artist. But, the weapon must have sufficient mass, and the martial artist using nunchaku must be able to rapidly accelerate the tool to develop necessary kinetic energy to cause damage. 

Those who train at the Seiyo Hombu start with foam-rubber chuks during bunkai (self-defense) and kumite (sparring), or some train with DIY magazine-chuks (see link in list under the blog title). But even foam-rubber and magazine chuks can generate considerable force when handled correctly. 

We had a father and daughter combo in our dojo some years ago, and was able to film her (about 7 years old) creaming her dad with foam-chuks. The father ended hopping up and down on one foot, holding the other foot in his hand, after she had smashed his foot without warning with foam chuks, I asked permission to send the video to America's Funniest Home Videos and told him I would divide the winnings with him because we had a winner - but the father refused. 

In Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo, students are taught not to use their karate or kobudo against another except in self-defense, as nunchaku can produce some impressive forces. According to one source, a nunchaku tip of 6.3 ounces, can accelerate to 88 meters/second (282 feet/second) and generate 350 joules of kinetic energy. According to this source, this would equal the energy generated by a bullet fired from a Colt M1911! But, a nunchaku will not penetrate a body, unlike aerial dynamic bullets with high specific gravity. Luckily, few can generate this kind of force with nunchaku.
Nunchaku made from two magazines and tape

Human bones are strong! For instance, a bone can survive a strike of 10,000 joules of kinetic energy (3,700 foot-pounds of force) as long at the strike is perpendicular to the surface. Additionally, most bones are padded with soft tissue to adsorb the impact. But a strike at an angle of less than 15 degrees can potentially fracture a bone with about 375 joules of kinetic energy (277 foot-pounds of force). Keep in mind that each bone in the human body, had different masses and different amounts of padding.

The impact-force of nunchaku depends on the speed of the nunchaku and surface area of impact. The damage to a person depends on how fast that chuk travels, the mass of the chuk, and the surface area the force is applied to. In addition, if the surface is soft, such as a stomach, the flesh will absorb considerable amounts of kinetic energy. But if the surface is a hard (such as a collar bone with little surrounding flesh) the damage will be greater (Hausel, in prep).

The tip of a Colt M1911 bullet has a surface of 25 square-millimeters, thus the impact force is calculated as 350/25 = 14 joules/square-millimeter. But if a nunchaku strikes the same surface, the impact force will be notably less because of the surface area, or size of nunchaku. So, we might end up with about 350/100 = 3.5 joules/square millimeter, or essentially 4 times lower impact force than a bullet (assuming that the striking area of the nunchaku is about 1 square-centimeter (0.15 square-inch)). This is why octagonal nunchaku are more effective than round nunchaku. Because of the geometry of the octagonal chuks, the chance of hitting a target with one of the eight octagonal edges is relatively high, and such a smaller surface area will result in an increase in impact force. 

Nunchaku-jutsu, Seiyo Hombu in Mesa, Arizona
Because of small bone diameters with minimum amounts of soft flesh enclosing finger and hand bones (as well as many nerve endings), fingers and hands provide good striking surfaces. Other targets with little soft tissue include toes, ankles, shins, elbows, collar bones, and the head. But one should always avoid the head, which has areas that could lead to death if struck with nunchaku.

In the following video, Soke Hausel of Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai, demonstrates one of many kata. It is important to learn to handle kobudo weapons, with force, speed and power, but don't try this without proper guidance, as you can easily end up with a serious injury if you strike yourself, or are struck by another person, or receive a strike from a ricochet of nunchaku. And hospitals today, are places to avoid, unless you appreciate violation of constitutional and human rights. 

Hausel, W.D., in prep., Making of a Grandmaster: traditional Okinawan Karate & Koabudo in North America, in preparation.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Nunchaku - Learn from a Qualified Instructor, or buy lots of Ice.

Shihan-Dai Ben Moeur with nunchaku

is one of my favorite Okinawan farming tools. But if you decide to learn to use this, don't just be a farmer, be a farmer in angry white pajamas and learn to use it correctly!

