Spins involve holding a stick in one hand and spinning the weapon so the free stick functions as a flail. There are a great many of these spins to cover. We will generally discuss spins while holding the weapon in your right hand, but you should be quite practiced at doing each spin in either hand.
Most spins are simply done as skill development exercises, but they can have practical uses to keep an opponent at bay or as part of an entry, exit, or escape strategy. Many of these spins also form the basis of common strikes using the Nunchaku.
In this section we will discuss only spins of one variety. These spins involve doing the same movement repetitively in a continuous loop or sequence that is sustainable. In a later section we will discuss more complex spins that usually incorporate one or more of the spins from this section into a more complex sequence. You should master the spins in this section before moving on or you will be hopelessly frustrated by the more complex spins to come later.
Simple Counterclockwise Spin
Holding one stick in your right hand cause the free stick to rotate such that it scribes a circular path parallel to your abdomen. The free stick will be moving along a counterclockwise path from your perspective. The control stick will be pointed generally in the direction of local angle one, but it will naturally move slightly in a tight circular path as the weapon spins.
If you are using your left hand then the weapon will move in a clockwise rather than counterclockwise direction.
This spin is also commonly referred to as a forward spin. These names are a bit ambiguous because how the weapon moves depends quite a bit on which hand you are using and how your wrist is turning. Don’t become too involved in the name but rather consider how the weapon is moving.
As you gain experience with this spin then practice moving your arm and/or your center as you continue the spin. This will provide you with an opportunity to explore the use of this simple spin in a variety of orientations and positions. You should ultimately be quite comfortable doing this spin while moving about, rotating your center, and repositioning your arm.
Simple Clockwise Spin
This is identical to the Simple Counterclockwise Spin except that the weapon is moving in a clockwise rather than counterclockwise direction when using your right hand. It will move in a clockwise direction when holding the weapon in your left hand.
You will want to practice both this and the previous spin quite often with both hands until the spins become second nature. You will notice that the speed of the spin can be changed by moving your hand position on the control stick. Moving your hand forward and closer to the cord will increase the rate of spin, while moving your hand back toward the end of the stick will decrease the rate of spin and increase the size of the circle through which the weapon moves. Experiment with every variable you can to see how the spin is affected.
Forward Figure Eight Spin
This spin is a bit more difficult than the previous spins and involves a good deal of conscious wrist action. In this spin you will be essentially drawing a figure eight pattern with the free stick. The pattern will evolve directly in front of you with the imaginary Arabic numeral eight resting on its side. You might also think of this as the infinity pattern because it will look very much like you are following the outline of the infinity symbol.
Hold one stick in your right hand and raise your hand so the free stick falls loosely behind your right shoulder or upper arm. Now strike downward and to your left as your initial stroke. As the weapon moves toward your left side invert your wrist so the weapon reverses direction. Each time the weapon reaches the extent of its travels, invert your wrist. The key to this is getting in the habit of rotating your wrist. The weapon will naturally follow. In the diagrams at right the loops on the left and right sides of the infinity symbol represent the points at which you invert your wrist. There should be very little arm motion except for that which is necessary due to rotation of your wrist.
Naturally if you are doing this spin with the left arm you will perform the initial stroke so that it enters at the upper left corner of the infinity symbol. The weapon will follow the same path shown by the arrows in the Forward Figure Eight diagram.
You should do at least ten continuous loops when doing this spin in practice. To get particularly good at it, work up to doing one hundred spins per hand several times every few days or so. Practice and repetition are definitely the keys to success with the Nunchaku.
Reverse Figure Eight Spin
This spin is similar to the previous spin except that the path of travel around the infinity symbol is reversed. You now begin with an upward oriented stroke rather than a downward oriented stroke. Otherwise the methodology is the same. You simply invert your wrist whenever the weapon moves to its maximum point on the left or right.
The spin can be initiated from the same position, i.e. with the weapon draped behind your right shoulder. To begin you allow the free stick to fall downward behind your right arm and then it rises again to form the initial stroke for this spin sequence. You can also initiate this spin by simply allowing the loose stick to fall downward along your right thigh and then move the weapon in the direction of the indicated initial stroke.
Doing the spin on the left side would be initiated by entering the infinity symbol in the lower left corner. The arrow directions in the above diagram would remain unchanged.
Grasp the weapon using the standard grip and then place the weapon so the control stick is oriented vertically and located in front of your near the apex of your center triangle. The cord and free stick will simply dangle straight down below the stick you are holding.
Now begin rotating the control stick around the apex of your center triangle in a small tight circle while maintaining the vertical orientation of the stick. As the weapon picks up momentum the free stick will begin to rotate along a circular path that is parallel to the floor. Keep the stick far enough away from your abdomen so that the weapon does not contact you during any portion of the spin.
Spin the weapon using one hand and then the other. Also practice spinning the weapon in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction.
Stirring the Pot
To perform this spin you first hold the weapon in a reverse grip. You now place this stick in a vertical orientation in front of you and some distance away from your abdomen. The location will be somewhere near the apex of your center triangle. You now continue to hold the stick in this vertical orientation and begin to move it around in a small circle as though you were stirring a kettle or pot. The free stick will move around in a circle that is parallel to the floor.
Practice this spin using one hand and then the other hand. Also spin the weapon in the opposite direction an equal proportion of the time. This is a very simple spin, but it will be useful later in a number of different ways.
