The Tonfa and Sai are both Okinawan weapons. They are both used in a similar fashion but they obviously have their own unique characteristics. In idle moments I've wondered if the two designs can be combined. The Sai is by no means unique to the islands of Okinawa. The Japanese, Chinese and Indonesians all have their own versions. It was from reading about the Indonesian Tjabang that I realized how the capabilities of Tonfa and Sai can be combined. Some forms of Tjabang have the tines pointing in opposite directions. Another form has quillions broad enough for the hand to grasp. This inspired me to sketch the following designs, which I call Tri-sai:-
Many readers will be aware that the tonfa is the inspiration for the police side-handle baton, also known as the PR-24 Prosecutor. What is not so well know is that there are also police weapons based on the Sai and also the Numchuku. This makes me wonder if a blunt version of the Tri-sai might be useful. Below is a design of Tri-sai that could be fabricated from a iron bar. This is the configuration that I'd suggest for a Police Tri-sai although this skeleton would probably be covered by some from of polymer. Other construction methods are possible.
Sai Techinques:- A nice article on the Sai, which includes seldom covered techniques such as using the Sai in Icepick grip and interlocking the tines when blocking. It will be noted that this page illustrates the Cross-block or X block. As an empty hand technique this is commonly seen in self-defence courses and books but has several limitations that make it inadvisable for empty hand use. Many of these drawbacks don't apply if Sai are used. The block can be made directly against the enemy's weapon and there is more distance between the defender and his foe. As with most Blocks this is in practice better made as a parry to deflect rather than stop the attack. It is usually better to divert force rather than to oppose it directly.
There are several ways to hold a Sai but the two most commonly used are the Open or Outward grip and the Inward or Close grip. One of the characteristics of Sai use is the ease at which the weapon can be flipped from one position to the other. Open or Outward grip has the tines of the Sai projecting from the top of the hand and resembles the Fencer, Sabre or Hammer grips used with knives. Inward or Close grip lays the main tine alone the forearm, has the quillions in the palm and the forefinger laid along the length of the grip.
Many books on the Sai like to illustrate how well the Sai lend themselves to empty hand Karate techniques. Be aware that you can also do things with the Sai that you probably wouldn't do if empty handed. I've already mentioned that the X block with Sai is much safer and a more practical technique than when unarmed. You can also cross the Sai when in an on-guard postition. If in a Cat-stance or Rear Stance with the Sai in Outward grip the tips can be crossed to cover the area between the hands. If you have the Game of Death DVD that includes the Dan Inosanto weapon fighting scenes you'll see Dan holding his sticks as though fending off Dracula. This is a good ready position for Sai too.
The length of the Sai should be matched to its user. Opinions on how to determine the correct size vary.
Other sources suggest length should be an inch more than the distance from your middle finger to your elbow. The grip should be long enough that the pommel is beyond the tip of your outstretched forefinger when held in Inward grip. What all agree about is that the tip of the central tine should project past the elbow tip when held in a inward grip. As well as defending the entire forearm such a length also allows the Sai to be used for elbow strikes. My Sai are a little too short for me and I've found that sometimes when flipping them the end catches on the outside of my biceps. Modern Sai are generally mass-produced and only available in a limited range of sizes. If possible, buy your Sai in person. If buying on-line be sure to determine if the length given is for the weapon overall or for the central tine.
How to use the point and pommel of the Sai for thrusting strikes is fairly obvious. The point of most modern Sai are not sharpened but they can still concentrate a lot of force into a very small area. Strikes with the point are probably the most likely to inflict serious or fatal wounds. Targets for the point include the stomach, sternum and throat. On the head the eye, forehead, Glabella (above and between the eyebrows), temple and below the ear are just some of the possible targets. The pommel is usually shown in the Inward grip executing karate hand techniques such as lunge punch (Oi-tsuki) and reverse punch (Gyaku zuki). These can be effectively against anypoint on the torso, head or upper arms.
