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Nunchaku Moves For Beginners

Nunchaku

Now you're ready to start practicing!  Always be very careful using nunchaku. If you hit yourself with a pair of wooden nunchaku by mistake you will hurt yourself. For this reason I suggest that you start  with the foam nunchaku then gradually move to the wooden one, although there are some good metal ones that telescopic out.

Swinging the nunchaku

It's probably easiest to start out with a few swings. Although various chokes and locks can be used with nunchaku by far the most fun part of practicing is attempting to produce an impenetrable mass of whirling wood around your body! There are several obstacles to this goal. First you must be able to catch or recover the nunchaku after swinging. after that you should be able to flow from one move to the next. secondly, and most importantly, it's a very good idea not to do any swings that are going to end up going through your own head! This point seems obvious but it is very easy to hit your own head by just swinging round with the nunchaku (I have done it many times myself and it hurts!!!)

Getting into a starting position

Hold the pair of nunchaku in front of you at chest height so that you're gripping one stick in each hand with your closed hands in the same orientation as you would hold a fist to punch. Your hands should be about shoulder width apart. Ideally you should grip each end about half way along its length. Keeping hold of the sticks rotate your right hand so that it is vertical thumb is to be at the top. Move this hand upwards to your right shoulder and move your left arm still holding the end under your right elbow, allowing it to rotate slightly so that your thumb is now at the top. The nunchaku should now be positioned vertically to the right side of your body, with a slight angle between the sticks as they go round your shoulder. If you let go with your left arm the stick should not swing back much further than it already is. Phew! This explanation part could be more difficult than I thought! I think I might need some pictures soon...
This is a basic position from which it is easy to learn several swings/strikes. Obviously you can swap left and right round and end up with things the other way round.

Vertical nunchaku swing

This is probably the easiest swing to learn. From the position just described, let go with your left hand and extend your right arm at the elbow, swinging the nunchaku directly downwards. The action is a bit like a smash with a badminton racked but aimed forwards rather than up. There should be no sideways movement of the nunchaku in this move. Just as the nunchaku reach the bottom of the swing bring your arm upwards again directly vertically so that the free end returns to behind your right shoulder using the same path as before but in reverse. (Make sure that this movement is directly vertical otherwise you will hit yourself in the face with the free end!) You can either catch the free stick in your left hand or trap it under your right armpit. Repeat the same movement for endless fun. Remember to try it with both hands! You will find that you can get more speed by keeping making this action a bit wristy but remember the primary goal is not to damage yourself so make sure that things keep travelling in a vertical plane to the side of your body.

Improvements on the vertical nunchaku swing

Swinging straight down and back up again may be an effective nunchaku move but it's not that exciting! You could do exactly the same thing with a rigid stick... Here's where the advantage of the nunchaku being jointed comes in. After you have brought the nunchaku down as described above you can add an extra rotation of the free end as you bring it back up by flicking the wrist holding the other stick slightly in a small outwards circle. This will cause the free stick to perform an extra rotation as you bring the nunchaku back up to the starting postition. This rotation should be vertical in nature and should occur outside the arm holding the nunchaku. (I'm sure you can guess what happens if you rotate your wrist inwards... yes that's right you'll hit yourself!) This is all a bit difficult to explain but once you've done it once you'll completely understand how to do it. Of course you can also do a similar move on the downwards motion of the above move. Play around with this one and experiment with different numbers of extra rotations on both the upwards and downwards swings.
What's the point though? As well as giving potentially two striking opportunities instead of one in a combat situation this move also makes the nunchaku motion less predictable to the opponent and so makes the nunchaku harder to catch. This is why it is particularly useful on the upwards part of the vertical movement as this is probably when most people are most likely to try a catch.

Moving the nunchaku from hand to hand

Beginning from the starting position described under "getting into a starting position" it is also possible to switch the nunchaku from hand to hand. Assuming you are starting with the nunchaku behind your right shoulder all you have to do is swing your left hand (which is holding the bottom of the two nunchaku sticks) upwards and across your body before flicking the free end in a vertical arc behind your left shoulder. Here you can either catch the free end in the gap between shoulder and body or more usefully catch it in your right hand underneath your left shoulder. (This right hand has been brought from above the right shoulder to a catching position in front of the left shoulder during the movement of the left hand.)
The great advantage of this move is that it allows the nunchaku to be switched from hand to hand while also giving the opportunity to strike with the free end. The ability to switch the nunchaku from hand to hand is important as traditionally only one set of nunchaku is used so switching enables swings to be made from both sides of the body.
Yes I know - I desperately need to take some pictures of these moves to make them easier to understand!!! For now though have a look at this clip of Bruce Lee both switching the nunchaku from side to side and performing a vertical swing with his right hand. In this case he is adding an extra rotation to the downwards part of the vertical swing and, as far as I can see, bringing them straight back up:

