We understand and sympathise with the frustration that the Board's policy on nunchakas
can cause for aficionados of the martial arts and the unique skills of proponents like
Bruce Lee. Unfortunately we do have to accept that films like Enter the Dragon
are not seen only by those who wish to admire these virtuoso displays, but also by those
who may see merely a very visually exciting and effective way of causing extreme damage.
martial arts films started to appear in this country in the early '70s, it soon became
apparent that the nunchakas demonstrated in the films were being added to the arsenal of
violent gangs. As a result of concern on the part of the police and judiciary it was
decided that this very dangerous weapon, which has no legal use in this country outside
the martial arts class, should be removed from violent films in order to discourage its
spread. This has been a consistent policy ever since and, whether as a result or not,
nunchakas have not become as common here as they are in America. The weapon was
subsequently proscribed by the Home Office so that it is now illegal to carry nunchakas
unless en route to a bona fide martial arts school.
In recent years the Board has modified its policy to some extent so that the weapon is
no longer removed on sight. Essentially it is the glamorous use of the weapon in a violent
film that concerns us, and the basis for this concern is not that nunchakas are uniquely
dangerous, but they are relatively unknown and are relatively easy to make. Though few
indeed could hope to match Bruce Lee's technique, it is not so difficult to wave nunchakas
around in a fairly impressive way, as we have seen in numerous American videos over the
years. The result is a weapon that gives a visual impression of its potential and imbues
the user with a particular sense of power.
The Board is not alone in its opinion. Our communications with the police, magistrates
and educationists confirm support for our policy. The BBC removed all clear sight of
nunchakas from the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles programmes before
screening them. It could be argued that these were aimed primarily at children, but our
concern with this weapon centres equally on adolescents and young men who are more likely
actually to use such implements.
It may well be that, over time, nunchakas do become so well-known that our policy can
no longer be reasonably maintained. We are not convinced that this time has yet come but
we do continually review all policies and adjust them as the situation demands. It must be
said that the present moment, when there is so much public concern about screen violence
it hardly seems an appropriate time to liberalise on any form of violence in videos,
especially given the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 and amendments to the
Video Recordings Act, which require the Board to be particularly aware of the address and
appeal of videos.