Weird Asian Martial Arts Weapons
August 31, 2007 | by 孫子

From iron claws and meteor hammers to deer antler blades and emei needles, ancient Martial Arts weapons range greatly in shape and design, yet all have only one purpose – to injure. In the hands of a skilled assassin, even the humble chopsticks can become savage weapons.

Brutal metal-link whips, miniature swords disguised as tobacco pipes, fans edges with razor-sharp blades and poison-tipped arrows are all lethal in their own right but pale in comparison with an almost mystical weapon of decapitation.

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1. The Urumi

Also known as “chuttuval,” which means “coiled sword,” this flexible weapon is used in the South Indian Martial Art of Kalaripayatt.

The blade (or multiple blades, as in the urumi pictured here) is flexible enough to be rolled up and stored when not used, or even worn as a belt and whipped out on demand.

The blade or blades are typically razor-sharp and bad news for anyone standing in the vicinity of the person wielding the urumi.


2. The Tekko-kagi (“hand claws”)

Ninjas would use the tekko-kagi claws to guard against sword attacks, allowing them to swipe and potentially knock the sword from an assailant’s hands.

Or, ninjas could use claws the claws offensively against their opponents with devastating results.

Typically made from aluminum, steel, iron or wood, tekko weapons are believed by martial arts historians to have originated when the Bushi in Okinawa, Japan began wielding the steel shoes of their horses as a means of self-defense against assailants.


3. The Kusari-gama

Kusari-gama is a traditional Japanese weapon that consists of Scythe-like blade,Kama, on a metal chain with a heavy iron weight at the end.

This weapon came from the design of the farmer’s scythe but this was not a weapon that farmers used.

The art of handling the Kusarigama is called Kusarigamajutsu.

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4. The Nunchaku

A nunchaku is two sections of wood (or metal in modern incarnations) connected by a cord or chain. Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas Japanese are octagonal.

The traditional nunchaku is made from a strong, flexible hardwood such as oak, loquat or pasania. Originally, the wood would be submerged in mud for several years, where lack of oxygen and optimal acidity prevent rotting.

The end result is a hardened wood. The rope is made from horsehair, and was traditionally claimed to be able to block a sword. Finally, the wood is very finely sanded and rubbed with an oil or stain for preservation.


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5. The Meteor Hammer & Rope Dart

This weapon is comprised of a long rope with twin metal weights, “hammers”, or darts on each end. When used as a weapon, the hammer or dart on the front end is used for attack and the other for protection.

The rope wraps around the neck, back, shoulder, elbow, wrist, thigh, foot, or waist. When the hammer or dart is released, it strikes outward with stunning and surprising speed. It is one of Chinese martial arts’ most unique and difficult-to-master weapons.

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6. San-Jie-Gun (Three Section Staff)

The three sectional staff, is a historical weapon, which appears in the Chinese book “Sangokushi”. Its distinctive feature is three 70 cm sticks chained together making it much longer than a long staff.

It can be swung around, or as a staff, using one’s whole body space to fend off an attacker. A Chinese weapon constructed from three pieces of wood connected by metal rings at their ends. Lengths of the sections are roughly equal, each about the length of the practitioner’s arms (with the diameter around one inch).

The three sectional staff can be used as a long range weapon when held at one end and swung freely, or a short-range weapon when two of the sections are held and used to strike or parry.

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7. Shurikens (Throwing Star)

One of the most popular weapons of the Ninja, the shuriken was used as more of a distraction than an actual weapon. Although they can hurt they rarely penetrate deep enough to kill. Shurikens come with anywhere from 4 to 12 points traditionally.

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8. Tessen (Iron Fan)

Folding fans with outer spokes made of iron which were designed to look like regular, harmless folding fans or solid clubs shaped to look like a closed fan.

Samurai could take these to places where swords or other overt weapons were not allowed, and some swordsmanship schools included training in the use of the tessen as a weapon.

The tessen was also used for fending off arrows and darts, as a throwing weapon, and as an aid in swimming, like hand-flippers.


Sun Tzu has spent about 7 years in Asia traveling through Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Korea. A true fan of everything that is weird and strange, he decides in the end what is displayed and published on this site. Sun has previous experience writing for numerous print mags such as XLR8R, URB, and Movement Magazine.

Latest posts by 孫子 (see all)

  • The Nunchacu was originally used as a way to de-hull rice and other grains.

    Also, you must see the movie "Master Killer" to appreciate the 3 sectional staff (and it's "origin") !

    • I concur. I recall reading that some of these weapons are derived from various agricultural implements. A nunchaku is a modified flail, which is used by many cultures for removing the husks from grain prior to winnowing. The “scythe like” Kama is pretty easily seen as a derivative of the scythe.

