Saturday, May 11, 2019

Nunchuks and the Law

I 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 learned to use nunchaku while at the University of Utah in the late 1960s.

Nunchaku is thought to be an Okinawan farming tool (aka chuks, numchuk, numbchuk, etc). So, many years later, when I left the University of Wyoming 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 towns 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.

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.
"I think 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 governor!

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 Hausel 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 Arizona 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.

Sensei Harden captures Sensei Scofield's (an engineer) wrist during kobudo class at the
Arizona Hombu dojo

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nunchaku & Kobudo

Traditional Okinawa Karate and Kobudo arts along with self-defense and samurai arts, are taught in the east valley of Phoenix at the Arizona Hombu Dojo on the border of Chandler with Gilbert and Mesa.
Nunchaku is a tool used by some Okinawan farmers that was converted into a weapon of self-defense following the ban of bladed weapons on Okinawa by King Shoshin in 1480AD due to his concern over a possible revolt by the people. In the hands of an expert, it was a formable weapon, but in the hands of an amateur, it provided and still provides considerable entertainment.

Tsuki uchi with nunchuks (thrust strike).
Okinawan kobudo is thought of as the ‘ancient, or old, martial way of Okinawa’. Kobudo evolved from kobujutsu, a koryu (old system) that refers to ancient fighting methods of the Okinawan penchin and Japanese samurai. Many people better know these as martial arts weaponsKobujutsu implies fighting techniques without esoteric value, whereas kobudo has esoteric philosophy. 'Kobu' translates as old and 'jutsu' refers to the techniques or schools of Okinawa pechin class that were equivalent to Japanese samurai. This is unlike kobudo which implies there is philosophical and redeeming values by adding the suffix ‘do’. A word that is periodically used in place of kobujutsu is bukijutsu: 'buki' meaning weapon. Thus bukido would imply some kind of esoteric influence. That esoteric value would manifest itself in kata.

Most non-Asians ignore the semantics between kobudo and kobujutsu and use these words interchangeable as do many martial artists in Arizona. But it is important to understand there is a difference. Both may use the same techniques, but it is in how they employ those techniques that makes a difference. Kobudo uses techniques in kata and emphasizes philosophy and self-improvement of the person and spirit. Each time we practice kobudo kata at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Arizona, there is a subtle reminder of the 'way' or 'path' we seek or the person we would like to become.

We bow (rei) at the beginning of karate and kobudo kata and we bow at the end of kata just as we do at the beginning and ending of our martial arts classes. This emphasizes respect for one another and provides an unspoken contract that we will humble ourselves to learn from our Sensei (martial arts teacher). The more you train in traditional karate & kobudo, bowing stimulates your subconscious telling you to respect, act with good manners, be non-violent, set goals to be a better person, etc, simply because you learn to affiliate these positive thoughts and philosophy with bowing in martial arts.

As budoka (practitioners of the martial way) we must always be aware that the opposite can happen. If you were to train in a dojo (martial arts school) that emphasized negative thoughts, these would sooner or later manifest themselves as negative affirmations in your subconscious. Even though it was just a movie, this is what we saw in the first Karate Kid. Every time martial artists from the Cobra-Kai dojo trained in sport martial arts, they were reminded by their Sensei to win at any cost and “show no mercy”; whereas, Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san to associate karate kata and training with positive affirmations.

Gichin Funakoshi pencil sketch by Soke
I’ve trained in karate schools that were similar to Cobra-Kai where students were encouraged to fight on the streets to practice martial arts. In Seiyo Kai, this type of activity would get you expelled from our association and lead you down a path that ultimately could end up in your incarceration. This is the one quality anyone should investigate in any dojo prior to training – find out about the philosophy of the dojo and Sensei. This was why Gichin Funakoshi and other Okinawan karate masters of the 20th century so strongly objected to the Japanese turning karate into sport: it provided a strong negative overtone by focusing on winning and attacking, rather than its real purpose – to make us better people. But the old ancient fighting systems (bujutsu) had a different concept behind them, they were designed for one thing, and one thing only: to defeat your enemy on a battlefield – no philosophy required. Ancient bujutsu taught practitioners to attack and kill with little regard to human life. But with evolution of bujutsu to budo, things changed dramatically. To be sure you find a school and instructor with good credentials and a good reputation, we always recommend that you simply type in the name of the martial arts school or the name of the instructor and do a quick websites on Bing and Google. It shouldn't take long to find out if the school is the type of school you would be interested in. Remember, there is a very high percentage of schools with instructors that have no evidence of proper certification let alone any certification other than what they purchased on the internet. But just the opposite will also be found. Many good instructors that have evidence of certification and lineage.

Master Cho, copyright pencil sketch
by Soke Hausel

Today, most traditional martial arts in the world (and Arizona) are a discipline with esoteric benefits for the mind and spirit and physical benefits for the body.

It doesn’t take a genius to see some influence of Buddhism and Shinto in martial arts, but even so, martial arts are not a religion and the influence is philosophical. For example, we do not have to practice martial arts to go to heaven nor we do not have to practice martial arts to be a good person. It’s just a tool to help us become more confident and better members of society. It teaches us valuable lessons in building affirmations (or goal setting). By following a martial arts path, one can improve no matter what their beliefs or practices. Martial arts should complement one’s religion, unless that religion is based on evil. The majority of our students worldwide are Christians as is our Soke (Grandmaster), but our association also has a large number of Mormons, along with some Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and agnostics. Through martial arts, we build positive relationships.

