Martial Arts that Use Weapons

Of course, martial arts, being sciences of the military and fighting, often include weapons training. Though some are merely empty-handed pursuits in self-defense, some exclusively use weapons or have weapons as a strong base for the art.

Here we examine arts that use weapons as the base of their systems.


The Filipino martial arts–including Eskrima, Kali and Arnis– are probably the best known arts that have weapons training as the base of their systems of fighting. Many of the Filipino arts begin from the viewpoint of using a weapon and translating weapons techniques not only to various hand-held weapons but also to empty-hand techniques. The systems were designed for immediate combat, so that practitioners had to know how to be efficient on a tight schedule, so to speak. The arts were made to train people quickly to go to war. The blade was learned and in the middle of that training in a weapon, the student was also taught how to apply his skills if he didn’t have a weapon.

It should be noted that other arts are part of the Filipino curriculum, including dumog, a form of wrestling and a kicking art called sikuran. However, such facets of the arts are quickly adapted to weapons; as in using a stick to grapple, like Grandmaster Cacoy Canete’s art of Eskrido.



Ninjutsu is the art of the feudal spies and assassins of Japan. These agents were used to gather intelligence on enemy camps and also to infiltrate the enemy camp and conduct assassinations.  Therefore, like all special forces and intelligence officers, they had and were trained in weaponry. These included the famous shuriken (or throwing stars), a long chain with a sickle at the end known as a kusarigama, spikes that protruded from a wrap around the hand used to attack and for climbing called a shoku, sword and staff.  The ninja, let’s say, had a good arsenal, fit for espionage, infiltration and assassinations.

The kusarigama used by ninja.


Many consider the soft and refined art of Aikido to be the art of the Samurai. One thing is certain, it has elements of the Samurai in it; including training in the Jo staff. Part of Aikido training involves understanding the use of this old Japanese weapon, which is a short staff about half the size of the 6 foot Bo staff.


Kung Fu

The old warrior arts of China are known for their use of weapons such as the broad sword, the spear and even the delicate but deadly tai chi sword. The art of WuShu makes heavy use of a variety of weapons.


Kendo is a Japanese art of sword fighting. It’s emphasis is in concentrated effort to hit the mark, complete focus of mind and body with use of the sword. It comes from kenjutsu, the art of the Samurai. Today’s practitioners use bamboo swords and heavy padding and a face guard and have matches in which the idea is to hit a target with great force and precision using absolute focus to get it done.


Of course, Okinawan weapons are famous these days, often featured in martial arts movies; as in Bruce Lee using the nunchaku in such movies as Enter the Dragon and Return of the Dragon. The nunchaku is an old Okinawan weapon, as is the sai, the kama, the bo staff and tonfas. Tonfas, incidentally, are used by American police.

The Okinawan weapons arts are called Kobudo.

kenjutsu. By Nguyen Thanh Thien (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

So, there you have it. These are some of the most prevalent martial arts that make heavy use of weapons.

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