Shaolin Iron Staff

The Symbol of the Peaceful Traveler

On this page ....

On this page you will find most of the information that you require to learn, train and pass the Shaolin Academy Iron Staff as part of the Traditional Shaolin Weaponry Curriculum. If you like, to the right is a tile which links to a short recording of some of our in-class weaponry training. → → →

Introduction & Overview

Sijo Robert Z
Your Instructor, Sijo Robert Z

Traditionally, Shaolin Monks/Practitioners do not 'use' weapons. They train with weapons so that they can learn to defend against these weapons effectively. Specifically the Warrior Monks of Shaolin would have spent major parts of their training on learning to deal with all sorts of weapons from a Je to a Broad Sword and more exotic weapons like Halberds, Tridents and 3 Section Staffs. Aside from training with these weapons for health and fitness, Shaolin belonged to a 'work hard, train hard' Buddhist sect that believed in physical workout.

Traditionally, there is no such thing as a 'Shaolin Weapon'. It is against Buddhist Principles and against Buddha to use a Weapon on another human being for anything other than Play, Recreation or Training; ie with no negative intent, emotion or gain. Yet, there are 5 (five) Shaolin 'tools' which monks used for various reasons. The Monks Lantern was used for traveling at night, Damo Cane for elder monks and for Leg Injuries, the Monks Spade for Journey Monks to earn their keep in gardening and Burring the Dead (as a paid public service) and of course the Wanderers Staff. Then there was also the Shaolin Bench, not necessarily a 'tool' as such that a monk would take with them but an object that could be found in many places and forms which could be used as both a shield and a weapon.

It is though the Staff which had the most uses which also had nothing to do with it also being used as a weapon. As a bar for drying cloths, carrying two buckets of water, testing the depth of water, using as a lean to, testing the ground when walking at night, carrying your swag/bundle, as a lever, fishing rod .... and many, many more useful functions. Before mass transport, easily available maps and the like a multi purpose item like the staff was invaluable to those who were trained in all it's uses. Much like a Chinese Sash is also a multi function tool, bandage, tourniquet, carry bag, underwear, to ties someone up, making a lean too, and the like.

So, if were were to talk about the 5 essential items or tools of Shaolin we would have to say Staff, Monks Spade, Walking Stick, Monks Lantern and Sash but if we were to give it a slant towards self defence we would say Staff, Monks Spade, Walking Stick, Monks Lantern and the Bench.

Either way, before cars and train, public transport and overland communications, as a traveler you were vulnerable and had limited resources that you could carry. One of the best all around tools for traveling was the Staff and one of the most essential was a knife but Shaolin did not carry any sharps or edged items so, it was the Shaolin Staff, Monks Spade, Walking Stick or for night travel the Monks Lantern, together with the bench, these are the Shaolin Monks defensive weapons tools.

Historical Perspective

What did we use first as a tool or weapon, a stick or a stone? We see some animals using sticks and stones as their tools; Otters opening clams with a flat stone, elephants using wood to clean between their toes and other such occurrences in the wild without human intervention. trying to say when a stick was first used may be impossible even if we limit it just to humans. At this time the thinking is and some evidence suggests that an Stone Axe may be the first tool ever but as stone survives the thousands of years, wood dose not.

Extract from the Shaolin Academy Weapon History Page

It would be difficult to define the difference between tools and weapons or to speculate which was first. Looking at prehistoric discoveries we find a lot of stone knives, spear and axe heads. This defiantly establishes tool and weapon existence hundreds of thousands of years ago. Wooden tools would not have lasted this amount of time so our only reasonable source of information needs to be stone implements. But then again, spears, arrows and axes need wood as handles. This suggests that we knew the basics for using a stick and a club. Finally, we can again only speculate that rock throwing was also part of a Cave dwellers repertoire for hunting . . . and defense. From this we can deduce that items such as the spear, knife, etc. could be dated back to 2 million years BCE. Whereas the first metal implements appeared in the Middle East and Southeast Asia some 8000 years ago making those the oldest metal weapons and tools around. This would make Bronze Age Chinese Weaponry as some of the oldest in the world.

