Guide to Karate Weapons

Here is an in-depth look at the different Martial Arts Karate Weapons, their origins, uses, and techniques.

Karate Weapons
Karate Weapons

You’ve probably watched a martial arts movie and seen actors using various weapons. Would you like to know more about these weapons and how to use them? Keep reading to discover more.

Though you might not apply the techniques of using various weapons in real-life situations, learning about them is super beneficial. The knowledge improves hand coordination, develops muscles, enhances eye coordination, and makes you more experienced.

Are you curious to discover the various karate weapons used by martial artists and karate masters? Keep scrolling as we analyze the 11 most common weapons in karate, their history, and usage.

1.  The Best Defense Weapon: Bo Staff

The Bo is among the most popular martial art weapons in the Japanese Karate style. It’s mainly used by martial artists in China and Japan. The monks have popularized the Bo since they often carry them around as armor.

This self-defense weapon is available in different variations. Oak Bo staffs look like thick poles and have a taper at both ends. The wooden weaponry from oak is heavy.

The taper tends to make it light, which allows for fancy styles. However, in training, a non-tapered heavier weapon is an excellent selection. It helps the student build skills and strength and better absorb the impact of the blows.

Bo Staff

Bo’s Attack And Defense Techniques

  • When attacking with Bo, you can use one or two hands to thrust, swing, and block with the top part and quickly counterstrike with the lower end. Using either end of the weapon to strike and block can do the trick. Take advantage and use the entire tool to execute your attack flawlessly.
  • Hold the staff near the middle, with both ends extending out equally when using the Bo. It will give you the balance technique. Stretch your lead hand further away from your body to get the right angle of the position to attack.

The bo techniques provide strong, long-range attacks and allow you to defend yourself well. You can use it to sweep the opponent’s legs and quickly bring them down, making it an excellent weapon.

The modern Bo is lighter and has a flashy visual appearance with a reflective finish. The creativity in a performance involving complex spins and tosses is impressive.

However, some martial artists don’t consider modern Bo weapons during competition because some competitors focus on baton-like twirling action rather than combative techniques, which is the traditional style.

For this reason, most large open martial arts tournaments have weapons divisions. They are split into traditional and creative to accommodate everyone.

Related: Karate Belt Order, Colors, And Ranking System

The Nunchaku tool is a popular weapon with two sections of small wood joined using a  cord. The traditional one is wooden, but the modern one varies with different materials like rubber, metal, plastic, and fiberglass. It’s an excellent weapon made famous by Bruce Lee legend in his action movies.

There are conflicting theories about its origin, and some believe it came from Chinese weapons, while others say it’s from a horse’s bit. Some people also thought it was from flail and was a farm tool used by rice farmers. But Asia is its home.

Then the Asian people began to use it as an armament to protect themselves against the Japanese Satsuma clan invasion. The policy for weapons control was strict that they couldn’t defend themselves. Therefore Nunchaku came in handy, and it’s now famous globally.

Practicing With Nunchaku

Nunchaku Incredible Techniques

The nunchaku incredible techniques include the helicopter spin, the hand roll, figure eight, and the arm switch.

Helicopter spin:

  • Your wrist is essential for this trick to happen effectively. To execute this technique hold one side of the nunchaku with your right hand ensuring you have it near the cord. Spin the other end like a propeller and while still spinning it extend your right hand outwards. Try it with your left hand.

Hand roll:

  • Nunchaku is a speed weapon that you can use swiftly to strike and dodge attacks. You can use it to hit vital spots when attacked. Applying joint locks and chokes technique helps you take control and position better against the opponent.
  • The weapon has increased range when in combat. The Chinese one is round in shape, while the Okinawa is octagonal. Its usage in Bruce Lee movies has made it familiar in several dojos worldwide and a people’s favorite.
  • The weapon is mainly for training purposes because practicing with them helps your hand develop swiftness, precision, alertness, and hand-to-eye coordination. However, the fighting tool can be used very effectively in combat if you learn to handle it properly.
  • Materials for the weapon vary, the most traditional being wood. However, you can use plastic, rubber, fiberglass, and metal to make a modern weapon. Many people begin learning with foam Nunchaku to practice, as they might get hurt or strike themselves accidentally while practicing to use them.
  • The batons are blunt, and you can use them primarily as an attacking weapon. However, you can use them for gaging and specific control techniques. Although it is deadly in hand-to-hand fights, the tools are not very efficient at protecting against attacks from other weapons.

