Tonfa Tanren

There are several Tanren that you can use to gain experience and practice with the use of the weapon. We will cover some general drills you can utilize for this purpose. The Kata for this weapon will also offer other movements that will aid in developing comfort with use of the Tonfa.

The Tonfa drills provided below make reference to the various parts of the Tonfa nomenclature. You should work to quickly familiarize yourself with each component part. You will encounter these names within drills, on pages discussing this weapon, and in the Tonfa Kata. You will also likely be asked to name various parts of the weapon during your ranking examination. There are only ten parts you will need to recall, so spend some time working to memorize each part of the weapon. We have provided the Tonfa nomenclature above for your easy reference while working on the Tanren defined below.

Handle With Care

Before practicing these drills we recommend familiarizing yourself with the weapon. Walk around slowly while spinning, inverting, and striking with the weapon until you feel comfortable with these movements. It will take longer than you first think for the weapon to feel much like an old friend. Be careful when you first begin familiarizing yourself with the weapon. You will drop the weapon often and you will want to ensure you are not in a location where the weapon can damage flooring, bounce, fly or fall into a mirror or glass door, damage furnishings, injure a pet or other bystander, or cause other unintended consequences. You might also wish to wear shoes to reduce potential injuries resulting from the weapon falling directly onto the top of your foot. This does not suggest you can wear street shoes onto your Dojo’s training area simply because you are trying to familiarize yourself with handling of the Tonfa.

The following drills focus on movements toward angle 1, but as you become familiar with the drills expand the movements by stepping or rotating your center to deliver them to different locations. This will provide you with an enhanced sense of movement and will offer you better handling skills. You will begin to notice ways in which the weapon becomes trapped or inadvertently strikes parts of your body, which will lead you to better consider how to move the weapon in various situations.

Another training variation that will prove instructive is to perform two or three movements as though they were a single sequence. This conveys the concept of continual movement and also demonstrates how you might readily flow from one movement into another.

These drills do not represent a Kata; they are simply practice exercises. You will not be tested on your ability to perform these drills. All movements begin from the initial hand position (home position) and then immediately return to the home position upon completion of the movement. There is no need to be very formal, the movements are the key takeaway experience.

Specific Tonfa Drills

The descriptions for the following drills all rely on Octagon abbreviations. Please review the Octagon link at the bottom of this page for more information about these abbreviations.

These drills also rely on the use of two weapons concurrently. This can be challenging at first, especially if both weapons are doing different things at the same time. Work slowly at first and work with one weapon at a time if necessary. Over time you will find you can make both weapons move in a fluid and continuous manner. If you avoid feeling pressured or rushed you will soon find you can perform these drills without much difficulty.

Uke No Tanren

This drill exclusively deals with using the weapon for blocking. You will note that in many instances a block could easily be used as Atemi[/glossary[ or [glossary]Nage instead.

  1. Raise both hands to deliver Migi Jodan Juji Uke T1
  2. Raise both hands to deliver Hidari Jodan Juji Uke T1
  3. Raise both hands to deliver Chudan Morote Uke T1
  4. Lower both hands to deliver Gedan Morote Uke T1
  5. Lower both hands to deliver Migi Gedan Juji Uke T1
  6. Lower both hands to deliver Hidari Gedan Juji Uke T1
  7. Alternately deliver Migi and then Hidari Chudan Uke T1
  8. Alternately deliver Migi and then Hidari Kakiwake Uke T1
  9. Loosen the grip on your right hand so the Ushiro Atama falls downward as you block with Hidari Chudan Uke and Migi Gedan Uke T4.
  10. Loosen the grip on your left hand so the Ushiro Atama falls downward as you block with Migi Chudan Uke and Hidari Gedan Uke T3.
  11. Block with Migi Age Uke T1.
  12. Block with Hidari Age Uke T1
  13. Swing the Ushiro Atama of the left weapon inward, down and then outward. Press both weapons outward toward angle 5 with the right weapon held higher than the left. [Note this is similar to, but different from step 9.]
  14. Swing the Ushiro Atama of the right weapon inward, down, and then outward. Press both weapons outward toward angle 5 with the left weapon held higher than the right. [Note this is similar to, but different from step 10.]
  15. Swing the left weapon up and outward, then let the Ushiro Atama swing outside slightly. Now move the weapon down and back toward your center as the Ushiro Atama comes inward and parallel to both the floor and your abdominal wall.
  16. Swing the right weapon up and outward, then let the Ushiro Atama swing outside slightly. Now move the weapon down and back toward your center as the Ushiro Atama comes inward and parallel to both the floor and your abdominal wall.
  17. Lower both weapons to your side then release your grip on both Nigiri and grasp both weapons by the Monouchi. Raise both weapons upward to form Jodan Juji Age Uke with both Tsuka Gashira pointed outward.
  18. Rotate slightly to your right as you rotate the Tsuka Gashira of the left weapon upward and press the weapon down T7, blocking with the Soko and Nigiri.
  19. Rotate to your left as you rotate the Tsuka Gashira of the left weapon upward and press the weapon upward T5, blocking with the Soko and Nigiri.
  20. Yame.

