20 Best Martial Arts Weapons (Fighting & Training)

Are you wondering about the best martial arts weapons?

In this article, we’ll look at the best martial arts weapons from various periods of history and different martial arts, a brief history of each, and how they’re used in combat or practice.

20 Best Martial Arts Weapons

For some background, many of the best martial arts weapons originate in Okinawa Japan, where many of the tools were originally farming tools used as weapons.

They were disguised as tools because the lower-class farmers weren’t allowed weapons (only samurai were) and they needed them to defend themselves. These tools first started to be used as weapons in the early 17th century.

Here are the 20 best martial arts weapons in alphabetical order.

Bo Staff

Bo, or kon, is a staff first used as a martial arts weapon by the Okinawan kobudō. The bo staff is 6 feet in length (1.8m) and was originally used to carry buckets of water, but later became used to churn butter and relieve constipated yaks before it was used as a weapon.

The bo is most commonly made from red or white oak, but pine, bamboo, rattan wood, hardwood with metallic sides, and foam are also used.

The bo with metallic sides is often used during demonstrations and competitions, foam is used during training/sparring to avoid injury, and bamboo and rattan wood are used because of their flexibility.

As a weapon, the bo is seen as an extension of one’s limbs and is used to strike, sweep, thrust, and block. The bo is most commonly gripped in thirds where it can be used to attack with both the front and back ends.

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Butterfly Swords

Butterfly swords are a 19th-century (1840s) Chinese martial arts weapon featuring a single-edged blade about the length of a person’s forearm.

Butterfly swords come in slight size variations as they were never mass-produced for war, but the average blade size is around 1 foot (30 cm), and the handle around 0.5 foot (15 cm), for a total length of 1.5 feet (45 cm).

Because of their shorter length, butterfly swords were useful as they could be concealed inside clothing and boots, making them a perfect self-defense weapon against surprise attacks.

Butterfly swords are mostly used in pairs and can also be concealed side by side in a scabbard – giving the appearance of a single blade.

Butterfly swords have one side prong (crossguard) used for blocking and catching an opponent’s weapon. The handle size is enough for one hand to grip and is protected from attacks by the guard, which can also be used for striking like a tekko.

The lower half of the blade is blunt and effective for blocking, the top half is extremely sharp and used for slicing, and the point is used for stabbing.

Butterfly swords are used in various Chinese kung-fu martial arts such as wing chun, Choy li fut, and hung ga.

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Eiku (eku), or kai, is an oar and classic Okinawan martial arts weapon considered the fanciest. As it’s an oar, an eiku was used by fishermen and beach locals, and as a weapon, Okinawans would use it to flick sand into an enemy’s face before thrusting at them.

There are three main ways to equip an eiku. They are the natural grip, which is one hand up and one hand down, the reverse grip, which is both hands gripping in the same direction, and the special grip, which is a natural grip but held with both hands much lower down the eiku.

The bladed end of the eiku is mainly used for striking, while the staff end is mostly used for blocking but also striking as it’s similar to the bo staff.

An eiku is made from oak and typically measures between 4.5 to 6 shaku (1.35 – 1.8m), while the blade is between 2 to 2.5 shaku (60 – 75 cm) in length and 3.5 inches wide (9 cm). As they’re used for rowing, the length of an eiku was adjusted depending on the height of its user.

In modern times, the eiku is mainly used in Matayoshi kobudo and Ryukuya kobudo, as well as a handful of karate and kata schools.

Eskrima Sticks 

Eskrima sticks, or batons, are a popular stick weapon used by the national Filipino martial art of arnis (kali, eskrima).

Eskrima sticks are used in pairs and are ideal for training and sparring as they’re made from rattan (stem of a vine); making them cost-efficient, sturdy, durable, lightweight, and safer to use than wood weapons because they don’t splinter.

Outside of sparring, eskrima sticks made from hardwood are used because they’re denser and can deal more damage. On average, eskrima sticks are between 60 to 70 cm in length and are used for close combat. Less commonly they can be up to 90 cm for improved range.

