Nunchaku in Popular Culture

Many people have heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles member Michelangelo (left), who ably wields two sets of nunchaku simultaneously. Perhaps fewer are familiar with Napoleon Dynamite, who speaks highly of his own “numchuck skills.” Because skilled nunchaku twirling creates an amazing visual effect, twirling with special lighting accessories has become a special visual art form. Moving over to the more serious martial-arts aspects, there are, of course, a World Nunchaku Association, a North American Nunchaku Association, and an International Tech Do Nunchaku Association, to name a few. Why all the fascination with a pair of sticks? Read Madhu Bihari’s Ezine article for a clue, or learn about such accomplished nunchaku artists as Jacksonville, Florida’s Lee Barden. (For a discussion of the word “nunchaku” and its variations in popular usage, as well as links to past Black Belt magazine commentary on nunchaku, see Ben Zimmer’s on-line article.) [10/29/2014 UPDATE/NOTE: Today I found this webcomic that has been around since 2010: NUNCHAKU MAN. FURTHER UPDATE: It appears that new comics are no longer being produced, and that the last one was released on 8/27/2015.]

So, the nunchaku, which was transformed some four centuries ago on a faraway island from farm implement to makeshift weapon, now holds a firm and even respectable place in Western culture. As the District of Columbia Court of Appeals noted in 1983: “It is worth making a few further observations about the nunchaku. Like the courts of other jurisdictions, we are cognizant of the cultural and historical background of this Oriental agricultural implement-turned-weapon. We recognize that the nunchaku has socially acceptable uses within the context of martial arts and for the purpose of developing physical dexterity and coordination.” In re S.P., Jr., 465 A.2d 823, 827 (D.C. 1983).

In spite of all this, arguments have already been made and will likely continue to be made that Second Amendment protections should not extend to the nunchaku because it is “dangerous and unusual.”