There is another important characteristic of budo that people miss. Budo requires a lifetime commitment. No matter how long you train, there is always more to learn in martial arts. If you earn a black belt, it means nothing if you do not continue to practice. It would be like earning a college degree in engineering and then going to work as a shoe salesman. You may have an engineering degree, but you would really be a shoe salesman rather than an engineer.

Nunchaku kata training in Mesa, Arizona
Kobudo (martial arts weapons) uses agriculture and fishing tools such as: (1) bo (wooden staff), (2) sai (trucheon), (3) tonfa (millstone handles), (4) nunchaku (rice flail), (5) kama (sickle), (6) tekko (knuckle dusters), (7) tinbe-rochin (turtle shell shield & spear), (8) surujin (chain), (9) eku or sunakakebo (oar), (10) tanbo (short staff), (11) kuwa (farmers hoe), (12) nunti (staff with attached sai), (13) sansetkun (3-sectional staff), (14) kobutan or yawara (stick), (15) manrikigusari (weighted chain), (16) hari (fish hook), (17) chizikunbo (fish net handles), (18) gifa (hairpin), (19) ra-ke or kue (rake), (20) utsubo or kudamonbo (threshing flail), (21) shaku kama (pole with attached kama), (22) hanbo (half bo), (23) tanto (knife) (24) nireki, (25) surichin (rope with rocks) (26) tetsubo or kanabo and other tools.

Unlike karate - kobudo was family oriented and developed different kata and techniques derived from various families and/or geographic locations on Okinawa with little interaction from outsiders; whereas karate was developed geographically within three different Okinawa villages – Shuri, Naha and Tomarei. This resulted karate kata affiliated with distinct villages or styles, while kobudo kata either bared the name of a person who developed the kata or the name of the village where it was created. For example, Sakagawa no kun translates as ‘Sakagawa’s bo form’ in probable reference to Tode Sakagawa, one of the early members in the Shorin-Ryu Karate lineage as well as the lineage of Seiyo No Shorin-Ryu Karate Renmei practiced at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler just a short distance from Tempe.

One of the kobudo tools or martial arts weapons that remain a mystery is the nunchuku (also spelled nanchaku and nunchaku) and known to many Westerners as nunchuks or numchuks. Its place of origin and how it was developed is a matter of controversy. Did it originate in China (or some other southeast Asian country) and was later introduced to Okinawa: or was it weapon indigenous to Okinawa?

Actually there are several possibilities that include: (1) Chinese weapon, (2) threshing flail, (3) cart rail, and (4) horse bridle.

Even the word nunchuku is subject to controversy. The word may be from China, it may have been from the Japanese pronunciation of a two sectional staff, or it may have been derived from the word used for horse bit or bridle. By combining two Japanese words: nun meaning ‘twin’ and shaku the approximate ‘length of bamboo between two nodes’ (about one foot in length), one ends up with the word nunshaku that is very similar to nunchuku. The word for Okinawan horse bit or bridle is nunchiyaku, also similar to nunchuku. The parts of a nunchaku consist essentially of two short staffs attached by horse hair.

Many suggest a possible origin for nunchuku was modification of 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 Quebec had a handle 5 feet in length with the striking stick about 3 feet in length. Although there are only extremely rare references to use of 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, becoming very affective in using it as a weapon without any modification.

Some school teachers train in kobudo at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa. Our dojo has many school teachers and university faculty members because of Soke Hausel's past association with universities, because of the traditional and
 historical education taught to the members of our school, and because of the pragmatic approach to self-defense.
A flail could not have been used as nunchuku without modification. Imagine the difficulty swinging a flail around like you would a nunchuku. Thus, if the flail was the origin of nunchuku, it would have to have been modified by cutting one or both sticks to make them equal length.

One variation of nunchuku is a three-sectional tool known as a sansetsukon (or sanchuk). The sanchuk was likely a Chinese weapon introduced to Okinawa. By breaking a link of a sanchuk, either on purpose or by accident, one has a nunchuku. There is a tool used on Okinawa that looks like a sanchuk, it is essentially a cart rail. This was a removable rail which prevented large stacks of cane from slipping off of a flat-bed hand cart.

Another possibility for the origin of this weapon is the Okinawan horse bit or bridle (nunchiyaku). The Okinawan horse bridle has similarities to nunchuku, not only in name, but also in shape. Although the handles are curved rather than straight, in time, such a weapon could have been modified to straight sticks.

A nunchiyaku, or Okinawan horse bridle, consisted to two curved sticks attached by horse hair and placed around the horse’s neck.

Another interesting feature of nunchaku is that this martial arts weapon has no traditional kata like many of the traditional kobudo kata. The bo has more than a dozen traditional kata named after the authors or geographical locations. Many of these are practiced at the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa and also by members of Seiyo Kai International. It is considered by others that this was due to the lack of popularity of nunchaku in Asian history and it was seldom used in self-defense.

Even so, the nunchuku is a good weapon if used properly. Most techniques are designed similar to karate blocks and strikes with few release strikes; however most nunchaku kata have many release strikes which can be dangerous to the user because of rebound. Another problem with nunchuku is distance. A samurai sword (katana), halberd (naginata) or spear (yari) easily out-reaches the nunchaku. On the other hand, a martial artist who was skilled in nunchaku had the edge on multiple unarmed opponents or against an opponent armed with a knife (tanto). At the Arizona School of Traditional Karate in Mesa, students learn to use nunchaku in self-defense against armed opponents with knives and guns and unarmed opponents. Our Seiyo Kai International students also learn to use nunchaku against the classical samurai weapons..

A similar weapon to the nunchaku taught at the Arizona Hombu in Mesa is that of sansetsukon - or three sectional staff.