An Overview of Martial Arts Weapons

By: Phil Burney

You shouldn't be surprised that there are so many martial arts weapons that have been developed through the centuries. Since many martial arts have been around since ancient times, martial arts weapons are bound to have evolved too over time.

Take the knife for example - practically all martial arts will teach their students how to use knives as martial arts weapons because almost all cultures have developed and used some version of the knife. The Philippines has the balisong, also called a Butterfly knife, which folds into its handle when not being used. The tanto is a Japanese stabbing knife that was usually carried by Japanese women within their obi as their self-defense weapon. There is also the kris that was used in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia during more violent times.

Since many times commoners were forbidden to carry bladed martial arts weapons, proficiency in use of wooden sticks as martial arts weapons also grew. The Japanese have the long wooden staff called Jo, whose use is taught in the martial arts of aikido and which is still used in modern times by Japanese police. The term escrima has been applied to stick-fighting as done in the Philippines - it is said by some that an escrima (or arnis) master can use even a simple ballpen as a martial arts weapon in stick-fighting and come out the winner. Use of sticks (both long and short) as martial arts weapons allowed ordinary folk to protect their villages when invaders came to plunder their community even in the absence of bladed martial arts weapons.

Less commonly-known among martial arts weapons is the guang dao, which is a pole that has a blade with a spiked end. A tassel or red sash might be tied to where the blade meets the pole. Nowadays, the guang dao is one of the martial arts weapons used in the sport of wushu. But unlike other martial arts weapons that you can use to attack your opponent, the guang dao is used more to disarm an attacker and render him helpless. The benefit of such long martial arts weapons is that you can enter combat and keep your opponent at a safe distance from you.

It is not often you find martial arts weapons designed chiefly for women, but there is actually one and it is found in Japan. It is called the Naginata and it is a Japanese pole weapon whose use was reserved for samurai women. Some say the Naginata looks a lot like the Chinese guang dao. Modern female Naginata users may have been inspired to take up martial arts weapons like this one because of the famed Naginata user Itagaki who led an entire garrison in the 12th century. Samurai women were expected in the past to use their Naginata to defend their families if invaders came while their husbands were away.

There are so many martial arts weapons being used nowadays that it is hard to condense their uses to just one article. However, it is advisable for fans of martial arts weapons to take up just one weapon at a time to become proficient before trying to use others. This gives you focus and a sense of accomplishment when you master at least one of the many martial arts weapons available today.

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