For some time, I've trained Modern Arnis (an Escrima Variant) and enjoyed this greatly, especially the fact that one learns to handle diverse weapons - sticks, machetes, knives, ball pens, etc.

I'm thinking of starting Arnis again, but I'm open to other systems that also offer me the physical and intellectual challenge of handling vastly different weapons. I believe there are many well-rounded systems (and many scams and lots of BS too) and different valid approaches; I don't have a problem with challenging my beliefs and feelings by learning techniques from different traditions than Arnis. I don't have specific self-defense needs, but I do want to learn techniques that make sense and are realistic in their context.

So, what are good arts for me?

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! Why not join a historical martial art club or Aikido or a shooting club or ... There are lots of different weapons to chose from and without narrowing down the field a little, your question will be closed as too localised and asking for a list. Jun 26, 2013 at 16:35
  • Edited the question to remove list aspect. This is a fine question. Jun 26, 2013 at 16:41
  • Most open-hand martial arts with weapon elements don't go into much depth in the use of said weapons. They teach a few basic techniques and a couple forms. There are a few martial arts which focus on only a couple weapons, but have a much deeper curriculum on the weapon use. Then there are martial arts dedicated to the use of one (or more) weapons, and largely to the exclusion of unarmed techniques (e.g. kenjutsu/iaido). What are you more interested in, a broad but shallow sampling of weapon techniques, or a more in-depth and narrowly focused curriculum?
    – Zen_Hydra
    Apr 27, 2016 at 14:53

9 Answers 9


This might make a few people here unhappy, but I would say look into Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and other western martial arts systems. There are three kinds of SCA weapons combat categories. Heavy list/Weapons. This is the modern sport equivalent of medieval combat. It is fought with armor, either 1 on 1 (tourney) or group vs group (melee). The weapons are rattan/plastic and sometimes have a bit of foam for looks( this is to allow for full strength hits.) Weapons that are used include:

  • Sword and Shield
  • Two handed sword
  • Pole-arm
  • Shield and Spear
  • Axe
  • Mace

The second style is rapier with is basically fencing with a slightly different rule set (it allows for three dimensional moment and a wider range of swords and daggers)

The last is called "Cut and Thrust" This is sword-fighting that is entirely based off the manuals from the Renaissance and middle ages. To compete one has to not only be able to fight, but must be able to identify which moves come from which manual. This style of fighting trains nearly every kind of sword that was used over that time period.

(I have been involved in martial arts and combat sports for years before I started with the SCA. From my experience a good SCA group is not at all different from a good training dojo)

  • 1
    Aside from the internal politics of the SCA, this is a good answer. IIRC there are some Kingdoms that also have archery as part of their Grand Melee events. In addition to the training, SCA also has live combat events of both one on one and multiple opponent scenarios.
    – JohnP
    Aug 26, 2013 at 14:59
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    In regard to the politics, it is possible to avoid them. Plenty of people do.
    – Btuman
    Aug 27, 2013 at 14:28
  • 2
    Oh, agreed. But the very structure of the SCA with the royalty, squires, etc., lends itself to political machination. It's actually a good representation of what royal society was like for the era. I used to perform at Ren Faires and I have some friends in SCA, some are into the politics, some aren't.
    – JohnP
    Aug 27, 2013 at 15:29
  • While there is some dabbling with fencing and archery in the SCA (YMMV), the melees and similar lists have more in common with a boffer LARP than they do a HEMA. I've seen a great deal of bad techniques and a general disregard of edge alignment that wouldn't pass muster in most HEMA schools. SCA errs on the side of being an enjoyable hobby, rather than getting bogged down by too much authenticity (this is not an insult).
    – Zen_Hydra
    Apr 27, 2016 at 14:37
  • That is true, the sword fighting is their modern sport rather then historical combat. One can work to use historical style within their game (something I am doing now with longsword) but that is one'e prerogative. That said, it still is teaching effective combat techniques and weapon use in both single and group situations and the culture of it being a sport means that one is aware then they are not effective.
    – Btuman
    Apr 27, 2016 at 15:03

It is very Subjective !

If you are medieval kind guy go for hema!