Eskrima sticks are intended to help users increase coordination and dexterity, and become more ambidextrous; as well as improve self-defense by reacting to different angles of attack. They are very practical and can be used to strike, block, and parry, where most often one hand attacks while the other defends.

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Hook Swords

Hook swords, tiger head hook, or qian kun ri yue dao (the heaven and earth, sun and moon sword), are exclusively Chinese martial arts weapons originating in the Qing dynasty between the 17th and early 20th centuries.

Hook swords have a very distinct look and feature 5 main components that make them effective in both defense and attack:

  • The back is used for blocking and slashing
  • The hook is used for slashing, striking, tripping, and hooking weapons
  • The sharpened hilt is in the form of a dagger and is used for stabbing
  • The crescent guard is used for blocking, hooking weapons, stabbing, slashing, and trapping opponents by the neck
  • The link connects a pair of hook swords so that one sword is extended out by 6 feet (1.82m) for use as a distance weapon

Everything except the grip on the traditional hook swords was sharpened and made from hardened steel. This made them a very expensive, dangerous, and luxurious weapon – they were used by a select few for self-defense but were never used in war.

Modern hook swords are made from stainless steel and have a total length between 84 and 100 cm (blade, handle, hilt), where the blade is two-thirds of this. Because of the risk of self-injury and its flashy nature, hook swords are never used in sparring and only in practice if blunted ones are used.

Modern hook swords weigh between 1.1 to 1.2 lbs each and traditional hook swords weigh roughly 2.2 lbs each (difference in material).

Hook swords are used by Shaolin monks in Chinese kung-fu weapons routines (wushu-taolu) such as the northern praying mantis, and choy li fut.

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One of the oldest martial arts weapons on the list, the jian, or the gentleman of weapons, is a double-edged sword originating in China 2500 years ago.

The jian blade is divided into 3 components:

  • Jiànfeng – the tip of the blade is sharp and used with refined movements of cutting, slicing, and stabbing techniques (like you see in Olympic fencing), rather than wide slashing motions
  • Zhongren – the middle edge of the blade is used for both offensive striking and defensive deflections
  • Jiàngen – the root section closest to the guard is most blunt and used for blocking and other defensive techniques

The jiàngen is wider and twice as thick as the jiànfeng, while the jiànfeng is much sharper than the jiàngen.

The blade meets a guard which is used for blocking and protecting the hands. Under the guard is a small handle big enough for one hand, and the grips are often fluted wood or ray skin to help prevent slippage.

The bottom of the sword is finished with a pommel, used for striking an opponent, preventing slippage, and giving the sword a better balance. Sometimes the pommel has a tassel, used as a distraction in battle and in modern ceremonials for better visuals.

The jian works best with elusive movement as it can only be used in front. If blocking behind the back, the blade is likely to go into the back of the user due to it being double-edged.

The materials used to construct a jian changed through the metal ages, with it mostly being made from bronze and later steel, but also less commonly with copper, tin, and nickel.

Traditional jians had a blade length of up to 80 cm, a total length of up to 100 cm, and weighed between 2 to 2.5 lbs. Modern-made jians have thinner blades, are lighter in weight, blunt, and flexible. They’re used for ceremonial purposes in tai-chi and wushu (kung-fu) where practitioners are called jianke.

Traditional style combat jians are still in use and have been used by the Chinese Navy since 2008.

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The Kama, or kai, is a traditional Japanese farming tool for cutting crops and was later improvised as a weapon of self-defense in Okinawa.

It’s known to be easy to use and is often paired when used as a weapon (kamas). Pairing them makes them more effective where they can block, slash, trap, and hook an opponent’s weapon or limbs before ripping and pulling. 

For most effective use and to avoid being disarmed, the wrist, forearm, and grip must be kept strong and used in a slashing motion. Held upright near the blade, you can strike or punch with the kama as this position gives an even weight distribution and allows more force in the motion.

Kamas can also be held in reverse so that it runs along the forearm for blocking – where they can also be used to hook. Kamas are very speedy and sharp and make a whipping noise when slashing with the correct technique – mostly caused by the holes in the blade.

