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Welcome to the Sick Individual Productions “Tonfa Baton Staged
Combat Page”.

People often ask me how confidence and fast reactions are gained to be able to film, stunt and stage fight with different types of weapons from all angles of attack. The answer I usually give is to train with TONFA batons. The following article is designed to give the viewer a basic understanding of tonfa knowledge and how to use the ancient weapon in order to train their reactions for staged weapon combat.

Before embarking any further into the world of the tonfa I must point out that I will accept no responsibility at all for you hurting yourself, hurting others or damaging any property by following the techniques outlined below. You train and use these techniques at YOUR own risk!!!!! There is no easy path here to follow and remember that this tutorial is for the purpose of improving your staged weapon fighting techniques and not your ability to fight in real life.

Sick Individual
Sword Fighting

Why not visit Sick Individual's Staged Sword Fighting Tutorial after practicing the techniques involved with Tonfa Batons?

The simple tonfa has a very interesting history. During the 17th Century the inhabitants of the island of Okinawa were banned by the invading Japanese government from carrying weapons such as swords and knives. Adding to this problem to the people of Okinawa was the scarcity of workable metal in the Ryukyu Islands. These conditions and the need for personal protection gave rise to the development of the Martial Arts of Okinawa: Karate and Kobudo.

Like most Kobudo weapons the tonfa was originally used as a farm implement and was converted into a device of self defence from pure need. The tonfa was originally a wooden handle set into a hole on the side of a millstone. This handle was easily disengaged from the millstone to act as a defensive weapon. In this modern age tonfa are used employed by Martial Artists and widely utilised by modern law enforcement.

For the staged weapons fighter the tonfa is a creatively used and easy to find or even construct training tool.

The use of the tonfa will:

  • Build up your reflexes and confidence
  • Get you conditioned for the impact from other weapons
  • Develop your timing and distance needed to fight
  • Strengthen your combat techniques, blocks and stances
  • Develop your coordination to defend from all angles and with both hands
  • Enhance you trust & relationships with your training partners


Tonfa are usually crafted from hardwood and can be easily constructed if needed to. I have seen some versions though made from more modern materials such as plastic. In selecting a tonfa the length is important for the safety of yourself and your training partners. The back head of the tonfa should not extend more than one inch past your elbow when held normally. Tonfa also come in a variety of shape variations. The most popular shaft shapes being the round, rectangle and combination of round-headed/rectangle types.

Tonfa are gripped for the purposes outlined here in a very easy to learn manner by simply gripping the handle with your fist and holding the long end of the shaft parallel to your forearm. This is the most basic of grips and will enable you to protect yourself quite well. Remember this is a tutorial for the staged combat practitioner and not for the martial study of the tonfa. Now that you have your tonfa and know what it is all about you should begin to start training with your crew.


Some Major Considerations:

  • Practise, practise, practise
  • Start slow and simple, then build the speed and complexity up over time
  • Don’t be over excited and get carried away with force
  • Remember you are learning defence. Unless you and your partner are incredibly advanced in the use of the tonfa and have a mutual agreement do not strike back!
  • Never try to hurt your opponent
  • Never train whilst intoxicated, drugged or in a bad mood.
  • If you are injured in any way, stop immediately and assess the damage.
  • If your opponent accidentally hits you do not take it personally and never try to get revenge!
  • Keep your tonfa well maintained.
For this tutorial I am focusing on the tonfa as a purely defensive training tool and not for offensive practise. If you want to learn how to fight with tonfa then I suggest you find a reputable Martial Arts style/club/instructor, then train hard and I mean hard. The tonfa here will be shown in use against the sword and staff, which are the most commonly implemented stage weapons that people delight in using, especially Star Wars fans.

Basic Defences:

The basis of this whole tutorial is to defend so lets get started. It is essential to block the incoming strike and with your tonfa, not your arm. You must always block away and past the body. Hold your tonfa firm but with a relaxed hand. I have seen people get struck due to employing poor blocking techniques and lazy grips. Below are the basic blocks used to defend against the most common strikes encountered, all of which are outlined in my sword fighting tutorial HERE.

