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Introduction to Traditional Chinese Weaponry
8 Thousand Years of tradition and Art

On this page

You will find an overview on Traditional Chinese (Cold) Weaponry; the principle 4 Weapons, a description of these as well as an intro to the 5 Weapon Family's. A bit further down is a feature on the Shaolin Red Eagle Spear in the form of a Techniques Listing and a Video. Towards the bottom of the page is an Interesting Weapons Game as well as links to a comprehensive Weapon History and the Weapon Family's. Enjoy.

Introduction

Most Chinese martial art styles agree that there are 4 primary Weapons that everyone should learn before branching out. There are;

Staff -
Broad Sword -
Spear -
Straight Sword -

The Father of all Weapons
The Marshal of all Weapons
The King of all Weapons
The Lord of all Weapons

Over a period of several thousand years, this system of learning first the four foundation Weapons as the pre-requisite to learning any other Weapons has evolved and been very effective. It teaches students equally about Long & Short Weapons, Cutting and Bludgeoning Weapons, Linear & Round moving Weapons. To further make Weapon training safe and effective each of the four basic Weapons are divided into two levels each. Each student first learns the correct handling of the Weapon including Techniques, Defence and Postures and when this is satisfactory they proceed to the second level which focuses on Application, Form & Sparring.

NOTE - Play the video to the right for a Video Intro into Shaolin Academy Weaponry

Shaolin Iron Staff

The Shaolin Gun/Cudgel owes its reputation to its use as a tool for many purposes. It is a Walking Staff, Load Carrying one your shoulder, for two buckets of water (we take the availability of tap water for granted nowadays; earlier all water needed to be carried from a well or stream), pole for a lean too or tent, fishing rod, barrier, lever and of course defensive weapon. But it was actually an oversized ladle that made convinced the Shaolin to adopt the Staff as a layman's traveling tool.

Many peasant rebels throughout Chinese history including the Red Turbans of the late Sui Dynasty advocated "plundering from the rich to give to the poor." Even though Shaolin was 'off the beaten track' it was still an attractive target for such armies to plunder for food, shelter and whet-ever-else they could get. In the early history of Shaolin, a peasant army appeared before the Shaolin temple (Ssu) gate with the view of 'liberating' any goods and food available. Most of the temples monks were away training, tending fields, helping and such and only Jin Na Luo, a monk who tended the stove and mid-day cooking was there. At this time, Shaolin Monks did not train any form of weaponry, yet seeing the danger, he grabbed his over large wooden ladle (spoon) and laid it about him with such fearlessness and vigour that the Red Turbans scattered and were delayed until more monks arrived. This was a learning that the Shaolin would not ignore and decided an all Shaolin Monks would be trained in the Iron Wood Staff. Jin Na Luo became known as the first of the Shaolin Staff Monk.

The Gun (Staff) was the first Weapon ever actually used by the martial arts practitioners of Shaolin Temple. Even today the art of handling the Gun is still the most profound and best known of any other Weapon practiced at Shaolin.


Tiger Broad Sword

The Broad Sword, aka, Saber, Scimitar, Cutlass, Dao is possibly one of the most popular of all Cold (non explosive) Weapons around the world and for good reason. One of the most well know Curved Sword styles is the Japanese Katana. Curved Swords, also know as Scimitars, Sabers, Cutlass are chopping, slicing and cutting weapons which are best against multiple opponents and as mallee weapons

The Broad Sword was know as the "Hundred Day Weapon" especially in the turbulent times after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. It was considered that this was the amount of 8 hour days that a person needed to train to become proficient in its use. Comparatively, this is considered a short time, for a practitioner to learn the three aspects of the unique Broad Sword! As with other curved swords, it was great at slicing and cutting. With the addition of the larger top part of the Sword, the 'broad' blade, it could also be used like an axe, chopping down on an opponent with sufficient force to stun and damage. The shape of a superior Broad Sword though can also be used as a thrusting weapon having a straight line from hilt through to the tip (The Sword and Handle were curved in such a way that a straight line could be drawn from Handle to tip on the metal).

A very versatile weapon that came in several variations including the Two Handed Broad Sword, Long Handled Broad Sword and Head Chopping, 9 ring broad Sword, to name a few. At the Shaolin Academy we focus on the Elegant and Powerful Tigers Tooth broad Sword Style!


Shaolin Red Eagle Spear

The Chinese call the Spear, the King of ALL Weapons and there is a lot of truth to that. Almost every culture has used a spear in some form or another, often for hunting but also for fishing and warfare. It is speculated that spears have been in used for almost 5 million years with evidence of spear usage dating back 300,00 years.

