karate weapons

The October/November 2020 issue of Black Belt includes a feature titled "The Sai: A Classical Approach to Wielding a Classical Weapon." The author Chris Thomas graciously prepared this video to illustrate the points he makes in the article about this misunderstood kobudo weapon.

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Think you know all there is to know about the tonfa? Think again! Black Belt columnist Dave Lowry is here to explain how the popular karate weapon might have evolved into its current form.

“For me, the tonfa is a symbol of harmony,” Kina-san told me once. A friend of my karate teacher’s, Kina-san used to give some impressive demonstrations with a pair of his favorite weapons. I had seen him spin a tonfa and catch a solid wooden staff that was being swung at him, then hit it with such force that the staff cracked. So I had my doubts about the harmony stuff.

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“Kobudo (weapons use) and karate are like the two wheels of a bicycle,” Fumio Demura says. “They are separate, but they work according to the same principles. To be useful, they have to work together.” Learn HOW in this classic Black Belt article!

Think of a martial arts weapon— what do you see? A pair of nunchaku, a flashing blade, a Chinese spear? Chances are, you didn't think of karate weapons like the tonfa. The tonfa hasn't been gIamorized in films, and it's one of the less dramatic of the better-known karate weapons. Yet these ancient karate weapons are well-established in the art of kobudo (weapons use). In application and training, the tonfa provides a vital link between kobudo and karate. "Kobudo and karate are like the two wheels of a bicycle. They are separate, but they work according to the same principles. To be useful, they have to work together," says karate weapons and karate techniques expert Fumio Demura, an instructor of both arts who teaches the use of the tonfa.


Fumio Demura holds advanced-dan rankings in kobudo and karate; he has trained in kendo and iaido;he was the All-Japan karate champion in 1961 and a Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee in 1969 and 1975. He sums up his perspective on the tonfa as follows: "lt doesn't have the popularity of the nunchaku, the sai or the bo. But I'm sure this is only temporary because the tonfa is an important weapon in kobudo. lt's a very effective weapon for fighting and extremely valuable in training, as well."

How the Tonfa Became One of the Most Versatile Karate Weapons

The tonfa originally did not exist amid the world of karate weapons but rather was an agricultural implement common throughout Eastern Asia. It was the "handle" by which a millstone was turned, so its basic, functional shape was repeated independently in many areas. The long, heavy end of the tonfa (o rtui-fa,as it was also called) was fitted into a hole in the side of the millstone, and the smaller, handle end of the tool was used to turn the stone to grind rice

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In this exclusive weapons video excerpt from Tonfa: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense, karate legend Fumio Demura shows you the intersection of weapon and human form as he demonstrates tonfa blocks based on classic karate moves!

"Though not as flashy or as glamorous as the nunchaku, the tonfa is nevertheless an important tool in the kobudo tradition," says karate weapons master Fumio Demura in his classic book Tonfa: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense. "Two tonfa in the hands of an expert make a poetic and graceful contribution to the art of kata." "The tonfa is also an excellent tool for the development of stronger hands and wrists, especially for achieving necessary power in blocking and striking during empty-hand techniques," Fumio Demura continues in his karate training book. "This is where the tonfa is particularly desirable in practice over such weapons as the bo or nunchaku."

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