Whilst performing these techniques be in a nice and comfortable fighting stance with both knees bent. Keep both your tonfa up in a guard position ready at anytime to ward off an attack. All these defences work equally well from either hand. Try not to favour one side all the time though and work on an ambidextrous approach to training.

Defensive Manoeuvres

Raising Block: Raise the baton well above your head on a 45 degree angle. The angle is important to deflect the attack down and away from your body. If the angle it too flat then you will take the force of the strike heavily and if the angle if too sharp then you lessen the chance of your block being successful. This block works well against a vertical strike and remember to block well above the head. Lower Section Block: Swiftly sweep your arm swiftly down across and past your body line. This will help ward off any low attacks and guard the legs. Low attacks are what many people have trouble with spotting and defending against. I particularly enjoy striking the knee during controlled sparring.
Inner Forearm Block: Swing your arm across the front of your body using an outside in motion. This blocks the opponent’s strike into your body and will hopefully expose their blindside to your subsequent attack. Make sure you turn the hips in as you block to ensure your body is well out of the way of the attack. This is an excellent block to use against vertical strikes. Outer Forearm Block: Swing your arm out and across your body using and inside out motion. This is a fast blocking technique and will leave both combatants open for the next attack. Make sure your other arm is on guard and ready for another attack. This also is an excellent block against vertical strikes.

Cross Block: A more advanced blocking technique. The Cross Block can be employed either against an upper vertical attack or a lower upward swinging attack. You must swing both batons out in front of you and form a cross shape to block and temporarily trap the incoming strike.


Sparring with the tonfa can be done against a multitude of different weapons. These can include swords, staffs, spears, knives and really any weapon you can think of. I would not recommend practising against steel or edged weapons though. Sparring against these will lessen the life of your tonfa and also increase the likelihood of any accidental injury being much worse than it could have been. Experienced Martial Artists should be able to easily adapt their own style’s blocks and forms to match the ability of the Tonfa. You will be amazed at how your Martial training will benefit from this form of sparring.

Before we begin the fun and enjoyment of sparring we have to understand these following points:




  • Complete a warm-up procedure before jumping into a vigorous training session.
  • First and foremost as you spar with your opponent your must breathe! Focus hard on a constant supply of air through your nose. Many first timers are really nervous and almost forget to breathe while fighting and I have seen some nearly pass-out.
  • Relax!!! I always have to tell people to relax. The first time you face having to block a strike you will be a little scared and apprehensive, but remember to block! Being relaxed physically and mentally means you will react faster, use less energy and enjoy the fight.
  • Like I just said HAVE FUN. Enjoy the challenge and enjoy the sparring.
  • Never strike your partner with a tonfa. It will cause damage.
  • Learn from your mistakes and successes. If you accidentally get hit then work out why and fix the problem. If you are never being hit do not get over confident and cocky. Increase your opponent’s speed and strike complexity. There are no masters, only learners.
  • If possible spar against as many different opponents as possible. Each training partner will spar and react very differently to each other.
  • If you do accidentally get injured stop, assess and attend to the damage. No heroes exist in this realm.
  • Some people prefer to wear thick gloves to lessen the impact of accidental strikes to their hands.
  • Make sure your and your opponent’s equipment is in good order. Training weapons will degrade through use and training. The last thing you want is one of your tonfa breaking mid block or a wooden sword snapping over your raising block and striking you!
  • Both the attacker and defender must use controlled force. Start working each other slow and soft, then with practise work up the speed and force. Remember to fight to the specifications that your partner is comfortable with. If the opponent fails to block an incoming strike the attacker should be able to comfortably pull their attack well short of the defender’s body.
  • Work on strengthening the blocking techniques and look for possible attack openings. This will help you develop defensive and offensive reactions.
  • Change over roles of attacker and defender to get a feel for both.

Now that you have read all the above and understand it go grab your training partner and spar! You will be shocked at how fast you will gain confidence, momentum and enhance your staged combat skills.


Grant Meredith
Rod Lofts
Shane Hoffmann

© 2005
Grant Meredith
Sick Individual Productions

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