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Martial Arts That Use Weapons: 15 Armed Self-Defense Styles

martial arts that use weapons

Last Updated on May 23, 2024

Most popular martial arts don't have weapons; they have even disallowed weapons usage in their fights. After all, a huge percentage of the martial arts are hand-on-hand combats designed for self-defense purposes.


Did you know that there are some martial arts that use weapons? Well, martial arts are based on combat, fighting, and war; for centuries, weapons have been part of warfare; therefore, you should expect to find some martial arts that still use weapons.

Martial Arts That Use Weapons

1. Eskrima


Eskrima, also known as Kali or Arnis, is one of the most popular Filipino martial arts. It is one of the most well-known forms of Filipino martial arts that use weapons. Weapons form the foundation of this martial art; plus, learning and training start with several martial arts weapons.

The martial arts students start by learning how to use weapons in martial arts classes, usually a blade or stick, before translating to hand-on-hand techniques. The weapon teaches students agility and coordination, showing them how to control the weapon while perfecting their martial arts styles.

The training sessions teach our minds to solve problems and understand that weapons are an extension of the body. This Filipino martial arts also teaches us that what can be done with a weapon can also be done with our body parts.

Eskrima has been used in the Philippines for centuries. They used these martial arts styles to defend themselves against invasions.

The Filipinos in the southern parts of the country are largely independent and have used this weapon-based martial art for centuries to keep out intruders. The weapons used in the Philippines include blades of various shapes and sizes, sticks, and flexible weapons.

2. Ninjitsu


As its name suggests, this is the art of the ninjas, which is the art of assassinations, espionage, and stealth. In feudal Japan, ninjas were used as spies, and they had several weapons they used in their missions, from smoke bombs to grappling hooks. Therefore, they were well versed in weaponry, just like the modern world special forces.

3. Fencing


Even though it's not like the other martial arts, modern fencing is a unique combat sport that is quite popular. The 3 disciplines of this martial arts are the saber, the epee, and the foil. And the only way you can gain points is by your weapon hitting certain parts of your opponent's body.

Based on the traditional swordsmanship skill, the modern fencing sport started at the end of the nineteenth century. It began with the Italian school modifying the historical classical fencing from Europe.

All these disciplines use different weapons and have different rules; therefore, it's divided into 3 competitive scenes: saber, epee, and foil. But like other martial arts, you have to pick only one weapon. 

4. Bojutsu


Bojutsu is a unique Japanese martial art that uses a staff weapon known as a bo. Bo is a Japanese word for a fighting staff that has been used in some traditional martial arts like Silambam for thousands of years.

Some martial arts techniques in stick fighting include stabbing, swinging, and slashing with the staff. Others use the fighting stick as a vaulting pole or a prop for hand-to-hand combat. This stick-fighting martial art is associated with the Japanese koryu budo or Okinawa Kobudo.

Bojutsu is a core element of classical martial arts training. The striking, thrusting, and swinging techniques resemble several empty-hand movements.

This stick fighting style follows the philosophy that the fighting staff is an extension of your hand. This weapon-based martial art is incorporated into other hand-on-hand techniques like karate and Jiu-Jitsu.

5. Canne De Combat

Canne De Combat

As its name suggests, this French martial art uses a cane or cane designed for combat. This martial art was standardized for sport in the 1970s by Maurice Sarry. The cane is a light, slightly tapered weapon that is made from chestnut wood.

The fighters are allowed to wear a fencing mask and padded suit for protection when weapons training or participating in weapons-based martial arts competitions. Currently, Canne de combat is practiced by thousands of fighters.

Canne de combat was introduced in the U.S. by Jean-Noel, who combined canne de combat with Savate.

6. Gatka


Gatka is a unique martial art that is associated with the Sikh people from Punjab and the Hindkowans. Gatka is a stick-fighting style with a wooden stick that's meant to stimulate a sword. The Punjab term "gatka" refers to wooden fighting sticks.

The gatka is usually about 3.5 inches long, 0.5 inches thick, and made of wood. It has a fitted leather hilt and is usually decorated using Punjab-style multi-colored threads. The other weapon used in this Indian martial art is a shield that's known as the phari.

The shield used in this Indian martial art is made from dry leather, measures 9 by 9 inches, and is round in shape. It is filled with either dry grass or cotton to protect your hand in case of full contact.

Gatka was established in the fifteenth century in Punjab, India, but a huge percentage of this sport that's practiced currently has been Europeanized. This sport was revived in the late twentieth century with the creation and formalization of the International Gatka Federation in 1987. It is a well-known sport; plus, the unique sword dance is still performed in all Sikh festivals to date.

7. Gungsul


Gungsul, unlike most of the weapon-based martial arts on this list, uses a special Korean horn bow. Due to its long usage in Korea, it is also referred to as Guk Gung. Like most Korean martial arts, it uses a thumb draw, so it employs the use of a thumb ring, which is very common.

The Korean thumb ring is quite different from the Turkish, Mongol, and Manchu thumb rings as it comes in 2 styles, female and male.

The female ring only covers the front joint of your thumb and protects it from blisters, while the male ring has a small protrusion that sticks out. Remember, repetitive usage of this weapon can result in blisters on the pad of your thumb.