Atemi No Tanren

This drill demonstrates a variety of different strikes that might be utilized with the Tonfa. These strikes are all performed while holding the Tonfa with the standard grip.

  1. Push the Zen Atama forward to perform a Migi Chudan Tsuki
  2. Push the Zen Atama forward to perform a Hidari Chudan Tsuki
  3. Strike with Migi Yokomen Uchi using the Soko portion of the weapon
  4. Strike with Hidari Yokomen Uchi using the Soko portion of the weapon
  5. Swing the right arm forward at Jodan level through angle 1 as you relax the grip with the right hand, allowing the weapon to swing through angle 1 with increased velocity. Allow the weapon to come to rest momentarily on your left side, then accelerate it back through Jodan level at angle 1 again, once again allowing the weapon to rotate in your relaxed grip so it is again accelerated through the contact point toward angle 1.
  6. Swing the left arm forward at Jodan level through angle 1 as you relax the grip with the left hand, allowing the weapon to swing through angle 1 with increased velocity. Allow the weapon to come to rest momentarily on your right side, then accelerate it back through Jodan level at angle 1 again, once again allowing the weapon to rotate in your relaxed grip so it is again accelerated through the contact point toward angle 1.
  7. Relax the grip of your left hand and move your left elbow out slightly so the Ushiro Atama can fall directly downward. Swing the Ushiro Atama upward so it strikes with an Age Ago Uchi. Reverse the direction of movement, striking down with an Otoshi Shomen Uchi.
  8. Relax the grip of your right hand and move your right elbow out slightly so the Ushiro Atama can fall directly downward. Swing the Ushiro Atama upward so it strikes with an Age Ago Uchi. Revere the direction of movement, striking down with an Otoshi Shomen Uchi.
  9. Step to angle 3 with the left leg as you relax your grip with the right hand. Rotate the Ushiro Atama of the right weapon in a CW direction as you strike with Migi Ura Sune Uchi. Return to your original stance.
  10. Step to angle 4 with the right leg as you relax the grip with the left hand. Rotate the Ushiro Atama of the left weapon in a CCW direction as you strike with Hidari Ura Sune Uchi. Return to your original stance.
  11. Strike with Hidari Yokomen Uchi using the Tsuka Gashira.
  12. Strike with Migi Yokomen Uchi using the Tsuka Gashira.
  13. Strike with Migi Seoi Uchi using the Soko
  14. Strike with Hidari Seoi Uchi using the Soko
  15. Strike with Hidari Mawashi Uchi using the Zen Atama
  16. Strike with Migi Mawashi Uchi using the Zen Atama.
  17. Yame.

Kaiten No Tanren

This drill works on a variety of different spinning techniques utilizing the Tonfa. These are not always practical, but they teach continuity of movement and that another strike may be accomplished with a simple turn of the wrist. You will also notice several different methods for grasping the Tonfa in alternate positions. These transitions are intended to show you relatively safe ways of changing your grip so that you reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of dropping or losing control of the weapon. Whenever possible try to do these types of transitions in a controlled manner and not by simply flipping the weapon in mid-air.

