Are Martial Arts Weapons worth Learning?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate, martial arts, Self-defense
2 Mar 2014


When you walk into a karate school, one of the first things you notice are weapons on the walls. There are also trophies and pictures but the weapons are what I noticed right away. After watching karate movies and seeing how deadly weapons could be I wanted to learn how to use them!


But after a quick reality check I realized that most of these old weapons that would still work on an unarmed opponent – would have little effect against even a taser. Nowadays the personal self defense standard weapon is a gun. But after some more thought on this – I live in California where the gun laws are pretty strict – only the cops and crooks have guns outside homes.


In this post I will try to address the question if martial arts weapons are worth anything today or if you are just wasting your time that might be better spent learning how to use a taser, mace or a gun to augment your hand to hand self-defense.




Watching this video I was struck that as each innovation came along – the previous weapons were made useless. For instance sabers were widely used before repeating guns were adopted. You did not need a sword if you could fire six rounds in rapid succession. So karate weapons like the sword, nunchucks and the staff became second class weapons that would not work unless stealth were employed.


One would even ask  the question why learn something like ninjitsu that used swords, knives, staffs and such when guns were available. Here is where it gets mucky. Governments have widely controlled access to many weapons over time. The average citizens might not have had access to the current weapons of the day. Nunchucks were an attempt for unarmed farmers to protect themselves.


Fast forward to the 21st century and there are still controls on many weapons. The difference here is most people are unarmed or appear to be unarmed. The average citizen here in the US has the choice of pepper spray, tasers, stun guns,  small pocket knives (some states allow other knives) and hand guns if you can get a permit (varies from state to state).


Many martial arts weapons are illegal in some states. While in California you can practice some weapons in the karate school – take them outside the school and you risk arrest. Some schools have taught yarawa sticks to women as a means of self defense. Here again that is illegal in California.


So how useful is it to learn martial arts weapons? I still think it is useful to learn martial arts weapons as part of a martial art because if you learn how to use a staff, tongfa, sword and such – you can then improvise a weapon if you were attacked. You would be better off as a trained fighter improvising a weapon if you ever had to over not having any weapons training and then picking up a club and trying to mount an effective defense.


But I would caution you that martial arts weapons are only useful in a very narrow situations, ones where the other guys have no modern weapons and your are able to use your (improvised) weapon legally. I would further advise you that if you have real concerns – look into every legal self defense option from the 21st century as these will work better than ancient weapons in today’s society.


So I think martial arts weapons are worth learning but with a caveat – do not short change your martial art! Hand to hand combat is still the most effective short range weapon that governments cannot make illegal (unless they make self defense illegal)!

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5 Responses to “Are Martial Arts Weapons worth Learning?”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    The only weapon I’ve trained in is the nunchuck! Mine is oak and hard! I know this and can personally attest to its effectiveness because the only person I’ve ever hit with it is myself, lol!

    A biker friend of mine suggested buying a small flare gun as an unregulated self-defense weapon! Looking at that large barrel opening pointed at oneself does seem to have the intended effect!

  2. Lee Says:

    Learning martial art weapons is definitely something a person should learn. However, I think the biggest thing a person should learn is avoidance. If you can avoid a bad situation than you won’t need any martial weapons.

  3. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Dr. J! Yep I’ve had that experience with chucks. I saw a movie where a flare was used on the open seas – that would be intimidating for sure. :)

    Hi Lee! I’ve always favored the layered defense. Have more than one option. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Matt Klein Says:

    Hi John,
    Just a few thoughts on this. I have studied Kali extensively over the years and find it very relevent today. All the techniques are interchangeable, whether it be stick, knife, or open hand. This makes it less complicated and more effective on the street. I believe Kali’s weapons skills are among the world’s best.

    Also, I have trained with the combat cane and really like it. The velocity you achieve when swinging it is incredible. And the best part? Who is going to tell us oldsters we cannot carry our canes? Perfectly legal!

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Matt! Yeah I’ve seen videos of that combat cane. I saw another one with an umbrella.

    One thing I really like is critical distance taught in sparring as well as improvised weaponry. Used together would be a tough combination to beat.