Benefits Of Nunchaku Weapon

  • Nunchaku’s techniques are challenging to learn and require remarkable tenacity and expertise. The weapon is suitable for training since learning to use them will significantly improve your balancing and focus.
  • It is an excellent martial art tool of Asian weaponry. It’s portable, compact, and relatively easy to conceal.
  • The Nunchaku still gives you the long-range weapon option to keep your opponent at bay quickly.

3. The Shorter Version Of Bo: The Hanbo

The Hanbo

The Hanbo is the mini variant of the Bo and is a shorter wooden staff. Like the Bo, it’s a simple wooden staff that can be lethal when an expert uses it. The Hanbo staff is more concise, measuring about 3 feet long (90 cm). The length is basically between the hip and ankle.

You can use similar techniques like the Bo, but ensure you handle it better since it is smaller and shorter. It’s easy to manipulate and gives you incredible speed to pound with agility, flooring the opponent.

The Hanbo staff is made of oak and is heavy enough that you can easily use it to knock out your opponent flat when you strike. 

4. Tonfa, The Lethal Weapon

Tonfa is a wooden baton-like weapon with exciting features. The origin is unknown, and it’s unclear whether it was a weapon or a farm tool. It looks like the batons carried by the modern-day security agents.

Tonfa is a long string that has a handle of a smaller length. The first form came from the grips of a millstone used for grinding grains as a baton.



The previous type of the Okinawan Kobudo Tonfa was a versatile weapon that functioned as a dual weapon. You can hold them in three different ways, the short end on top and the long end on the forearm.

The grip will help reinforce the blocks and punches when in close combat. Made of oak, it’s quite an impressive striking weapon in martial art.

When facing an opponent, you can use the weapon at a close range, and it gives you an advantage of movement without limiting your speed.

You can hold it in other ways by extending the long side away from your fist. The grip will provide you with the space to reach for longer-range combat. Therefore using the handle to attack and knock down the opponent is an excellent choice.

5. Deadly Attack Weapon: Kama

The Kama has its origin in traditional Japanese. The Okinawan weapon, which is wooden, has a sharp blade perpendicularly attached at the tip. It primarily functioned like a sickle in harvesting fields in Asia before it became a martial arts weapon in the early days. It was a helpful tool to Okinawa as they used it to protect themselves against attacks from tribes like Satsuma.

Karate Kama
Karate Kama

How to Use Kama

This karate weapon is among the lethal yet adaptable weapons. You can use it to block, slash, trap and tram an attack from the wooden weapon and disarm your opponent. You can use them simultaneously to block and counterattack an opponent when attacking.

Its crescent-shaped blade can attack and defend. The sharp tip can be lethal, while the handle can protect you well against an opponent. The Kama, just like Nunchaku, is not easy to use. When training, ensure you get the help of the trainer as any wrong move can get you hurt.

Always use the blunt version until you master the art and are confident enough to handle the actual weapon.

After using the Kama as a weapon for some time, the Okinawans decided to give it a new look by styling it and adding small nooks at the spot where the handle and the blade meet to improve its effectiveness.

6. The Best for Striking: Sai

Set Of Two Black Sai
Two Black Sai

One of the most popular weapons in Karate is the Sai. It is featured in numerous martial arts movies, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The sai is an Okinawan weapon with curved side prongs mounted on the handle and sharp protruding metal. However, there are other types of sai with varying lengths and designs.

Most martial artists use sai in pairs to strike, stab, block, and perform other techniques. They usually have a handle (called Tsuka) that measures about 5 inches. It can be made of cord sin to offer maximum grip.

When used as a pair, Sai becomes a lethal weapon that can help you attack the opponent with one sai while defending yourself with the other.  As a professional practitioner, you can also use Sai to catch Katana’s blade between the arms and snap it.

7. The Discreet Tekko

Tekko is an Okinawan fist-load weapon that fighters wear on their hands to increase their punches’ impact. It is either made of metal or wood and resembles the brass knuckles buster.