  1. Relax the right hand slightly and then strike at Jodan Level to angle 4 using the following sequence: All strikes use the Ushiro Atama.
    1. Strike as the weapon passes through angle 4. The thumb should be pointed upward.
    2. Invert the wrist so the thumb points inward and allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it strikes with Otoshi Shomen Uchi to angle 4.
    3. Invert the wrist so the thumb points outward and allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it strikes with Otoshi Shomen Uchi to angle 4.
    4. Invert the wrist so the thumb points inward and allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it strikes with Otoshi Shomen Uchi to angle 4.
    5. Allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it rests under the right forearm. Return the arm to home position.
  2. Relax the left hand slightly and then strike at Jodan Level to angle 3 using the following sequence: All strikes use the Ushiro Atama.
    1. Strike as the weapon passes through angle 3. The thumb should be pointed upward.
    2. Invert the wrist so the thumb points inward and allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it strikes with Otoshi Shomen Uchi to angle 3.
    3. Invert the wrist so the thumb points outward and allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it strikes with Otoshi Shomen Uchi to angle 3.
    4. Invert the wrist so the thumb points inward and allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it strikes with Otoshi Shomen Uchi to angle 3.
    5. Allow the Ushiro Atama to continue rotation until it rests under the left forearm. Return the arm to home position.
  3. Extend the right Ushiro Atama upward toward angle 5 and then perform the following sequence. Note that proper timing and speed of wrist rotations is extremely important in this sequence.
    1. Swing the Ushiro Atama down and to the right. The thumb should be pointed generally to your right.
    2. Invert the wrist and then raise the Ushiro Atama upward toward angle 7. The thumb should be pointed generally to the left.
    3. Swing the Ushiro Atama down and to the left.
    4. Repeat the above movement sequence three more times.
    5. At the completion of the last spin allow the Ushiro Atama to return until the weapon rests under your right forearm. Return the weapon to the home position.
  4. Extend the left Ushiro Atama upward toward angle 7 and then perform the following sequence. Note that proper timing and speed of wrist rotations is extremely important in this sequence.
    1. Swing the Ushiro Atama down and to the left. The thumb should be pointed generally to your left.
    2. Invert the wrist and then raise the Ushiro Atama upward toward angle 5. The thumb should be pointed generally to the right.
    3. Swing the Ushiro Atama down and to the right.
    4. Repeat the above movement sequence three more times.
    5. At the completion of the last spin allow the Ushiro Atama to return until the weapon rests under your left forearm. Return the weapon to the home position.
  5. Hold the right weapon only between your thumb and index finger as you allow the back of your middle finger to press into the opposite side of the Nigiri. Now flip the weapon over as you release your thumb and index finger, then grab the Nigiri with your full hand again. The Ushiro Atama should point directly toward angle 1 and your little finger should be nearest the Tsuka Gashira. Your thumb should be near the Tonfa Shomen.
  6. Perform the following sequence of movements with the right Tonfa:
    1. Invert your wrist so the palm faces upward and the thumb points outward. Begin spinning by allowing the Ushiro Atama to fall forward and then allow it to spin an additional full 360°.
    2. As the Ushiro Atama moves toward your back, raise the weapon and continue the spin with the weapon over your head.
    3. After one complete revolution lower the weapon so it spins horizontally in front of your face.
    4. After one complete revolution raise the weapon again so it spins over your head.
    5. After one complete revolution move the weapon in front of your torso and spin it vertically in front of you.
    6. After one complete revolution move your arm to your right side and complete one final spin with the weapon to the right of your forearm.
    7. As the weapon completes this spin use your index finger to press into the opposite side of the Nigiri and again invert the weapon so you hold it with the normal grip (with the thumb near the Tsuka Gashira). Return the weapon to the home position.
  7. Hold the left weapon only between your thumb and index finger as you allow the back of your middle finger to press into the opposite side of the Nigiri. Now flip the weapon over as you release your thumb and index finger, then grab the Nigiri with your full hand again. The Ushiro Atama should point directly toward angle 1 and your little finger should be nearest the Tsuka Gashira. Your thumb should be near the Tonfa Shomen.
  8. Perform the following sequence of movements with the left Tonfa:
    1. Invert your wrist so the palm faces upward and the thumb points outward. Begin spinning by allowing the Ushiro Atama to fall forward and then allow it to spin an additional full 360°.
