Are flexible weapons for attack only?
Flexible weapons like the nunchaku (or erroneously “nunchuks”) are very versatile for the attack but we rarely ear speaking of them in purely defensive terms. Nowadays most people use them for individual training, juggling and only in few cases as real weapons or for practical applications (sparring, self-defense, combat sports, etc.).
The fact is that when we are practicing free sparring (read How to do sparring and Sparring with Nunchaku), even with a foam / plastic tool (light, soft covers, etc.), we immediately notice a problem that concerns 70% of flexible weapons: the defensive aspect.
If in the attack action they seem lightning fast and “safe”, the reaction to the various types of aggressions of our training partners can appear almost “unstoppable” (we simply limit to try to avoid our opponent’s blows).
If for example with a sword, it is possible to block, deflect (etc.) the opposing aggression, with a nunchaku (or a 9 sections chain, etc.), it is much more complicated to set up a good defensive system.
In this regard, despite the fact that flexible weapons were not born for this purpose, we want now to see some ideas on how to manage the opposing action but, before starting, some fundamental premises:
- All flexible weapons have different possibilities, depending on their length and on the length of their not flexible parts (eg. 3 sections stick can also be used as 2 short sticks / swords)
- The material (metal, cord, wood, etc.) of our weapon in relation to the opponent’s one makes a big discriminant in what we can try to do and what not
- Again, flexible weapons are good to attack, not explicitly to defend in a classical way (parry, etc.); for example in a push power against push power situation, the flexible weapon always lose the confrontation
How to defend with flexible weapons
The first thing to understand is that the tactical “emptiness” of flexible weapons is generally highlighted at that distance between the body vs body contact and the average distance. In terms of defense preparation, to cover this gap, there are a few things that we can do:
- Manage the length of the moving part – We have to always adjust the length of the moving part of our weapon in relation to the opponent’s distance; in the long distance, we have to release the flexible part, at close distance we have to shorten it (zero distance means use it as an impact tool, without rotations, loadings, throwings, etc.)
- Do not focus on the weapon only – Let’s do not forget to always involve our entire body in our fight strategy, the fact of having a weapon must be an advantage and not a limit (we can always use kicks, punches, knees, elbows, etc.)
- Avoid rigid interactions with the opponents – We have to avoid any kind of rigid contact (force against force, read 6DKF’s interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch) but in the case it happens, we can try to use a two-handed grip with which “pander” the force that comes upon us (accompanying it where we want, for example with an additional sliding motion)
- Try to do not stop the flow – We should try to avoid to completely stop the flow of our weapon, this way the opponent will have serious difficulties to close the distance; to do this we obviously need strong wrists, a good spatial intelligence, etc. (read Prepare arms, wrists and fingers to use weapons, Train wrists and arms with weights to get fluidity and Weapon training: advanced exercise for spatial intelligence)
- Maintain the right rhythm and distance – If we are able to always favorably move our body in the fighting scenario, we can maintain the right timing / distance to hit properly and especially, to do not be hit / trapped (for example we can use infinite circular loops, instead of linear and limited paths the before or after will end)
- Use deception and unpredictability – The instant when a weapon makes us weak is when it is reaching the end of his path; we should never allow the opponent to predict the movements of our weapon; in any case, we always have to think about a plan to defend ourselves in those dangerous moments (eg. using kicks)
- Pay attention to the attack moment – When a flexible weapon attacks, leave use completely vulnerable for a longer time than a rigid one; we have to wisely evaluate the favorable moments to attack, if we are not sure to be able to reach the chosen target we should wait for a better occasion; the longer the weapon is, the harder and slower the return to a favorable combat position will be
- Avoid the close distance – If, as we said, our weak point is the close distance, we simply have to alter it lengthening it or narrowing it (depending on the situation); when we are attached to our adversary for example, the flexible part of our weapon can be easily used to grab with the intention to pull / lock / strangle / etc. (he or his eventual weapon)
Is it possible to directly parry / deflect with a flexible weapon?
In specific terms of parry / trapping / etc., we must first try to move our body away from the trajectory of attack, then we can:
- Use the (eventual) rigid part – Hit with the rigid part of our flexible weapon on the opponent’s attacking tool (a leg, a sword, etc.), bouncing then at a more vulnerable point (head, hands, etc.); doing this we have to avoid the most fast / strong and dangerous part of any attacking tool, its tip (the more we are able to stay away from it, our more probabilities to prevail will increase)
- Accompany the attack motion – Accompanying the attack motion we can try to deflect it; for example, we can try to unbalance the opponent to project him to the ground or against an obstacle (very hard without any type of additional grabbing and a specific preparation)
- Hit the opponent’s attacking tool – If the aggression is not too strong we can try to hit the attacking tool with our flexible weapon to create an occasion (eg. an opening) to grab it with our free hand (again, very difficult without the right training)
- Wrap the attacking tool dynamically – Another (rather remote) option is to capture the attacking tool of the opponent wrapping it with our flexible weapon to temporarily block him or even to try to disarm him (extremely hard without a perfect control of the weapon)
Unfortunately, weapons sparring sessions can be less realistic than the empty hand ones: in fact the adversary, knowing he is risking not too much, becomes more courageous (the truth is that, in a real situation, the risk is 10 times higher and consequently prudence increases).
In a fight, for example with a nunchaku (of hardwood or worse made of metal), if the opponent is in front of a fast / unpredictable flow he will be surely more afraid to close the distance because it means to risk being hurt in a serious way (breaking bones, etc.).
In the next article of this series (not for beginners) we will see some tips about the attack with flexible weapons.
- Softness and hardness, flexibility and rigidity – A discussion about the various states of our fighting structure
- Stance and basic rotations of the rope – The first (training) weapon we study is the rope
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- How would you fight using flexible weapons in a real combat?
Author: Master Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.