The Kunai is an ancient Japanese tool, which was primarily used by gardeners, bricklayers and stonemasons. As a handheld item for everyday use, the kunai did not draw undue attention even though, in the hands of an expert, it was a deadly weapon. It wasn’t a knife and the edges of the blade were not sharp. Only the tip was sharp for digging holes, prying or other similar work.
These tools were made in various sizes depending on the work for which they were used. Nowadays, we still find kunai of different lengths but this relates more to the fact that the smaller the tool the greater the opportunity for concealment.
Usually the kunai had a small hole or a ring at the end of the handle for attaching a rope. This made it possible to wrap the handle thereby strengthening the grip. It also meant the kunai could be easily attached to a stick to make a spear.
As a weapon it was primarily used for stabbing. After some time people began using kunai with sharp edges for cutting or slashing attacks. The repertoire of techniques was also expanded to include throws. It then began to be used for attack or defence from greater distances. Kunai training includes learning attacks (stabs and cuts), blocks, dodges and throws at a target. When we train to fight with two kunai simultaneously, we use one of four possible grip combinations.
Nowadays, after being depicted in feature films and animated films as a weapon with amazing possibilities, the kunai has grown in popularity. As it can serve both as a knife for fighting at close quarters or be thrown from a distance it deserves the attention of martial arts students. Training in both skills is useful to the serious practitioner.