Most of people use longsword but you also have rapiers(a lot of kinds out there as they were a very popular duel sword, also variations: rapier and buckler, rapier and dagger , rapier and cape), sword and buckler, dagger ( and shield or buckler) , big two handed sword ( you can't use them for sparring),all kind of pole weapons including simple staff, sabers (more straight or more curved ones)...

  • Don't forget to link the HEMA Alliance page: hemaalliance.com I was looking for a straight HEMA answer, and yours is it!
    – PipperChip
    Apr 28, 2016 at 13:41

There are a few options:

  • Kobudo - traditional Japanese weapons style so you will use weapons like: jo, bo, hanbo, tonfa, kama, katana, nunchucks
  • Traditional Jiu Jitsu - should include level at some point depending on the school
  • Filipino Martial Arts - most of them start off with weapons and work with sticks, knives, kerambit, various swords and some have rope or scarf techniques as well

It really will depend on the art, and what types of weapons you would like to learn. For example, I currently take taekwondo, and we utilize the following weapons (Not all of which are traditionally Korean):

  • 6' staff - mid and long range forms.
  • Single and double bangh mang ee (escrima)
  • single and double ssangh jeol bangh (nunchaku)
  • ssangh nat (kama)
  • jee pang ee (cane)
  • gum do (sword)
  • oh sung do (curved sword, similar to kung fu broadsword)
  • sam dang bangh (3 sectional staff)

Okinawan styles may also include sai, tonfa, oar, spear. Kung fu has the butterfly swords, then there are various styles of knives, shurikens/darts, etc.

If there is a specific weapon that you are interested in, find an art that teaches that, or if you want a broad spectrum, I've found that kobudo, bujinkan or Okinawan arts have some of the widest varieties.


Choy li fut Kung fu has 42 weapons. At my school you can request to learn a weapon of your choice. For instance a friend of mine asked to learn the double axes, so our Sifu learnt the form and taught it to him. I've already learnt the staff, double daggers, spear, two section staff, sabre and double ended spear after 5 years (obviously you need skill with weapons before learning this many). There is a wide array of other weapons such as the trident, straight sword, melon hammers, three section staff and horse chopper, to name a few. It draws from various other styles, so many of these weapons can be found elsewhere as well.


What martial art should I try if I want to train with a wide variety of weapons?

Probably the HEMA arts.

Fiore de’i Liberi in "The Flower of Battle" for example covers everything from unarmed hand to hand combat through to mounted armoured combat and virtually everything in between.

unarmed, dagger/knives, baton, swords (one and two handed), axe (poleaxe), staff, spear

The 1595 club have a lovely demo based on the teachings of Saviolo:


  • 1
    HEMA stands for Historic(al) European Martial Arts ... saying "HEMA arts" is redundant, like "Judo-do". There is the Blume des Kampfes, which predated Fiore, but obviously we can't list all manuscripts here!
    – PipperChip
    Apr 28, 2016 at 13:46
  • I'm aware it's a case of RAS syndrome, but I'm afraid it's inevitable and will be used everywhere. I have a suspicion it will very regularly be doubly RAS'd with both martial and arts. Apr 28, 2016 at 14:04

My kung fu class teaches: staff[6foot or 13foot], fan, straight sword, broadsword, butterfly swords, spear and, once our teacher has finished learning, 3 section staff. It depends on teacher rather than style. My teacher was in china for very long time so has learned a lot of weapons.

Kung fu can train in a lot of weapons. Japanese weapon arts usually focus specifically on one or two weapons and street combat classes give you some experience but do not make you proficient with any weapons.

If you want a large variety i recommend kung fu but you may hard difficult finding experienced enough teacher or one that allows sparring with weapons instead of only learning forms.

  • Is weapon training part after some time/graduation, or do you start from the beginning to include weapons?
    – mart
    Jun 27, 2013 at 16:33
  • You start staff and [if you want to, fan] right away. There is a class solely for teaching straight sword, but you have to be in main class for a month before you can join. Other weapons are after each grading.
    – アキオ
    Jun 28, 2013 at 10:22

Most Karate schools will include some Okinawan Kobudo in their curriculum. Usually, this means learning a few Bo (staff) forms, but you can find schools in which the Kobudo is more widely integrated.