    2. As the Ushiro Atama moves toward your back, raise the weapon and continue the spin with the weapon over your head.
    3. After one complete revolution lower the weapon so it spins horizontally in front of your face.
    4. After one complete revolution raise the weapon again so it spins over your head.
    5. After one complete revolution move the weapon in front of your torso and spin it vertically in front of you.
    6. After one complete revolution move your arm to your right side and complete one final spin with the weapon to the left of your forearm.
    7. As the weapon completes this spin use your index finger to press into the opposite side of the Nigiri and again invert the weapon so you hold it with the normal grip (with the thumb near the Tsuka Gashira). Return the weapon to the home position.
  9. Using the right weapon, use your thumb to press slightly into the Tsuka Gashira as you move your right elbow slightly outward and away from your ribs. This motion should cause the weapon to invert. Release your grip and then grab the weapon again as it inverts. You should be holding the weapon by the Soko with your thumb near the Tsuka. Note that too much pressure from the thumb will cause the weapon to fly forward out of your control.
  10. Perform the following sequence of movements:
    1. Spin the weapon CCW over your head.
    2. Move the weapon toward angle 7 and then downward and inward from the direction of angle 7.
    3. Circle the weapon back upward in the direction of angle 5 and then downward and inward from the direction of angle 5.
    4. Extend the thumb upward so it wraps around the Nigiri. Release the grip on the Soko and grasp the Nigiri with your full right hand. Return the weapon to the home position.
  11. Using the left weapon, use your thumb to press slightly into the Tsuka Gashira as you move your left elbow slightly outward and away from your ribs. This motion should cause the weapon to invert. Release your grip and then grab the weapon again as it inverts. You should be holding the weapon by the Soko with your thumb near the Tsuka. Note that too much pressure from the thumb will cause the weapon to fly forward out of your control.
  12. Perform the following sequence of movements:
    1. Spin the weapon CW over your head.
    2. Move the weapon toward angle 5 and then downward and inward from the direction of angle 5.
    3. Circle the weapon back upward in the direction of angle 7 and then downward and inward from the direction of angle 7.
    4. Extend the thumb upward so it wraps around the Nigiri. Release the grip on the Soko and grasp the Nigiri with your full left hand. Return the weapon to the home position.
  13. Move the right weapon forward in a Chudan Tsuki. Return the Ushiro Atama so it rests against your abdomen. Relax the grip of your right hand and then slide the hand toward your abdomen while cradling the weapon until you are holding the Tonfa near the Ushiro Atama.
  14. Perform the following sequence of movements with the right weapon
    1. Press forward to perform a Nodo Tsuki, striking with the Nigiri
    2. Spin the weapon CCW over your head and then strike with Yokomen Uchi using the Tsuka Gashira.
    3. Invert your wrist and strike with Ura Yokomen Uchi to the opposite side of the face using the Tsuka Gashira.
    4. Spin the weapon CW over your head and then strike downward with Shomen Uchi to angle 1, striking with the Tsuka Gashira.
    5. Relax your grip on the weapon and allow it to slide down in your palm until your thumb makes contact with the bottom of the Nigiri. Move your thumb to the top of the Nigiri and then shift your grip so the Nigiri is held tightly in your palm. Spin the weapon until the Tonfa Shomen rests under your forearm and then return the weapon to home position.
  15. Move the left weapon forward in a Chudan Tsuki. Return the Ushiro Atama so it rests against your abdomen. Relax the grip of your left hand and then slide the hand toward your abdomen while cradling the weapon until you are holding the Tonfa near the Ushiro Atama.
  16. Perform the following sequence of movements with the left weapon
    1. Press forward to perform a Nodo Tsuki, striking with the Nigiri
    2. Spin the weapon CW over your head and then strike with Yokomen Uchi using the Tsuka Gashira.
    3. Invert your wrist and strike with Yokomen Uchi to the opposite side of the face using the Tsuka Gashira.
    4. Spin the weapon CCW over your head and then strike downward with Shomen Uchi to angle 1, striking with the Tsuka Gashira.
    5. Relax your grip on the weapon and allow it to slide down in your palm until your thumb makes contact with the bottom of the Nigiri. Move your thumb to the top of the Nigiri and then shift your grip so the Nigiri is held tightly in your palm. Spin the weapon until the Tonfa Shomen rests under your forearm and then return the weapon to home position.
  17. Yame.

These are simply exercises. Feel free to embellish, modify, or supplant them with other movements you discover. Anything you can do to provide yourself with increased practice time with the weapon will be of substantial benefit. Finding new and interesting ways to practice with the weapon is always beneficial.

See Also

The Tonfa
The Octagon

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