The tonfa also known as tong fa or tuifa, is an Okinawan weapon. It is a stick with a handle, and is about 15-20 inches long. It was traditionally made from red oak and wielded in pairs. A similar weapon called the mae sun sawk is used in krabi krabong
Krabi Krabong
Krabi krabong is a weapon-based martial art from Thailand. It is closely related to other Southeast Asian fighting styles such as Indonesian-Malay silat, Burmese banshay and the armed component of Cambodian bokator...



The origin of the tonfa is debated, but experts believe it originated in either China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 or Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

. It is used in both Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n and Chinese martial arts
Chinese martial arts
Chinese martial arts, also referred to by the Mandarin Chinese term wushu and popularly as kung fu , are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as "families" , "sects" or...

 and was probably brought to Okinawa through their influence. The Chinese believe it was developed from a crutch but Okinawan folklore holds that during the reign of the ruler Shō Shin
Sho Shin
' was a king of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the third of the line of the Second Shō Dynasty. Shō Shin's long reign has been described as "the Great Days of Chūzan", a period of great peace and relative prosperity. He was the son of Shō En, the founder of the dynasty, by Yosoidon, Shō En's second wife,...

, restrictions were placed on the use of weaponry in order to stabilize the country after a period of civil war. This restriction is said to have favoured the development of unconventional agricultural tools as weapons of self-defense. In this context, it is said that the tonfa was developed from a wooden handle of a millstone
Millstones or mill stones are used in windmills and watermills, including tide mills, for grinding wheat or other grains.The type of stone most suitable for making millstones is a siliceous rock called burrstone , an open-textured, porous but tough, fine-grained sandstone, or a silicified,...

, a common agricultural implement. In modern times, the tonfa was the basis for the PR-24 side-handle police baton
Baton (law enforcement)
A truncheon or baton is essentially a club of less than arm's length made of wood, plastic, or metal...

 but their combat application is different.


The tonfa can be gripped by the short perpendicular handle or by the longer main shaft. In defense, if the handle is grasped then the shaft protects the forearm and hand while the knob protects the thumb. If both ends of the shaft are held, the shaft can be used to ward off blows and the handle can be used as a hook to catch the opponent's weapons.

In offense, one can swing the shaft to strike the target. Large amounts of momentum can be imparted to the shaft by twirling the tonfa by the handle. The tonfa can also be wielded in such a way as to use the knob as a striking implement, held either by the handle or by the shaft. One can also stab opponents with the shaft of the tonfa. By holding the shaft and the handle of the tonfa together, one can use it for holding or breaking techniques.

Tonfa are traditionally wielded in pairs, one in each hand. This is unlike police nightsticks, which are generally used alone. As the tonfa can be held in many different ways, education in the use of the tonfa often involves learning how to switch between different grips at high speed. Such techniques require great manual dexterity. As with all Okinawan weapons, many of the forms are reflective of karate
is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It was developed from indigenous fighting methods called and Chinese kenpō. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands. Grappling, locks,...


Further reading

  • Robert Paturel
    Robert Paturel
    Robert Paturel is a French boxer, born in 1952 in Rueil-Malmaison. He won the French Boxing championship six times in France, and became a European champion in 1984....

    and Alain Formaggio, Tonfa sécurité, Chiron éditeur, 2001. . ISBN 978-2702706671.
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