When Do I Learn Weapons

Traditional martial arts either focused entirely on armed combat, emphasized barehanded techniques but included some weapons training, or balanced the two. European masters included wrestling in their armed styles. Filipino masters regarded sticks and knives as training tools, and taught advanced students the same techniques with bare hands. Only ancient sports styles minimized weapons training - and even then, the participants, being able-bodied men, were expected to be adept at another, weapon-dominated style for war. In short, it's historically inaccurate to segregate weapons from unarmed combat. Even today, there are parts of the world where it's best to assume that martial artists are armed!

This doesn't prevent modern schools - especially those that teach art or sport forms - from reserving weapons training for top students, or restricting it to tournaments and demonstrations. Reasons for this include philosophy ("master your body first"), cost (weapons are expensive), and safety (even the "safest" training weapons are more dangerous than bare hands). If a style is entirely weapon-based, it's likely to be purely an art or sport form; e.g., Epee (p. 160) or Kyudo (p. 181).

Even so, most modern military and police styles - and some weapon-based styles - do train in realistic conditions. Practitioners accept injuries as the cost of realism!

And "martial-arts weapons" capture the popular imagination from time to time even among those with no training. Witness the nunchaku fad of the '70s or the obsession with "ninja weapons" in the '80s. This fascination sometimes leads to weapons training in styles that weren't meant to use weapons.

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