How Many Nuns Would Nunchucks Chuck…

… if nunchucks could chuck nuns?

I am going to ramble a bit about my pet peeve nonsensical weapon bans and regulations around the world. I am in no way a freedom absolutist in this regard. Weapons are dangerous objects that definitively need to be regulated, and the more dangerous a weapon is, the stricter regulations regarding its accessibility to people should apply. There should be background checks, aptitude tests, mandatory training, and licensing for all firearms. But banning hand weapons is useless and oftentimes downright silly and makes no sense whatsoever.

Take for example the titular nunchucks. I have trained with nunchucks as a kid, I have never hurt my self and I never broke anything either. It was great fun and it was beneficial to me. They are great for hand-eye coordination, great for training speed, and spatial awareness, and it was a good workout too. What it was not – despite me not knowing it at the time – was useful combat and martial arts training applicable for self-defense. Nunchucks are a terrible weapon, although they are better than nothing (not better than running away).

To my great surprise a few years ago, I have learned that nunchucks are banned in Germany. Not only to carry around but to own or manufacture. You will not find Karate or Kobudo class in Germany that trains in their use, not officially at least. That is daft, especially with the reason given – they can be used as a garotting weapon. Well, theoretically, maybe, but they would be awfully ineffective for that. That is not what they are designed for.

And since I have already sold knives to people in Germany, I have looked into laws regarding them a bit and those are too silly squared. Knives that can be opened with just one hand are banned to carry. Knife with a fixed blade can be carried if one is currently performing an activity facilitating its use – like fishing, hunting, or mushroom gathering – but I have read some stories about knives confiscated on the way to a forest, so it can depend on how pissy the policeman you have encountered feels that day. And balisongs are banned to even own, just like nunchucks. I did not dig too deep into that, but whatever the reason, it is just silly.

Because balisongs are really, really bad pocket knives. Their advantage over other pocket knives is that they are very easy to make, but that’s it. They cannot be made very sturdy, their very construction means the blade will be always a bit wobbly. They cannot have any meaningful handguard so when stabbing something with them, there is always the risk of your hand slipping on the blade upon hitting some resistance. And several other things make them bad. The only thing they are really useful for are the same things that other small pocket knives are useful for – cutting food, opening packages, and so forth.

When watching some random videos on YouTube recently I have learned that flails and maces are allegedly illegal in parts of Canada too. And again, I fail to recognize the reasons for this.

In the UK, the reasons given for these imbecilic weapon bans are to prevent gang violence. It does not seem to work. You can ban nunchucks and kusaris, but you cannot ban keychains. You can ban knives, but not screwdrivers. You can ban maces, but not spanners, and hammers – and guess what, the gangs are using these everyday objects exactly for that reason.

I suspect that these weapons were made illegal because they were portrayed as very deadly in 90s action flicks. If so, then legislators enacting these laws should learn the difference between a movie and reality. Bruce Lee movies are NOT documentaries!

But OK, when these laws are in the EU, they are very silly, but at least they are somewhat consistent with the overall culture. But when they are enacted in the USA, their silliness condenses into a black hole of daftitude.

Now one can say that nobody actually needs weapons like nunchucks, maces, or similar and I should shut up about this. I disagree, but I won’t argue against that right now.



  1. says

    If I walk around with a katana in my sash, I might be arrested in Pennsylvania. But this same state would allow me to get a carry permit for a handgun (same day) or pay cash for an AR-15 and walk out of the store with it slung on my shoulder.

    As a swordsman, all I can say is that most martial arts toy weapons are a non-starter. Nunchaku are a) stupid b) more likely to knock out your own teeth. And when someone says that they were used by peasants somewhere to defeat samurai with katanas they are horribly, horribly wrong. A samurai would assume an alert stance and watch the nunchaku-user hit themselves in the nuts, then put them out of their suffering.

