How long ago was the yo-yo first used as a weapon?

  • 15
    What has your research on this shown you? For example: was it ever used as a weapon? Jan 25, 2019 at 12:22
  • 10
    Why would anyone use a yo-yo as a weapon? Were stones in such a short supply that you have to retrieve it after each throw? And what kind of target is where you want to throw stones at it multiple times from a distance of a meter or two at most?
    – vsz
    Jan 25, 2019 at 12:55
  • 3
    How could a yo-yo possibly be used a weapon? And why? It makes no sense. Just think about it for one second. Throwing a rock would be a far better and cheaper option...
    – user91988
    Jan 25, 2019 at 16:58
  • A ship laden with yo-yo's sank. 144 times, to be exact. (Sorry, that was too beautiful to pass up.)
    – Jos
    Apr 12, 2019 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


It's unlikely it ever was.

Practically speaking, anyone who's used a yo-yo knows that if you happen to let it hit the floor, it'll wobble to a stop and then you have to spend 10 minutes rewinding it. Even though experts do tricks, it's still wildly unusable as a weapon when compared with simply extending an arm and whacking someone with a cosh.

The most iconic memory that many of us have of this weapon is in James Bond's Octopussy film, which may lead people to believe that it's a weapon of some heritage:

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The yo-yo saw fictional weapon consisting of an axle connected to two razor-sharp disks, and a cable looped around the axle. The weapon is usually dropped from a height, allowing gravity (or the force of a throw and gravity) to spin the yo-yo and unwind the cord. The device then winds itself back to the metal handle in the wielder's hand, via its spin (and the associated rotational energy).

Given the fact that yo-yos work by generating momentum, something heavy enough to make some damage also takes a lot of effort to gather the neccessary momentum.

The film-makers didn't manage to make this contraption actually work (let alone be lethal, except as a falling lump of jaggy metal).

Two practical effects were created for its scenes: one which functioned like a Yo-Yo and a functional, motor-driven buzz-saw blade on the end of a pole-arm

The source for this information is described in a documentary on the film's BluRay disk.


  • 1
    And of course if the descending yo-you saw actually cut into something at the bottom of its descent, it would lose energy, and not be able to wind itself back up.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 25, 2019 at 18:03

According to the 9 July 1932 Spectator at page 44:

Poor Yo-Yo. . . . Centuries ago, in the Philippines, you were a deadly weapon, an unseen terror which struck suddenly from above and returned to the hand of the ingenious Filipino who lay stretched out lazily on an overhanging branch.

The 1974 Guinness Book of Records says:

The yo-yo originates from a Filipino jungle fighting weapon recorded in the 16th century weighing 4lb. with a 20 ft 6 m cord.

According to the 1958 José Rizal, Patriot and Martyr:

I had with me a yo-yo, European and Americans were astounded to see me use it as an offensive weapon

And the 1907 Vida y escritos del Dr. José Rizal states (with reference to 1888):

Allí hice conocimientos con mucha gente, y como traía conmigo un yo-yo, los europeos y americanos se quedaban pasmados de ver cómo yo me servía de él como una arma ofensiva.

Filipino Martial Culture (2011) says:

Jones notes that the primitive yo-yo was a stone attached to a vine, whose initial function was most likely hunting. [reference 17] In 1888, Dr. Jose Rizal visited the United States and demonstrated the use of the yo-yo as not only a pacifying toy but a deadly projectile weapon.

  • This is absurd; and physically impossible: "The yo-yo originates from a Filipino jungle fighting weapon recorded in the 16th century weighing 4lb. with a 20 ft 6 m cord." (1) How do you get it spinning with a cord longer than the height of an outstretched arm? How much does a vine that long weigh? another 4-5 lbs most likely. Where are you going to put that on a rock the size of a half brick? King Kong barely has the wrist strength to flip an object with that much angular momentum. Jan 26, 2019 at 2:24
  • 1
    If you miss the target on the first launch, no problem - your should is probably now dislocated from stopping the %$*% thing - then it returns at speed with intent to kill, as it most certainly is heavy enough to do if it hits you in the face. Jan 26, 2019 at 2:34
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    @PieterGeerkens You're mixing several unrelated references (some of which might be wrong), and making assumptions about how the historic yo-yos operated. The "stone" and "vine" description is from Jones, reference 17 of Filipino Martial Culture, so we would have to find that reference and see how credible it is. I was just trying to collect literature references to yo-yo weapons. I haven't made any conclusion about which are accurate, although the first hand account of Jose Rizal seems very credible.
    – DavePhD
    Jan 26, 2019 at 13:50
  • 1
    By that definition a soap-on-a-rope is a yo-yo. Just tying rope to something doesn't make that something a yo-yo. The defining characteristic of a yo-yo is that the angular momentum of the weight causes that weight to return to the operator, against gravity as necessary. Without that characteristic, the object is just "comes with attached rope". Jan 26, 2019 at 15:46
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    @PieterGeerkens in the 1965 US Federal court case that invalidate the trademark "yo-yo" due to being a Filipino word, the statement " yo-yo had its origin in the Philippine Islands over 300 years ago and was used at that time as a weapon" was relied upon (along with lots of other evidence). law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/343/655/109434
    – DavePhD
    Jan 27, 2019 at 1:07

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