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The Tonfa was a peasant weapon.
A once great weaponsmith named Gokuzi created and utilized the first tonfa in the Lion city of Tonfajutsen, forcing the Emperor's own magistrates to cease their harassment of the heimin. Gokuzi was rapidly brought up on charges, testified against, and put to death. 
The tonfa was adapted from a milling implement. It was a handle from a millstone, being about the length of a man's forearm and had a handle projecting orthagonally from the shaft near one end. Held by the handle with the wooden shaft running down along the arm it was an effective defensive tool allowing the arm to block incoming attacks. The tonfa was not particularily dangerous to armored opponents, but its defensive abilities made it popular among monks.  The tonfa was far more effective as an offensive weapon when used in a spinning motion, allowing for the weapon to switch between offense and defense very quickly. 
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