Oct 31, 2011

Weapons & Warriors: The Kusarigama of the Ninja

This fierce looking and deadly weapon was created by combining a chain and a farming tool. The ninja were people of poor origins and made weapons with whatever they could as they perfected their martial art to protect themselves from the superior trained Samurai. Many Samurai were caught off guard by the strange weapon in its earliest days and died at the hands of the Ninja wielding it. Kusarigama is translated as Chain-sickle.

Like many weapons used by the Ninja, the Kusarigama was designed to neutralize the Samurai katana so that the Ninja could face the Samurai without his weapon. It is used by swinging the ball on the chain overhead or to either side and then the Ninja would swing the weighted end towards an opponent’s sword or limbs and tangle them. If the Sword was entangled, the Ninja could attempt to jerk it free or jerk the Samurai off balance and then close in with a fatal strike from the sickle end.

By entangling the limbs of the Samurai, the Ninja could unbalance and subdue his opponent. A quick jerk on the chain that has wrapped around the legs could send a man to his backside, making him vulnerable to the Ninja. Once the enemy was distracted with trying to escape the chain, he became an easy target to the deadly end, the sickle.

The weighted ball at the end of the chain could be deadly when used to strike directly. When facing a fully armored Samurai, it could not deal a fatal blow, as Samurai were covered head to toe in steel plate. The fingers were the only exposed part of the armor and a carefully aimed blow to the hands could cause the Samurai to drop his katana and possibly shatter a finger or two. If the Samurai was found unarmored then his disadvantage against the ninja would be even greater as the weighted ball was solid enough to crack his skull.

There are many stories about Ninja masters dueling Samurai with this weapon. In open areas, many Samurai died at the hands of the Ninja who mastered the Kusarigama. Samurai were not fools though and a few adapted to fighting against this weapon. Miyamoto Musashi was one of the greatest of these swordsmen and is as much a legend in Japanese history as he was a master of combat. It was said he threw a dagger to injure the Kusarigama wielder and would then close in with the killing blow of his katana. Another story tells of Yamada Shinryukan who was a master of the Kusarigama and won many duels against Swordsmen before one lured him into a bamboo grove which was too confined for Yamada to swing the chain and therefore neutralizing his advantage over the Samurai’s katana and was killed.

This video shows some examples of how the Ninja used the Kusarigama.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. This is insane. This weapon is so cool because it's not traditional at all. It's almost more defensive than offensive. If you can get your opponent unarmed, then you can wreak havoc. Very cool video too!

  2. That's what made this weapon so popular with those who weren't privileged enough to be Samurai. Many swordsmen died from this weapon before anyone realized how to fight a master of the kusarigama.

  3. You should put an ebook together of all your unique weapons posts. :) Probably couldn't get the video in there, but the pictures and information at least!

  4. That's something I've been thinking about later on. In fact, I'm probably going to get my artist friend to sketch up weapons and warriors and stuff, maybe battle scenes and add those with a more edited version of all the posts and then turn it into an e-book. I'm going to wait till I have about 40 or so posts to work with. That should make it about 70-100 pages of weapons and art.