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Nunchaku Styles

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From my observations whilst studying and training with Nunchaku, it would appear that Nunchaku techniques can be altered drastically by the length of Cord or Chain/Bridge connection between the two sticks the length of the sticks and finally by the weight of the Nunchaku.

To achieve a high skill level, you will have to decide which Nunchaku style you may want to follow, this should set the length of stick, length of bridge and weight of the Nunchaku.

The market place has many different types and these range from lightweight plastic and dense foam types and wood of different types either chained or corded, most are 8-12 inches long and there are 14 inch Nunchaku. The weight varies greatly from 1/2 lbs to nearly 2 lbs Traditionally you would choose a length that suited your build measuring from mid palm to the tip of your elbow. The weight should equally be suitable for your build, allowing for ease of use and smooth transitions between techniques without over stressing your joints or tendons. The test would be whether your techniques have become slow and ponderous. They have to be light enough to be responsive and reactive. Not so light as to be ineffective in the traditional sense.

The bridge cord/chain connection are generally about 5 inches, some are smaller at 1-2 inches and some are longer. These longer connections will need more control in the gathering and catching of the weapon, the technique may have to be more exaggerated to allow for this. This last point also applies when you step up in length of stick from a smaller size to larger. Stepping down in size would allow for a tightening up of techniques. This also applies when you use a smaller connection, the techniques can be made more compact and tighter, the Nunchaku seem to be more controlled when on a "tighter rein" so to speak.

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Nunchaku and training styles

Once you have chosen a style that may determine the format of Nunchaku that you will use, or chosen a format that suits you, stick with it to achieve a high level. During the course of your study and training with Nunchaku you will come across techniques that will need to be adjusted to suit the type of Nunchaku that you use. Some techniques will be impossible due to your size and flexibility and the lengths of connections and sticks. Despite what I have just said, experiment and study with different Nunchaku but focus on the chosen one.

I personally use 12 inch light training Nunchaku with a 5 inch connection, weighing about 1/2 lbs. I also use 14 inch Iron wood Nunchaku with a 5 inch cord connection, weighing about 1 lb. My recommendation for connection length is to use the 5 inch, this may well be based on my bias which is traditionally motivated. However, my reasoning would be that this is a mid length of connection sitting between the smallest and longest lengths and the primary reason is as follows; This length allows for better returns or recoils off the body. The Nunchaku and connection wrap around the body a bit but not too much and will recoil with a certain amount of retained energy, that is further boosted by tension within the muscles at the points where the return or recoil takes place. Mind you a certain amount of muscle tension at these points of impact, I am sure benefits your technique as opposed to recoiling of relaxed muscles that may result in damage to them. I also have found that a long connector with some techniques becomes potentially more dangerous as the Nunchaku come deeper or wrap too deeply on certain catches and returns. Being small in build may be another reason for not choosing a long connector, the longer the sticks and connector are the wider your technique has to be to accommodate the increased overall length of the Nunchaku. The opposite seems to apply with the smaller connection, the techniques come up short on certain catches and techniques and some moves become impossible. The former can be adjusted for, the latter can not.

The ultimate length should not be so great as to hit the ground when swinging parallel to the body. When your grip is within an inch of the end of the nunchaku using the full range of the weapon, hang them at the side of your body and if they touch the ground then the connection or the shafts or both are too long.

Another thing to add about styles and techniques using Nunchaku is where you grip the Nunchaku in relation to the connector/bridge. Again this will tighten or widen the techniques, the nearer to the connector the tighter the techniques can be and the quicker. The nearer to the end of the Nunchaku shaft the wider the techniques need to be to safely perform them, more power is required, with the strength to match, grasping strength has to increase to meet the extra leverage and momentum and weight of the heavier and longer Nunchaku. More effort will be required in the control of the longer types whether it be connector length, shaft length or both!

Awareness of the dangers of gripping too near the connector/bridge; be aware that when you grip near to the connector you bring the free swinging end of the Nunchaku closer to your body. So there is an inherent danger of striking the body, head or limbs. Therefore, techniques change or Nunchaku shaft or connector lengths change or grip positions move to counter for this, furthermore, caution should be undertaken with certain moves and cross body transitions. 

To counter the likelihood of contact when using the longer Nunchaku hold nearer to the end of the shaft not at the connector/bridge end to gain some extra inches of clearance. In this case the arm should not be fully extended and still there should be enough clearance to give confidence in using these inner techniques without fear of striking oneself. Another benefit in the long arm techniques is that more power is generated in the strike. The other most obvious plus side is that of reach, negatively, depending on what length of stick you use the reach can be shortened by as much as 8 inches by hand position alone and overall striking range is reduced by smaller stick lengths and bridge/connector lengths. This can be limiting in combat, however some reverse hand techniques and some forehand techniques may use a half shaft hand position and even a connector end hand position, these I would use to vary range when required and by also using them off the back foot the range can be varied still further. Generally I use as long a reach as possible in striking but some techniques have different hand positioning just to make the technique or subsequent techniques work. This page has some more info on nunchaku and connection lengths.

Train with NEO

NEO has been established to teach a free style form of Nunchaku integrating techniques in long or short chain exercises for the purposes of learning Nunchaku techniques fluidly and confidently. We cover traditional locks and blocks as well as swings and strikes.

We are looking to teach a wide spectrum of techniques, so some method was required for learning nunchaku.