Forward Overhead Spin
This is the first potentially dangerous spin. If you do not perform this spin correctly you will experience contact between the weapon and your head. That will not feel so great.
The key to doing this spin well is to not think about spinning the weapon around your head, but to instead think about moving the control wrist around your head. Notice I did not say moving your wrist over your head. You move your wrist around your head. This ensures the rotating part of the weapon never comes anywhere near your memory bucket.
Your wrist will turn over twice during a full rotation. It will begin with the wrist facing upward as the weapon moves in front of your face. The wrist will turn over near our left ear so the wrist facings downward while the weapon is moving behind your head. The wrist will again turn over to face upward near your right ear so the wrist is again upward as it traverses in front of your face. Do a minimum of ten rotations when practicing this spin.
Reverse Overhead Spin
This spin is simply the opposite of the Forward Overhead Spin. Your right hand first passes your right ear and then moves behind your head. It then proceeds past your left ear and then your face before moving to the right ear and behind the head again. Again the wrist will invert each time it passes near one of your ears. You must also keep in mind that the wrist, not the weapon, is moving around your head. The minute you think you are moving the weapon around your head you will find this is only a prelude to the weapon moving into your head. “Oh, how did I get this black eye? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Practice both this and the Forward Overhead Spin using one hand and then the other. It should be obvious that the weapon will move in the opposing direction when using the left hand.
Reverse Grip Forward Figure Eight Spin
This spin can be quite difficult to do and requires both physical and mental coordination to accomplish the spin reliably. This is essentially the same as the Forward Figure Eight Spin, except that your grip on the weapon is inverted. Instead of holding the weapon with the standard grip in which your thumb and index figure are closest to the corded end of the stick, you adopt a reverse grip so that your little finger is closest to the corded end of the stick. Now you move the weapon along the same pattern as before, again turning your wrist at the same locations. The pattern is the same, but the feel and mechanics of the movement take some time to master. Again, focus on your wrist and not on your arm movements.
Reverse Grip Reverse Figure Eight Spin
This is the same as spin pattern used in the Reverse Figure Eight Spin. The major difference is that you are using a reverse grip on the weapon. This will complicate things for you mentally more than anything else. Just stay with it until you begin to appreciate the sequence of wrist movements necessary to accomplish this spin. It can be a challenge. This is perhaps one of the most difficult spin exercises. Persistence overcomes frustration.
Forward Wrist Wrap
Begin by holding the weapon in a reverse grip. Now swing the weapon so the free stick wraps around your wrist, beginning on the little finger side of your hand. Release your grip on the weapon and turn your wrist inward so you can catch the stick that is now draped over your wrist. You will now be holding the weapon with a standard grip.
You will frequently drop the weapon when first learning this exercise. You should ensure you practice in a location where the weapon cannot fly or bounce into another object or any glass surface. Practicing on a soft surface may also reduce the chance of damage to your weapon.
Reverse Wrist Wrap
Hold the weapon with a standard grip. Now swing the weapon so the free stick wraps around your wrist, beginning on the thumb side of the hand. Release your grip on the weapon and turn your wrist outward so you can catch the stick that is now draped over your wrist. You will now be holding the weapon with an inverted grip.
Again, practice in an area where a dropped weapon will not constitute a risk of injury or damage. You will drop the weapon repeatedly while learning to master this skill. Practicing on grass, mats, or carpeting can reduce bouncing and the possibility of damage to your weapon.
Infinite Wrist Roll
This is another somewhat more difficult roll or spin exercise. It relies on using the cord as part of the mechanism and contact surface for the roll. It also relies heavily on proper timing. If your timing is off the spin will fail. Expect your timing to be off for some time as you go through the initial learning curve.
This spin (or roll) primarily uses the inverted grip, but it is usually initiated from a standard grip position. Grip the weapon so that your thumb and index finger are about an inch or so from the cord or chain. Now spin the weapon such that the cord crosses over the back of your hand so that the cord makes contact first with the thumb side of your hand. At this point timing becomes critical. You now release your grip on the weapon, allowing inertia to carry the weapon across the back of your hand. Turn your wrist so your thumb points downward and catch what had been the free stick as it falls downward and to the right of your arm. Close your palm around the stick as it makes contact with your hand.
You will now have an inverted grip on the weapon and you will maintain this grip throughout the remainder of the spin exercise. At this point you will move your wrist so that the thumb points upward. This imparts additional energy into the weapon, causing it to spin in a counterclockwise direction in front of you. The cord will again wrap around the back of your wrist. Again you will want to release your grip and turn your wrist so your open hand turns so the thumb is facing downward. Close your hand on the free stick that will land in your palm and then repeat the entire sequence again in a repetitive cycle of spins.
Timing and weapon velocity are essential elements of this exercise. If the weapon does not have sufficient velocity it will not move smoothly behind your wrist and into your waiting palm. If there is too much velocity the weapon will shoot over the back of your wrist and move away from your hand in an uncontrolled manner. Additionally, you must work on the timing so that you release the first stick and grasp the second stick in a continuous and smooth motion that involves opening the hand, inverting the wrist, closing the hand, and inverting the wrist again (to initiate the next spin).
This spin, while difficult to master at first, can be an effective method for inverting your grip on the weapon. It is fast and efficient, but does mean the weapon is out of your grip for a short period of time. This may not be advantageous in a conflict situation and there are certainly other ways that can be used to invert your grip that reduce your risk of losing control of your weapon.