September 4, 2022

15 Deadly & Lethal Martial Arts (Karate) Weapons

Karate fighters with weapons strike awe and wonder in the eyes of their spectators. However, you do question the practicality of weapons in a real-life fight and deem it better that weapons are only better resorted to competitions to attract the audiences and majorly, to show-off skills.

You could not be further from the truth! 

There is no denying that the chances of you using a weapon of Okinawan kobudo in a real life self-defense situation are slim, but their principles still apply. 

You will not feel awkward in utilizing objects like hand-bags, bottles or pins to defend yourself. No matter the size or weight of the object, your training with diverse weapons will help you weasel out of any situation!

Traditional martial artist in action with weapon

If your interest has developed, read on to know about the 15 deadliest karate weapons.

1. BO staff

The bo staff is an Okinawan weapon, 6 feet in length, traditionally made of oak wood.

  • Origin

Evolved from sticks balanced across shoulders to carry water, the bo staff is one of the five weapons of the style known as te (hand). It was developed by early Okinawans in an attempt to defend themselves during the Satsuma Invasion. 

  • Usage

The bo staff is used via a continuous flowing technique, reminiscent of a sword. It is used to block, thrust and strike an opponent. 

  • Effectiveness

The bo staff is one of the most effective against other kobudo weapons.

Here is why:

A skilled fighter will only take a split second to block from the top of the staff and counter strike with the lower end. It will also help you remain at a safe distance from your opponent while simultaneously delivering your strikes. 

A bo staff offers immense upper-body strengthening. Who doesn’t love strong, muscular arms?

2. Jo Staff

The jo staff is a 4-feet long wooden stick made out of oak. 

  • Origin

This one is sure to spark your interest! 

The jo was developed in the late 16th century by the noted swordsman Gonnosuke Muso to fight against Musashi Miyamoto, Japan’s greatest swordsman. He was able to win against him after he broke down his opponent’s jo using a bo. 

However, historical evidence also suggests that the jo was being used way longer than that. 

  • Usage

You might wonder that because the jo is simply a shorter version of the bo, their technique remains consistent.

You’re only partially correct. 

Because the jo has a shorter length, it has less weight and therefore, the speed at which it can be used is greater. The strikes however, are somewhat similar to that of the bo staff including the thrusts and blocks.

  • Effectiveness

The most interesting feature of the jo is its versatility. It can be used to thrust like a spear, glide like a naginata (more coming up on that later!) and drive like a sword. 

Both of its ends can be utilized unlike swords and the fighter can vary the fighting distance to his convenience according to the position of his grip. 

3. Sai

Remember Ralph from Teenage Mutant ninja turtles? 


He was the one who carried twin sai.

The sai is a three-pronged metallic weapon. One of the prongs is longer than the other two which are attached to its wooden handle and short and curved. 

Unlike popular belief, the shaft of sai is not sharpened like a blade or sword. It only resembles a sword in its design.

  • Origin

There is a debate regarding the history of the sai. 

But isn’t history always relative? 

Some people claim that the sai evolved from a pitchfork, an agricultural tool. A conflicting opinion is that sai was always a weapon and was being used by the Okinawan police to make arrests and control crowds.

Not only that, the sai also has a debatable place of origin. Most speculations state that the weapon came to japan and China from India and the Middle East.

  • Usage

The sai is generally used in pairs. Its length is dependent on the length of the user’s forearm. 

It’s a good attacking and blocking weapon. Also, it can capture other weapons like a katana or sword between its branches to disarm and subdue the opponent.

  • Effectiveness

Because of its versatility, there are a number of karate katas that incorporate the sai. An advanced karate fighter can use 3 sai at the same time, with a spare in his belt. Not only can it be used to spar, it can be thrown to puncture objects and people. 

Too graphic for you?

The sai’s effectiveness also stems from the fact that it is an intimidating looking weapon. It looks like a weapon that means business. Scare off your opponents with a few impressive swings!

4. Tonfa

The tong-fa or tonfa is a wooden baton-like weapon that has a side handle approximately one-third the way down the main shaft. 

The structure of the main shaft transitions from a circular shape towards a rectangular shape in the center.

  • Origin

Although the place of origin of the tonfa is debatable, most historians mutually agree it comes from Okinawa. 

Originally used as a rice or bean grinder, the tonfa evolved to become a weapon from being a farm implement mainly because of its circular movements. 

  • Usage

The tonfa is used in pairs by holding the side wooden handles. While holding, the main shaft sticks out past the knuckles and elbow which helps deliver straight punches, back fists and elbow strikes.

You could also use the tonfa by holding the main shaft and using the side handle as a hook for striking.

