Weapon Name: Nunchuks, Nunchucks, Nunchaku, Than Do Li Ga, Chainsticks

This smile was before I found out how much
it hurts to hit yourself with them.

Description: Two sticks attached in the middle with a cord or chain. The sticks are about as long as your forearms. The chain length varies according to taste. Can be made of metal, wood, bamboo, etc.

Where Can You Get One? They originated in Okinawan karate, but became popular in worldwide martial arts because they look freaking amazing in movies. They are illegal in several countries and in parts of the United States, but are easy to order from online martial arts gear distributors if you live in an area where they’re allowed. You can also make them out of pretty much anything you find in your garage that looks like a pair of sticks and a cord.


Shown here next to my cat for scale.

Natural Genres: Historical fiction, martial arts stories. You could work them into fantasy if you have a good reason they were invented in your made-up world.

Unnatural Genres: Modern-day combat, sci-fi, anything with projectile weapons or lasers.

What’s It For? Smacking things fast and hard. Doing flashy twirling patterns. Playing Nunchuk Baseball. (I need you guys to help me make this a thing.)

How Long Can You Fight With It? A surprisingly long time. The short range of the weapon means that spinning it doesn’t tire your arms out too much.

What Muscles Wear Out First: The shoulders. Or the knuckles, depending on how often you hit yourself.

Lethal: Can be, if used for chokes or a particularly hard strike.

Can it leave enemy debilitated but alive long enough to deliver a monologue? I doubt it. If you’ve debilitated someone with this, they’re probably out cold.

Learning Curve: Takes a long, long time to get comfortable with the basics, and even longer to do anything remotely well. Nobody should be able to wield this in combat without years of practice.

Will You Hurt Yourself With It? Yes.


Things Your Characters Can Do With It:

1. Swing upward to strike an enemy, and then catch behind your shoulder.

2. Do the same thing in reverse by swinging a downward strike and catching the swinging side in your armpit.

3. Swing it in a figure 8 pattern in front of you as a shield.

4. Block with it in your hand. This doesn’t do a whole lot more than a regular block, but it looks neat.

5. Jab the end at people as a poking weapon.

6. Spin it around the back of your hand so you trade which end of the nunchuks you’re holding.

This looks really cool when done quickly.

7. Pet your cat.

Things Your Characters Cannot Do With It:

1. Draw blood. Just like with the staff last week, nunchuks should not draw any more blood than a fistfight. If you can make something bleed by punching it, nunchuks can do the same. Otherwise, no bleeding.

2. Spin it fast enough to produce a sonic boom. They move fast, yes, but not that fast.

3. Throw it and deal real damage. It won’t keep enough momentum to strike the target forcefully. Also, you will have disarmed yourself, and that is dumb. Don’t do that.

4. Deflect blades. Technically it is possible to catch/deflect sword strikes with the chain of the nunchuks, but in my opinion, it’s not the best idea. Would you want a sharp edge of steel two inches from your fingers? I didn’t think so. This is cool to put into a fight once or twice, but avoid having a character deflect things with their ‘chuks all day. Their luck would run out and they’d get stabbed.

5. Spin it fast enough to let you jump higher/fly/otherwise defy gravity. Just…no.

6. Play ping-pong. That video is fake. I’m sorry.


Nunchuks look awesome and allow for flashy, fast-paced choreography. You can do a lot of cool things with them, but their limited availability and very specific place of origin makes them tricky to incorporate into stories while preserving believability. Use them wisely and sparingly, and only in the hands of experienced, trained characters.

This information is provided for assistance in writing fight scenes only, not for real-life application.

What weapon should I feature next?
Suggest one in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Weapon of the Week: Nunchuks

  1. Darn it, I thought that Bruce Lee video was real! Man…oh well, even if it’s not really happening, I still believe that he was capable of it, if he’d wanted to do that. Anyway…

    Awesome blog, I love nunchuks, and I’m glad you mentioned that you cannot fly or break the sound barrier with them. Definitely not.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.