Top 5 Weapons in Martial Arts History

Top 5 Weapons in Martial Arts History

The following is a post contributed from a member of the martial arts community. You can find their bio and information at the bottom of the post.

Top 5 Weapons in Martial Arts History

by Jason Maine

Throughout history, weapons have been instrumental in martial arts. Some are designed to disarm, others meant to cause fatal wounds. Today, many specific styles still incorporate their usage in training and competition. The following list dives into five of the more well-known historical weapons.

  1. Shuriken

Commonly known as "throwing stars," shuriken are Japanese concealed weapons. Unlike what's seen in mainstream TV and movies, they weren't designed to stick into an opponent's skin or used as primary weapons. Rather, these secondary tools were meant to nick or distract.

Sometimes they were placed in the ground as traps to trip oncoming enemies. When thrown, users aimed for the face or even the feet to throw enemies off-guard. Some even coated shuriken with poison to further slow enemies down.

The bō ("bo staff") is traditionally seen in Okinawan and Japanese martial arts, although it has been seen throughout Asia since before recorded history.

Traditionally, the bō was not intended to be a weapon. Many believed it evolved from farming implements. For example, in the early 1600s, citizens in the small island of Okinawa were banned from carrying weapons. They looked to the bō as a means of defense as the samurai couldn't confiscate the sticks.

  1. Nunchaku

Who doesn't recognize the nunchaku ("nunchucks")? Take a look at the infamous scenes of Bruce Lee expertly swinging them about. Although they existed long before Bruce Lee wielded them, there's no denying that his films made these weapons more mainstream.

You can see a number of different types of nunchaku at martial arts competitions. Some are flashy and meant purely for artistic purposes; they feature shiny elements or fluorescent colors to wow audiences. Others are intended for speed for technical performances.

In a school setting, they can be used to teach balance and control as nunchaku can be more dangerous to the user if not wielded properly. Weapon-wise, nunchaku are perfect for blunt attacks while the chain can be used to disarm an opponent.

  1. Longsword

The European-based sword grew in popularity in the medieval and Renaissance period but has existed for centuries. The popularity of the longsword continues on to this very day. Check out more information about longsword traditions.

Even though the longsword was used across Europe by various countries and during different times, it is notorious as a classical fencing/dueling sword where it was a quick and effective weapon. Today, many practitioners, mainly those who follow Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), opt to use this sword over the rapier-style ones.

  1. Katana

The traditional Japanese sword was famously used by samurai and favored due to their quick draw in close combat situations. It is hard to argue a more deadly, close combat weapon used in martial arts history.

However, as with all weapons, the katana evolved in its usage throughout the world. It can commonly be seen in training across different martial arts styles like iaido and aikido. The popularity of the katana can be seen in the fact that many today purchase different styles of the blade purely for display purposes.

Top 5 Weapons in Martial Arts HistoryJason Maine is the founder of FullContactWay, a blog dedicated to providing the best martial arts advice and information. Jason helps his readers with martial arts training by sharing personal tips and thorough research. Check out to get more about Jason’s work. You can find him on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

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