Nunchaku Tanren

Here we present a number of drills that you can utilize to help perfect your handling and movement of the Nunchaku weapon. When working on a drill begin by going through it slowly at first until you understand the general nature of the movements and weapon behaviors you will encounter. As you gain experience you will naturally want to increase your speed (keep in mind that one key to speed to reducing the extent of your movements). Always be cautious to not become overconfident. Overconfidence can be painful.

The drills are listed below in no particular order. Some are simple while others are much more involved. Often you will perform a sequence or movement with one hand, then perform some form of pass and then repeat the drill using the opposite hand. This ensures you become equally practiced at using the weapon with both hands.

For most drills we will use what we arbitrarily call the home position. This is simply using each hand to grab each stick with a standard grip. The weapon is then positioned at Chudan level so the weapon is essentially held parallel to the ground. Most drills will begin and end in this position. You might also think of this as the presentation or salutation position.

Drills make extensive use of wrapping techniques. Ensure you have a sound understanding of how to wrap the weapon around nearly every appendage or surface of your body without causing yourself injury before you attempt these drills at any significant speed.

You should be able to perform any or all of the following drills for your ranking examination. You should make it a habit to perform at least one different drill every time you pick up your weapon. This will give you the practice you will need to do well on this portion of your ranking examination.

If you have perfected all of the drills below then you might consider stringing two or more drills together as a longer exercise. Just ensure you can flow smoothly and flawlessly from the end of one drill into the start of the next.

When you are very comfortable doing multiple drills together then consider doing a single drill concurrently with a weapon in each hand. Often this may require that you stagger the drill such that the right hand performs an action and then the left hand performs the same action. You are in effect weaving through the drill doing different portions of the drill at slightly different times with alternate hands. This will be very complex and challenging when you first try it, and it is certainly not a testing requirement, but you will find great satisfaction in working through these compound drills until you can master them. Not all drills are well suited for this dual weapon usage. Try various drills to see what you can accomplish. Consider it a personal adventure.

Over Shoulder Pass Drill

This drill works primarily on passing the weapon over and behind the shoulder. You free hand will then catch the weapon as it moves forward under the armpit.

  1. Begin in Home Position
  2. Release your left hand and use your right hand to wrap the weapon around your right hip.
  3. Move the weapon to your left and wrap the weapon around your left hip
  4. Move the weapon to your right and wrap the weapon around your right hip
  5. Position your open left hand just under your right armpit as you concurrently move the weapon upward and wrap the weapon behind your right shoulder such that the free stick swings forward under your armpit. Close your left hand around the weapon in a standard grip.
  6. Release your grip with the right hand and use your left hand to wrap the weapon around your left hip.
  7. Move the weapon to your right and wrap the weapon around your right hip.
  8. Move the weapon to your left and wrap the weapon around your left hip.
  9. Position your open right hand just under your left armpit as you concurrently move the weapon upward and wrap the weapon behind your left shoulder such that the free stick swings forward under your armpit. Close your right hand around the weapon in a standard grip.
  10. Return to step 2 above to continue the drill. To end the drill, maintain your grip with both hands and move the right hand and then the left hand forward until you return to Home Position.

Horizontal Spins Drill

In this drill you will spin the weapon horizontally in front of you and then horizontally above your head.

  1. Begin in Home Position
  2. Release your left hand and use your right hand to spin the weapon in a counterclockwise manner horizontally in front of you (Horizontal Spin). The weapon will normally be roughly at hip level. Spin one or more complete rotations
  3. As the weapon moves away from you and toward your left, raise your right hand upward and perform one or more Forward Overhead Spins.
  4. As the weapon moves forward and toward your left, lower the weapon and allow it to wrap around your left hip, allowing it to then spring back.
  5. Continue the movement of the weapon and pass it back your back, starting near your right hip. Catch the weapon in your left hand behind your back.
  6. Release your right hand and use your left hand to spin the weapon in a clockwise manner horizontally in front of you (Horizontal Spin). The weapon will normally be roughly at hip level. Spin one or more complete rotations.
  7. As the weapon moves away from you and toward your right, raise your left hand upward and perform one or more Forward Overhead Spins.
  8. As the weapon moves forward and toward your right, lower the weapon and allow it to wrap around you right hip, allowing it to then spring back.
  9. Continue the movement of the weapon and pass it back your back, starting near your left hip. Catch the weapon in your right hand behind your back.
  10. To continue the drill proceed to step 2 above. To terminate the drill, release your left hand and perform a right Over the Shoulder Pass, catching the weapon under your armpit with your left hand. Press both arms forward to return to the Home Position.

