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There are numerous ways to defend and attack with the tonfa. In defense, if the handle is grasped then the shaft protects the forearm and hand from blows from the opponents and the knob can protect the thumb. If both ends of the shaft are held, the shaft can be used to ward off blows and the handle can be used as a hook to catch the opponent’s weapons.
In attack, one can swing the shaft to strike the target. Large amounts of momentum can be imparted to the shaft by twirling the tonfa by the handle. The tonfa can also be wielded in such a way as to use the knob as a striking implement, held either by the handle or by the shaft. One can also stab one’s opponents with the shaft of the tonfa. By holding the shaft and the handle of the tonfa together, one can use it for holding or breaking techniques.
Tonfa are traditionally wielded in pairs, one in each hand. This is unlike police nightsticks, which are generally used alone. As the tonfa can be held in many different ways, education in the use of the tonfa often involves learning how to switch between different grips at high speed. Such techniques require great manual dexterity.