    I own several microtech OTF automatic knives (AKA “switchblades”) which US cops managed to make illegal by claiming you could remove a pin and have the blade fly some distance and maybe inflict a minor flesh-wound. This scared cops. See the L1A1 I can legally carry? If that doesn’t scare a cop, it’s a stupid cop. No, I don’t carry -- guns are expensive and if I was a bad person I’d be thinking “an L1A1! Holy crap! That’s worth serious cash!” And I could buy a half dozen of those for what my katana cost.

    In Pennsylvania it is a felony to make a dagger. So I have made some nice leaf-ground letter openers. And a nambokucho-style katana blade, which is legal but a dagger is a felony.

    My mind hurts when I think of these things.

  2. says

    Agreed that laws sometimes make no sense (re: tools and scissors are legal to carry, knives aren’t). Private firearms are severely restricted in Taiwan. If you have a gun, you’re either a cop, military or a gang member, and yet air pistols with metal pellets and repeat fire capability are sold in dozens of stores. And pepper spray is legal to buy here, but not import.

    I sometimes use a telescoping titaniam walking stick because of my knees and ankles. That might actually be more dangerous than nunchucks because of the narrow point at one end and the force someone can generate with a light but solid piece of metal (which can even be separated into two sticks). About the only place I’m not allowed to take it is through airport security.

  3. lochaber says

    Add me to the list of people that think it’s absurd to ban melee weapons (however ridiculous…), when firearms are perfectly legal.

    Granted, I don’t really think there is much of an argument to be made for someone carrying around brass knuckles, a stiletto, “ninja stars”/shuriken, ballistic knives, punch daggers, black jacks, nunchaku, sword canes, etc. But I also don’t think there is much reason to carry around a firearm, and not only are those perfectly legal in most of the U.S., they are not only far more dangerous,, but also more likely to kill people outside of those involved in the immediate confrontation. As Marcus pointed out, miss with a nunchaku, and you’re likely to smack yourself in the teeth/groin/knee, but are very little risk to anybody more than five feet away from you. Miss with a firearm, and that round will keep going until it imbeds in something/someone…

  4. avalus says

    Yeah, I ran into these laws sometimes, when I was medivaling. One time even Larping. Allthough, I made some fine looking Larpweapons in my active time.

  5. says

    In the UK, even safety razor blades can only legally be sold to over-18s.

    It can surely only be a matter of time before an over-zealous head teacher expels a boy from school for having excessive facial hair, that he cannot legally shave off …..

  6. says

    Mace, pepper spray, and similar substances aren’t legal for carry in Canada. But bear spay is legal, and has become a popular weapon for criminals. We seem to get at least one report a month in Saskatchewan of someone threatening someone or attacking someone with bear spray.

  7. says

    Well, you may remember the couple of terrible school shootings we had (because this is Germany we can name all out school shootings)? And because the first one was carried out with a semi automatic weapon, they banned swords. The fun part was that you could still buy a sword at a ren fair, you were just not allowed to carry it around with you…
    Although, since I still went to fantasy cons back then, it led to a really fun craft project with my friends. Turns out that making your own larp swords from gym mats and gaffer tape is messy and great fun.

  8. says

    I LOL. That is a nice visual joke.

    @Marcus Ranum
    I think that regulations forbidding carrying knives/swords of certain lengths within for example city limits, indoors in public areas (shopping malls, etc.) can have some sense to them. But banning even a manufacture of a dagger? That is plain daft. You can surely manufacture a screwdriver? Or a spatula for removing deep rooting weeds? And at the end of the day, what, exactly, is the difference between a shiv and a those? My mind hurts too thinking about these things.

    You can bet that a walking stick is way more dangerous than nunchucks.
    Air guns shooting small metal pellets were legal to sell over the counter to anyone over 18 years old here too, even during communist rule. I do not remember a single fatal incident with those, however. The pellets do not have enough energy to even penetrate the skin and definitively not clothes. There are some injuries now and then, but rarely anything more serious than a nick.

