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A Brief History of the Tonfa

The martial arts weapon, the tonfa, is one of the more popular devices in the Okinawan and Japanese karate and Jujitsu. The tonfa is essentially a club with a handle that protrudes at a 90 degree angle. This allows a practitioner to hold the handle in a solid grip while the club protects the forearm.

The origin of the tonfa can be traced to ancient China and Thailand where it was originally used to as an accessory to a millstone. After being inserted into the millstone, the tonfa would be used to grind rice. Eventually, the tonfa made its way to Okinawa for the same purpose of grinding rice.

Since Okinawa had a strong martial culture, it is no surprise that the tonfa was added to the many other farm implements based weapons of Japanese and Okinawan karate. This is because it can easily be incorporated into traditional punching and blocking. In time, the handle of the tonfa was modified so that the club would rotate when twirled. This made its ability to strike and block both circular and unpredictable.

The Tonfa: Attack & Defense Combined

What made the tonfa an important inclusion into Karate and Jujitsu was its ability to deal with bladed weaponry. Specifically, the long handles covered the forearms and could provide decent protection against sword swings. The offensive capabilities of the tonfa were also expansive and included thrusting, twirling, and Jujitsu style grappling techniques.

So effective is the tonfa is has been integrated into the equipment of modern police officers around the world, often reincarnated as the police baton or ‘nightstick’.

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