Tekko’s shape was initially similar to the letter D. It had three small, round metal weights prongs stuck out two inches apart from the front. It would help if you held it in your hand, ready to attack.

You can wear the weapon on your hands to give it a lethal effect when punching and slashing motion. They were initially made from horseshoes and were an improvement of the Japanese Suntetsu (metal spike).

Another popular variant of the tekko weapon is the tekko-kagi which features four iron-made structures that resemble bear claws. The attacker wears the weapon on the hands like gloves and uses it to strike, scrap, and defense.

8. The Samurai Sharp Weapon: Katana


Katana is a Japanese sword that the Samurai warriors commonly used. Other katana users include Ninja and Kendo practitioners. It is slightly curved and weighs about 1.5 kg and is approximately 60-80 cm long. The slight curve and steel material makes the katana cut through objects effectively.

Uchigatana (katana’s official name in Japan) usually has a long grip to ensure a user can hold it firmly with two hands. During ancient times, the Samurais used this sharp weapon on the battlefield and while practicing various techniques.

In the modern world, martial artists use blunt-edged katanas while sparring and training to prevent injuries. The sharp katanas are usually used to test the blade by cutting through a bamboo plant.

9. The Unpredictable Weapon: Sansetsukon

This weapon has three sections made from wood and joined by a rope or chain. The length of each section is about 24-28 inches. It is also called the three-part staff or three-section staff.

Shinko Matayoshi brought the weapon from the Fujian province and introduced it in Okinawa in the 1930s. The Kobudo sansetsukon are short and thick, measusring about 50 cms long and 5 cm thick.

How To Use The Weapon

To master the use of this unique martial arts weapon is tricky as it’s challenging to handle. You can use both hands to block and strike simultaneously. However, you require some skill since it has a third wooden piece at the center.

It’s a very unpredictable Karate weapon that a fighter can use in different ways. Using this weapon, you can strike, whip, disarm, or block your opponent. Additionally, you can entangle the weapons of an attacker using the ropes/chain joining the three wooden sections.

10. The Handy Weapon: Kuwa

The Kuwa is a martial arts weapon of Okinawan origin. It was originally a farm hoe with a shorter handle of three feet and a wide flat blade of four to six feet.

 You can use it for chopping and slashing motions. Additionally, you can apply the Bo techniques on Kuwa, and it will work well when facing your opponent.

Since the Kuwa weapon is unique, you can use it to strike and slash to defend yourself. Although it’s developed from a farm tool, it’s an excellent fighting tool in the hands of a karate master.

11. The Lethal Spear: Nunti Bo

The Nunti Bo is a longer spear with hooks on the edge. Historically, people used it for fishing where the sharp end would stab the fish. It later came to be used as a weapon, having a Manji or Nunti Sai (a sharp blade) on its end.

The current Nunti Bo measures about 5-6 feet long. You can use this weapon to perform basic techniques such as striking, thrusting, and blocking. Though the Nunti Bo is a lethal weapon, it is not as popular as the sai, the nunchaku, and the Bo.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Weapons Are There In Karate?

Karate utilizes various weapons in its teachings and techniques. These include the Bo, Nunchaku, Tonfa, Katana, Sai, Kama, Hanbo, etc. Training with these weapons develops one’s skills and hand-eye coordination.

What Are Karate Sticks Called?

Karate Singlestick, also known as cudgels, refers to a martial art that uses a wooden stick and the weapon used in the art. Some martial arts and combat sports rely heavily on staff and stick.

What is a Karate sword?

A Karate sword is a Japanese sword characterized by a curved, one-edged blade with a circle or a square guard and a long grip to allow two hands. It came later than the Tachi, a long, single-edged Samurai sword, and it was used by Samurai in feudal Japan and worn with the edge facing upward.

Do you want to learn more about Karate weapons? Try one today!

Suppose you want to learn more about Karate weapons. It’s critical to research these incredible fighting tools. You need to familiarize yourself with essential Okinawa Kobudo and learn how to use them. Train with the best martial artists to help you understand and use the various unique techniques well.

 When you have confidence that you have mastered their art, the variety of the available weapons is immense. You can choose what you like and broaden your scope of martial arts to master the skills and become a professional martial artist.

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