“Though not as flashy or as glamorous as the nunchaku, the tonfa is nevertheless an important tool in the kobudo tradition,” says karate weapons master Fumio Demura in his classic book Tonfa: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense. “Two tonfa in the hands of an expert make a poetic and graceful contribution to the art of kata.”
“The tonfa is also an excellent tool for the development of stronger hands and wrists, especially for achieving necessary power in blocking and striking during empty-hand techniques,” Fumio Demura continues in his karate training book. “This is where the tonfa is particularly desirable in practice over such weapons as the bo or nunchaku.”
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“Swinging the tonfa requires a snap of the wrist not unlike that used in the last instant of a karate punch,” Fumio Demura explains. “By developing control — for instance, learning to stop the swivel motion of the tonfa by gripping the handle harder — hand strength will improve rapidly.”
Karate Weapons Master Fumio Demura in Action!
In this exclusive video excerpt from his karate weapons DVD Tonfa: Karate Weapon of Self-Defense, Demura demonstrates the intersection of karate training moves and karate weapons as extensions of the human form.
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Karate Weapons Master Fumio Demura Demonstrates Tonfa Blocks!
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Intersection of Weapon and Body
"In order to deliver or receive a powerful blow, the parts of the tonfa must be strong yet flexible," Fumio Demura says. "Several hardwoods which are not too brittle will satisfy this requirement, with the most popular materials being oak and cherry wood."
As for how the tonfa and the human body intersect, Fumio Demura says, "The length of the tonfa is determined from the grip to the back of the head. While holding the tonfa, the back head should extend past the elbow by about one-half inch. Once this distance is determined, the balance of the tonfa can be adjusted by reducing the length from the grip to the front head. Under these requirements, one must choose a length and balance to fit his physical characteristics and strength."
Fumio Demura on Maintaining Your Weapon
Just how do you take care of a solid blunt weapon? Shouldn't it basically take care of itself? According to the karate weapons master, this particular weapon does have a weak spot.
"Normally, the tonfa is made of oak and consequently is very sturdy," Fumio Demura explains, "but the connection between the grip and the main body can be a source of weakness. This location should always be checked before each practice to prevent injuries. The tonfa can also be varnished, if desired, and should be cleaned periodically with a cloth moistened with olive or other vegetable oil."