  • Effectiveness

Want to know why the tonfa is a formidable weapon?

Here’s why:

The weapon combines speed and skillful footwork for evasion and strikes without using a lot of strength. The fighter is trained to recognize vulnerable target areas in an opponent like the solar plexus, throat or arm pits. This makes sure that the fighter is mentally present in a fight. 

You don’t want to aimlessly throw hits and waste energy, right?

5. Kama

The kama is a sickle-like weapon with a curved, pointed blade attached to a wooden shaft. 

  • Origin

The kama originally comes from a genuine farming instrument used to reap crops. In 1470, when a ban was imposed on traditional weapons, it’s no wonder that the Okinawan commoners utilized the kama as a weapon. 

Isn’t it the deadliest weapon you’ve ever seen?

  • Usage

The kama can be used in pairs or as a single weapon. Because the thickness of the shaft increases towards the blade, it gives a good grip during catching and sliding when changing grips. 

It can be used to block, trap and disarm an opponent, however its main use is striking and dismembering.

  • Effectiveness

The kama is a very effective weapon against long reach weapons like swords, bo or jo. Want to know why? 

There you go:

There is a groove in the corner of where the blade is placed. It helps catching the bo and other weapons without the blade getting digging into it so that the kama doesn’t get stuck.

Apart from that, most of the weight is in the blade which makes the kama an easy weapon for striking.

6. Nunchaku

Also known as the ‘Portable Bo’, Nunchaku is perhaps one of the most popular weapons because of Bruce Lee. 

It consists of two short batons connected via a cord or chain.

  • Origin

Historically, the nunchaku was used as a farming implement to thresh rice. It was developed as a weapon in the 17th century when the Japanese invaded Okinawa. 

  • Usage

When handling a nunchaku, the impact is on the tip of the baton or it bounces back. It is widely used by fighters by holding it from the bottom to take advantage of the weapon’s reach. 

The primary function the nunchaku serves is to attack vulnerable areas spontaneously. It can also be used to block and trap offensive moves. 

The nunchaku is also very popular as a training aid.

  • Effectiveness

Its effectiveness mainly relies on footwork and evasiveness. The nunchaku helps a fighter explore distance, angles and footwork. It heightens hand and eye coordination and as result precision of a strike increases. 

As a training aid, it helps students understand footwork and distance better and get their aim spot-on!

7. Tekko

Similar to a modern knuckle buster, the tekko is a hand-held weapon made out of metal. It has about 1 to 3 protrusions on the top, effective for striking.

  • Origin

In feudal Japan, the tekko was used as an effective weapon for self-defense because it was easily hidden. There is no debate about the fact that the tekko was made for fighting purposes only.

Originally, they were made from horse shoes to avoid suspicion. 

  • Usage

The tekko is worn on your hand so technically, you have a metal fist. 

Just like Winter Soldier had a metal arm. How cool is that?

Due to its size and shape, the tekko is incorporated in open hand techniques. The target areas are mostly bony like elbow, wrist and collarbone. The fighter would deliver traditional hits but they would hurt more. 


  • Effectiveness

When a tekko is worn it serves two main purposes. The first obvious one is that a metal fist will hurt more because it increases the mass of your hand and the surface becomes tougher. 

Second, it sheaths your knuckles so it acts as protection. 

8. Surujin

Surujin is a traditional Okinawan weapon made out of either two to three meters of rope or a chain. Traditionally, stones were attached to its ends but later, metal weights or spikes eventually replaced them.

  • Origin

There is not much about the history and evolution of surujin however, some historians claim it evolved from a fishing tool.

  • Usage

Its characteristic technique is a common one but not as easy as it might look. You twine the chain in a circular motion using the weight and then thrust it in the direction you want.

  • Effectiveness

The surujin is an effective weapon mainly when you wish to disbalance your opponent by catching his/her leg. It can also be used to catch your opponent’s arms to halt their offensive maneuvers and use it to your advantage. 

When coupled with a kama on the other hand, it makes a deadly combination. The surujin can be attached to one end of the kama for a lethal swing enough to slice off a limb. 

You don’t want to cross a guy with kama and a surujin!

9. Tinbe Rochin

A glamourous weapon that incites remembrance, tinbe rochin is a combination of a shield (tinbe) and short spear (rochin).The tinbe is usually made up of vine, cane or metal. The spear comes in different styles depending on the preference and skill of the fighter.

  • Origin 

The use of tinbe rochin dates back to as far as the early 14th century.

  • Usage

The technique of using the tinbe Rochin is specific to spear and shield usage. The shield is used to block attacks and the spear is used to strike from both ends: 

Stabbing from the blade end and stubbing from the handle side. 

