The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Nunchaku

By Joel Williams | Nunchaku

May 26
Learn nunchaku online at home

The nunchaku, and other flail weapon variations, have been used as self-defense and war weapons by Asian and European cultures alike. Where (and how) the weapon originated has been debated. Regardless, it is a durable, robust and deadly weapon that can be effectively used for simple defensive or offensive maneuvers or practiced as a beautiful expression of artistic movement through complex combinations of spins, strikes and transitions. Want to know more? Then check out this blog post about nunchaku and how you can learn anywhere, at any time!

Table of Contents

1. Quick Overview

2. Chucks…Chaku…Karate Sticks

3. Anatomy of the Nunchaku

4. Nunchakus in Pop Culture

5. Nunchaku Basics

6. Learning the Nunchaku

7. Our GMAU Nunchaku Instructor

Quick Overview

Purpose of this Guide

This guide is for complete beginners and those who seek additional information regarding the nunchaku. The reader will be introduced to the history, popularity, and use of this weapon. I also provide an overview of the innovative GMAU online Nunchaku training program.

The GMAU Nunchaku Program Has Been Completely Revised and Re-Launched in May 2020

“Chucks” … “Chaku”“Karate Sticks”

Antique Nunchaku from Japan.
Title: Nunchaku. Author: Samuraiantiqueworld.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

What Are They And Where Did They Come From?

Nunchaku (the Japanese word for the subject of this post) have been called many things: “numbchuks”, “karate sticks”, or simply “chuks”, for example. The simplest description of nunchaku is: two short sticks attached to one another by a chain, rope, or cording. Similar weapons can be found in both Asian and European cultures, including the Chinese sanjiegun, Filipino tabak-toyok, Korean ssangjulbong or pyeongon, and European flail-type war weapons. Variations include the 3-section staff (in Chinese, sanjiegun means (san = three ; jie = to join ; gun = stick). This weapon is essentially 3 weapons in 1: a staff, a single stick, and nunchuks. The 2-section flail, focused on in this post, is usually round or octagonal in shape, and connected by chain or rope/cording. Modern versions of the nunchaku may be made of metal, plastic/fiberglass or polystyrene foam.

Title: Wooden Chinese Sanjiegun (3-Sectioned Staff). Author: Bert Folsom. Source: Adobe Stock
Spiked versions of long-handled peasant flails. From Paulus Hector Mair’s combat manual Arte De Athletica
The Pyeongon (left) vs. Long Staff (right). A (circa 1790) Illustration From the Korean Muyedobotongji, A Military Training Manual Based on Chinese War Texts.

It has been theorized that nunchaku, and other similar weapons, were adapted by farmers and peasants (who used them to thresh grain) as weapons of self-defense. This is debated, but if true, then these weapons certainly must have been effective because historical training manuals and artistic images depict them being used by the military across cultures.

Notice the farming flail below with a long section and short section connected by rope:

A Video of Grain Threshing With Hand Flails Filmed In The Village of Naklo in the Gorenjska Region of Northwestern Slovenia.

Notice in the images below how these same length 2-sectioned farming tools are used to “pinch” a reaped bundle of grain so the farmer can beat the stalks against the ground or wooden board to release the edible part of the grains from the chaff. The tool used in this method looks much more like the nunchaku weapon that is the focus of this blog post.

Anatomy Of The Nunchaku

Structural Dissection

To better understand this weapon, let’s take a look at its parts:

Title: Nunchaku (Parts). Author: Anton Croos.
  • Kontoh : Top of each handle.
  • Himo : Rope which connects the two handles of some nunchaku.
  • Ana : Hole on the kontoh of each handle for the himo to pass through. Only nunchaku that are connected by himo have an ana.
  • Kusar : Chain which connects the two handles of some nunchaku.
  • Jukon-bu : Upper area of the handle.
  • Chukon-bu : Center part of the handle.
  • Kikon-bu : Lower part of the handle.
  • Kontei : Bottom of the handle.

