Tsako, Chako, Chaku



Until recently, I’ve never known nanchaku, nanchuks, or even tabak-toyok by any other name than tsako, chako, or chaku. Ask any man on the streets of Manila and more often than not, they’ll identify them as such.

I was surprised to learn that it was a tool used by Filipino farmers. “Really? I’ve always thought that they were weapons, from China!”

Master Cris said that in Davao, they would dry rice grains in the sun for several weeks and then thresh them with tsako.

My friend Eli, an agriculturist working at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,  confirmed it but said that farmers no longer use tsako now. Farmers now have threshing machines or if not, they use the traditional but easier method of “threshing grains with their feet.”

Anyway, he tried to demonstrate how to thresh with tsako but because of my zero farming background, I couldn’t visualize it.

Now here’s serendipity: One day I was in a bookstore leafing through a Tagalog Bible comic book about Gideon, the Mighty Warrior of Israel when I saw an illustration of him threshing grains using what looked like a tsako!

Image Credit: ICI Ministries

You hold one stick and flail the other one against the grains!

I don’t know if it was just a Filipino illustrator’s rendering of the Biblical account, “Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress”. Do you suppose ancient Isrealites had tsako as well?

Anyway, what’s important is I now know more about this farm tool/weapon.

That, I believe, enriches the experience of training with it.






5 thoughts on “Tsako, Chako, Chaku

  1. Robert Mitchell February 20, 2015 / 11:16 PM

    Nobody seems to be able to pinpoint the historical origin of “chucks.” The only known for sure is that their documented martial history begins in Okinawa, Japan. There they are used more for blocking, locking, poking, and jabbing with both handles under control (Fumio Demura’s famous book contains relatively little swinging and flailing).

    In Korean arts like Taekwondo and Hapkido (where they call it ‘jool bong’) there is a mixture of swinging, striking, blocking, and locking.

    The creative swinging and stick-like striking methods are the specialty of your fellow Filipino martial artists.

    So basically everybody uses them. But In my opinion, ‘chucks’ are at their best when they are moving quickly and deceptively.

    Keep on swinging!

    • Joy February 20, 2015 / 11:24 PM

      Thank you Robert. I agree. Chucks are used by many people in many different ways. The way we use them is basically the same as how we wield the sticks and it’s mostly medium to long range striking. It’s a very interesting weapon.

  2. Halford Jones February 20, 2015 / 11:33 PM

    I have spent years on this topic and have written articles on it. THE NUNCHAKU was made popular by Bruce Lee and his films revived this weapon along with numerous manuals and eventually videos plus use in a lot of movies from the US, Japan, China, etc.

    FLAILS which are grain pounders and also used for various similar jobs for flattening things have been all over the world, from Europe to Africa and also throughout the Pacific.

    As an addition to this MORTARS u PESTLES are also implements used to pound and mix things and were made of wood, many quite heavy and, of course, found in the Philippines, Africa, Madagascar (which Malays, Indonesians and Filipinos emigrated to in times long past.) Tri-sectional weapons or tools or implements are also used.

    In fact, nearly all tools come from early man’s weapons which include flint knives, stone hatchets or axes and war clubs, as well as spears and the like. The history of tools is also the history of weapons. I don’t care how pedantic and scholarly we make these things, they come from the basic need to survive and to meet basic needs. Hence, all technology is based on such and also modeled on the human body when it comes to systems, such as, water & sewer, robotics, etc.

    I could go on about this but you should all do your own homework.

    Keep up the good work and keeps these postings coming.

  3. Halford Jones February 20, 2015 / 11:36 PM

    ADDITIONALLY, the nunchaku has been morphed into an ARNIS device with a system being shown on FACEBOOK which you can look at if you can find it. I can’t recall the master developing this but it seems, at least, when he does it, to be highly effective. This is not the usual type of things, however, as you will see. He may also be on You Tube perhaps.

    • Joy February 20, 2015 / 11:46 PM

      Okay, I’ll check it out. Thank you very much. 🙂

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