Kamas are mostly made with an oak or maple handle (can be all metal) and a sharp steel blade, weighs around 0.5 lbs each, and are roughly 38 cm (15 inches) in length. 

However, the length of a kama was and still is often custom-sized to match the length of a user’s arm. Held in the reverse grip, the blade should be roughly level with your elbow.

Some kamas come with a rubber grip to prevent slippage and completely wooden ones are best for practice to avoid self-injury. Kamas are used in Okinawan kobudo, silat, taekwondo, and modern XMA.

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The katana is a sword originating from the Japanese sasuga sword (short sword) in the 12th century. Around 1400, the sasuga was lengthened and the katana was born.

The katana is an iconic weapon, recognized for its use by samurai in feudal Japan who would wear it with the blade facing up. The samurai used the katana as a weapon from roughly 1400 through the Edo period (1603-1868), and they were also seen as a status symbol and used as gifts between the nobility.

The katana is a moderately curved sword featuring a single-edged blade, a guard, and a long circular grip with enough space for two hands. The average blade of a katana is at least 2 shaku (60 cm) and the grip (tsaku) 1 shaku (30 cm), for a total length of 3 shaku (90 cm) – but they can be up to 4 shaku (120 cm).

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Nunchaku, or nunchucks (3 pairs or more), is a Japanese martial arts weapon born in Okinawa, featuring two hardwood sticks (each 30 cm) and a small rope or chain linking them (up to 15 cm).

More modern nunchucks are made with chains, while the traditional Okinawan nunchaku were made using horse hair as rope.

Its exact date of origin is unknown, but nunchaku was first used by Okinawan farmers for threshing rice and later as a weapon of defense against thieves in the early 17th century.

Contrary to popular belief, the main purpose of the nunchucks as a weapon is to use them as a distance-keeping weapon that can generate power and speed.

Nunchaku was made hugely popular by Bruce Lee and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo. Bruce Lee wasn’t a huge fan of nunchaku, seeing them as less effective than other weapons, but used them in many of his martial arts movies because they looked cool and he was talented with them.

Since the early 17th century, nunchaku has been used in martial arts such as aikido, eskrima, hapkido, karate, Okinawan kobudō, karate, and taekwondo.

They benefit the user with improved posture, focus, and quick hand movements. Foam nunchaku is used in practice to avoid injury, and those who practice with nunchaku are referred to as nunchakuka. Overall, nunchaku is one of the most iconic and best martial arts weapons of all time.

In 2022, many countries have restricted nunchaku to use in martial arts schools and are therefore illegal in public. This includes Germany, who made them illegal because they’re seen as a strangulation weapon, the UK, Russia, and Spain.

In the USA, states have varying laws but most of them confine nunchaku to use in schools, where some states even made the possession of nunchaku illegal.

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Nine-Section Whips

The nine-section whip, or soft whip, is a Shaolin weapon dating back to the Chinese Jin dynasty (265-420).

They’re sometimes referred to as soft whips because of their flexibility – being made of 9 steel chain links connected by rings that can be used to whip around an opponent’s block and easily strike them. Nine-section whips come in varying lengths but are usually between 1.2 to 1.35 meters.

The last link is a sharp heavy metal weight in the shape of a bullet, packing enough power and speed to slash, pierce, and even break bones. They can also be used to hook and bind an opponent, keep an enemy at bay, and block incoming strikes.

During battles, nine-section whips were used as secondary weapons when the main sword was lost, and at times the tip could be painted with poison. Less commonly, they could be held in the hand and used to give a punch a lot more weight – usually as a first strike.

Nine-section whips are notoriously difficult to use and even harder to master – they’re among the top martial arts weapons likely to cause self-injury. In the hands of an expert though, they show a dazzling display of visuals, skill, and coordination – as seen in wushu (kung-fu) demonstrations.

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The pudao, or horse-cutter sword (used to slice horses’ legs out in battle), is originally a Chinese infantry weapon most distinguished by its extremely long handle of between 3 to 6 feet. The handle length would often be changed depending on its required use.

There are around 18 techniques with the pudao, summarized into sweep, stab, lift, and chop. In battle, the pudao is most effective as a distance weapon by sweeping at an enemy’s waist. Users have to strike the correct balance between the hilt and the blade to control it.