Nunchaku In Pop Culture

The Guys Who Made Them Famous

Bruce Lee

Even though we see images of similar weapons around the world, nunchaku are often associated with Okinawan Kobudo. The weapon was largely popularized in the late 60s and early 70s through martial arts via the silver screen, particularly Bruce Lee. Lee was introduced to nunchaku (and other stick weapons) by his student, and close friend, Dan Inosanto. Lee later trained with Fumio Demura, a famous Okinawan karate and kobudo master. Lee displayed his nunchaku skills, and introduced the weapon to audiences around the works through several of his movies.

Bruce Lee in “Enter The Dragon”

Fumio Demura

Fumio Demura, who moved to the U.S. in 1965, trained under the famous Okinawan Kobudo expert, Shinken Taira. Demura was the inspiration for Mr. Miyagi (played by Pat Morita) in the Karate Kid movies.

Black Belt Magazine’s Fumio Demura Video Bio

Michaelangelo (TMNT)

The next generation of nunchaku fans have been largely exposed to the weapon by Michealangelo (of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, cartoons and movies). TMNT has had a long run, beginning in the 1980s and continuing even today!

Nunchaku Scene In The 1990 TMNT Movie

Nunchaku Basics

The Fundamentals


Attention Stance
Ready Stance
Forward Stance
Back Stance

Horse Stance

Horse Stance


Low (or Long) Grip
Middle Grip
High (or Short) Grip


8 Blocking Angles


Forehand Combat Strike
Backhand Combat Strike
Double Nunchaku Outward Figure 8 Strikes

Double Nunchaku Kata

Brown Chevron Kata Sample

How Can I Learn Nunchaku?

Learning Options

We live in a day and time where there are many options for products and services. Regarding pursuits like training in martial arts, one can now learn in person or online. Which is best for an individual depends on many factors. Below I have provided useful information to illustrate your options and (hopefully) help you make this important decision.

The “Brick and Mortar” School Option

Selecting a place to train is one of the most important decisions you will make in your martial arts journey. By choosing a quality instructor and program you will be more likely to develop proper technique from the beginning, as opposed to learning from someone who is not truly invested in his or her students.

Be sure to research the background of the instructor(s) who teach at the locations you found. Remember that just because a facility looks really nice, that doesn’t mean it’s a great place to train. Look for a staff with legitimate backgrounds in the weapons you wish to learn. Lastly, don’t forget to look them up on sites like Yelp, peruse their websites and social media – and definitely talk to people who currently (or have in the past) trained there.

The GMAU Online Learning Advantage

The GMAU Nunchaku Program Seal

Unless you live in or near a larger city, it is not unusual to have great difficulty finding a place to train. Global Martial Arts University is a pioneer in quality online martial arts instruction, ranking and certification. With the innovative GMAU learning platform you can train wherever you want, across your favorite devices, at a time that works best with your schedule.

GMAU – The Leader in Online Martial Arts Instruction

The GMAU American Nunchaku program began in 2007. Since then, thousands of students around the world have trained in this system. The program is based on a complete curriculum that includes the dynamics of freestyle nunchakus, combined with the traditional techniques from Okinawan Kobudo. Students begin with basic single nunchaku techniques then advance to double nunchaku techniques. Upon completion of this program, students will have an extensive understanding and wide-ranging ability to use this ancient weapon.

” Over the last couple of years we have completely re-vamped the entire American Nunchaku program curriculum. As popular and comprehensive as it was from the beginning, I am very excited to see this amazing program re-launched on May 19, 2020. “

Sensei Michael Hodge, GMAU Director & Head Instrucor

In this fully online American Nunchaku program you will learn:

  • traditional strikes, blocks and combinations
  • unique kata (forms) for single/double nunchaku at each training level
  • effective sparring and fighting applications
GMAU Nunchaku Program Yellow Chevron Requirements

The GMAU Online American Nunchaku program uses a unique ranking system based on expertise level recognized through the chevron patch. Students place the official American Nunchaku patch on the right sleeve of their uniform, with each subsequent level patch earned placed in a descending fashion down the arm. This allows students who hold a rank in other martial arts (such as Karate) to simultaneously wear their belt. Students in the GMAU Ultimate Bo program also display their rank in the same way, but on the left arm. In these systems, a chevron patch holds the same weight/equivalency as a belt. This is simply a different way to recognize your rank in these weapon-based styles. Upon successful completion of testing exams, students receive an official certificate of rank mailed to them.

