Japanese Melee Weapons
Aiguchi: A short, single-edged, slightly-curved knife with no guard.
Ashiko/ Shuko: Ninja climbing claws consisting of leather or metal band from which several short spikes or claws project to provide extra purchase on the surface being climbed. Ashiko are worn on the feet, shuko on the hands, and both can enhance an unarmed strike with their spikes.
Bo: A normal fighting staff.
Bokken: A sturdy, blunt wooden practice katana.
Eku: A fisherman’s wooden oar, a wooden stave usually 5 to 6 feet in length, nearly half the length of which is a slender, flat wooden paddle. This Okinawan device is used like a bo, though the paddle also lends itself to blunt chopping blows.
Hachiwara: Somewhat akin to the jitte and sai, the hachiwara is a curved iron bar tapering to a point, a small metal hook projecting from the base of the bar just above the hilt, typically used in the wielder’s off-hand as a parrying device.
Hari: A hari is a long, slim pin resembling the pins used by women to keep their hair in place. Kunoichi use hari not only for this mundane function, but also as handy weapons for throwing and stabbing.
Jitte: Common among doshin, the jitte, also called a jutte, is a slim, 18-inch metal baton with a single large parrying hook at the top of the hilt, designed to parry and trap attacking weapons.
Jo: The jo is a heavy, katana-length wooden baton, wielded using both hands.
Jumonji Yari: The jumonji yari is a spear with two forward facing blades projecting from the base of the spearhead, creating a vaguely trident-like array.
Kaginawa: More a tool than a weapon, the kaginawa is a simple iron grappling hook attached to a length of cord suitable for climbing. Ninja also commonly use it as a weapon, swinging the grappling hook in deadly arcs or using the cord to entangle.
Kakute: The kakute is a favored weapon of the kunoichi, a simple metal ring worn on the finger, adorned with one or two small spikes or blades, worn reversed to conceal the blades or spikes. It is used to scratch a victim, usually delivering whatever poison it has been coated with.
Kama: Derived from the Okinawan peasant sickle, the kama has a short wooden shaft topped with a slightly curved, single-edged blade set at a 90-degree angle to the shaft.
Kamayari: A common spear derivation, the kamayari features one or two kama blades at the base of the spearhead, forming backwards facing hooks. Used during boarding actions to pull vessels closer, to hook over obstacles to provide means of climbing, and to hook opponents.
Katana: The katana is the quintessential samurai sword, a slightly curved, slim, singlededged cutting sword designed to be wielded with both hands. Carried with the wakizashi as “Daisho” (Long and Short), the samurai caste’s badge of office.
Kogatana: A small knife kept in a pocket on the side of the saya (scabbard) of the occasional katana or wakizashi, the kogatana is a utility blade that can also be easily thrown and is often fitted with a kozuka (decorative hilt).
Kubikiri: An unusual knife similar in size to the tanto and aiguchi, the kubikiri has a blunt tip and curved blade, unusual in that its cutting edge is on the inside of the curve. It is traditionally used to cut the head from a slain opponent, the bundori, for use as a trophy.
Kunai: The kunai is a device of the ninja, a cheap, elementary knife with a leaf-shaped blade and small, cord-wrapped handle. It is suitable for use in melee, thrown, or as a general utility knife and tool suitable for hammering, digging, lashing to poles, and the like.
Kusari-Gama: The kusari-gama is a combination weapon, attaching a length of weighted chain to a kama, creating a weapon that can be used to entangle and strike.
Kwaiken: A small, elegant tanto carried by many female courtiers, and is usually reserved for use in seppuku.
Kyoketsu-Shogi: A ninja tool and weapon, the kyoketsu-shogi is a large knife of poor manufacture with a straight blade and hooked blade at its base. Attached to the bottom of the hilt is a 12-foot length of cord weighted with an iron ring. It serves as a crude kusari-gama or grappling hook and cord depending on need.
Manriki-Kusari: This basic weapon is a length of chain, weighted on each end, used to entangle and strike.
Masakari: The masakari is a simple handaxe often used by yamabushi.
