The tonfa measures about three centimetres past the elbow when gripped. There are three grips, honte-mochi (natural), gyakute-mochi (reverse) and tokushu-mochi (special). The natural grip places the handle in the hand with the long arm resting along the bottom of the forearm. This grip provides protection or brace along one’s forearms, and also provides reinforcement for back fist, elbow strikes, and punches. In use, the tonfa can swing out to the gyakute grip for a strike or thrust. Martial artists may also flip the tonfa and grab it by the shaft, called tokushu-mochi. This allows use of the handle as a hook in combat. As with all Okinawan weapons, many of the forms are reflective of “empty hand” techniques.
Typically thought of as an Okinawan weapon the Sai has its origins in China and south-east Asia. This is evident in very old versions found in China and forms/Kata found within Chinese arts such as Kung Fu.
Tonfa are traditionally used in pairs and the basic principle of the weapon is to use them as an augmentation for the blocks and strikes used in Karate (and any other martial arts that utilizes Tonfa). In the majority of Tonfa techniques, the Tonfa is gripped by the side handle in the fist with the main section of the weapon across the underside of the forearm. The short protruding end is used to deliver strikes to vulnerable target areas (i.e. solar plexus, throat, ribs and arm pits). Using the handle as a centrifuge, the Tonfa can also be swung in a right or leftward directed arc in order to deliver an attack. Also the weapon can be held at the bottom and used as a basic club (crude but effective) or to utilise the side handle as a hook to catch and trap weapons (as in kama techniques). Primarily due to the defensive capabilities of this weapon, similar Tonfa-like batons have been adapted as the main non-firearm weapon for various police and special force units.
Uke Tsuki Waza
Mataoshi Tonfa Dai Ichi
Ippon Kumite Tonfa Vs Bo
The student will start with Uke Waza and Uke Tsuki waza as these are familiar forms from the empty hand enabling the students to get a feel of the weapon as they already have a good foundation to the body mechanics and structure and is a prefect introduction to the Tonfa
The Tonfa is a karate weapon of choice as stance and upper body techniques are exactly the same as is the Ippon pairs work which is structured as the empty hand format.
Sensei Pete Halloran is our Okinawan weapons instructor who also holds a position on the Shizendo Technical Committee overseeing standards in our Organization.