The spear is directed in an upward motion to stab the rib-cage, groin and throat.

  • Effectiveness

The spear is short so that it balances steadily in one hand. The combination of the spear and shield serve the two paramount purposes well:

 block attacks and counter-attack.

10. Naginata

A halberd-like weapon, a reaping sword with a wide, curved blade mounted on a long wooden pole. Traditionally, the naginata was 5 feet long with a steel blade at its end.

  • Origin

The naginata is such a fierce looking weapon, there is a high chance it originated as a weapon. 

Women were the primary wielders of this lethal weapon that they used for self-defense during the Edo period. It could be used on foot or on horseback and was an integral part of the Japanese military arts.

  • Usage

The naginata is used in circular movements to make wide gashes and the butt can be used defensively or to knock opponents off-balance.

  • Effectiveness

The nagita is an effective weapon because of its length and the ferociousness of the blade. 

It is like a knife and bo combined together. 

The length ensures that there is enough distance between you and opponent while simultaneously gives you the opportunity to strike. It strengthens the wrist and fore-arm muscles immensely.

11. Eku

Made up of wood, the eku is only slightly shorter than a bo staff with a long, narrow paddle at one end. One of the sides of the paddle is flat while the other is pointed.

  • Origin

The eku was, and still remains a tool of the Okinawan fishermen. Therefore, its popularity was greatest in tomari and other fishing islands.

  • Usage

It is true that many bo techniques can be applied to the eku, but a few of its moves take advantage due to its unique structure. 

And undoubtedly, those moves are unorthodox. Both the ends of the eku can be used to block and strike. 

But who said you can’t play dirty? 

The oar end can be used to scoop sand into an enemy’s face.

  • Effectiveness 

The eku is almost as effective as the bo staff. You can strike with one end, chop with the edges of the oar and land percussive strikes with the flat sides. It is also powerful enough to block attacks.

12. Nunti Bo

Nunti Bo is a 5 to 6 feet long weapon with a wooden shaft and a pronged, metal head. The metal head is a spear with hooks.

  • Origin

In its original form, the nunti Bo was a fishing tool used mainly in and around the docks and marshes of Tomari.

  • Usage

The head of the weapon is called ‘Manji sai’ so it is technically a sai but with both the prongs facing the opposite directions. This gives it a double-sai effect. 

Henceforth, some of the techniques of nunti Bo are similar to the sai which include blocks, thrusts, strikes and trapping techniques. 

  • Effectiveness

The most interesting move you can do with a nunti-Bo is perhaps trapping your opponent’s weapons. 

Sure you can do that with a sai as well but because of the reversed prong, the grip of the nunti is way stronger. Adding the bo to the Nunti gives fighting space to the fighter.

13. Bokken

Bokken is a wooden sword. 

Think it’s for children? 

Think again.

  • Origin

The bokken was popular amongst samurais as a training sword because it was less expensive and not as dangerous as a blade. However, when used in a competition it proved to be destructive and in some cases, fatal. 

Not so childish now, is it?

  • Usage

The bokken is used in a similar manner to a sword or katana. It is a great option for training. A heavy one can be used to increase the agility and muscle strength of a fighter. 

In a fight, it is a productive weapon in blocking and entering.

  • Effectiveness

While the bokken is commonly used as a practice weapon, there is no denying it is an effective weapon in a real fight as well. 

It can be used to block and thrust just like a bo. Because it’s made of hardwood, its strikes are much more damaging to the opponent.

14. Katana

This one is a classic, traditional Japanese sword. 

Remember Keera from Teen Wolf? 

The katana was her ultimate choice of weapon.

  • Origin

The katana was developed after and using the draft for the bokken. It was the preferred choice of weapon for the samurais.

  • Usage

Katanas are made from mono-steel that is tempered so that the blade has a hard cutting edge while retaining a more flexible body to the rest of the blade.

The katana can be used to deliver strikes in all directions with the wrist movement being pivotal for precision.

  • Effectiveness

The katana is an almost savage weapon. It is effective in harming your opponent in a brutal way because of its hard-cutting blade. 

In the hands of an expert, it is lethal.

15. Yari

The yari is a Japanese spear with a wooden shaft and a double-edged straight metal blade on one end.

  • Origin

The yari has been a part of the oriental weaponry for thousands of years which is why it is difficult to fix a time and place of its origin.

  • Usage

The primary use of a yari is thrusting and gliding to make cuts.

  • Effectiveness

The yari is an effective weapon for various blocks as well along with thrusting, stabbing and slashing techniques. This is because some Bo techniques can also be applied to it.

Which one according to you is the deadliest of them all?

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

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