” I have been training in martial arts for several years, and this program has given me some great new material to learn! I have some experience with traditional nunchaku work, but not much with freestyle/modern techniques. This course is easy to follow with quality instruction that you can view as many times as needed. The best part, though, is the feedback from Sensei Michael. He responds quickly and with detail to questions you ask via e-mail, and the personalized test video response is a great learning opportunity as well. I am very pleased with this course, and I look forward to continuing my training with Black Belt at Home and the Global Martial Arts University in the future. ”
Will Fecowycz, GMAU Nunchaku Student

In-person instruction can cost hundreds of dollars a month. With GMAU you will have everything you need to learn how to learn this weapon and save yourself thousands of dollars on your personal martial arts journey! We custom tailor the learning process for you to be able to learn in the comfort of your own home. No more having to rush to get to a session or being one in a crowd. We focus on you by providing exclusive one-on-one instructor feedback.

What You Learn In Our Program

Every GMAU program is instructed in an easy to follow format, showing multiple angles, and home training drills; all filmed in a studio in HD. With dozens of complete follow-along classes (which include a warm up, technique training, drills, conditioning, and stretching) you’ll never run out of material to study and apply in training. New training lessons and classes release every month. There is always something to do! New tools and features are regularly added to the GMAU Student Dashboard to make training at home more enjoyable and successful. GMAU students interact directly with our instructors whenever they need guidance. Our Student Locator Feature allows you to easily locate and connect with other GMAU students in your area. Once you’ve learned the rank requirements and logged enough hours, you can submit a video for progress checks or testing.

Check Out A Few of Our Beginner’s Classes Below!

GMAU Follow Along Class – Beginner Nunchaku Class #1
GMAU Follow Along Class – Beginner Nunchaku Class #2

Your GMAU Instructor

Instructor Adam Gerrald

GMAU American Nunchaku & Taekwondo Instructor Adam Gerrald Has Been Training in Martial Arts Since 2006 and Has a Truly Impressive and Wide-Ranging Background

Originally from Texas, Adam has nearly 15 years of consistent (and intensive) martial arts training in a range of styles. His training began in Taekwondo and Arnis (Filipino martial arts). A few years into this journey he began cross-training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Capoeira. Mr. Gerrald began training with GMAU in Ultimate Bo and American Nunchaku in 2011.

In 2013, Mr. Gerrald enlisted in the Marie Corps and began training in Sayoc and Atienza Kali from 2014-2016 while at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA. Upon being stationed in Virginia he began training at Trident Martial Arts in BJJ, Inosanto Kali, and Muay Thai simultaneously. During this time he also obtained a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) through the the Marine Corps Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MACE). At the end of 2016, Adam earned his 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo.

In 2018, he moved back to Texas where he has continued BJJ training while teaching Taekwondo and Kali. He began filming Taekwondo classes for GMAU this same year while helping re-vamp the American Nunchaku curriculum. In addition to instructing martial arts, Mr. Gerrald is working towards his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology (Exercise Science) to enhance his knowledge and abilities as an instructor.

Instructor Adam’s martial arts credentials include:

  • GMAU American Style Nunchaku: 3rd Degree Black Chevron
  • Taekwondo (WTF): 3rd Degree Black Belt
  • Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP): 1st Degree Black Belt
  • Filipino Martial Arts: Apprentice Instructor (under Sifu Pat Tray)
  • GMAU Ultimate Bo: Brown Chevron
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Purple Belt
  • Capoeira: 3 Yellow / 1 Green cord (intermediate level)
Get to Know Instructor Adam Gerrald Better via this Video Interview

About the Author

Husband. Father. University Professor. GMAU Certified Krav Maga Instructor.

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