I recently read an article about police agencies that have introduced the use of nunchucks as a tool to subdue suspects that resist and struggle. Now, I’m not so sure how I feel about this. I mean, they have guns, night sticks, pepper spray and tasers. Doesn’t that seem like enough? What advantage could two sticks connected with a cord have over any of those weapons?
It seems that nunchucks are credited as being the weapon of choice by police in the 1980’s when abortion clinic protests were busted up in San Diego and Los Angeles. As I envision sticks swinging around willy-nilly through a crowd of pro-lifers, I still question if that is the best way to handle such a thing. I may not be so far off the mark to question their use because in 1991 the Los Angeles Police Department was embroiled in a lawsuit with some of those protesters over the use of the nunchucks. Although the judge dismissed the lawsuit, Los Angeles police returned to the using night sticks and other gadgets.
Nunchuck manufacturers have experienced a significant drop in the demand of their product since modern law enforcement has lent preference to the taser. Because of this slump in sales, nunchucks manufacturer are looking to prison security officers and airport security officers as a potential market. Again, I have to wonder if a pair of clubs connected by a chain is a good weapon to be armed with when dealing with travelers or violent prisoners. I don’t think I would take much comfort seeing a pair dangling from the utility belt of the security agent at my baggage check-in.
After all of this contemplation on the nunchucks as a weapon, I am then surprised to find out that, originally, it wasn’t a weapon at all. There is much argument on what it was originally but there is agreement that the nunchucks of today were once a tool of some kind that evolved into a weapon.
One romantic assertion is that it originally was a rice flail that Japanese farmers converted to a weapon to fight the Samurai. This, however, seems to be a myth. The modern nunchaku originated in Okinawa. Ironically the Okinawans do not actually consider themselves Japanese. They have their own distinct language and culture. In fact, there is no Japanese word for nunchucks or nunchaku.
Historians think that it is possible that the nunchaku derived from a type of horse bit used in Okinawa. The bit had curved handles with a chain that would have been inserted into the horse’s mouth. Some consider that it was originally a tool for removing the bark from banana trees, the bark being used to create fabric. Some other history experts argue that the nunchaku were a Chinese import brought to Okinawa by immigrants.
Regardless of its specific history, I just find it maddening that a useful tool must be converted into a weapon. I find it even more maddening that police officers feel the need to add yet one more weapon to an already long list of items in their arsenal.