What is a Sai?

by Niklas Feurstein
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Sai
Sai by Samuraiantiqueworld / CC BY-SA

The Sai is a melee weapon developed in Okinawa. Its shape reminds of a smaller version of a pitchfork or trident.

In contrast to these weapons, the Sai features two smaller parallel sideguards. It is mainly a thrusting weapon however the blunt shaft can also be used for clubbing strikes.

Special Characteristics of the Sai

The Sai is a very deadly thrusting weapon forged from metal. In most cases, the shaft slightly tapers down to a marginally sharp point.

As the Sai is a one-handed weapon it is commonly used in pairs. The weapon excels at blocking incoming strikes as well as beating opponents with the blunt shaft.

For this reason, it was used by the law enforcement troops in Okinawa. Furthermore, it could be used as a throwing weapon.

Therefore, a lot of soldiers carried three Sai with them to try and kill their target at distance first. The Sai is a very flexible weapon and can be used in various ways.

It is usable as a stabbing, clubbing, blocking, and trapping weapon.

Moreover, enemies can be punched with the butt end of the handle when the wielder turns the Sai backwards and aligns it with his forearm.

Different Sai Designs

Manji Sai
Manji Sai by chris 論 / CC BY-SA

There is one important design variation on the Sai called either “Manji Sai” or “Nunti Sai”. On this version one of the side guards of the weapon faces in the opposite direction.

This change alters the way the weapon has to be handled. For one both ends of the Nunti Sai can now be used for stabbing and slashing.

However, it reduced the ability to block incoming strikes (as one guard faces in the wrong direction).

The Manji Sai performs slightly better when thrown as the change offers more stability to the weapon.

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