      Why such derivative weapons? For one thing, in Japan it was forbidden for common people to own or carry weapons. A merchant might carry a single sword, but most people could not even do that. For self-defense, techniques had to develop that used common implements as weapons. Such secret weapons, hidden in plain sight, would also be ideal for a secret assassin such as a ninja.

      I guess it’s equivalent to learning how to make plastic explosives out of household chemicals.

  • I read somewhere that the shurikens were notoriously inaccurate, so the chances of it actually hitting where you've aimed it are slim.

    • A well thrown shuriken is very accurate at short to medium distance. But of course that all depends on who’s throwing it. As stated in the article they are mainly for distraction when thrown and aren’t meant to stick. If they do stick in someone the wound will likely be shallow and you’ve just given the attacker a weapon.

      They can also be used as handheld weapons in close combat. Serious injury can be inflicted by dragging one of the tips down someone’s throat, sticking it their ear, or inserting it under the arm and dragging it down, severing vessels and tendons. A very versitile easily hidden weapon.

      • I read that one of the characteristics of some shuriken was akin to a ‘invisible swordsman’ -that they could strike a target, and then veer or drop away giving the impression that the attacker was slashed by an invisible opponent -more of a psychological assault.

      • It makes more sense to me that accuracy with shuriken would not necessarily be required to be deadly, only give the appearance of being so, and also being quite good at sticking in wood.

        Imagine yourself wandering around, alert or not and a shuriken whistles by and thunks into a nearby tree or something. Instinctively your eyes, if not your entire head or body, would go immediately to the place the object embedded itself, and during that couple of seconds you are distracted, registering the threat, it would provide the ninja who threw it plenty of time to quickly sneak up to you and incapacitate or kill you.

    • I taught a young man to throw shurikans and he was able to hit targets he could not see such as by throwing them over a fence much taller than him and hiting the target on the other side. It is all in the training and determination of the student as with all things.

    • That is false, they were accurate

    • I collect ninja stars (shurikens) and most all other weapons of that era,and ninjas threw them in distraction for opponents. They can be extremely accurate if thrown properly. I have hit a target bulls-eye from 50 yards. It requires a strong throw and lots of accuracy practice to do so.

  • Actually, a little known fact about shuriken, is that for the most part, while they were used as a distraction, they were also used to damage a samurai’s hands. when faced one to one with a samurai, ninja usually knew they didn’t have a chance, so they would throw shuriken at the hands of the samurai before he could draw his sword. Not only did it work as a distraction, but if they hit their mark, they would render the samurai incapable of fighting.

    • Rusted shuriken were used as well, it didn’t kill you at first but it might kill you later on from a infection, added bonus.

    • Because as we all know, ninjas only ever fought samurai and all samurai were the shit and all ninjas were dirty fighters that would never win in a fair fight. Stop your armchair hypothesyzing and acting like you know, cause you were there.

      • Brent Emery Pieczynski

        Those of the lower-nobility found in Japan, enjoyed the title of Bushi. The status of bushi allowed a form of self-promotion called dueling. That status of samurai refers to, one who serves. This brings the question about what the status of the ninja serving, was in relation to the established order.
        The individual served their family and this family, served a larger group. That structure converts ninjutsu into, an enduring art. Those bringing resources to bear on a rural village’s nobility, could force a smaller group to engage in deception. That act of deception is resource intense, while it might also fail to deceive.
        This use of individuals which take low-risk targets to weaken an adversary, that could cause a castle to collapse. The defense against carpenter ants, termites, roaches and rot; this isn’t not, dueling.

    • Shuriken were probably not as effective a throwing weapon as a thrown knife would be, since a throwing knife could penetrate deeper and almost certainly kill if it hit the targets upper torso square on, and the shuriken would be stopped from penetrating deeper than an inch because its forking blades dig in opposing directions into flesh. On the other hand, shuriken required little training to learn to throw correctly, and throwing it almost always ensured a definite cut in the target because of the multiple blades. It’s like the difference between the dao and the jian, the dao is simpler to use and learn because it gives a great mechanical advantage due to its design, and the jian, while harder to learn, had much more versatility in combat due to it’s light leverage, length, and shape.

    • really cool fact thx for sharing:)

  • I need to pick me up some of them Hand Claws, those things are awesome! Or I could just duct tape cutlery to my knuckles.. Either way, really!

    • Haha… wanted them since i saw them in diablo 2 LOD on the assassin :)

      • The Assassin wielded more than the claws, she wielded another strange and unique Indian weapon called a Qatar/Katar. The difference between that and claws are the attacking methods, with the claws using knuckle rakes and straight punching techniques and the Qatars using hammerfist and uppercuts as well as straight punching.

