Ask someone what a "Shuriken" is and most likely they will describe the classic "Throwing Stars" seen on the old TV series "Kung Fu" and countless Ninja movies. Thrown with unerring accuracy, skilled Ninja's often made head shots with their throwing stars, sinking them deep into an opponents skull. And while it is true Ninja used Shuriken, it should be noted they were mostly used by Samurai soldiers on the battlefield.
Shu-ri-ken, Japanese for, "Hidden Hand Blade", were a tactical tool used by Samurai to distract or misdirect an opponent. Not at all intended as a primary weapon, these little tools were used to be thrown at the face and eyes of an enemy combatant to cause them to look away and thus present an opening to be exploited. They could also be held in the hand and used as a contact distance combative aid for delivering strikes and jabs to vulnerable targets.
Shu-ri-ken were produced in various shapes and sizes, one being the "Bo" Shu-ri-ken, Bo meaning stick. A reference to it's shape, the Bo shu-ri-ken was likely formed from a large nail or spike. It was held in the palm, blunt end against the palm heel and fingers straight trapping and guiding it for a no-spin throw.
In the 2003 action film, THE HUNTED, there is a scene in the end battle between actors Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones involving a primitive form of a Bo shu-ri-ken. Del Toro draws a wooden stick with both ends sharpened. The stick is lashed to his calf by means of primitive cordage. He throws the stick at Tommy Lee Jones who narrowly dodges and avoids it. Nonetheless, the attack does rattle Jones and add to his stress and need to be cautious.
It is worth noting that renown survival instructor Tom Brown Jr. [trackerschool.com] was a technical advisor for the film and his training staff crafted the knapped chert knives used in the film. Del Toro relies on a knife fashioned after a model designed by Tom Brown Jr.
Lest you think such weapons are exclusive to Japan, note that primitive throwing weapons and tools are nothing new. Most of the world's aboriginal peoples have used such tools at one time or another. The Australian boomerang and the North American Rabbit Stick and Apache Star come to mind. Lacking a knife, such tools can be formed by using a chipped sharp micro-crystalline stone as a cutting tool and sanding the weapon smooth against a cobble from a creek.
As well, small palm sticks for use as impact weapons in close quarters combatives have been around quite awhile as well. Kubaton's, Koga sticks, and tactical pens are modern derivatives of the traditional Filipino Dulo-Dulo or Palm Stick, and the Samurai's Yawara pocket stick. Directed against sensitive, vulnerable targets they can deliver pain, great injury, even death to vital areas such as spine, groin, temple, throat, and eye socket. Of course, such use would only be permissible were one defending themselves against great bodily injury or death.
As I was testing some new knives I had received for Christmas to judge their efficacy as carving tools, I decided to craft some of these primitive throwers and practice this skill. Using some pieces of pruned branches I had harvested, I carved some throwers 12" in length and about 3/4" in diameter. I would recommend this length because they will quickly become dulled and the points need be re-sharpened. Possibly you could fire-harden the points or even coat them with Pine resin to prevent splitting and toughen them. I would also recommend the points be carved concave so the soft pith center does not form the point
As I see it, these primitive throwers would be a useful tool for defensive purposes as a "Last Ditch" weapon for persons who have been disarmed or are lacking a weapon and are in a SERE [Survive Escape resist Evade] situation, such as military personnel or civilians fleeing kidnappers/hostage takers.
If you'd care to try this. begin by carving a thrower as I have described. A discarded pizza box makes a good target to throw against. If you decided to train with it as an impact weapon, blunt/round the ends and then carefully and slowly practice strikes with a training partner. your focus should be on building muscle memory and precision, not speed. Be sure to use padded clothing, gloves, and eye and head protective gear to avoid injury.
[Bushcraft Woods Devil]