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What are Shurikens?

In Japanese martial arts weaponry, shurikens are hidden weapons that are typically thrown or tossed. These sharpened blades are hand-held, and may be used for slicing or stabbing an enemy in addition to being thrown. Historically, they were part of the arsenal of the samurai, and were made from commonly found items such as nails, knives, coins, flat pieces of metal – essentially anything that could be sharpened to a point or hold an edge. There are two main classifications of shuriken: Bo shuriken and Hira shuriken.

In the modern era, shuriken are manufactured from stainless steel, and are available from a range of vendors – most typically knife stores or martial arts supply stores. There are mixed regulations regarding owning and possessing them. Some municipalities and states forbid them, while others have no regulations against them.

Bo shuriken

Throwing weapons comprising straight items such as needles, nails, spikes and the like are classified as “Bo shuriken” (stick-shaped shuriken). They may have points on one or both ends, angular or cylindrical in shape, and can be thrown over-, under-, or sidearm. They have the advantage of being lightweight and easy to conceal and transport. In martial arts training, terminology indicates the form of the object and the method of throwing.

Hira shuriken

Hira shuriken (wheel shuriken) are fashioned from flat pieces of metal such as coins, hoe blades, washers, and other similar products. They are sharpened on the edge, and depending on the initial configuration, may also have pointed tips. Traditionally, they are identified by the number or points they have. It is not uncommon to find holes in the middle, as they were developed from metal objects that had holes; the hole also provides aerodynamic stability.

In western popular culture, shurikens may also be called “ninja stars”, “throwing stars”, or “Chinese stars.” This nomenclature is misleading, having been popularized by movies and television shows.

Traditional use of shuriken

Shuriken were supplementary weapons for samurai, complementing the use of principal weapon, the sword. The deployment of shuriken is known as shurikenjutsu, and was used as a diversionary tactic rather than as a primary weapon. The skills required to use them effectively have developed through the centuries, and now have their own schools of style and technique.

The use of shuriken became popular among the peasant classes because they are made from everyday materials that were readily available, making them easy to produce and extending the life of metals that could no longer function as originally intended.

Because of the danger posed by reckless use of shurikens, proper training is needed to prevent harm because of improper use. Many martial arts programs teach how to correctly use them in a controlled, competitive environment.

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