Ninjas are synonymous with Japan and they are traditionally depicted as stealthy warriors who can defeat their foes in a matter of seconds. This same level of mystique is attached to ninja weaponry such as shurikens and mariki-gusari. Another ninja weapon, the kunai, has developed a reputation in pop culture, due to it being wielded by the likes of Scorpion in Mortal Kombat.
The Otaku Armoury puts the spotlight on Japanese-inspired weaponry and Scorpion’s kunai is certainly a famous example. But how did Scorpion come to wield it and how does his fabled weapon compare to a real kunai?
Forged in fire
Throughout his life, the kunai has been Scorpion’s preferred weapon. In his earliest appearance, the weapon took the form of a rope with a blade attached to the end. Over the years, the kunai evolved into an elongated spear head attached to a metal chain.
In the Mortal Kombat film, the kunai was alive and shaped like a serpent. Responding to its master’s commands, the weapon emerged from Scorpion’s hand and struck foes. Whenever Scorpion used his signature weapon, he shouted out the infamous words ‘Get over here!’
As a revenant, Scorpion used the kunai to channel his hellfire. Certain moves involved Scorpion impaling an opponent with the weapon, sending flames through it and burning whoever was unlucky enough to be on the receiving end.
For much of his life, Scorpion has been obsessed with avenging the death of his family and clan. The kunai is the physical representation of his anger and vengeance. With him lashing out at everyone around him, the kunai became known as Scorpion’s ‘stinger.’
When comparing Scorpion’s weapon to a real kunai, it’s important to note the differences. Traditional kunai started off as farming tools used by Japanese peasants. As a multipurpose tool, the kunai could be used for gardening, stone and masonry work. The flat edges were ideal for smashing through soft materials or digging holes.
As kunai were cheaply produced, they could be adapted for other purposes. Ninjas converted them into weapons and passive utensils. The blade could be attached to a rope and turned into a grappling hook for climbing up buildings. Or they could be strapped to a stick and wielded like a spear.
Contrary to popular belief, ninjas were more likely to use kunai in close quarters than as throwing weapons. Compared to shuriken, kunai were heavier and larger. It made more sense to use them as a stabbing weapon in hand to hand combat.
Therefore, Scorpion’s weapon has more in common with a Chinese rope dart than a traditional Japanese kunai. Rope darts were versatile weapons used for throwing, slicing, binding and piercing.
Martial artist and actor Daniel Pesina was inspired by the rope dart and it helped to create Scorpion and his weapon. During a filming session, Pesina remembered reading about the ancient weapon. After finding a rope on set, he suggested using it for a fight sequence and it became the basis for Scorpion’s most famous move.
Scorpion isn’t the only Mortal Kombat character to wield a badass Japanese weapon. Be sure to read The Otaku Armoury edition of Katana and her war fans.