The few schools in the Phoenix Valley that teach this tool usually have little expertise and charge an arm and a leg to teach you how to swing it and often people end up with bruises. If you are learning to use one of these with a pair of glow lights attached to a cord, my recommendation would be to search for a new sensei and school

Nunchaku is more or less thought to be indigenous to Okinawa, and thus many of the traditional Shorin-Ryu karate schools teach this weapon along with traditional karate. At our school on the corner of Baseline and MacDonald, we teach this weapon in both kata and in self-defense. Come join our friendly Okinawan and Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert farmers - we would love to meet you. Our hombu dojo is opened to the public and we are just right down the street from Gilbert Costco and Walmart.

Kyoshi Adam, 8th dan, demonstrates hillbilly kobudo at the Arizona Hombu

Soke Hausel and other black belts demonstrate kobudo at International
Students Day, University of Wyoming.

Training in kata at the Hombu in Mesa, Arizona

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Nunchuks and the Law

 Started training in martial arts early in life, and the first kobudo weapon I learned was the Okinawan nunchaku. All who trained with this tool, realized it was not something you could learn over night. It took considerable muscle memory and practice, and periodic self-inflicted bruises to learn correctly. I taught nunchaku while at the University of Utah in the late 1960s, and later at the University of New Mexico in the 1970s.

Nunchaku is thought to be an Okinawan farming tool (aka chuks, numchuk, numbchuk, etc). So, years later, when I left the University of Wyoming after teaching karate and kobudo for three decades and moved to Arizona, I was mystified nunchaku was illegal in the Copper State - a known conservative state that supported the US constitution. In all other states I lived in, nunchaku was legal and protected by the 2nd Amendment - but four states; for no apparent reason, outlawed this martial arts tool (Arizona, New York, Massachusetts, and California). Now, only in California and Massachusetts can a person be arrested for expressing his/hers right to bear arms and learn this kobudo weapon.

Today, I teach students to use nunchaku in kobudo and samurai arts classes in Mesa, Arizona, and I include many other tools and weapons; such as samurai weapons known as katana (sword), yari (spear), naginata (pole arm), hanbo (half-staff), bo (full staff), manrikigusari (chain), jujutsu, tanto (knife), kubotan and others. Then there are the many kobudo tools or weapons, such as kuwa (garden hoe), ra ke (rake), sai (forks), kama (sickles), nuntei bo, sansetsukon, and others. Prior to moving to Arizona, I taught these weapons in traditional martial arts classes to students, faculty and staff at the University of Wyoming.
"My bruises are better than yours"

"In the hands of an expert, nunchaku can be lethal, but in the hands of an amateur, nunchaku can only be dangerous to one's self".  But to make nunchaku illegal, makes no sense - there are rocks, sticks, bats, manufactured weapons and even vehicles that are much more lethal, and require little to no training or philosophy to use".

Nunchaku was popularized as a martial arts weapon by Bruce Lee in the 1973 movie, Enter the Dragon as well as by Tadashi YamashitaEnter the Dragon was not only entertaining, but apparently gave some future lawmakers nightmares. How else can one explain outlawing this tool.

The nunchaku is an excellent martial arts tool designed to improve motor skills along with ethics and concern for others, when taught in traditional martial arts schools. It takes time to learn proper muscle memory to use the Okinawan kobudo weapon, and each martial artist is also taught to be concerned for his/hers fellow men and women. Most bunkai (self-defense applications) use nunchaku as self-defense sticks while held in your hands, and only a small percentage of bunkai use nunchaku with release strikes.

When I started martial arts in the 60s, it was common knowledge that if you wanted to get even with someone, you simply gave them a pair of nunchaku without instruction. In those days, all nunchaku were made out of hard wood with chains in garage workshops and were brutal when a person began swinging them around, especially after the 1973 Bruce Lee movie when many wannabes tried to imitate Sifu Lee and bruised their heads, elbows, knees, shins - and ... well let's say, most are lucky they were able to later have kids. So, what is so wrong with this?