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Rope Dart

The rope dart, or rope javelin, is one of the most unique martial arts weapons ever. It’s a traditional Chinese weapon originating in the western Han dynasty (206 BCE to 24 CE), most often used as a secondary weapon to a spear or sword.

Rope darts are between 3 to 5 meters in length and are an effective long-range weapon. They’re very deceptive as the dart can be shot very fast at targets seemingly out of range.

At close range, the rope dart can be used to slash, strike, or entangle and yank an enemy to the ground before strangling them.

The darts are made of either iron or steel, and the rope was traditionally coated with wax to prevent friction, while modern ropes are made from a synthetic material or soft rope and users often use talc.

Rope darts are used in wushu, where practitioners are first required to learn how to use the nine-section whip because the skills used are very similar, but the rope dart is very hard to control and has a higher chance of self-injury.

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The three-pronged sai is the second martial arts weapon learned in Okinawan kubudo and was originally used by higher-ranked Okinawan police to catch criminals (lower-ranked officers used the bo).

While the tip of a sai looks sharp, traditionally they were rounded and acted as a metal baton, as the police didn’t want to kill criminals, they wanted to hurt them enough to arrest them.

Blunted or sharp, the sai is most effective because of its fast stabs and strikes due to its light weight of 1.5 to 2 kg (3.3 to 4.4 lbs) and height of 35 to 50 cm.

The side prongs of the sai were used for blocking and hooking weapons and wrists, as well as offering a different grip variation to initiate strikes with the bottom of the handle (tsukagashira).

There are many different parts of the sai. These are the: monouchi, yoku, tsume, moto, tsuka, tsukagashira, and saki.

  • Monouchi (the main prong) is mostly rounded or faceted (many sides),
  • Yoku is the symmetrical side prongs that extend from the moto to form a U-shaped guard 
  • Tsume is the tip of the yoku and can either be pointed or rounded
  • Moto is the circular part between the yoku
  • Tsuka is the grip and is 5 inches long (13 cm). It’s usually made of cord or leather.
  • Tsukagashira is the circular pommel part at the bottom of the tsuka
  • Saki is the rounded tip or sharp point at the top of the monouchi

The sai was formerly used in karate and is now used in kobudo, ninjutsu, and kata – where they’re used in pairs. Practice with the sai strengthens the arms, forearms, and hands because of the extra weight.


The sansetsukon is an Okinawan modification of the similar 3-section staff and is very similar to the nunchaku. It’s a newer Okinawan martial arts weapon as it was added to the kobudo in 1925.

The sansetsukon staves are either wood or metal (foam in practice), are 2 feet in length (60 cm), between 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, and the chain links are roughly 20 cm in length, giving the sansetsukon a total length of 2.6 feet (80 cm).

Of all the Okinawan martial arts weapons, the sansetsukon has the largest range of offensive and defensive techniques – where it can use bo and nunchaku techniques as well as its own. The sansetsukon is one of the most difficult weapons to master and there is a high risk of rebound injury.

It’s very effective as a long-range weapon by holding one of the outside staves and swinging freely. When two staves are held, it becomes a short-range weapon and can strike or parry effectively against the majority of martial arts weapons. Sansetsukon can also choke, disarm, and throw an opponent.


Shuriken, or ninja stars, are one of the most unique martial arts weapons, believed to have been born in the Sengoku period (1467-1568). 

They come in various shapes and sizes and are essentially sharp throwing stars used offensively as a supplement to a sword. Shuriken is made of either iron or steel.

They were thrown at an enemy by the samurai, looking to cause a distraction and inflict damage before striking with a katana. They were also thrown in random directions to make noise and mislead an enemy, as well as placed in the ground in unsuspecting places to catch an enemy off guard.

Some styles of shuriken could also be used as a dagger as long as they had a place to grip them, and all styles are easily concealed. The most common variety of shuriken is:

  • bō shuriken (stick)
  • hira shuriken (flat)
  • shaken shuriken (star-shaped)

Shuriken was used in the former supplemental Japanese martial art, shurikenjutsu, literally the art of throwing shuriken – and now most commonly in ninjutsu.