When in the Open position the pommel can also be used for hammerhand strikes. These can be applied against the ribs, sternum, shoulders and clavicles. On the head they can strike the face, temple and crown (bregma).
When using the central tine to make non-thrusting strikes it is important to understand that the Sai is not a knife or short sword, but a truncheon. There is a Kali saying that The Knife seeks flesh, the Stick Seeks bone and this should be remembered with the Sai. While circular strikes to the stomach, kidneys and liver can be very effective (and potentially fatal) the Sai can also be used against the bones of the arms, the ribs and the clavicles. Strikes to the head, neck and spine are potentially fatal or maiming so should not be used unless your life is in danger. The span of the quillons is usually wide enough to catch a wrist or forearm. The same technique can be applied to the ankle or shin of an enemy who kicks. The bar of the quillon can also be used to strike at the throat. The points of the quillions can also be used to strike at various points.
If using a single Sai there are a couple of other options that are not so widely known. One of these is the Horizontal Bar or Bumper. This is best understood if you hold your Sai in your right hand in Icepick grip and hold your other hand beside it, palm down. If you twist your right wrist outward the point swings inward and up and makes contact with your left palm. Gripping the Sai by the point and handle allows it to be used for double handed parrying and striking techniques. For example, use the bar to hit a foe under his chin or beneath his nose. If you are holding the Sai in Open grip reach up for the point with your left. Quickest way to move into this hold is to flip from Inward to Outward Grip and intercept the tine with your left hand halfway through.
Another useful Sai technique is made with the weapon in Ice pick grip or Inward grip with the main tine not in contact with the forearm. This is most simply described if we assume you have moved behind your foe. Bring your right hand with the Sai up to the left side of the foe's head and slip the tine under his chin and across the front of his throat. Reach over (or under) your right forearm with your left and grasp the Sai tine near the point. You now have your forearms crossed and the Sai and the forearms forming a Triangle of Death with the Sai compressing his windpipe. Needless to say this is a potentially lethal technique and should be practiced with restraint and caution. This move can be used with a baton or entrenching tool handle as a silent sentry removal move. This move can also be executed when in front of the foe with the forearms pressing on the carotids. Less lethally this lock can also be applied against the limbs.
Another Police device that seems to have lost out to the PR-24 was the Gripton "Handler 12 baton".
This could be used as an impact weapon, but is most interesting for the wide range of locks that it could be used to apply. Usual way to do this was to hold the shorter section as a handle. One idea that has occurred to me is to create a non-impact version of the Handler 12 for use in mental institutes and homes for young offenders. This would be too light to do much damage if used to strike but rigid enough for use as a restraint device. The Canemaster Mini-cane is an alternate shape for such a device, as might be the device I call a Catchstick.
Another Police device that deserves better consideration is the Sjambok. When the adrenaline is flowing it is quite possible that a blow from a riot baton can hospitalize someone or even kill them. The Sjambok is an excellent police weapon since it does the job but it is near impossible to cause serious physical injury. Sadly, because of its "Apartheid" associations most Police forces are unlikely to adopt them and continue to quell civil disorder with far more dangerous batons. The grip that comes on the Cold steel Sjamboks is quite simply horrible. Mine has been covered by a length of black kangaroo leather and this was done for me by Joe Strain, the same guy who made the whips used in Zorro. The noise of a Sjambok is very intimidating, and a plastic Sjambok costs considerably less than most batons. It is also light enough to be carried in addition to batons or other equipment.
Many riot batons and similar devices have retaining loops. These are "thumb loops" rather than "wrist loops". These should not be placed over the hand but over the thumb and across the back of the hand. By doing this the weapon can easily be released should it be grabbed. An interesting trick with such thongs was taught by W.E. Fairbairn for use when handcuffs are not available. The loop is placed over the prisoner's wrist and the baton is then twisted until the loop tightens. The prisoner can then be lead this way. Two to six prisoners can be move this way if they are made to place their hands wrist on wrist and the loop placed over all of them and twisted. If a single prisoner was made to cross his wrists both hands could be secured.