Across the body swings

Again beginning from the starting position it is possible to strike diagonally downwards across the body. With the nunchaku behind the right shoulder, let go with the bottom hand (i.e. the left) and bringing the nunchaku over your right shoulder swing your right arm downwards and diagonally across your body. If you continue this move you will hit yourself in the back! This is not what you want so as you are about to hit yourself reverse the move and bring the nunchaku back diagonally upwards along the same path as you came down. This will bring the nunchaku back over your right shoulder. Now for the best bit...

And catch behind

As the nunchaku come back over your right shoulder they will be heading diagonally towards your back. Simply slip your left hand behind your back (into the small of the back should be about right) and the free end of the nunchaku should fall into it. Once you have caught the nunchaku they will be positioned as described in the starting position but with your left hand behind your back instead of in front of it. From here you can easily go into a vertical swing (as described before.)

And once the nunchaku are behind you...

Now that the nunchaku are behind you they are essentially concealed. It is therefore hard to predict what your next move might be. Instead of going into a vertical swing you might do another across the body swing. (swinging your right arm across your body.) Or you might choose to keep hold of the nunchaku with your left hand and swing them upwards and back over your left shoulder, catching them under your left armpit with your right arm in front of the body. You can even swing with your left arm up and across the body bringing the nunchaku back over your right shoulder. In this case you need to catch the nunchaku with your right hand under your left armpit. You can then swing with your right arm in the same direction and catch with your left arm behind the body, bringing you back to the starting position again.

Developing combinations

In general this discussion of what to do when the nunchaku are in a certain position shows that there are many, many different options. Often no one particular option is "better" than another. You can simply choose whatever seems best at the time. Having said that you will find that some combinations of moves flow better than others. These can be developed into a set pattern that you can easily go into. With practice particular combinations of moves can flow very fast indeed. Have fun trying out different ideas!

Recovering the nunchaku after a strike

Let's suppose that you actually hit something with the free end of the nunchaku. Try doing it yourself on the end of a sofa or something else that won't be damaged. What happens? On contact the free end of the nunchaku flies off in a pretty random direction. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to carry on a sequence of swings with any control. What can be done about this? The easiest solution is to accept that the free end is out of control and do something to bring it back under control. Such a move is known as a gather. The purpose of a gather is to regain control of the nunchaku by getting rid of any unwanted movements in the free end of the nunchaku and returning it to a suitable position for the next move.

A basic body gather

Assuming that you are holding the nunchaku in your right hand suppose you have just hit something with the free end. (You don't actually have to hit anything to practice this move - just let the free end dangle free.) Throughout this move keep your free hand (i.e. the left) held up so that you don't hit it. Bring your right hand across and towards the centre of your stomach ending the move when the string end of the right stick is just touching your stomach around where your navel is. The stick in your right hand should point diagonally downwards at this point so you need to lift your right elbow a bit to allow you to get this angle. The free end of the nunchaku will now start to wrap round the left side of the body but because the string is quite short it won't make it round far and the top of the free stick will bounce off your stomach and the free end will start to return. At this point flick your wrist slightly to the right and the free end will pass underneath it and bounce against the right side of your body. There should be very little arm movement during this part of the move, which makes the two bounces (one off each side of the body) pretty quick. As the free end hits into the right side of your body don't give it time to bounce back. Simply raise your right arm upwards and the free end will pass over your right shoulder where it can be caught by your left hand under your right armpit in exactly the same way as the end part of the vertical nunchaku swing. The nunchaku are now back in a very good position to start another swing sequence.

Figure of Eight swing in front of body

This move really takes advantage of the the fact that nunchaku are a jointed weapon. Starting from the "starting position" swing the nunchaku diagonally down and across your body with your right hand. Once the free end is a good way across your body use your right wrist and elbow to bring the free end back upwards past the left side of your body (not straight up and into your own face!) Now swing the nunchaku diagonally downwards from the high left postion to a low right position. From here you can swing the free end back over again and start again from the diagonal strike across the body. This is a pretty wristy move and one that allows you to build up great speed with the free end without a great deal of motion at the end held in your hand. It also has the practical benefit that such a stiking pattern is very difficult to catch by an (imaginary) opponent.