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The spear, or qiang in Chinese, originated around 500,000 years ago and was referred to in China as the king of weapons. Spears are used in the martial arts: sojutsu, tai chi, and Kung Fu.

Spears feature a hardwood shaft (less commonly metal) and a sharp leaf-pointed blade tip, used for thrusting and stabbing opponents. Spear blades have been made of flint, stone, obsidian, bronze, copper, chert, and more commonly iron and steel.

There are many slight variations to the spear, and the Chinese qiang often had a tassel underneath the blade to stop blood flowing to the shaft which would make it slippery or sticky when dried.

Spears are effective mostly because of their length and reach advantage, where they’re often between 2.5 to 6 meters in length. Spears can also be paired with a shield for better distance management and defense, and they can also be turned into a javelin.

Spears are also much quicker to use than a sword because of their lightness, making them great at changing angles and directions of attack to one or more opponents, as well as feinting attacks. 

Spears are best used as a stabbing weapon, but they can also slash, block, and trip opponents. Overall, spears are easily one of the best martial arts weapons of all time.


Tonfa, or t-baton, is a Japanese martial arts weapon used for various strikes and blocking, originating in the Okinawan kobudō (weapons training art). It has a perpendicular handle, roughly one-third of the way up the stick.

To block, a tonfa is gripped normally with the stick running the outside of the forearm. From here, a block can turn into an attack with the use of elbows, punches, and back fists. 

Reversing this grip means the tonfa can be swung to strike. Users can also grip the shaft and use the tonfa as a hook and striking weapon.

Tonfas were originally used to help steer a wagon, much like a steering wheel in the shape of a gear stick. In the 12th century, the tonfa then became the weapon of choice for Okinawan farmers as it was easily concealed in robes.

Tonfas were originally made of oak, but are now mostly made of hardwood and can also be made of rubber, foam, polypropylene, and polycarbonate. In the 20th century, tonfa has been used by law enforcement and security guards around the world due to its effectiveness as a compliance tool and defensive weapon.

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Tekko is basically traditional knuckle dusters, first used in Okinawa by weaponizing stirrups and horseshoes. Tekko was used by the non-samurai in feudal Japan because they were easily concealed for defense against surprise attacks.

They were effective in battle because they were light and could inflict a lot of damage with quick punches, slices, hammer fists, and open-palm strikes. They could also be used with an open hand, so users could grab an enemy weapon while keeping the tekko equipped.

The Tekko has been used in martial arts such as kobudō, kata, and shotokan karate.


The tessen is a weaponized Japanese folding fan (hand fan) originating in the 6th century. They were concealed in clothing and even in view, as they look like a harmless fan but the outer spokes are made of heavy iron, as are the ribs and outer layer.

They were an accessory weapon for the samurai and aristocrats (usually women) and used to parry a surprise attack or initiate a discrete attack in places where weapons weren’t appropriate, or in general places where a fan wouldn’t raise suspicion.

A tessen could also be used to block knives, swords, and longer-range weapons such as darts. Training with a tessen was taught in the Japanese martial art, tessenjutsu, which is still taught by a small number of Japanese schools today.

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Yumi (Archery)

The yumi is a Japanese bow dating back to 300 CE. The yumi was more commonly used by the samurai from the 12th century until its decline in use in the 16th century because of more advanced weapons such as the matchlock. The yumi is now seen as more of a noble weapon.

The yumi’s construction changed a lot, but by the 12th century, it was the longest bow at between 2 to 2.5 meters – with a draw weight between 12 to 16 kg (26 to 35 lbs).

A yumi is made of either bamboo or wood on the outside for flexibility, and laminated bamboo and wax-tree wood on the inside (nakauchi) for sturdiness. Yumi is asymmetrical and the grip is one-third up from the bottom because they were designed with use on horseback and from kneeling positions in mind.

The advantages of using a yumi are its effectiveness at range; being able to shoot up to 200 meters, piercing armor, and its use on horseback. Yumis are used in the martial arts kyudo, gungdo, and yabusame.

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