Shoulders and Eights Drill

This is a somewhat more complex drill involving a number of spins, wraps, and catches. It can seem complex at first, but take your time – it’s not that difficult, especially if you are already quite familiar with some of the spins, catches, and passes involved.

  1. Begin in the Home Position
  2. Release your left hand and wrap the weapon over and behind your right shoulder.
  3. Reverse the direction of movement and perform several Forward Figure Eight Spins (right side).
  4. As the weapon moves down and to the right on the final figure eight spin allow the weapon to move outside of your right arm and perform one or more right side spins.
  5. At the conclusion of the final right side spin, allow the weapon to move up under the right armpit, momentarily catching the weapon under your right arm.
  6. Allow the weapon to fall out from under your arm and perform an over the shoulder pass on your right side, catching the weapon with your left hand under your armpit.
  7. Release your right hand and wrap the weapon over and behind your left shoulder.
  8. Reverse the direction of movement and perform several Forward Figure Eight Spins (left side).
  9. As the weapon moves down and to the left on the final figure eight spin allow the weapon to move outside of your left arm and perform one or more left side spins.
  10. At the conclusion of the final left side spin, allow the weapon to move up under the left armpit, momentarily catching the weapon under your left arm.
  11. Allow the weapon to fall out from under your arm and perform an over the shoulder pass on your left side, catching the weapon with your arm pit.
  12. Either proceed to step 2 above, or move both hands forward to adopt the Home Position.

Alternating Reverse Shoulder Pass Drill

This drill is likely to result in you being struck repeatedly in the back of the head. Use extreme caution and by all means use a practice Nunchaku or helmet when you are first learning this drill. Severe cranial impacts will result if you do not use a safety equipment initially and if you do not pay close attention to wrist action as the weapon moves behind your shoulder and up toward your head. Carefully review the discussion about the Reverse Shoulder Pass in the article about Nunchaku Passes  prior to attempting this drill.

  1. Begin in the Home Position
  2. Release your left hand and use your right hand to perform a left side Reverse Shoulder Pass, catching the weapon in front of your left shoulder with your left hand.
  3. Release the right hand and use your left hand to perform a right side Reverse Shoulder Pass, catching the weapon in front of your right shoulder with your right hand.
  4. To continue the drill return to step 2 above. To terminate the drill extend both hands forward to adopt the Home Position.

Multiple Wraps Drill

The primary purpose of this drill is to provide a level of comfort performing a great variety of different wraps. You will perform a continual sequence of different wraps on various parts of your anatomy. Between each wrapping movement is a flail strike toward angle one. The level and purpose of the strike will change depending upon the nature of the wrap. This drill helps you understand where you might wrap if you strike at a target and miss. If you strike and hit a target you will find the weapon will recoil often in an unanticipated manner, making many of the wraps below irrelevant.

  1. Begin in the Home Position
  2. Release your left hand and use your right hand to perform a right hip wrap.
  3. Raise the weapon and perform a right over the shoulder triceps wrap.
  4. Lower the weapon and perform a right inside thigh wrap.
  5. Raise the weapon and perform a right over the shoulder left scapula wrap.
  6. Perform a left under arm left scapula wrap.
  7. Perform a right arm bicep wrap.
  8. Lower the weapon and perform a left outer thigh wrap.
  9. Raise the weapon and perform a right over shoulder pass, catching the weapon under your right armpit with the left hand.
  10. Release your right hand and use your left hand to perform a left hip wrap.
  11. Raise the weapon and perform a left over the shoulder triceps wrap.
  12. Lower the weapon and perform a left inside thigh wrap.
  13. Raise the weapon and perform a left over the shoulder right scapula wrap.
  14. Perform a right under arm right scapula wrap.
  15. Perform a left arm bicep wrap.
  16. Lower the weapon and perform a right outer thigh wrap.
  17. Raise the weapon and perform a left over shoulder pass, catching the weapon under you left armpit with the right hand.
  18. To continue the drill return to step 2 above. To terminate the drill press both hands forward to return to Home Position.

Back Passes Drill

Multiple passes behind the back is the focus of this drill. Every pass involves some form of passing that is initiated by moving the weapon behind the back first. This drill is a little different than other drills because passes alternate from one hand to the other throughout the drill, unlike other drills where you predominantly operate with the weapon in one hand and then the other. In this drill you switch hands constantly throughout the exercise. The movements in this drill are not entirely symmetrical.