  • The Shuriken was often covered in poison, so all it needed was a scratch to kill.

    • That’s absurd, anyone but a master marksman could just as easily cut their own hands in the heat of battle – shurikens were /rarely/ poisoned.

    • actually, they didnt need poison, as they had no cure for tetanus, they let everything rust, much safer to handle from the ninja's standpoint as well, and seeing as they didnt know what caused tetanus, they would have bought into the whole myth of a curse placed on the shuriken

  • In the hands of the expert, a small pea can take an eye out.

  • Before Gunf fu and Fu Kie, the ancients fought with pretzle sticks. Dangerously knotted these sticks hardened and became the samarai sword

  • I’ve heard of a sensei who used shuriken to hunt rabbits.

  • Nerd of All Trades

    Not that this really has anything to do with weapons, but I thought it was cool that The Nunchaku clip from “Enter the Dragon” comes complete with Jackie Chan’s uncredited screen time with Bruce Lee (even though he only lasts about 4 seconds – it starts at 3:04 – don’t blink or you’ll miss it). Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao had much more screen time as the Shaolin fighter and a tournament fighter, respectively. Yuen Biao didn’t get to fight Bruce, though. Too bad.

  • ‘The Urumi’ is from Martial Art Kalaripayatt from Kerala.

    Kalari Payattu is told to be the most ancient martial arts in the world.

    The Urumi a dangerous weapon – its a long sharp sleazing metal belt which novices must avoid – it would cut self if you don’t know how to use it.

    If you check you will find many performances by Kalari Payatti artists. Its a dying or dead art.

    Google for Zamorin, Mamankam, Chekavar for ideas

  • In the section on the Urumi, it says that “the Urumi can be worn as a belt and whipped out when needed.”

    This might sound like a juvenile question, but, how do they keep the Urumi from cutting the belt loops on the pants? The weapon is razor sharp, so logic dictates that whipping them out would cut through the loops holding them on your pants.

    I am asking a serious question here. My son wants to know all about ninja and martial arts. He will eventually ask me this question and I would like to be able to answer him honestly and truethfully.

    • look at how most martial art uniforms stay on, they usualy have a length of fabric coloured to match your proficiency and tied around the waist, no belt loops present.

      • Its only modern martial artists that use the belts to determine proficiency. They didn’t give rewards like that because of the belief that it put to much emphasis on those who were better skilled when the instructor should be focusing on those who need more help. But as for belt loops youa re right their robes had no loops to hold a belt in place.

    • Hi Trish,

      Urumi is indeed a dangerous weapon and is used by experts only. But marital artists in Kerala are well used to it.

      Urumi comes with various lengths as per expertise of person who use it.


      Its mainly used by warriors when they have to oppose multiple enemies.

      Its kept coiled like a belt around ones waist (in Kalari Payattu one’s waist is always protected by thick cotton cloth – ara kachha which protects them from falls, etc.).

      There are wide variety of weapons in Kalari Payattu and will be more interesting than ones shown in this site.

      A cinematic presentation can be thought like female actress fighting scenes in film Mummy 2.

      Google for Kalari Payattu and you will get a lot of info.

      In there are clips.

    • not all belts use loops.

      • yeah well its loops or u tighten it really really really tight and i dont think they did that with a bunch of razor sharp metal strips

    • Well back then i dont think that they had belt loops haha so they didnt have to worry about it.

  • To know how furious were Urumi wielding Kings and fighters from Kerala, you have to check their history.

    Reading few samples can even piss off current day Jihadis. See:

    Colonial British enjoyed a long time fighting with small Kings here.

  • Thank you very much.

  • Thank you very much. Thank goodness that these people are in our world still today. In a day and age of modern weapons used by questionable people, we need martial artists more than ever.

    • What’s odd about that comment? We do need martial artists. Real ones, mind you, not MMA thugs.

    • I agree. I don’t see what’s questionable about this comment. We do need people who specialize in these weapons. I’d hate to see all fighting redefined by Western standards.

    • Yeah, swords and kicks are most effective against nukes, drones, and the stupidity of the Bush family. I love martial arts too but they aren’t going to be used against “modern weapons used by questionable people.”

      Or are you planning to kick a little terrorist butt: “Put down that box cutter or I’ll knock it out of your hand with a scissor kick!”

      • martial arts are indeed still needed to this day, the reason it sounds odd is simple though. If im faced with a situation against, say a Breatta knockoff and i got my Tanto, it i cant get that weapon out of his hand and at NOT discarge it at the same time (success is extreemly low, to be honest, i wont even try) then forget you have that tanto and run. no one is Keano Reeves.

