Traditional Okinawan Weapons

In our weekly Okinawan weapons classes, we train in more standard martial arts weapons. United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance camps allow for a wider variety of black belt instructors. That opens up workshops in more of the traditional weapons for training.


At our dojo, all students need to learn some bo techniques to test for black belt. The bo is the six-foot staff and is one of the most practical Okinawan weapons.  We have a lot of beginners learn nunchaku. It can be difficult to handle. So our students start with the foam nunchaku first. After they learn the basic motion, they can graduate to wood nunchaku.  


Chizikunbo are a specialty weapon. Yet the hand techniques are easy enough to learn with this small, handheld tool. Tan bo, the two short sticks, work like extensions of the arms with a few additional techniques. Bokken, the wooden practice sword has also been successfully learned by younger students.

Okinawan weapons
tonfa, sai, nunte bo, eku, bokken, eku, bo, jo, chizikunbo, tan bo, kama, nunchaku, manji sai


Several Okinawan weapons are a bit trickier to manipulate. Beginners with patience and attention to detail have done okay with these. However, students who have a certain level of weapons experience will do better with these. They are: tonfa (two mill handles); sai: a pair of fully metal implements; and eku, the oar. Intermediate students have learned kama which is the pair of short, handheld sickle-like bladed weapons. However, most have trouble with the correct, detailed manipulation of some of the techniques.


Kama is a great weapon for experienced practitioner to learn, to become proficient. The nunte bo is our longest weapon and it’s a good idea to start this one at black belt. It’s a long staff with a manji sai attached at one end. Then there is the manji sai. They are used in pairs, and are similar to the sai. Except one of the forks on each manji sai points in the opposite direction. This is the most difficult of the Okinawan weapons to manipulate. You must work to learn manipulation of it to dexterously use all sides of the manji sai. This is best learned after becoming proficient with many other weapons, especially sai.

Okinawan weapons training compliments empty-hand karate training. It is up to your instructor to advise when to start this type of training. Also, it’s a good idea to ask your instructor before starting the more difficult weapons. When you become proficient in the use of these tools, your ability to protect your life and others’ is exponentially amplified.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger


  1. Abraham on June 11, 2021 at 2:29 am

    Which Okinawan weapon would be the most affordable for me to learn at home? My dojo closed for the past pandemic and I’ve had to fine places to buy my own weapon but I’m confused which one would be easy eat to learn in a small room at least. Thank you.

    • Evma on June 30, 2021 at 9:37 pm

      The easiest Okinawan weapon to learn in a small room would be chizikunbo: These are difficult to find for sale, you may have to make your own. As always, though, we recommend learning from a qualified professional martial arts instructor.

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