Weapons and the Martial Arts

Are weapons realistic in the Martial Arts?

Ninja Kama and Ninja Sai Martial Art Supply

If one is to be able to protect themselves against a weapon or attack it is important for them to get an understanding of the weapons that might be used. There are two main philosophies behind my thoughts on weapons in the martial arts:

You do not tell someone not to play with guns, you teach them how to be safe with guns.

If you train with the weapon you will be more prepared to understand its strengths and weaknesses.

The first thing one must realize when confronting weapons (whether blades or baseball bats) is the possibility of getting hit or cut. You must except that fact if you are to properly defend yourself. Another factor concerning weapons is the ability to jam and use circular movements during self-defense.

Ninja with Martial Arts Weapon Ninja Sword

What should you do when confronted with a weapon?

1. If possible – run

2. Do not corner or trap yourself

3. Look for possible obstacles to put between you and your attacker.

4. Jam the attack, do not allow your attacker the opportunity to hit twice.

5. Protect your vital points without sacrificing your defense abilities.

6. Focus on your opponent not his weapon.

Students of RTMS train with a variety of weapons based on a more complete understanding of their applications. Utilization of a sword can be practical with a cane, a rope for a belt, or a bo staff for a broom, etc.

Martial Art Weapon - Bo Staff Training Thailand

Angles of attack

Following are the fourteen angles of attack. It is almost certain that when being attacked (excluding grabs, holds, etc.) the opponents technique will fall under one of these fourteen angles or directions.

These angles are also used to teach the student proper offensive maneuvers as well defensive strategies.

When training with a new weapon (knife, stick, sword etc.), start by learning to use it with these fourteen angles.   This is the fastest way to learn to handle a new weapon and develop a strong foundation.


Attack / Angle / DirectionPrimary Striking Area
Thrust InwardSolar plexus and throat
Horizontal LeftTemple, Jaw and Neck
Horizontal RightTemple, Jaw and Neck
Diagonal Down LeftCollar Bone and Neck
Diagonal Down RightCollar Bone and Neck
Mid Horizontal LeftHips, Ribs and Elbows
Mid Horizontal RightHips, Ribs and Elbows
Diagonal Up LeftWrist and Arm
Diagonal Up RightWrist and Arm
Low Horizontal LeftKnee, Shin, Inner Thigh
Low Horizontal RightKnee, Shin, Inner Thigh
Vertical DownHead, Arms and Legs
Vertical UpGroin, Chin, Arms and Legs
Thrust DownwardSolar Plexus, Organs of the Body

These attack areas for each angle can vary greatly, the above is just a guide for developing a basic foundation.

Martial Art Weapon - Escrima Stick for Kali in Thailand

Here is an example video of the 14 Angles with a flexible weapon – the Nunchaku / Swing Stick.


A while back, I was invited to sit on the board of a Karate masters review during the testing of new and advanced black belts one day when I was in Holland.

I was amazed at all the unrealistic defenses these students were being tested on.  Knife defenses that would get them killed and stick defenses that would crush their bones.  It was actually pretty funny, here you would have this student (4th degree testing for 5th degree) do a defense against a knife. Then one of the masters (overweight and I was surprised he even left his chair) would come onto the floor to tell the student how poor his form was and what he needed to do.  Basically they were just trying to demonstrate power and some kind of political presence.  But all in all, the techniques are totally unjustified regardless of your form.

There I was, sitting with about 12 other instructors in a room full of advanced students and not one of them thought this was totally unrealistic.  Many of the students failed that day, but I left feeling that their instructors were cheating them.

As instructors we are coaches and there to guide our students.  Our job is to find tactics that work and teach them.  A gym coach wouldn’t teach a future Olympian techniques that would land them on their heads, so why is it that martial arts is so backwards?  I believe much of it has to do with following tradition and not reality.  But hey, who am I to stand in front of years of history and improper techniques, let the knife speak for itself.

3 thoughts on “Weapons and the Martial Arts”

  1. Pingback: Martial Arts Weapons

  2. regarding the end of the entry, (with the other instructors), I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe in practicality over tradition. The roots can come from tradition, but in the end it’s about survival and mechanics of the body.

  3. regarding the end of the entry, (with the other instructors), I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe in practicality over tradition. The roots can come from tradition, but in the end it’s about survival and mechanics of the body.

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