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A pair of hardwood sticks joined by a chain or cord and used as a weapon. Often used in the plural.
[Okinawan Japanese, probably from Chinese (Taiwanese) neng-cak, type of farm implement, equivalent to Chinese (Mandarin) li®£ng, two, paired + Chinese (Mandarin) záo, to dig, digger.]
Note added at 2005-04-12 23:57:54 (GMT)
nun·cha·ku or nun·chuck or num·chuck
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
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A nunchaku (Chinese: ô‘êflûû shuÇng jié gùn, ô_êflûû li®£ng jié gùn, or éOêflûû sÇn jié gùn), also called nunchucks or nunchuks (sometimes hyphenated as nun-chucks or nun-chuks or spaced as nun chucks or nun chuks), is a martial arts weapon of the kobudo weapons set and consists of two sticks connected at their ends with a short chain or rope. The other Kobudo weapons are the Sai, Tonfa, Bo and Kama.
Nunchaku in popular culture
The nunchaku were made popular in the West mostly due to their use by Bruce Lee in a scene from his film Enter the Dragon (though he had actually used nunchaku in earlier movies), in which he demonstrates Eskrima flail techniques. Michaelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was also known for using nunchaku. In the U.K. version of the 1987 cartoon series, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, the nunchaku was censored out. Also, the weapon that Selphie Tilmitt of Final Fantasy VIII wields is called nunchaku in the NTSC versions of Final Fantasy VIII, and shinobou in the PAL version.
Formal nunchaku styles
The most common martial arts to use nunchaku are the Japanese martial arts such as some forms of karate, but some Eskrima systems also teach practitioners to use nunchaku. The styles of these two arts are rather different; the traditional Okinawan arts would have used the sticks primarily to grip and lock, while the Filipino arts would have used the sticks primarily for striking.
In the early 80\'s, 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 the Tongfa, also known as the common police baton, which also finds its origin in the Kobudo weapons family. This system emphasises only a small subset of the nunchaku techniques, for speedier training.
There is now a dedicated World Nunchaku Association, based in the Netherlands, which teaches Nunchaku-Do as a contact sport. They use yellow and black plastic weight balanced training chucks and protective headgear. They have their own belt colour system where you earn colour stripes on the belt instead of using the full colour belts. In competition, one opponent turns over the belt, as one side is white and the other black.
The origin of this weapon is still a matter of controversy and debate. Both the geographical point of origin and its original function are not agreed upon. The two most prominent theories are: a modified Okinawan (Japan) farmer\'s tool and an original flail-weapon brought from China by sailors.
Also referred to as a rice flail or karate stick, the nunchaku are often explained as an ancient tool used by farmers for threshing rice, it is uncertain whether the nunchaku were used in their exact form for this purpose, as the equal length of the sticks would make rice flailing impractical. A long pole with a short stick attached by chain is a more common shape for a grain flail, but the best shape for a flail depends on the crop. The flails currently used in martial arts classes may have been modified for convenience. Another common explanation is that nunchaku were originally the bit that placed in a horse\'s mouth to aid in steering. While this is logical, the shape and materials used would have been heavily modified for martial arts use.
Anatomy of the traditional nunchaku
A nunchaku is two sections of wood (or metal in modern incarnations) connected by a cord or chain. Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas Japanese are octagonal. The ideal length of each piece should be the length of the users forearm; the bone between elbow and wrist. Traditionally both ends are of equal length (although asymmetrical nunchakus exist). The ideal length for the connecting rope/chain can be calibrated for each individual by letting the rope hang over the wrist, with the sticks hanging comfortably pointing straight to the ground, but without giving more rope than is necessary for it to do so. Weight balance is extremely important, cheaper or gimmicky nunchakus (such as glow-in-the-dark ones) are often not properly balanced, which prevent 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 must be made from a hardwood that is strong yet flexible, such as oak, loquat or pasania. Originally, the wood would be submersed in mud for several years, where lack of oxygen and optimal acidity prevent rotting. The end result is a hardened wood. The rope was made from horsehair, said to be able to block a sword. (Although likely, there is no recorded confirmation of this.) Finally, the wood is painted and varnished to keep colour.
There are various traditional alternative forms such as the 3-sectional and 4-sectional staff, these are nunchaku with 3 and 4 interconnecting pieces.
Anatomy of the modern nunchaku
The modern nunchaku can be made from any material: from wood as well as from almost any plastic or fiberglass material. Modern equivalents of the rope are nylon or metal chains on ball bearing joints.
The Nunchaku-Do sport, governed by the World Nunchaku Association, promotes black and yellow Styrofoam chucks. The difference with readily available plastic training chucks is that these are properly balanced.
There are some alternate nunchakus such as:
* Telescopic Nunchakus: which are metal retractable chucks, available in 2 sizes.
* Glow-Chucks - made either with fibreglass and a coloured light fitted in the ball bearing or some kind of fluorescent taping around the sticks.
* Penchakus: There 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, which allows the user to keep a continuous flowing form.
Nunchaku in combat
When used in combat, the nunchaku provide the obvious advantage of an increase in the reach of one\'s strike. Although somewhat difficult to control, the rope or chain joint of the nunchaku adds the benefit of striking from unexpected angles. The motion of the nunchaku is often found distracting by opponents, who may have trouble keeping up with the nunchaku\'s rapid motion. In addition, the reach of the nunchaku is often underestimated, even by those experienced with its use.
The wooden or metal sections of the nunchaku are used to strike, while the joint is used to apply locks or chokes.
Care of the nunchaku
For wooden nunchaku it is advisable (although not strictly necessary) to clean the nunchaku with a cloth moistened in olive oil, camellia oil or any other plant oil for easier grip and this also prevents fading of the original color (because it puts a coating layer where the varnish disappeared). To prevent wear of the nylon ropes candle wax can be coated at the tips where the most friction occurs. For true aficionados, you should learn to tie the traditional knots that bind the pieces. There is even an annual knot tying contest in Japan.
Metal chain and ball bearing chucks can also be oiled up to prevent wear and squeaking.
Unlike other kobudo weapons of the same period such as the Bo and Sai, there are no surviving Katas for the Nunchaku. Practice movements were transmitted by word of mouth and in limited writing, suggesting that the Nunchaku was a less formalized style, and training did not reach the level of sophistication as the other Budo weapons.
Luckily there are some internationally recognized grand masters, extremely talented people in the world, here listed with their respective publications:
* Tadashi Yamashita - Dynamic Nunchaku
* Jiro Shiroma - Nunchaku, the Complete Training Guide
* Fumio Demura - Nunchaku, Karate Weapon of Self Defense
Starting nunchaku training
To be written Advice: Never start training with a real one because you\'ll hurt yourself!!
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