8. Geom Sul

Geom Sul

Geom sul is a Korean umbrella term for several martial arts that uses the Korean sword. The Korean swordsmanship, commonly referred to as Geom sul, is a revived modern version of several traditional techniques that use the Korean sword.

It is currently practiced all over the globe, and one of its most popular styles is Haidong Gumdo which was developed in the 1980s and 1990s to become a prominent example of Geom sul.

9. Hanbojutsu


The term hanbojutsu literally refers to the art of wielding a hanbo. Hanbojutsu is the primary element in many martial arts like Kukishin-Ryu koryu classical martial arts school. In fact, the Kukishinden-ryu is a school of Bujinkan-Budo Taijutsu martial arts.

The length of the hanbo is equal to that of a walking cane. Fighters can hold the hanbo towards one end and swing it like a kendo or katana sword that's used in other martial arts.

You can also hold it at the center like a staff and block and strike from both sides. You can use the hanbo to restrain, strike, and throw your opponent.

10. Iaido And Iaijutsu

Iaido And Iaijutsu

Like most Japanese martial arts, iaido is a unique art that emphasizes being capable of drawing your sword and responding to an attack within the shortest time possible. It is associated with the controlled, smooth movements of drawing your sword, cutting or striking the opponent, cleaning the blood, and returning it to the sheath.

To reduce injuries among beginners while weapons training, you can start with a wooden sword before upgrading to a blunt-edged sword known as iaido. But more experienced Japanese martial arts fighters use a shinken, which is a sharp-edged sword. Iaijutsu refers to the combat version of Japanese martial arts, which means applying the teachings of iaido in a combat situation.

11. Jojutsu


Jojutsu resembles some martial arts like bojutsu, but instead of using a bo, you use a jo, which is a different kind of staff. The martial art is called jodo, which means the way of the jo. Like other Japanese martial arts, Jojutsu uses a shorter staff referred to as a jo and is strongly focused on defense against a sword.

The jo is a short staff of between 3 and 5 feet. Currently, there are two branches of jujutsu – a modern version referred to as seitei jodo and a traditional one that focuses on older teachings.

12. Kendo


The term kendo literally refers to the sword's way or sword path. It is a Japanese martial art that descended from kenjutsu, a form of traditional Japanese swordsmanship. This weapon-based martial art uses bogu (protective armor) and shinai (bamboo swords) instead of a real sword like most Japanese martial arts.

Currently, this Japanese martial art is widely practiced in Japan and many other nations on the globe. Kendo combines several martial art values and practices with some strenuous physical activity. Jukendo is similar to this martial art but uses bayonets instead of the shinai.

13. Kobudo


Kobudo is a Japanese term for old martial arts. It's a collective term for traditional techniques that use firearms, blades, armor, and other horse riding and combat techniques. It's a special martial art that is unique for this martial arts class.

Kobudo describes many weapons-based martial arts styles from Okinawa Island or the Japanese island.

14. Naginatajutsu


Naginatajutsu is a unique martial art of using naginata, a unique Japanese weapon that resembles the Chinese guan dao and medieval European glaive. A huge percentage of naginatajutsu practiced currently is a modernized version referred to as Gendai budo, and competitions are held.

In Japan, Naginata is used mostly by women fighters, but in other parts of the world, there is a more gender balance.

It is practiced in South America, North America, and Europe.

15. Shintaido


Shintaido is a Japanese term that translates to a new-body-way. It is a hybrid system of movement that uses your body as a method of communication and expression. These martial arts were created in Japan in the 1960s, incorporating artistic and physical elements.

Its roots lay in Buddhist meditation methods, Chinese medicine, and Japanese martial arts. Its creator Aoki Hiroyuki was influenced by Christianity and modern western art. Other than being a practical art, its main aim is becoming a type of healthy workout, artistic expression, and a path to transformation and self-discovery.

This martial art uses bare hands, but it also includes other weapon-based martial arts like ninjutsu, using bokuto, and bojutsu, which involve using a bo or a long staff.    

Knock-Out Point: Hand-to-hand combat will always be the true measure of one's ability to defend. Know the most sought-after self-defense forms here -- Most Popular Martial Arts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can Martial Arts Have Weapons?

Yes, some unique martial arts styles like Gungsul include weapons that can help with self-defense. Some of the most common training weapons are throwing stars, tonfas, batons, knives, bows and staffs, samurai swords, and nunchaku.

These weapon-based martial arts have their own benefits and can help you enhance your skills and protect yourself when necessary. Remember, martial artists are taught to use these weapons as an extension of their arms.

Does Wing Chun Use Swords?

Yes, Wing Chun practitioners are always taught how to use two swords while training. These weapons were originally used in China for combat purposes, showing that they can be effective in combat. But you have to learn certain movement techniques to use these swords safely.

What Martial Art Uses Katana?

Katana is a unique weapon that samurais used on the battlefield or when practicing. Most modern martial artists still use different types of katanas. Some of the weapon-based martial arts that use a katana include kendo, iaido, aikido, kenjutsu, ninjutsu, and Batto Jutsu.


Martial artists have been using weapons to protect themselves and their loved ones for centuries. Samurais used some martial art styles on the battlefield in Asia in the past. Fortunately, this hasn't changed; in fact, there are several martial arts that still use different weapons when training or competing.

Do you know any other form of martial arts that uses weapons? Feel free to add it in the comments box, so we can start an open conversation!

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