Kobudo Tonfa Weapon

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Okinawan club-like weapon with a handle at a right angle to the shaft. Typically made of wood with a rounded or a planed shaft. Can be used singly, or in pairs. Excellent defensive weapon against bladed weapons (good reach). Can be used for thrusting strikes with either end of the shaft, swinging strikes with the shaft, or with the knob end of the handle.

The tonfa traditionally consists of two parts, a handle with a knob, and perpendicular to the handle, a shaft or board that lies along the hand and forearm. The shaft is usually 51–61 cm (20–24 in) long; optimally, it extends about 3 cm past the elbow when held. Often the shaft has rounded off ends which may be grooved for a better grip.

The tonfa was originally a wooden handle that fit into a hole on the side of a millstone used to grind rice and other grains, dating back to 15th century Okinawa. The handle, which was easily disengaged from the millstone, became a very effective weapon of defense. The Tonfa’s circular movements as a farm implement evolved into its rotating strikes as a weapon. They may be used for blocks, thrusts, and strikes.

The tonfa, also known as tong fa or tuifa, is a traditional Okinawan weapon from which the modern side-handled police baton is derived.

The tonfa’s origin is found outside of Okinawa. Folklore says it was originally used as the wooden handle that fit into the side of millstones and was later developed into a weapon. In China, the tonfa is said to have developed from a crutch.

Either way, it was also an early weapon of Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. A similar weapon is used in Thailand and called the mae sun sawk which had rope tying the elbow end of it to the arm.

There is in principal only one kind of Tonfa although the shaft varies in shape from round to rectangular. History has also shown the butt ends to be pointed but this is extremely rare. The weapon attracts two kata in the Ryukyu Kobujutsu syllabus but because of its exposure with the police in the baton form it is a very popular weapon to practise with.

The weapon is used in pairs and is of wood, again red oak or white oak preferably in keeping with the Bo. The length of the weapon is also the same requirements as the Sai, about three centimetres past the elbow when gripped. The weight like the Bo is paramount to the efficient usage of the weapon. Too light and it lacks power in Kumite, too heavy and the techniques lack speed and become ponderous. Again like the Sai there are three grips, Honte-Mochi (Natural), Gyakute-Mochi (Reverse) and Tokushu-Mochi (Special grip). The latter is not commonly used but is very effective and relates strongly to the techniques of Kama.

The usage is prevalent in the kata Yaraguwa. Tonfa is the practise of Uraken(back fist) and Hiji waza (elbow techniques) in open hand fighting. Good body movement like the Sai can make this weapon formidable, combining the speed it needs and generates along with the skilful footwork for evasion and attack. Although there are stories of Rice millstone grinding implements and horses bridles etc. as being the origins of this weapon, these are merely coincidental. The weapons origins can clearly be traced back to China and be found in Indonesia and surrounding geographical locations.

The tonfa traditionally consists of two parts, a handle with a knob, and at 90 degrees to the handle, a shaft or board that lies along the hand and forearm. The shaft is usually 51-61 centimeters (20-24 inches) in length, and optimally extends about 3 cm past the elbow when held. Often the shaft has rounded off ends which may be grooved for a better grip.

There are numerous ways to defend and attack with the tonfa. Defensively, when holding the handle, the shaft protects the forearm and hand from blows, and the knob can protect from blows to the thumb. By holding both ends of the shaft, it can ward off blows. When holding the shaft, the handle can function as a hook to catch blows or weapons.

In attack, the shaft can be swung out to strike the target. By holding the handle and twirling the tonfa it can gain large amounts of momentum before striking. The knob can be used as a striking surface, either when held by the handle, or when holding the shaft, using it as a club. The shaft can also be maneuvered to stab at attackers. By holding the shaft and handle together, the tonfa can be used for holding or breaking techniques. The tonfa is traditionally wielded in pairs, one in each hand, unlike the police nightstick which is a single-hand weapon.

Construction: The tonfa traditionally consists of two parts, a handle with a knob, and perpendicular to the handle, a shaft or board that lies along the hand and forearm. The shaft is usually 51–61 cm (20–24 in) long; optimally, it extends about 3 cm past the elbow when held. Often the shaft has rounded off ends which may be grooved for a better grip. There is a smaller cylindrical grip secured at a 90 degrees angle to the shaft, about 15 centimetres from one end.

Technique: There are numerous ways to defend and attack with the tonfa. In defense, if the handle is grasped then the shaft protects the forearm and hand from blows from the opponents and the knob can protect the thumb. If both ends of the shaft are held, the shaft can be used to ward off blows and the handle can be used as a hook to catch the opponent’s weapons.

In attack, one can swing the shaft to strike the target. Large amounts of momentum can be imparted to the shaft by twirling the tonfa by the handle. The tonfa can also be wielded in such a way as to use the knob as a striking implement, held either by the handle or by the shaft. One can also stab one’s opponents with the shaft of the tonfa. By holding the shaft and the handle of the tonfa together, one can use it for holding or breaking techniques.

Tonfa are traditionally wielded in pairs, one in each hand. This is unlike police nightsticks, which are generally used only singly. As the tonfa can be held in many different ways, education in the use of the tonfa often involves learning how to switch between different grips at high speed. Such techniques require great manual dexterity.

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