What Martial Arts Use Weapons?

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The practice of martial arts involves mastering combat techniques for self-defense or military applications. While often perceived as solely focused on unarmed combat, numerous martial arts disciplines actually incorporate weapons into their training regimes.

This article will explore a selection of distinguished martial arts that extensively utilize weapons, offering insights into their unique practices and historical significance.


Kali, an indigenous Filipino martial art, is distinguished by its use of Kali sticks – resilient bamboo sticks adept for combat.

This martial art emphasizes the strategic advantage of wielding a weapon, surpassing the limitations of unarmed combat.

Kali practitioners are trained to strike any part of the opponent’s body, ensuring effective pain infliction with each hit, even when blocked. The versatility of Kali sticks extends to defense, enabling practitioners to parry attacks.

In Kali, there is an option to use either a single stick, which offers swifter strikes, or dual sticks, enhancing the ability to attack multiple targets and bolster defense.

However, the practicality of carrying Kali sticks in everyday life is limited. Their classification as weapons restricts their legal possession in certain areas, and carrying them openly can be impractical and conspicuous.

This reality underscores a challenge in Kali: balancing its combat effectiveness with real-world applicability.


Kendo, a martial art with its roots in Japanese tradition, is characterized by its use of a bamboo katana.

This art form stands out due to the significant dimensions of its weapon: a longer and thicker bamboo sword compared to those used in arts like Kali.

This larger size confers a tactical advantage, allowing practitioners to engage opponents from a safer distance, thereby reducing vulnerability to counterattacks and takedowns.

However, the very attributes that make Kendo effective also introduce practical limitations.

The substantial size and weight of the bamboo katana make it less feasible to carry in everyday situations, and its heft can result in slower, more predictable movements during combat.

These factors highlight a crucial aspect of Kendo – the balance between the reach and power afforded by its primary weapon and the challenges posed by its size and weight in real-world scenarios.


Eskrima, also known as Arnis or Kali, is a Filipino martial art that primarily focuses on stick and blade fighting.

It employs various weapons, including rattan sticks, knives, and machetes, alongside open-hand techniques.

Practitioners learn to flow between armed and unarmed combat seamlessly, making Eskrima a versatile and adaptable martial art. Its emphasis on practicality and adaptability to different combat scenarios makes it a popular choice for self-defense training.


Iaido is a Japanese martial art that emphasizes the quick draw and effective cut of a katana, the traditional Japanese sword.

Practitioners, known as iaidoka, perform katas (forms).

These simulate combat scenarios where they must draw their sword, strike an opponent, remove blood from the blade, and re-sheathe the sword in a fluid, precise motion.

Iaido focuses on smooth, controlled movements and mental discipline, making it more of a meditative practice than a combat sport.

HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts)

HEMA encompasses a range of martial arts practiced in Europe from the medieval to the early modern periods.

These arts include the use of various weapons like longswords, rapiers, sabers, and polearms.

Training often involves studying historical manuals and texts to recreate authentic fighting techniques. HEMA practitioners engage in both competitive sparring and technical drills to master these ancient combat arts.


Originating in Thailand, Krabi-Krabong is a weapon-based martial art that predominantly uses swords (krabi), staffs (krabong), and other traditional Thai weapons.

It is closely related to Muay Thai, sharing many similar movements and techniques. Practitioners learn to wield single or double weapons and often incorporate jumps, spins, and fast footwork, making this art both dynamic and visually striking.


Naginatajutsu is a Japanese martial art that focuses on using the naginata, a long pole weapon with a curved blade at the end. It was historically used by the samurai class, particularly by women for home defense.

Today, it combines elements of spirituality, sport, and art, with practitioners engaging in kata (choreographed forms) and shiai (sparring). The practice emphasizes grace, poise, and distance control.


Silat is a collective term for a class of indigenous martial arts from the Malay Archipelago. It is known for its unique use of weaponry, including keris (daggers), parangs (machetes), and sarongs (cloth weapons).

Silat techniques are comprehensive, encompassing striking, grappling, and throwing alongside weapon usage, making it a complex and deeply cultural martial art.

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