    • what’s wrong with MMA? Why does it have to be used by thugs? Police are actually being enrolled in MMA training as of a few months ago, should a situation arise where they can’t reach their “modern weapons…” also, if you check, you’ll notice that MMA is actually a conglomeration of several distinguished martial arts, most noticeably Brazilian Jiujitsu

  • I have seen the urmi in action. The amount of control they have over the weapon is amazing… And i love the meteor hammer, very graceful.

  • Man…… You could easily cut yourself shaving with one of those!

  • DUDE, Those fricking things are SWEET !!!!!
    Man I’m so pumped I could assplode !!

  • Aluminum (as referneced in Tekko-kagi) wasn’t even discovered till 1808 & never occurs in it’s elemental state in nature. It was still several years later before people could even consistently extract it.

  • Where`s my all time favorit?
    The Sai or in Indonesian, the Tjabang?
    Grabs like a claw, blocks like a Tongfa, punches like an iron fist and
    cuts like a sword…

  • Privet! Ya iz Sibiri. U menia est internet.

  • Forgot kyoketsu shoge, bisento, jutte, kamayari. All weirder than most up there.

  • You missed the ekor pari, a silat dagger made of a stingray spine. Serrated bone, poisonous to boot!

  • I miss the neko-te! D: I bet those make alotta kills too.

  • heh, now i really want a urami, any idea where i can get one?

  • hai iam shahnawz ansari indian karate & martial art school tenshinkan karate-do (sotokan) with out martial art there is no life in present age every person may cused by diabities martial art is fit our body balance

  • Grow up people. although it’s nice to have a sense of history, but when you start dreaming about “i wish i had some hand claws” wake up and smell the java.

    • So now you are just gonna take peoples interests and make fun of them for it? That's like me saying "Why do you like posting messages, why don't you just grow up".


  • The weapons are ok but it is the trained martial artist who makes them truly deadly. I have trained for years. I can stick nails, bic pens, pencils in solid wood from 10 feet away. I can sink a nickel straight through a sheetrock wall. I can usually hit where I am aiming with some certainty. Shurikens must have been truly deadly. 9/11 was carried off with crude weapons, razor bladed box cutters. Carried by men small of stature. Look at all the crap in the world in its aftermath. One man aboard the plane who knew how to throw a decent combo could have saved the world! Who says there is no place for martial arts in modern warfare.

  • Why the yoyo is not included in here, that’s a wierd weapon also. Deadly and it’s easy to use just your like toying with it :)

  • I want a fan, elegant but deadly I love delicate deadly things

  • Another thing about the shuriken: It didn't need to be dipped in poison. Because tetanus vaccines weren't available, a scratch from a rusty ninja star could prove deadly. Soak it in water for awhile, and you've got an assassin's weapon!

    Good collection of weapons in the article.

  • What about the kusari fundo (rope), Otani (HUGE axe), Nyo Ibo (oversize staff), Tchoka (umbrella), Tchigiri-oto (sash filled with blinding powder), Toami (fishing net), Shuko (spiked hand band), Ashiko (spiked foot), or even a grappling hook. Those are much stranger than some of these weapons, mostly because they a seen to most as "useless" in battle.

  • nice throwing star!(shuriken) and claws =]

  • I love the weapons! I myself know how to use the nunchaku. I wish they didn't leave out the other things I am learning to use like the Roku-shaku-bo (six foot staff), tonfa (wood wepons that greatly resemble police nightsticks used for blocking and punching), Zai (dual weapons used for ofense defense throwing and breaking swords, used sort of like a police badge), and just the blade kama! I mean they left out like half the weapons hidden and disguised in Japan!

  • akismet-01d2c7d63b49fb933877bb81d104e249

    I wrote about many similar weapons at The latest is the Hwacha, a weapon used by 15th century Koreans that was featured on mythbusters!

  • so obessed in weapons, married to them!

  • With the whole thing that seems to be developing throughout this particular area, a significant percentage of opinions are relatively stimulating. Nonetheless, I am sorry, because I can not give credence to your entire theory, all be it exciting none the less. It looks to us that your comments are not totally rationalized and in simple fact you are generally your self not really thoroughly confident of the point. In any case I did take pleasure in reading through it.

  • Combat is the Least important skill the Ninja Posses..

  • Just to add a little first person reportage, When I was stationed in Okinawa in 1978-80, one of my troops was playing with a shuriken and managed to really stick it the thigh of another. It definitely HURT as it was in the major thigh muscle. It did not kill him, but it reduced his ability to walk, move. If hit in the eye? Would have done major damage. Hit the jugular in the throat? Maybe fatal, though you would have to be accurate to do that.

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