Although they may not be present in a lot of today's mma classes, weapons such as swords, bo staffs, and nunchucks (or nunchaku if you want to be technical about it) have been commonly trained with by martial artists since the beginning. And there are a lot of different benefits to weapons training. Even someone interested in mma tournaments alone could get benefit from the right kind of weapon training. So, the following are some different areas of martial arts that weapons can be helpful for and some of the weapons which may best fit those areas.
1. demonstration at more classical style tournaments
You can still see these once in a while on some of the sports networks on television. If you're in a school which competes in these types of things, chances are you already know what you are looking for in terms of weapons. Generally speaking, you want something that can be a big flashy and help you to show off your own athletic ability. Some good choices are bo staff, nunchucks, katana, and kamas. You want something that will draw attension and be easily seen by the audience and most importantly the judges. With proper care and in some cases polishing of your weapons and the right training, you should be well on your way. Good luck.
2. Coordination and other attribute training
Here's where an mma competitor or really anyone can benefit. Choose the right weapon and train with it enough and correctly and you can improve your coordination, your balance, and even your hand speed. The first thing I suggest is that you get something that comes in pairs such as escrima or kali sticks. This way you will work both your right and left sides at the same time. Working with weapons makes you have to be more careful and that can help you in several ways. But it also gives you an added weight in your hands and that will strengthen some of the muscles you use when you're not using weapons. It's no coincidence that Kali and in particular the stick fighting aspects of the art were added to Jeet Kune Do training in particular under the instruction of Dan Inosanto. Jeet Kune Do is an art which was originally intended by Bruce Lee to focus more on conditioning than most martial arts do and that's one of the reasons Bruce Lee was so fast. So, to help with this, you could use kali sticks as they do these days in JKD or you could train with tonfas, sais, or even butterfly knives (the Wing Chun kind, not the fold ups).
3. Self defense
This one is big to me, because I've always focussed a lot on self defense aspects since I started in my first art over thirteen years ago. What you want to do when you're doing weapons training for self defense is find something which comes closest to something you might actually find on the street which you could potentially use to defend yourself at the spur of the moment. As much as I love nunchucks (see screen name), they're pretty much out in this category. The only thing you'll really find in the street like nunchucks would be maybe a piece of chain or rope and they still don't really behave the same way, because of the weight at the ends of nunchucks. what you're more likely to find are things like tire irons, crobars, fallen tree branches, broom sticks, a baseball bat, etc. So, training with different length staffs and sticks like kali or escrima would be ideal. Also, if you happen to have a knife which you can legally and are likely to carry on you, knife training is also a good idea. Just remember that having a knife is not enough though. You have to be able to get to it before you can use it. Going along with the self defense aspect here, one of the greatest things about weapons training is that you usually learn to defend against them while you're learning to use them. That's what you're most likely going to need. You may not be planning on getting mugged, but the guy who wants to mug you is planning on attacking you. He may have a weapon. Actually he probably has one. So, you need to know how to defend against them. That's what a lot of people don't understand about real self defense. It's not the same as a match. Your attacker doesn't care about any rules. He's already breaking laws by coming after you in the first place. He's likely looking for an advantage before he ever comes near you. Some times that advantage is a few friends to help him. Some times it's a knife or even a gun. Some times its a combination of those. So, you need to prepare yourself as much as you can for those things. And that means weapons included in your training. Hopefully, you never need that, but if you ever did, it could potentially save your life and I know I feel better knowing I do what I can to be prepared for anything.