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Nunchucks and the Law

Nunchuck martial arts fighting sticks are a traditional martial arts weapon that originates from Okinawa, Japan. A pair of nunchucks, also called nunchaku, consists of two short sticks connected by a rope or chain.

Used as a single martial arts weapon, or in pairs, nunchucks are illegal in a number of states and countries.

Nunchucks frequently appear in mass media. Movies, such as Dragnet, Ghost World and Bruce Lee martial arts films, and animated television shows, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all feature nunchucks in fight scenes. Nunchucks also have a history of being used in gang violence. As a result, many people glamorize and/or do not recognize the danger of these weapons.

Nunchuck Laws

Are nunchucks legal? States in the U.S. have differing views on this question.

Some states prohibit the personal possession of nunchucks and nunchaku. Most states, however, do not. The following states have laws banning personal nunchuck usage:

Some states allow limited exceptions for nunchaku use only in martial arts studios.

A federal appeals court ruled against a New York resident who argued that the state's nunchuck ban was unconstitutional because it prevented martial artists from training with nunchucks.

The court disagreed with the resident, citing some reasons why New York lawmakers decided to ban nunchucks:

1. Nunchucks are "widely used by muggers and street gangs and ha[ve] been the cause of many serious injuries"; and

2. The bill's sponsor maintained that the nunchaku "is designed primarily as a weapon and has no purpose other than to maim or, in some instances, kill."

The court's decision meant that New York had a rational basis for banning nunchucks.

Outside the U.S., a number of countries have laws prohibiting nunchucks and nunchaku, including:

Hong Kong allows legal possession nunchucks and nunchaku only by martial arts instructors who can obtain a special license from the police.

Nunchuck Dangers

Injuries from nunchucks can be serious. The martial arts weapons are almost always composed of hardened sticks made of wood, metal, or plastic. They are usually connected by a short length of rope, metal chain, or leather. When used in a technically accurate manner, the sticks reach high velocities and can strike an object with tremendous force.

Nunchucks can cause broken bones, cuts, concussions, and eye and nose injuries.

A nunchuck is engineered so that it can be used as a fulcrum: the assailant holds one stick while attacking with the other stick that is attached to the first one.

As a result, serious, non-fatal nunchuck injuries often happen.

Nunchucks and Your Legal Rights

There are state and federal laws about nunchucks that people must understand and follow.

If you are charged with possession of a nunchuck, or the victim of a nunchuck-related crime, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

Some of the legal factors that an attorney can review with you include:

  • What being charged with violating your state's nunchuck law means, including elements of the crime, potential defenses, and the length of any possible criminal sentence.
  • If you or your loved ones are victims of nunchuck violence, whether you can recover damages from the assailants and their employers.

Nunchucks: Getting Legal Help

  • Click here to learn how a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you if you are charged with the illegal possession or use of nunchucks and nunchaku.
  • To find an experienced criminal defense attorney, use the "Find a Lawyer" tool on this page, or click here.
  • If you were injured by some using nunchucks or nunchaku, contact a personal injury lawyer here to review your legal options.

Nunchuck Safety Tips

  • Follow your state's nunchuck laws. If the martial arts weapons are not prohibited, you must still use extreme care when handling or practicing with them.
  • If you are outside your home state, check the applicable local and state regulations governing the use of nunchucks and nunchaku.
  • Make sure that if they are legal in your state, that you get safety training and practical experience operating nunchucks.
  • Like any dangerous weapon, nunchucks always have the potential to hurt others, whether purposely or accidentally. If someone is hurt, or property is damaged while you are using nunchaku, you could be held liable in a civil lawsuit, and/or face charges in a criminal court.
  • Never let young children play with or near nunchucks.
  • Never use nunchaku while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Next Steps
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