Nagamaki: This polearm is a katana-like blade with a 30-inch hilt.
Naginata: This polearm was favored by samurai-ko and monks, and is a wooden stave topped with a wakizashi-like cutting blade.
Nekote: The “cat’s claws” favored by kunoichi, nekote are short, sharp metal claws attached to leather bands, one worn on each finger, enabling the wearer to slash and claw with their fingertips. They are sometimes dipped in poison prior to use.
Ninja-To: The ninja-to, the sword of the ninja, is much like a poor quality katana. However, it may have an enlarged tsuba (handguard) that allows it to be used as a step, a removable cap on the end of the saya so it can be used as a snorkel, a small hidden compartment in the handle, and often has climbing cord wrapped around the saya.
No Dachi: A greatsword, the no dachi looks like a much enlarged katana, five-foot in length.
Nunchaku: Among the most famous of martial arts weapons, the Okinawan nunchaku is formed from two short wooden batons, connected by a short length of doubled cord or chain.
Nunti: A rare weapon identical in purpose to the sai and jitte, the nunti is a metal bar a foot and a half long, tapered at both ends, two prongs projecting from its center in opposite directions. Either end may be held or used to attack or defend with. Some nunti are affixed to the tops of staves (Nunti-Bo). It is sometimes referred to as a manji sai.
Nunti-Bo: A nunti affixed to the top of a staff, the nunti-bo is a rare weapon, a crude device used to disarm attackers like a sai or jitte, but with the benefit of extra reach.
Ono: The ono is a basic poleaxe, a single axehead affixed to the top of a stout stave, and is often favored by yamabushi.
Rochin: An Okinawan short spear typically between 1 and 2 feet in length, the rochin is a simple wooden shaft fitted with a small metal spear head, and is almost always used in conjunction with the tinbe, wielded as a melee weapon, but also balanced for throwing.
Sai: Identical to the jitte in all ways, save for having two parrying prongs rather than one, the Okinawan sai is commonly used in pairs.
Sansetsukon: This is a typical three-section staff that combines three longer batons of wood in the same way the famous nunchaku combines two.
Sasumata: The “man catcher” is a weapon often wielded by doshin to subdue rowdy or violent lawbreakers. It is a stout stave with a broad, Y-shaped end that could be used to push back or restrain opponents. The Y-shaped end was sometimes barbed and hooked so as to make it harder to escape.
Shakujo: The shakujo is an ornamental staff carried by some Buddhist priests, the top of the staff affixed with a decorative metal ring from which six metal rings hang and rattle.
Shinai: The shinai is a bamboo katana used in the martial art of Kendo.
Sodegarami: The “sleeve entangler” was used by doshin. It is a stout pole, sometimes T-shaped, the end of which was festooned with barbs and hooks that could be used to catch on an opponent’s clothing, hindering them.
Suruchin: Simple and easily made, the suruchin is a short length of rough rope with a small rock or pebble lashed at each end creating a crude and less durable device similar to the manriki-kusari.
Tanto: The archetypal Japanese knife, singleedged, slightly-curved, and with a small tsuba(handguard).
Tekko: Used to reinforce a punch, the tekko is a basic fistload, be it a set of “brass knuckles” made of carved wood, iron, or bone, or simply an iron horseshoe, one half held in the palm, the other projecting over the knuckles.
Tessen: Combat-worthy fans including the Sensu, a folding, metal ribbed, silk-covered fan, and the Gunsen, a rigid, paddle-like fan also used as a signalling device by samurai commanders. Some tessen were simply wooden batons carved to look like folded fans.
Tetsubo: This large, two-handed club resembles an oversized baseball bat reinforced with studded iron strips.
Tonfa: The tonfa is an Okinawan creation, a rice mill handle that resembles a wooden baton with a short handle attached. It is often used in pairs, and is the inspiration for the “nightstick” carried by some modern police forces.
Wakizashi: Carried as part of a samurai’s Daisho, the wakizashi resembles a katana but is much shorter, and is often used as a backup weapon.
Yari: The Japanese spear, a wooden stave mounted with a straight, double-edged knifelike blade, used by ashigaru and samurai alike.