Know Your Weapon: Nunchaku

So you want to learn nunchaku? To do so, you have to get your own set. There are many options available. You can make your own or buy them. Either way, you’ll need to decide on their material, shape, size, attachment type, and weight. This article informs you about options and helps you choose the right combination for your needs.

Chinatown Bruce Lee statue, downtown Los Angeles, California, USA.
Image Source: Adobe Stock by Rawf8

The nunchaku is a weapon found in many martial arts. It’s a simple, traditional weapon made of two sticks connected at one end by a short chain or rope. Nunchaku is commonly associated with Okinawan Karate and Kobudō (古武道), and were popularized by Bruce Lee in the 1960s in his movies Enter the Dragon, Fist of Fury, and Game of Death. Other names for the weapon include “nunchuks“, “chuks”, “chainsticks“, “chuka sticks” or “karate sticks”.

A farmer manually threshing rice in Vietnam.
Image Source: Adobe Stock_by weerapon

It’s commonly thought that many Kobudō weapons were developed from agricultural tools. This is certainly true for the nunchaku. Nunchaku are very similar in appearance to a grain threshing tool used to separate seed from chaff in Southeast Asia. In the picture, above, you can see a farmer in Vietnam pinching a bundle of rice with the tool so he can manually strike the bundle against a wooden board to release the seed from the stalk.


Nunchaku are manufactured from a wide range of materials. These include foam, plastic, PVC, rubber, graphite, aluminum, metal, and wood. Soft materials like foam are appropriate for use by children and beginner adults.

Padded or soft materials are also used for nunchaku sparring, allowing for full contact while avoiding serious injuries.

Lightweight materials, like graphite and aluminum, are used for increased speed and are popular among those who do demonstrations.

Rubber is a durable and relatively cheap material, and is a good option for those who like to practice striking bags or other targets. Metal nunchaku are generally heavier and can aid in improving your strength and control.

Lastly, wood is the traditional and most common material used to manufacture nunchaku.


Nunchaku are found in two shapes: round or octagonal. Round nunchaku are the most common. Some believe that octagonal nunchaku are easier to hold onto because of the edges. In addition, the edges provide a focused point of contact that can cause more damage to a target.

“Anatomy” of the Nunchaku.


Nunchaku range in length from 8 to 14 inches (20 to 35.5 centimeters). The average length is 12 inches (30.5 centimeters).

Of course, there are exceptions to these measurements. For instance, nunchaku for very small children may be shorter than 8 inches (20 centimeters). And an individual with longer than average arms will probably want to use longer nunchaku.

Length varies from person to person, and a general rule for determining the best length for you is to match the nunchaku to the length of your forearm (measuring from wrist to elbow).


The two “sticks” that make up a nunchaku are usually attached by one of two materials: rope or chain. A rope “himo” (紐) is the traditional material used, while a chain “kusari” (鎖) is a modern material. Those who make their own nunchaku (DIY style) typically use rope.

Regardless of what material it’s made of, the average length of the connecting material is 4 inches. A general rule of thumb for how long the connectors should be is the width of your palm.

Nunchaku Anatomy.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


Nunchaku vary in weight. A set weighing between 1.75 and 3.5 ounces (50 to 100 grams) is considered lightweight. These can be used for speed drills.

A weight between 3.5 and 8 ounces (100 to 230 grams) is a standard weight range for most nunchakus, making them appropriate for any kind of use.

Those weighing more than 8 ounces (230 grams) are used for combat (heavier weight = more damage).

And those weighing more than 21 ounces (600 grams) can be used for combat or for building strength in your grip and wrists.

List of Nunchaku Features & Options.

Key Questions to Consider:

  • What exactly do I need for my personal nunchaku goals and activities?
  • What material will best meet this need?
  • Would I prefer a rope or chain connector?
  • Would I prefer a soft or hard stick material?
  • How long should my nunchaku (sticks and connector) be?
  • Do I need more than one style for my needs (practice, combat, demo)?

DIY: Make Your Own Nunchaku

Compared to other martial arts weapons, nunchaku are relatively inexpensive. Prices range as low as $5 to $10 USD and as high as $200 USD.

If you don’t know where to purchase nunchaku or don’t want to wait for yours to arrive by mail, you can make your own at home. Here’s a link to some great information on how to make your own Nunchaku. It’s a cinch – anyone can do it!

And a word of caution: The carry and use of nunchaku is illegal in some jurisdictions. Be sure to check your local laws before you make, carry, and/or use nunchaku.

The GMAU Nunchaku Program

Learn more about the GMAU Nunchaku Program here.

How do we stack up against other online Nunchaku programs? Read this blog post.

Check out our FREE Nunchaku classes AND these Nunchaku lessons on YouTube!

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