Australian Aborignals call their spears Woomera and throw it with the help of an Atlatl. The Chinese Spear is predominantly not made for throwing (to precious) but for stabbing and jabbing. The Shaolin Kung Fu Academy practices a rare form of Spear called the Red Eagle Spear. But there are many spears, the short one handed long bladed from such cultures as the Mesopotamian, Egyptian and even African Massai. Or the overlong spear of the Greeks used in infantry formations called phalanx. Cavalry spears that morphed in to Jousting lances or the Chinese Dragon Spear which could be 4 meters long and used from the ramparts of a fort.

The Shaolin Red Eagle Spear is about the length of the person who is wielding it, using a tapering flax (baila) wood staff with a small head and red horse hairs (also called Red Beard). It is a quick moving thrusting weapons (emulating and Eagle striking at vulnerable points but not getting caught in a fight) with almost no blocking movements and very few round striking techniques. The flexible baila staff allows the spear to be used much like a whip. Together with the Red Beard disguising the spear tips movement, the lightning quick thrusts are almost impossible to follow. It is said to be impossible to defend against a Red Eagle Spear when wielded by a proficient user.

Wudang Straight Sword

Possibly, the most difficult weapon to learn to use correctly, the Chinese Straight Sword is most similar to the Rapier, Epee and Foil. Also know as the Jian, the Chinese Straight Sword has a history believed to start some 4½ thousand years ago.

The Jian is a double edged weapon although only the tip and the first two-fifths to half of the blade is sharp. The bottom part of the blade, used for blocking is blunt and somewhat thicker. The length of the Jian can vary from a short 35/40cm (11-13 inches) up to a two handed version of of a meter plus (40 inches). Traditionally, a Straight Sword would be crafted to match the users need and ability. The teacher or master who tutored the Straight Sword practitioner would, when the person is ready know what length would be best and often as a graduation 'gift'/'acknowledgement' would have such a sword made. Crafting straight Swords is expensive and quite often the best masters were could only be afforded by nobles and rich persons and thus gained the reputation of being the Lords Weapon or Lord of All Weapons.

Although more people died at the end of the French Straight Sword than did at the end of a Katana, the Straight Sword had the reputation of being a dulling rather than a soldiers weapon. Requiring far more finesse and precision than say Broad Swords, it was often much easier to train soldiers on the Broad Sword and leave the Gentleman's Blade for people who had the time and financial resources to train withy a master and obtain a good quality blade.

And it needed to be a good quality, slim, light blade. Straight Swords are quick weapons, requiring speed and precision not force and stamina. Straight Sword duels can be over in seconds (except in the movies) unlike Broad Sword fights that can last minutes.

The Shaolin Academy 5 Weapon Groups

Understanding Traditional Chinese Weaponry, which over a period of some 8 thousand years developed a staggering number of weapon types, styles and shapes, may be almost impossible. Often Chinese Martial Art teachers just refer to long and short weapons but what is long and what is short is not so clearly defined. So let us look at what type of definitions would be best to help members and students understand all Cold (non-explosive) weapons. And we at the Shaolin Academy believe that there are 5 such Functional groups, each with their own Yin and Yang aspect;

Impact Based

Fundamentally, this grouped can be divided into two halves, Staff & Stick and Bat and Cudgel. So in essence just a straight staff or stick, or one with a weighted end almost like a hammer or baseball bat.

Sharps

Here again, we have the Cutting & Slicing like curved Swords and Stabbing like straight Swords and Spears.

Flexible & Hidden

Although often flexible weapons can be hidden and hidden weapons can be flexible, there are weapons specifically made for hiding which compromise the design.

Projected

Anything that you can lift can be thrown, but in this group we look at Weapons that are made for throwing, either with bare hands or with a special tool like a Bow or a Woomera.

Non- Weapons

Anything can be a weapon, from an ashtray to a Credit Card. This Group recognises this and looks at the two aspects, Tools and Every-Day-items.

Want more info or detail?

Each of the Shaolin Academy Weapon group Logos has an inbuilt link, click on it and a full new page will open OR look below OR go back to our Main Page!

Have fun and good luck! - Sijo Robert Z

We are in the process of re-organizing and updating our WEB site and content. Below are listed most of the items we plan to include. The full color icons are items already available and the ghosted icons we will be working on. You can help decide which we focus on first by expressing your interest and thoughts by e-mailing us at Shaolin Academy; Thank you - Sijo Robert Z

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