From my experience in Shorinji-Ryu Karatedo, the following weapons were taught very regularly :

  • Bo (6' Staff)
  • Jo (4' Staff)
  • Tanbo (~2' escrima stick)
  • Dual Tanbo
  • Dual Kama (Small Sickle)
  • Sai (pronged metal baton, like Rafael in TMNT)
  • Dual Tonfa (short clubs with perpendicular handles)
  • Eku Bo (literally "Oar Staff")

Which weapons are seen more often obviously depends on the knowledge and proficiency of the teacher, but Tanbo and Bo forms are usually learned as early as yellow belt in Shorinji-Ryu Karatedo, while Tonfa, Sai and Jo forms are usually integrated at the blue/brown belt levels. Kama and Eku Bo are somewhat rarer, because fewer instructors know many forms and bunkai, and are usually taught to higher level students because of the counter-intuitive nature of many of their associated techniques.

For example, while you regularly spin a Bo to gain kinetic energy and momentum for your strike, you will usually start rolling by pointing down, then completing a full circle and strike the top of your opponent's head. Eku Bo has similar techniques, but they were designed by sailors using movements that felt natural to them, so you spin starting up, before completing the circle and striking from below. This is more similar to how you would row a boat.


I have previously trained in the Bujinkan style and they had a fair variety of weapons, although my schedule meant that I only attended a few classes where they were being taught.

Weapons use is among the 18 disciplines taught in the Bujinkan: ken (sword), kodachi (short sword), jutte (sword breaker), tessen (iron fan), kabutowari (helmet breaker), bō (long staff), jo (4 foot staff), hanbo (half staff), yari (spear), naginata (halberd), shuriken (throwing blades), kusarigama (sickle and chain), kusarifundo (weight and chain), kyoketsu shoge (dagger and chain), ono (war axe) tetsubishi (caltrops), tanto (dagger), shuko (hand claws), ashiko (foot spikes), metsubushi (blinding powders), and kayaku (the use of firearms). Some types of weapons in the Bujinkan have more than one type, such as the shuriken. Historically, there are two main types of shuriken, hira shuriken (flat blade) and bo shuriken (straight blade). The hira shuriken are also called shaken and senban shuriken; these types of shuriken are flat multi-pointed plates and blades which can have from three to as many as eight points. Some different styles of hira shuriken are Sanko Gata (3 pointed triangular), Juji (cross shaped), Manji(swastika shaped), and Kumi Awase (a cross shaped folding shuriken). The bo shuriken can be round or flat, thick or thin, and come in many different styles such as straight and round with a single point, round and pointed at both ends, flat pointed at one or both ends, as well as types such as Hari Gata (needle shaped), Tanto Gata (knife shaped), Yari Gata (spear shaped), and Empi Gata (swallow shaped). There are also many types of swords used in the Bujinkan such as Ken, Katana, Tachi, Odachi, Wakazashi, Kodachi, Nadachi, Shikomizue, and Tanto. There are also many different types of Yari or spears. Long bladed, short bladed, and long or short bladed with single or double hooks or blades flaring out to the sides.

  • 1
    Considering the dubious nature of 'ninja arts,' I would have a very difficult time recommending them to someone looking to study practical weapon techniques.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Apr 27, 2016 at 19:16
  • shrug Not having been in any sort of melee outside of SCA and Escrima, I can't speak too much to it, but what I learned was pretty bare of any sort of mysticism flashiness. Instead, it focused on things like how to keep the knife out of immediate view to keep your opponent focused on it, and where to cut. Apr 27, 2016 at 19:21
  • Part of the problem with situations like that is that the only people who could verify the legitimacy of the techniques being taught probably wouldn't be attending the classes to begin with. I'm referring to those educated in the use of these weapons from an established, reputable martial lineage. The average lay-person isn't going to be able to differentiate what is a realistic technique from something modeled on what an instructor saw in a Shaw Bros flick.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Apr 27, 2016 at 19:33
  • I'd also like to be clear. What I said above really only matters if one is training to have practical combat skill. If one is having fun learning ninja arts and their goal is to have fun, they aren't doing anything wrong. When someone is seriously training in self-defense/combat arts, they need to be able to recognize what is grounded in field-tested experience and what is a dangerous, educational trap (and/or straight up garbage). In pursuit of combat effectiveness, one can either find a means of identifying legitimate curriculum by reputation and lineage, or they can use trial and error.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Apr 27, 2016 at 19:44

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