    Carrying dedicated weapons of any kind in a civilized society should not be needed by anyone except law enforcement. However, I think it is absurd to ban knives (at least up to ca 10 cm) even when firearms are not legal. Knives can be very useful in everyday life. And whilst I agree that there is not much of an argument for someone carrying around brass knuckles and other things in your list, banning even ownership of these things is absurd. There are perfectly fine reasons for wanting to own these things -- someone might enjoy collecting them, someone might enjoy exercising their use in their backyard, someone might enjoy manufacturing them, etc. I think that even these weapons should be regulated, but I do not think that outright bans on their ownership are even remotely sensible.

    I would love to hear more about your encounters with these laws. I do not, luckily, have a first-hand experience. But the son of one of my friends was harassed by police because he had a balisong-style bottle opener.

    That is just absurd. How are safety razor blades supposed to be dangerous? The worst injury they can inflict on someone is on par with a papercut. Is selling sheet paper to under 18’s also banned?

    When I was using the word mace, I have actually meant it in its original sense, i.e. a stick with a metal head. If bear spray was not legal too, I am sure said criminal would find some other thing to use to threaten violence.

    To be honest, I only remember one mass shooting in Germany, about a decade ago. I did not know that swords were banned after that. That makes less than zero sense.

  9. says

    The two bad ones were Erfurt and Gelsenkirchen. The changes were made after Erfurt, but they rolled some of them back, especially those about decorative swords.
    After Erfurt the father of the shooter was prosecuted for not securing his guns correctly.

  10. says

    Charly (#9) --

    Granted, pellets wouldn’t penetrate skin and might only cause bruises, but they can be used to terrorize. In responding, I looked for a 15-20 year old video of teens in California that did a drive by shooting with BB guns, instead there were dozens of incidents where BB guns caused real injuries.

    But I’m sure you’ll agree firing a semi-automatic pellet gun at unprotected eyes from point blank range could cause permanent damage. Anyone who intended harm would almost certainly use it that exact way, to maximize potential injury. In most of the videos I found the guns were used exactly that way, causing skin lacerations.

  11. says

    Ah, my bad. I forgot about modern BB guns completely. The guns that I had in mind are single-shot air rifles and pistols shooting 5 mm lead shots. Semi-automatic BB guns are definitively much more dangerous. Although if someone were determined to cause serious injury, whacking them over the head with a metal walking stick would still be way more dangerous and probably easier than hitting the eye :-)
    I do concede that semi-automatic BB guns should probably be at least somewhat regulated, although I am (obviously) not interested in them so I did not give this much thought.

  12. says

    I started carrying the walking stick after a broken collarbone, then kept it as the body started ageing. I use the telescoping pole specifically because it shortens enough to fit inside a backpack when I don’t need it.

    I was living in another city when the 2014 Taipei metro attack occured, an individual without provocation or warning slashing and killing four, injuring twenty four others. If people had had solid umbrellas or other items to disarm or interrupt the attack, fewer people might have been hurt. Most were unarmed and panicked, trapped in a closed and moving car until it got to the next station and a few passengers had subdued him. Since then there are signs in most MRT stations telling people what to do or use in case of a terrorist attack, listing objects for self defence (backpack, umbrella, shopping bags, etc.).

  13. lochaber says


    And, I just now realize that for reasons I don’t remember, fully intended to include a list of caveats and exceptions, but failed to include it. For most of the items I listed, I’m not opposed to laws banning the wielding/readily accessible carry of those items, but don’t think that possession, manufacture, sale, etc. should be illegal.

    I guess I thought I was getting too longwinded as it was, but I was also thinking of adding in all of the commonly illegal items, some of which may seem reasonable to ban, that I thought had legitimate non-malevolent reasons for owning/carrying. Like “belt-buckle knives” -- some of them are utter crap, but I’ve owned a few that were decently made (I believe by a maker in PA, no less…), and actually a useful design. Or “swords”, as by many legal definitions a machete would be considered a sword, and they can be legitimate tools. And, is there really any legal difference twixt a “dagger” and a hori-hori?