  1. Begin in the Home Position
  2. Perform a right Over the Shoulder Pass, catching the weapon under your right armpit with the left hand.
  3. Release the grip with your right hand and perform a left Opposite Shoulder to Hip Pass, catching the weapon with your right hand.
  4. Release the grip with your left hand and perform a Behind the Neck Pass using your right hand, catching the weapon with your left hand.
  5. Release the grip with your right hand and perform a left side Behind the Back Pass, catching the weapon with your right hand.
  6. Release the grip with your left hand and perform a right side Opposite Shoulder to Hip Pass, catching the weapon with your left hand.
  7. Release the grip of your right hand and perform a Behind the Neck Pass using your left hand, catching the weapon with your right hand.
  8. Release the grip with your left hand and perform a Behind the Back Pass using your right hand, catching the weapon with your left hand.
  9. Release the grip with your right hand and perform left side Shoulder to Hip Pass, catching the weapon with the right hand.
  10. Release the grip with your left hand and perform a right side Shoulder to Hip Pass, catching the weapon with your left hand.
  11. Perform a left side over the shoulder wrap followed immediately by a right side Inverted Shoulder Pass, catching the weapon with your right hand.
  12. Release the grip with your left hand and perform a left side Inverted Shoulder Pass, catching the weapon with your left hand.
  13. To continue the drill return to step 2 above. To terminate the drill press both hands forward to return to the Home Position.

Flowing Flails Drill

The Flowing Flails Drill uses the circular nature of a flail strike to deliver numerous continuous flail strikes with a limited number of intervening wraps or catches. In reality this is unlikely to be useful in a real conflict since any impact with the weapon will preclude flowing into another circular flail strike, but it is useful for tournaments, demonstrations, and to practice handing the weapon in situations where a strike has missed its target.

This drill makes use of the Octagon in a vertical orientation.

  1. Begin in the Home Position
  2. Release your grip with the left hand and accelerate the weapon back along your right side to perform a right side circular spin and then strike down along the V7 – V8 path.
  3. Allow the weapon to wrap around your left side and then strike upward along the V8 – V7 path.
  4. Initiate a spin around the head and then strike down along the path V5 – V6.
  5. Perform a side spin on your right side and then strike along the V4 – V3 path.
  6. Wrap around your left hip and then strike from V3 – V4.
  7. As the weapon begins to slow, perform a wrist wrap and grasp the cord or chain with your right hand.
  8. Use both sticks as free sticks and strike from V6 – V5.
  9. Allow the weapon to circle downward along your left side and then strike with both free sticks from a V8 – V7.
  10. Open your right hand and grasp one of the sticks in an inverted grip. Now strike from V4 – V3.
  11. Wrap around the left hip and strike from angle V3 – V4.
  12. Raise the weapon and pass it behind your neck, catching the weapon with your open left hand held to the right side of your face.
  13. Release your grip with the right hand and accelerate the weapon back along your left side to perform a left side circular spin and then strike down along the V5 – V6 path.
  14. Allow the weapon to wrap around your right side and then strike upward along the V6 – V5 path.
  15. Initiate a spin around the head and then strike down along the path V7 – V8.
  16. Perform a side spin on your left side and then strike along the path V3 – V4.
  17. Wrap around your right hip and then strike from angle V4 – V3.
  18. As the weapon begins to slow, perform a wrist wrap and grasp the cord or chain with your left hand.
  19. Use both sticks as free sticks and strike from V8 – V7.
  20. Allow the weapon to circle downward along your right side and then strike with both free sticks from V6 – V5.
  21. Open your right hand and grasp one of the sticks in an inverted grip. Now strike from V3 – V4.
  22. Wrap around the right hip and strike from V4 – V3.
  23. Raise the weapon and pass it behind your neck, catching the weapon with your open right hand held to the left side of your face.
  24. To continue the drill return to step 2 above. To terminate the drill perform a right Over the Shoulder pass, catching the weapon below your right armpit with your left hand. Press both hands forward to establish the Home Position.

By far the most difficult parts of this sequence are the wrist wraps to grab the weapon by the cord and to release the cord and grab the weapon with an inverted grip. The latter motion is the more difficult of the two. You will need to spin the weapon and invert your wrist quickly in order to accomplish this pass. Practice this pass well away from others, any glass, and items you do not wish to see destroyed.

Also note that some of the strikes will pass precariously close to your shins. This presents an especially painful target area for the free stick, so use extra care and vigilance whenever the free stick moves in the vicinity of your lower legs (shin pads, anyone?). And naturally, use a practice Nunchaku until you are quite practiced at this drill.

See Also

The Octagon

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