Karate is generally thought to mean ‘empty hand’ (though it might have once meant ‘Chinese hand’), so a karate weapon seems something of a contradiction in terms. Yet even as they never really appear in competition there are a few historical weapons in martial arts traditions. They still receive some exposure in a few popular films.



This is almost the simplest weapon imaginable – a solid pole. It has probably appeared in every culture art some point, dating back to the earliest civilizations. Almost anybody can make a staff, and while anybody can use it to attack an opponent very few can wield it effectively.  Like many martial arts weapons it is simple, relies on the skill of the practitioner, and is of little use in the hand on an untrained individual. Hence, if the opponent has your weapon, he will probably find it of limited use.

Despite its simplicity a good solid staff offers at least some protection against more complex weapons such as a sword.



This seems to have been used as a training tool for many generations, with its origin still uncertain. It may have been a makeshift horse bit, or originally used for rice threshing.  As a weapon its use is controversial. Certainly as a training device it helps develop skill and dexterity. But as for defence against an opponent it may not be a useful as the popular films suggest.  Certainly the skill required in using such a weapon means an untrained opponent cannot effectively use it against you.  But without this skill, which takes considerable time to develop, the weapon is worse than useless. People have been known to injure themselves when using nunchaku.

The legality of Nunchaku is a little strange- they are often prohibited in places that allow knives. In some places a qualified professional may obtain a licence.


Throwing Stars (Shuriken)

These are more accociated with ninjas and samurai than karate, but the traditions become crosses, especially because of popular culture. They tended to be military weapons, but in a supporting role. They could be thrown at an opponent to inflict an initial injury before attacking him with a sword. They could also be left embedded in the ground in order to injure an opponent’s foot. As these weapons could cause an infection they might prove fatal in some cases.

These weapons are quite illegal in most societies.