    And as to the specific item you mentioned in your post, at what point does something cross over from being merely flexible, to being capable of being used as a garotting weapon? where do boot laces fall on this legal spectrum? a plastic shopping bag?

    And as to knives in general, I pretty much agree with you. But I’m also one of those people who typically caries a multitool and a folder, and if I’m going into the wilderness, will also carry a decent sized fixed blade. Although now it’s really legally dubious, in the past when I was backpacking, on field trips, or otherwise off in the woods, I would often conceal whatever fixed blade I was carrying when I left the wilderness and hit up a store or whatever. Just because I realized it may not be appropriate for that setting, and didn’t want to make other people feel uneasy.

    Thanks for the response! :)

  14. avalus says

    As Gilliel said,there were two major ones. Erfurt in 2002 was when I just started out with the medival/larping. In the beginning everyone was much stricter, but as said, the laws were relaxed over the years wich we defenitvly felt. Most of the stuff I encountered was between 2003 and 2009. After that it was it seems culturally accepted to have somewhat armed people in silly costumes running around.

    I had three memorable run ins while traveling to ren fairs. I always secured my gear with straps or tough string so it could not be used. One time I was told to obscure my sword and scabbard on the train in a plastic bag for … reasons. The other two times were arguments over my eating knives, where the concern was that they could be snatched from their closed scabbards by evil evildoers to do evil stuff. Police was ok when I added more leatherstraps to the whole thing, making knife drawing a 5 minute fight with knots.
    Funny they never bothered my friend with such questions who always carried a tiny but much more deadly daneaxe. I think most of these laws go after looks of the wapons or media images. I think that that is where the bans on nun-chuckers and butterfly knives come from.
    From the outdoor and fishing side I had never problems with my knife, but I never kept it in an obvious easy to reach place. I know that for fishing, the rule to not have knives that could be flipped open with one hand was usually looked over by authorities. I personally think, a good amount of “good ol’ boys club” was the reason for that… .

    We had police somewhat regluary stopping by when we did larp combat training, but these were usually 5 minutes stop bys. (They did not like our lovely Mrs Screaming Banshee, not one bit.) But I had friends getting their cars searched on the way to and from cons by the police because of “arms smuggeling suspicions”.
    I will not further elaborate on two friends of mine who thought it was a cool idea to do a shadowrun style clue hunt through a larger city while carrying badly conciled pea shooter gun replicas. That lead to quite some explaining.

    All in all my run ins were a bit annoying but not that bad, really. German police, thankfully, is not trigger happy. But I think I had lots white young man bonus. I am sure that I would not have the same experience if I had darker skin.

    @Gilliell: Yeah, making Larp stuff in general was really fun! I hope I can start again next year.

  15. jrkrideau says

    I have learned that flails and maces are allegedly illegal in parts of Canada too. And again, I fail to recognize the reasons for this.

    Maybe the drafters of the legislation were watching too many Jackie Chan movies—at least for the flails. I am not really joking.

    I don’t follow this sort of thing particularly closely but but I remember a friend who was a competitive pistol shooter having fits about gun legislation in the 1990’s. He had no particular objection to the idea of fairly restrictive gun laws, he just objected to the laws being written by people with no expertise in the area. I remember him stating at one point that the recommended gun safety training package looked dangerous.

  16. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Nunchucks are not a good weapon. Anyone who thinks so is badly uninformed (or informed and contrarian). A properly shaped stick (e.g. staff) is a better weapon than nunchucks and most other flails which risk injuring your own hands by using it. There’s just no advantage compared to a knife, club, or staff except looking cool like Bruce Lee.

    To echo some of the comments above, it’s frustrating watching weapon regulations being seemingly written by people who have absolutely no idea what they’re regulating. It’s frustrating because the end result is often ineffective at its stated purpose while also having unfortunate splashover on innocent people like LARPers and HEMA people.

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