In addition to traditional kobudo schools, nunchaku is taught in many other
modern martial-arts schools - from the Philippine martial arts to "american
ninjas". Different "old schools" adapted nunchaku to their style, like
Philippine martial arts or some Ju-Jutsu styles. Also, many of the new
martial arts which were developed in the 70s-90s, use nunchaku as one of
their basic weapons. What is common between all these schools is that they
use less-traditional kobudo techniques and training methods, and adapt their
school's usual techniques so that they can be used with nunchaku.
Because of large number of such schools, it's impossible to give any common
characteristics of the techniques and training methods that are used - they
vary from school to school. Some schools are kata-oriented like kobudo,
other schools don't use katas at all. Some schools are sports oriented,
preparing their students to enter tournaments. Others are oriented
toward street self-defence. Some schools uses mainly striking techniques, and
students are taught to use whip strikes from long distances. Other schools
teach grappling - throws, chokes, pain grabs and join locks etc. etc. It's
impossible to evaluate nunchaku techniques taught in this or that school
without evaluating the school itself.
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,
intended for police needs. It uses specially build plastic nunchaku instead
of the usual police baton (nightstick) or the PR-24 (side-handle baton) as a primary
control device for situations when the usage of a gun is unjustified. The arguments in
the plastic nunchaku's favour are its small size (12 inches), which makes it easier to
conceal, and to carry comfortably; its "ease-of-use", and the ability to
apply various non-lethal but effective techniques. There had been previous
attempts to use nunchaku for police work, but OPN is the first system which
is based on control and not on impact techniques. As Kevin Orcutt reports,
more than 200 law enforcement agencies in the USA use his system.
The OPN system teaches a limited number of simple techniques which can be
learned during a short training period. In this system, nunchaku is mainly
used for control during arrest or for self-defence against an empty-hand
attacker... a gun is used against an armed attacker. The OPN system include
various techniques for arrest and control: pain grabs/joint locks, takedowns,
"come-along" techniques, techniques for handcuffing, blocks against punches
and kicks (which may become a grab-control technique), and a few strikes
(which may be used only as a last resort). Any situation which allows
striking with the nunchaku, probably also allows the usage of a gun. From the
point of view of the martial artist, those few hours of training (instructors typically
receive 32-hour courses, then teach 16-hour courses) would only be the barest beginning,
but from the policeman's point of view, 16-hours of training is sufficient to do the job.
It's hard to compare OPN with other nunchaku systems because of it's special status, but
the fact that OPN has been used in real fights for more than 15 years clearly demonstrates
Visit the Orcutt Police Defensive Systems, Inc.
page if you are interested in additional info about this system.
Another kind of police nunchaku was developed by Bruce A. Hewitt. This tool
is called the "Tactical Restraint Baton"
or TR-22. Originally, TR-22 was similar to OPN, but Bruce Hewitt developed two
improved models. TR-22 O.C. has an O.C. sprayer - a pepper spray (oleoresin
capsicum) canister which is built into the nunchaku handle. TR-22 N.S. is a
non-striking nunchaku (which also may come with O.C. capability). It's a
unique patent-protected solution for areas where striking weapons are illegal.
This tool utilizes a retention strap, and because it cannot be used as a
striking weapon, the TR-22 N.S. doesn't fall under the nunchaku prohibition,
yet keeps it's ability to control. An additional plus-feature of the
non-striking nunchaku is that if the opponent takes it away from the policeman,
he will unable to use it against the policeman because he won't know how to
You probably heard about the Rodney King incident. I have no doubt that it
would not have happened if the policemen had been armed with police nunchaku
(especially with TR-22 N.S.), instead of or in addition to their PR-24. If
you are law enforcement officer - think about it.
There is one modern Martial Art school which deserves special mention.
Lissajous-Do was created by master Roy Williams,
(who claims he is "the genius of weapons" and the "#1 nunchaku artist in the world").
This style, which uses the nunchaku as its main weapon, is partially based on the
science of mathematics. Williams noticed that the patterns, which had been
developed empirically by generations of martial artists, matched some kind
of mathematical graphs - Lissajous figures. He systemizated the
weapon-patterns, and developed a weapons-art based on mathematical and
physical principles - Lissajous-Do.
I learned the techniques of the Lissajous-Do system from the "Advanced
Nunchaku" instructional tapes produced by master
Lee Barden (former student of Roy Williams), who currently heads his own organization
"Lissajous Weapons System". I ordered these tapes from
"Black & Blue Productions" company - and must
say that after almost 10 years of learning nunchaku I found a number of things which were
new and helpful.
Here is my opinion about the art as I understand it (mainly from Lee Barden's instructions).