But, what came first, weapons or tools. Did humans design implements for killing each other, or did they design tools to help each other. Perhaps we will never really know. There is a long-standing argument amongst historian as to which it was; the Weapon or the Tool that brought Humans together. Why did humans urbanize?; what caused us to work together; was it an external threat or an internal need? Was it War or Peace?

One of the oldest, still inhabited city's is Jericho; by many claimed to be the oldest but it is disputed.

The pro Weapon view speculates that the main reason we came together into towns and villages was for reasons of security. That we needed to primarily protect ourselves from nature and from each other. It suggests that we banded together like Zebras, where greater numbers will secure the survival of the species, of the tribe. The Tool view speculates that it was commerce and trade that bought us together. That we sought to improve our lives and we sought to exchange goods and services with each other. For this we needed town and trading centers, traders and transporters. And all that come with handle and trade. For a long time there were no conclusive evidence to suggest either the one or the other and all arguments were just that. Yet, a recent discovery of the oldest known city/village on record (as reported on the National Geographic) suggested a possible answer, if we go with the logic of the discoverers.

With the unearthing of the city and artifacts it was interesting to note that there was a predominance of materials used for commerce and trade and very little evidence of weaponry and stifle. This has lent more credence and weight to the view that we were motivated to live in city's because of commerce and trade not war and fear (although there will also be an element of this too). This is actually a very satisfying as it suggest that humans were bought together in Trade & Commerce not Strife and War! This in turn allows us to speculate that many of our weapons are derived from hunting, farming and civilization, rather than predominately for killing each other. Yet, this is not to say that it stayed that way....

More on the history of Cold, Ancient, traditional Chinese Weapons on our reasonably good Weapon History Page!

The 1st Iron Staff Monk

So, let us look at the history of Shaolin 'Tools' and this may start with a Shaolin Cook; Possibly, the Shaolin Staff may owe its reputation to its use as a defensive weapon against peasant rebels. Like many peasant rebels throughout Chinese history, the Red Turbans of the late Sui Dynasty (581 CE to 618 CE) advocated, "plundering from the rich to give to the poor (and they were the poor!)." By comparison, the remotely located Shaolin Temple was by far the wealthiest temple in Henan, and because its remoteness, making it an attractive target for bandits.

The first Shaolin Iron Staff Monk
Although there is not always sufficient evidence to verify many of Shaolin historical events, wall paintings and some records seem to suggest that there is some truth in many Shaolin Histories

The Shaolin temple was only being rebuilt around 600 CE and was not fully functional and even the walls were not fully restored. A peasant army appeared before the Shaolin Temple (Ssu) gate whilst most the monks were out tending fields or finding materials and the like to rebuild their temple. Only one monk was left tending the fires and preparing lunch, the cook. Jin Na Luo was not a martial artists but he was also not about to hand over the hard earned materials and food. He grabbed his Iron Fire Stoker (almost man's tall) and stepped out to meet them before they could enter the gates. He then laid it about him with such fearlessness and vigour that the Red Turbans did not really want to mess with him and retreated (especially where he was armed with iron and they were not. They may have also spread the word about the 'Mad Cook or Monk' at the temple.

Jin Na Luo had no Staff or Martial Art training. It is speculated that the incidents of attacks on the temple caused for the, until then, Yoga/tai Chi style breathing and Meditation exercises that Da Mo gave the Shaolin Monks to be altered into Self Defence Records suggest that Shaolin 'hired/invited/welcomed martial art and weaponry experts into their grounds for information and training exchange. But Luo, even though he was not trained, became known as the first of the Shaolin Iron Staff Monk; and possibly the reason the Shaolin form of Staff was termed Iron Staff (although later Shaolin Staff's were Bronze or metal shot at the ends).

The 13 Shaolin Monks

4 Stamps from China commemorating the Shaolin Temple, the associated Pergoda Forest, the 13 Monks and a later event involving 40 Shaolin Monks. Click on the stamps for a Video Documentary on the 13 Shaolin Monks.

It is only a few years later when the Shaolin temple was noted by history. Shaolin had been mainly rebuilt and 10 years and more Shaolin Monks were now all training in martial arts and staff. Shaolin was mostly economically independent but still financially and politically tied to the Sui government.

