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Popular Martial Arts Weapons that Started as Farm Tools

One of the most exciting things about the martial arts is all of the exotic weapons used by different styles. The interesting thing about martial arts weapons is that many originated as farming tools. During the 17th century, farmers were banned from carrying weapons, so they improvised farming tools so as to always have a weapon available at their disposal. Here is a look at three of the most popular weapons that begin as farming equipment.


Also known as nunchucks, nunchaku are quite possibly the most popular martial arts weapon ever. They became popularized in the 1970's by Bruce Lee's film, Enter the Dragon. Ever since then, they've been used in cartoons such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as a video game controller and even as Daredevil's primary weapon in Marvel comic books. Although, there are several theories on the nunchucks origin, the popular belief is that they originated from Okinawa during the 17th century. They are believed to have started out as a flail to thresh rice and other grains.

Nunchucks are two hardwood sticks of equal length held together at one end by a chain or rope. The ideal length for each stick is the length of the handler's forearm. The weapon's goal is to give a person increased reach and the ability to strike from unexpected angles with great force. The sticks, when used accurately, can reach such high velocities that they can kill in an instant. This makes them one of the deadliest martial arts weapon ever. In fact, it is now illegal to own them in many states in the U.S. and several countries including Norway, Spain, and Canada.


The sai were primary weapons for Mileena in Mortal Kombat, movie heroine Elektra's signature weapon, and a major weapon in many Super Sentai shows. Although the sai is portrayed as more of an offensive weapon, it was fashioned from a farmers pitchfork and traditionally used as a defensive instrument against swords. Because of its versatility, it could be used as a lethal and non-lethal weapon to block, stab, punch and trap. The sai is a three pronged traditional Okinawan weapon that resembles a trident. Its points are sharp and when thrown, has a deadly range anywhere from 20-30 feet. Most sai were made of heavy iron and if enough force was applied could go through armor. Although it is a single handed weapon, it was often used in pairs and a third was kept as a spare on a person's belt. The sai was highly effective against sword attacks, which made it the perfect weapon for protection during ancient times.


Also known as a tong fa or tuifa, the tonfa is a traditional Okinawan weapon that has been seen in a long list of video games, movies and anime, but it's most popular adaptation is as a police baton. This martial arts weapon dates back to 15th century Okinawa. Though it might not look as intimidating as a sai or nunchaku, it is very powerful. When used correctly during ancient times, a nunchaku, bat, bo or knife couldn't penetrate the blocks of a strong tonfa. In fact, the only thing that could was a sword. Just like the sai and nunchuck, it was a farm tool before it became a weapon. It was originally a wood handle that fit into the side of a millstone to grind rice, soybeans and various grains.

The tonfa is about 2 inches thick, 17 inches long and has a 4.5 to 5 inch long handle close to one end. They are able to block strikes and deliver short jabs. They can also be spun in a circular motion to thrust. Due to their effective use as a weapon, they are still used today all over the world.

Anything we missed?

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7 Comment(s)
6/3/18 - 7:51pm
Lol that most basic and simplest question I googled is "Weapons that Started as Farm Tools" just wanting list of names and how it was used on the farm before is became a popular weapon and this article talks about movies and games they were used in. What an idiot! The title needs to say "Popular Martial Arts Weapons that Starred in movies and games" NOT what he put in the title!!
KarateMart.com Team
6/4/18 - 9:18am
Thanks for the feedback, Kyro. Hopefully we at least answered your questions.
8/7/19 - 10:22am
I think this article is great! No need to rename the title or anything. You provided a lot of information. -Reply from KarateMart: Thanks Beebs :) You're the best!
11/20/19 - 3:12am
Afaik the Karambit was originally used as a kind of sickle. The idea was to put your tiny finger through the ring and hold it blade upwards, so you could cut rice or other crops. If you had enough you could let go and it hanged on your finger, so you had both hands free to bundle up your crops. And with a simple flick it was back in your hand to continue cutting. Unfortunately I know nothing detailed about its use in martial arts.
Grim Reaper
3/1/21 - 12:10pm
The kama was used as a sickle. Add that.
5/17/21 - 9:23pm
The Kama aka mini scythe was a farm tool then farmers started to get raided so they fought with kamas.
9/9/21 - 11:00am
simplest farm tool - the bo staff. used to carry baskets, buckets when situated across the shoulders. My favorite weapon.

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