Nunchaku are two sections of wood connected by a cord or chain, though variants may include additional sections of wood and chain. Chinese nunchaku tend to be rounded, whereas the Okinawan version has an octagonal cross-section (allowing one edge of the nunchaku to make contact on the target increasing the damage inflicted).

NunchakuThe ideal length of each piece should be long enough to protect the forearm when held in a high grip near the top of the shaft. Both ends are usually of equal length, although asymmetrical nunchaku exist. The ideal length for the connecting rope/chain is just enough to allow the user to lay it over his or her palm, with the sticks hanging comfortably and perpendicular to the ground. Weight balance is extremely important; cheaper or gimmicky nunchaku (such as glow-in-the-dark ones) are often not properly balanced, which prevents the performer from doing the more advanced and flashier ‘low-grip’ moves, such as overhand twirls. The weight should be balanced towards the outer edges of the sticks for maximum ease and control of the swing arcs.

Traditional Nunchaku are made from a strong, flexible hardwood such as oak. Originally, the wood would be submerged in mud for several years, where lack of oxygen and optimal acidity prevented rotting and caused the wood to harden. The rope is made from horsehair. Finally, the wood is very finely sanded and rubbed with an oil or stain for preservation. Today, such nunchaku are often varnished or painted for display purposes. This practice tends to reduce the grip and make the weapon harder to handle, and so is not advised for a combat weapon.

Modern nunchaku can be made from any suitable material, such as wood, metal, or almost any plastic, fiberglass or other hard substance. Toy and practice nunchaku are commonly covered with foam to prevent self-injury or the injury of others. It is not uncommon to see modern nunchaku made from light metals such as aluminum. Modern equivalents of the rope are nylon cord or metal chains on ball bearing joints. Simple nunchaku may be easily constructed from wooden dowels and a short length of chain.