We even heard one story back in the early 70s or a person apprehending themselves for the California police after they attempted to rob a bank using nunchaku. Stepping back from the teller to give a performance, the criminal accidentally struck himself in the head - but apparently did not receive any award for apprehending a bank robber. 

In Kentucky, apparently a person can obtain a permit for concealed carry of nunchaku and shuriken. In Arizonanunchaku was listed with bombs, grenades, rockets, poison gas (does this include outhouses?), automatic weapons, sawed off shotguns. But finally, we are now free to swing our nunchaku out in the public.

It is crazy for any legislator to outlaw something they know little to nothing about. Martial arts requires dedication and integrity, something lacking in legislators. Ever see a Congressman in a traditional martial arts class

We searched the internet (which is full of misleading information) to try to gain insight on what is legal and what is illegal when it comes to kobudo. Do not consider the internet as an authority on laws and legislation - instead, visit your local police department and ask about laws on kobudo weapons. Be sure not to take any with you.

Here are some pieces of information we found on the internet about the possession of nunchakuNunchaku are still illegal in California for civilians, but not for police officers, but in California it is legal to be illegal and many other weird things. Personally, I've never heard of a single person dying from a nunchaku attack, although there are reports in Great Britain - but what would you expect from a nation that drives on the wrong side of the road? A few people in Great Britain drank themselves to death last year, but you don't see booze being outlawed. 

Personally, I feel government  should be required to operate on tips rather than taxes. Thus, if they offer good service, they should receive a tip, but we all know that if this policy were instituted, governments worldwide would go out of business within a week. 

We were glad to see that a legislator in Lake Havasu City, Arizona moved forward with a bill to legalize nunchaku in Arizona. Wow, a government representative who actually appears to be working for the concern of its people.  After all John Adams wrote - “Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny, or private self-defense.” Nowhere does it specify what can be used as a self-defense weapon. And the US Constitution supports John Adams. So, how can individual states override the US Constitution?

So, whether its Bruce Lee, the Ninja Turtles, or an ex-girlfriend, we need to investigate just how dangerous nunchaku is before legislators outlaw a perfectly good martial arts tool.

It seems that modern society is doomed to repeat history. After King Shoshin on Okinawa outlawed bladed weapons, Okinawa was invaded by samurai from Japan. And even the feared weapon by legislators today couldn't save the Okinawan people in the 17th century. But finally, in May 2019, justice prevailed, when Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill making nunchaku legal to carry in Arizona once again. Thank you!

Where does it say in the Constitution that Nunchaku should be illegal for civilians?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Nunchaku - a weapon of self-defense from Okinawa

Soke Hasel demonstrates Nunchaku at the Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu
Karate Kobudo Kai hombu in Mesa, Arizona 
The word nunchaku
strikes up
images of Okinawan masters defending against
samurai with a pair of sticks attached to horse
hair rope or chain. Chuks are used either as one pair, and
for those who are ambidextrous,
two can also be employed.

Originally, a farmer's tool, nunchaku was converted to a self-defense weapon. But in the hands of an amateur, it could provide considerable entertainment. Nunchaku (also spelled nanchaku or nunchuku) is known to many Westerners as nunchuks or even 'numb-chuks'. It was originally used as (1) Okinawa threshing flail, (2) cart rail, and/or (3) horse bridle.

Even the word nunchaku rings with controversy. The word may be from the Japanese pronunciation of a two sectional staff, or it may be from the word used for horse bridle. By combining two Japanese words: 'nun' meaning ‘twin’ and 'shaku' the approximate ‘length of bamboo between two nodes, one ends up with the word 'nunshaku. The word for Okinawan horse bit or bridle is nunchiyaku, also similar to nunchaku. 
Paper Chuks - made from magazines

Some suggest nunchaku was modified from a farmer’s threshing tool. The threshing flail consisted of a long stick attached to a smaller stick by horse hair. Threshing tools were once common agricultural tools in farming communities around the world including Okinawa where it was used to separate grain from husks, or rice from stems. A threshing tool once used in the past, had a 5-foot long handle with a 3 foot striking stick. Although there are only rare references to using a threshing flail as a kobudo weapon, it is not hard to imagine farmers, who used this tool 10 to 12 hours a day during harvest, became adept in using it as a weapon. Even so, a flail could not have been used as nunchuku without modification. Thus, if the flail was the origin of nunchaku, it would have to have been modified by cutting both sticks to equal length.

