Kusari fundo, short combat chain - Ninjutsu

By Yossi Sheriff

Kusari-fundo (קוסארי פונדו), (万力鎖) also named Manriki-gusari (Manrikigusari), , is a versatile and concealed weapon in the arsenal of Ninjutsu. This short chain or rope, ranging from 30 cm to 120 cm, is a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of martial arts. Often equipped with weights at both ends, the Manrikigusari, translating to "ten thousand strong chain" in Japanese, is more than just a tool for combat; it's a symbol of the strategic depth in Ninjutsu.

The Weapon's Background and Uses

In Japanese, 'Kusari' translates to 'chain' (鎖). The Kusari-fundo, with its weighted ends, offers a unique blend of advantages and challenges in combat scenarios. The weapon's length varies based on its intended use, with some forms many feet long, like the Kusari gama (a long chain with a sickle) and some as short as a foot in length. The length of the chain and the shape, material and weight of its parts are planned for specific combat scenarios.

Advantages of the Kusari:

  1. Force Amplification: The chain's design significantly enhances the impact of strikes, turning momentum into power.
  2. Precision Targeting: The Kusari's weights are ideal for striking kyusho (vulnerable points), allowing for strategic and effective attacks.
  3. Distance Control: Properly wielded, the chain can maintain a safe distance against opponents, particularly those armed with knives.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness and Improvisation: Its simple construction means it's inexpensive to produce. In a pinch, any rope and weight can be fashioned into a makeshift Kusari-fundo.
  5. Controlled Aggression: In skilled hands, the chain can be used to apply force without excessive violence, (AKA, low level of violence) allowing for controlled, non-lethal engagements.

Disadvantages of the Kusari:

  1. Non-Lethal Nature: While this can be an advantage, it also means that neutralizing an attacker without causing serious harm requires precise, limited strikes, or chain grappling skill (see videos below).
  2. Vulnerability Post-Attack: Initiating a swing leaves the user momentarily exposed, especially to an armed attacker who might close the distance.
  3. Long Learning Curve: Mastery of the Kusari-fundo demands time and dedication. Its effective use in combat scenarios is the result of prolonged, focused training.

Video of Short chain seminar

Video of low level of violence

Concealment and Material Advantage

The Kusari-fundo's true strength lies in its concealability and flexibility. Easily folded and hidden in a pocket, around the neck, or tucked into a waist belt, it's a weapon that can surprise opponents. The chain material is particularly advantageous for entangling weapons like swords without being severed, and its friction aids in gripping and controlling an opponent's limb.

chain in horse combat
Chain usage in cavalry by eastern warriors. From [1]

Historical Origins

The use of chains as weapons has intriguing origins. In Japan, Masaki Toshimitsu Dannoshin, a palace guard officer in Edo castle around the 1700s, is credited with popularizing the chain. Its non-lethal nature made it ideal for palace guards who needed to subdue without spilling blood. Interestingly, the chain's use in combat isn't limited to Japan. The Icelandic Eyrbyggja Saga mentions a short chain with a knife, indicating its broader historical footprint.

Techniques and Applications (with Video Demonstrations)

The Kusari-fundo requires mastery of distance control and precise stepping techniques. Its effectiveness varies based on the opponent's armament and approach. The chain's unpredictable ballistic force makes it a challenging weapon to wield safely, necessitating careful adaptation for self-defense.

Manrikigusari combat chain techniques

Traditional Schools that use Manrikigusari

A complete curriculum of the short chain exists in Hoten Ryu and in the, now extinct Yumio Nawa's Ninjutsu. The use of the long chain, the Kusarigama, is widespread in many Koryu systems in Japan, mainly Isshin Ryu and Tendo-ryu.

A Hoten Ryu video of the Kusarifundo

Outside links


  1. Mair, Paul Hector. De arte athletica.
  2. Mair, Paul Hector. De arte athletica.