Around 621 CE General Wang Shih Chung had gathered a large army in an attempt to oust the Emperor from the Imperial throne and start a new Dynasty. Li Shimini, the Emperors son, was sent with an army against the usurper and they meet in the vicinity of the Songshan mountain and many days of fierce battle ensued. General Wang Shih Chung relishing that he could not win in this way sent out a troop of soldiers to capture or kill Li Shimin. This was successful (although details of this are not know to us) and the Emperors son was caught and take as a hostage. The Emperor could not stand down but he did not want to loose his son and his successor. The Tang Emperor may have sent several messages for help that is not know but what is recorded that the Abbot of Shaolin Temple received the Emperors urgent 'request' for help.

Shaolin was not really happy that this upstart general was destroying their country side and with this urgent 'request' of the Emperor they their best fighting monks. At the time having 'fighting' monks was not strictly legal so there were not many, but 13 were found and sent.

Headed by fighting monks Tan Zong, Zhi Chao and Hui Yang they knew they could not just walk in and retake Li Shimini; a Dawn Attack was devised where the Shaolin would silently entered the Army Camp, just before dawn, removed guards quietly (in their way) and eliminate any reShaolin Iron Staff (Weapon)tance permanently. Their sole aim was to recapture the Emperors son and come out alive and possibly un-noticed. There are many legends of this Shaolin action, where 13 monks came with their Iron Cudgels/Staff's and did great damage to the usurpers army but in reality, given the time, they would only have done minimal damage to the 10,000+ strong army. What they did achieve is turn the tables.

Freeing the captive son they in turn capturing Wang Shicong's nephew demoralized the attacking army and put the General in the same position as he had sought to put the Emperor. From a battle strategy point of view this was a brilliant move. Was it planned, the ancestors may now but it was the deciding action in this battle where the army's were of equal strength. Li Shimini (626 CE to 649 CE) went on to ascend the throne becoming the next Emperor of Tang, and he rewarded the monks with 40 hectares of land and other privileges including the right to have a small contingent of Warrior Monks, ie. their own private little army.

The "rescue of the Tang emperor by Shaolin monks", a widely circulated episode from the history of the temple, was the first but not to be the last Shaolin 'involvement' in such events and would be its rise and then in 1645 it's fall.

Shaolin Staff Warriors in Fukien/Fujian

Before Shanghai was the major sea port and trading center that is is today, Fukien (Fujian) was the major connection trade with over 2000 years history, It was perfectly situated as a port to trade with Taiwan, Korea, Japan, India and the rest of the World. Fukien (Fujian) history extends well back before the dawn of Chinese civilization as major population and trading center, possibly even with Arabs, Romans and Greeks ate various times in history. In the time of the new Tang Dynasty, it was in the grasp of Pirates and Lawless. Military intervention from the Imperial court had very little effect, the Pirates were wealthy and were able to bribe any official interfering; or kill them (one can see where accepting bribes would have seemed the preferred option to the officials; and it was a long standing culture of Chinese politics; bribes and survival that is). Remembering the success of the 13 monks, the new Tang Emperor asked Shaolin for help.

Shaolin decided to send 3 of the original 13 Monks (Dao Guang, Seng Man and Seng Feng), together with 500 Soldier Monks to help solve the problem. Shaolin could not easy be bribed and, theoretically, as Buddhists, were not intimidated by threats of death. As monks they also had the support and trust of the common person. What they specifically did is not know, but what the outcome was is know and that again the Shaolin took with them the Iron Cudgels/Staffs. Although they did not eradicate the Pirates entirely, they reduce their influence in Fukien to the point where Imperial Office and Law was able to manage this centers of commerce. Fukien was back in the hands of the Imperial Court and paying good taxes again.

Shaolin Staff Warriors during Ming

By the mid-Ming Dynasty, foreign pirates kept bringing troubles along the coastline of China. The Ming court deployed a massive force to suppress the pirates with limited success. The Emperor asked/commanded the help of Shaolin. Many varied accounts are told but there is some common ground in that it is believed that 40 Warrior Monks, led by Yue Kong armed with long and very heavy Iron Staffs were sent to support the army's.