Lissajous-Do mainly teaches non-stop flowing-striking sequences with single
and double nunchaku. This system uses special nunchaku ("penchaku" as
Williams calls them, or "pro-chux" as Barden calls them) which are adopted
for flowing-flailing techniques. The balance has been changed in the
nunchaku they use, and a shorter rope is used, which allows faster swinging
and better control of the motion, but does not allow some other techniques
(e.g. rope block). Techniques of nunchaku-motion-control (which often are
not taught in nunchaku classes - which is why students get bruises) are
systematized and taught from the basic level, so it's ideal for beginners.
After learning control-techniques, student learn striking-flow patterns,
which are based on Lissajous figures. These patterns allow you to move the
weapon non-stop - which means that there is no energy loss because of the
stopping of the motion. The Lissajous-Do techniques may be used both as
offence and defence at the same time. Students also learn techniques which
allow them to pass the weapon from hand-to-hand or to change grip dynamicaly
(without stopping motion). Some of these techniques have no combat usage,
but help to improve coordination and control of the weapon.
On an advanced level student learn non-stop flow-techniques with the double
nunchaku. When executed properly, it is like a hurricane rotating around
the practitioner! It looks spectacular and may be ideal for kata
competitions, but it can also be highly effective as a defence against
multiple attackers - unarmed or armed with short weapons. In addition, the
drills are very effective for the development of speed, stamina and
(especially) coordination. Most of the techniques may be used with other
weapons (I adapted them to double knives and double sticks) almost as well
as with nunchaku. A weak side of this style is that it doesn't deal at all
with some aspects of nunchaku art (e.g. close combat), so if you study
Lissajou-Do, you may want to complete your training by learning traditional
Nunchaku in the cinema
At the beginning of the 1970s, the now-legendary Bruce Lee brought nunchaku
to the notice of the western world for the first time. Millions of
film-goers worldwide saw how Bruce used some sticks (the nunchaku) to defeat
opponents who were armed with knives, batons, swords, and even guns! It was
then that the myth was born which says that the nunchaku is the most deadly
hand-held weapon in the world. The nunchaku immediately became one of the
most popular martial arts weapons, and appeared in many films. Both "good
guys" and "bad guys" in various films were armed with a nunchaku - even the
popular ninja-turtle, Michaelangelo.
The techniques used in the cinema are mainly basic, most primitive, but spectacular,
techniques - circular and figure-eight twirlings, whip-strikes and some
catches, making the artist look like a helicopter. Real combat techniques
are rarely seen on the screen. Blocks are rarely used, and takedowns or
joint-locks almost never. The most realistic nunchaku fighting scene which I
have seen was the backyard scene from Bruce Lee's "Return of the Dragon" (however the Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto duel
in the "Game of Death" - nunchaku versus nunchaku - was not so good, in
my opinion). It's odd, but films almost never show empty-hands-versus-nunchaku
techniques. Even actors who empty-handedly take on ten opponents armed with swords,
usually use a gun against an attacker armed with a nunchaku.
Nunchaku as sport
At the beginning of the 1990's, a new sport - Nunchaku-Do - was created in
the Netherlands. As with many other martial arts which have been converted
to a sport (e.g. boxing, fencing or spear-throwing), this art lost most of
its "martial" aspect. This sport includes three competition divisions - kata,
kumite and free-style. In most of schools, self-defence or nunchaku-jutsu are
Kata are pre-defined combinations of techniques which have to be done as
perfectly as possible. During the learning process, especially-created katas
helps students to practise all the techniques required for a particular belt
level. Within this discipline there is also a contest regulation.
Competitors are judged on speed, technique and style.
Kumite means a single combat fight. This discipline has a lot in common with
fencing. Two fighters, armed with safety foam-padded nunchaku and protected
by headguards, try to score 6 points by striking the other with a nunchaku.
You can only score after you've blocked an attempted score of the other, or
after you've made at least two techniques (the nunchaku changed hands two
times). Each strike which hits the opponent earns the fighter 1 point.
Difficult and effective strikes (e.g. strike to the head) earns the fighter
2 points. Hits are not allowed below the knee, in the groin, on the back
and on the throat. Also not allowed are: punches and kicks, grappling,
holding both handles of the nunchaku in one hand, and thrusting the opponent
with both handles. As you can see, there too many limitations to allow this
sport to be an effective martial art.
Free-style - is an exercise performed to music where the competitors are
free to use any kind of technique, both with a single nunchaku or two at the
same time. This discipline has a lot in common with callisthenics or
juggling; that is, virtuoso performances and incredable moves, which may be
impractical, but which look good. Within this discipline there is also a
contest regulation. Here the competitors are judged on originality, style
The Self-Defence or Nunchaku-Jutsu is the most "martial" division
of Nunchaku-Do. Within this discipline, students learn to defence themself
using nunchaku against different kinds of attack - both armed and unarmed.
Students are not only required to be able to strike with the nunchaku but
also to defend themselves in a controlled way, using blocks, joint locks,
takedowns and disarming. There are no competitions in this division, but
the test of nunchaku-jutsu techniques is a part of the black belt
examination from 1st dan and higher.
You can visit the official page of the World
Nunchaku Association for additional information about Nunchaku-Do.