Discussing Bruce Lee’s nunchaku, Tabak-Toyoks, balisong butterfly knives, yo-yo’s and other weapons

A brief intro to Weapons of the Philippines

Almost everyone knows about Bruce Lee. Nearly everyone has seen Bruce Lee's brilliant display of the nunchaku. If you know anything at all about the nunchaku you probably know they come from Japan. What most don't know is where Pilipinos fit into the picture. Hopefully this brief history of Pilipino weapons will enlighten some. Just in case, nunchakus are two short sticks generally not longer than a foot in length and connected by a single chain or rope. The tabak-toyok is the Pilipino version of the nunchaku. Tabak-toyoks tend to have shorter handles with a longer chain. The handles generally are around 4 inches in length with a 6 inch chain connecting the handles. It is also known as the chako and known to be utilized in street brawls.


Did you know that a Pilipino Martial Artist by the name of Dan Inosanto taught (and studied under) Bruce Lee? Inosanto taught Bruce Lee how to use the tabak-toyok. Before Bruce Lee died, he was studying a number of different arts, and Filipino Martial Arts was one of those arts.

"Game of Death" Nunchuk Fight Scene

Some other Pilipino weapons that are known to be Pilipino include the balisong and the yo-yo. The butterfly knife "balisong" is a unique knife. Coming from Batangas in the Philippines, it is a knife where the handle itself acts as a sheath but can also allow the blade to be exposed. The use of the balisong is similar to that of the tabak-toyok. Look at the motions used to wield both weapons and you will see strong similarities. The yo-yo originally made from stone was a weapon. It came out of obscurity by way of a Pilipino American named Pedro Flores. In 1928 Flores opened up the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara. Staring with only a dozen handmade yo-yos, the company expanded to a third factory with about 600 workers and produced over 300 thousand units a day! By 1930 Flores sold the modern yo-yo to Donald Duncan, and then worked under Duncan running promotions.


The Filipino Martial Arts utilizes many items which most people don't consider to be weapons. A simple pen, bandana, belt or magazine, just to name a few, are common weapons. Take a look at The Bourne Identity! Grandmaster Robert Castro of Eskabo Daan would tell stories about one of his teachers using a bottle of water as a weapon. While training under Great Grandmaster Ernesto Presas, GM Castro saw firsthand how a simple plastic bottle of water can prove effective. Great Grandmaster Presas would take the person down and then open the bottle of water over the attacker's face. The attacker would be rendered useless while gasping for air!

Just remember that anything can be a weapon, even a little water.