to the Sick
“Tonfa Baton Staged
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.
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
For the staged weapons fighter the tonfa is a creatively
used and easy to find or even construct training tool.
use of the tonfa will:
Build up your reflexes and confidence
Get you conditioned for the impact from other
Develop your timing and distance needed to fight
Strengthen your combat techniques, blocks and
Develop your coordination to defend from all
angles and with both hands
Enhance you trust & relationships with your
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.
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
Practise, practise, practise
slow and simple, then build the speed and complexity
up over time
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
try to hurt your opponent
train whilst intoxicated, drugged or in a bad mood.
you are injured in any way, stop immediately and
assess the damage.
your opponent accidentally hits you do not take it
personally and never try to get revenge!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
I just said HAVE FUN. Enjoy the challenge and enjoy
strike your partner with a tonfa. It will cause
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
possible spar against as many different opponents as
possible. Each training partner will spar and react
very differently to each other.
you do accidentally get injured stop, assess and
attend to the damage. No heroes exist in this realm.
people prefer to wear thick gloves to lessen the
impact of accidental strikes to their hands.
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!
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
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.
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.