Another interesting feature of nunchaku is that this martial arts weapon has no traditional kata like many traditional kobudo kata. The bo has more than a dozen traditional kata named after authors or geographical locations. It is thought that this is due to the lack of popularity of nunchaku in Asian history. In modern time, the weapon became popularized by Bruce Lee and Tadashi Yamashita.

Nunchaku techniques include blocks and strikes similar to karate with a few release strikes. Striking an object with nunchaku can be a problem, as the tool rebounds. Another problem with nunchaku is distance. A samurai sword (katana), halberd (naginata) or spear (yari) easily out-reach nunchaku.


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 1969, that I was introduced to kobudo (5 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.

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.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Okinawa Nunchaku classes in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa Arizona

The nunchaku is a challenge to learn, but with today's foam chuks, it is easier than in the old days when all we had were
  nunchaku we made ourselves from whatever wood and chain we could find. It resulted in many bruises and in some
practitioners not being able to have children (just kidding). But we mastered the weapon after many bruises. Most people
 today have it easy as they start with foam chuks. The problem with foam chuks is that  they are very cheaply made with a
 breakable plastic cylinder that shatters. Nunchaku was designed as a blocking, striking and grappling weapon that did not
require many release (swinging) strikes. Kata will teach you proper muscle memory, blocks, strikes, etc.

Nunchaku (ヌンチャク), a traditional karate weapon of kobudo (沖縄古武道), can be found at the Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai Hombu in Mesa Arizona. This traditional karate weapon is taught along with the empty hand of karate as has been the case for karate and kobudo for  centuries on Okinawa. Classes in this Okinawa weapon are taught to all of our adult and family students at the border of Chandler with Gilbert Mesa Arizona on Kobudo nights at our dojo (martial arts school). Children are also introduced to kobudo weapons as they train with their parents.

Members of the Mesa Karate school (dojo - 道場) and learn to use the nunchaku, not like a twirlers baton seen in many schools where a martial artist is more of a danger to oneself than to others, but instead, students at the Arizona Hombu learn to use this classical kobudo tool as it was intended: a weapon of self-defense along with kata and bunkai.

Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai members can receive certification in this karate weapon after about a year of  training where they learn kihon (基本) (basic blocks, strikes, stances, chokes), several kata () (forms) along with bunkai (分解) (practical applications) and kumite (組手) (sparring). One must also come into the dojo with the proper spirit of learning 'Self-Defense' rather than 'Self-Offense', if they want to learn.

Both men and women learn to use the nunchaku at the Hombu dojo. 

Ben attacks with knife only to have it parried by nunchaku during kobudo class

Friday, December 16, 2011


Paula (2nd dan) knees Bill after hooking his neck with nunchaku
during kobudo classes at the Seiyo Kai Hombu in Mesa, Gilbert and
Chandler, East Valley of Phoenix.

Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo go hand in hand at the Arizona Hombu in Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler in the east valley of Phoenix, Arizona, where members train in Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Karate. Such traditional karate focuses on development of power and respect - and teaches deshi (students) how to use weapons: most anything can be use as a weapon!

I remember hearing about an attempted bank robbery back in the late 60s to 70s that took place in California (where else?). The would-be robber had been watching Bruce Lee and wanted to show off. After telling the bank teller he was armed with "numb-chuks", he stepped back with his bag of money, started showing off and apprehended himself with a nice blow to the middle of his head. SO, if you would like to get rid of most of the crooks - give them a pair of nunchaku without lessons. It is guaranteed to work. Don't like your neighbor? Give him a pair of nunchuks for his birthday.

"Nunchaku is like a snake - mistreat it & it will bite" - Soke Hausel

Sensei Pritchett (a biologist) blocks hanbo attack by Sensei Harden (a nutritionist) using nunchaku during kobudo training at the Arizona Hombu dojo.