Bribery was and partially still is the Chinese way (no judgment intended or offered) of smoothing problems and making life livable. Shaolin though were seen as unbearable. The 40 Shaolin Warriors fought against the foreign pirates in many brilliant battles and displays of individual mastery. Once, in a fight against the pirates, Yue Kong repelled a dozen pirate weapons. Still surrounded using "light-body" skills, he he jumped out of the fray whilst at the same time succeeded in beating down to pirates. But there were too many pirates, too much gold at hand and to few supporters.

The pirates banded together and set a trap. Capturing some local people, they waited for the Shaolin Warriors to come rescue them. Now only 35 left the fell into the ambush. A fierce battle ensued but they were greatly outnumbered and ambushed, the Shaolin Sacrificed their lives in the hope that the captured were no longer important to the pirates.

Other Shaolin Monks were sent to help the Emperors forces but no records as dramatic as this was recorded. There is though one more Staff Wielder needing to be mentioned!

Monkey King

The Monkey King is a fictional character from a novel loosely based on a pilgrimage to India for Buddhist Scriptures; but there may be some other influences on the character know as the Monkey King

One of the most famous Chinese Staff Stories is that of the Monkey God who was depicted as one of the guardians to a Tang Dynasty Buddhist Patriarch, in the novel Xi You Ji, Journey to the West. The Monkey King (or Sunwukong) was born from a stone. He wanted to be like the immortals and be free from death. He was extremely smart and capable, and learned all the magic tricks from a master Taoist. He could transform himself into seventy-two different images such as a tree, a bird, a beast of prey, or a bug as small as a mosquito so as to sneak into an enemy's belly to fight him or her inside out. Using clouds as a vehicle, he can travel 180,000 miles a single somersault.

He claimed to be king in defiance of the Great Emperor of Jade, the only authority over heaven, the seas, the earth, and the subterranean world. That act of high treason invited the relentless scourge of the Heavenly army. After many showdowns, the dove faction of the heavenly court persuaded the emperor to offer the monkey an official title to appease him. The monkey accepted this offer on a trial by Shaolin Iron Staff (Weapon). However, he learned a few days later that he was cheated and being jeered all over the heavenly court: the position he held was nothing but a stable keeper. Enraged, he revolted, fighting his way back to earth to resume his own claim as a king.

Eventually, the heavenly army subdued him, only after many a battle, with the help of all the god warriors. However, all methods of execution failed. One attempt to kill him actually gave him a pair of fiery golden crystal eyes that can see through what people normally cannot.

At last, the emperor asked Buddha for help. The Buddha moved a great mountain known as the Mount of Five Fingers to fall upon him. Still, the tenacious monkey survived the enormous weight and pressure, except he could not move! Five hundred years later, there came to his rescue the monk Tripitaka. To insure that Tripitaka could make the journey to the West to get the Buddhist scriptures, Buddha had arranged for the Monkey King to become his disciple and escort him, along with two other disciples they later came across. There the four started their stormy journey west which was packed with actions and adventures.

Understanding the Significance of the Shaolin (Heavy or Iron) Staff

Shaolin Iron Staff techniques are simple and practical, and can be applied to one's great advantage in self-defence. Barehanded, one can deal with one or two people, but armed with a Staff one can hold off a number of attackers. Although not a weapon that would be considered practical by many, the Shaolin Iron Staff is just as usable today as it was throughout the centuries. It appears in many guises; Garden Rake, Broom Handle, a stick on the ground, Curtain Rod, Walking Stick, etc.

We can find some aspect of a 'staff' in most traditional weapons, be it in the form of the shaft leading to an axe head, the handle of a Morning Star or Flying Melon Head. Many if not most weapons have some aspect of the staff about them and that is possibly the reason the Staff is also name "The Father of All Weapons".

It can be speculated that the staff 'fathered' many weapons. The link between weapons is often very evident but as we follow the line we see some not so obvious connections;

The above are speculations only and not to be seen as any factual representations but just an indication of the humble staff's title as the "Father of all Weapons".

Shaolin Staff Size and Shape

One Hand is always in full contact with your staff, never less.

The Standard Shaolin Iron Staff is also about a man's height with the thickness chosen to suit the users height (+/-5%). The ideal staff is of such thickness as to allow you to close your hand around it fully with the thumb covering the index finger to the first knuckle when the hand is holding the staff. Having said that, Shaolin monks used natural pieces of wood. Not machine worked but stout pieces of wood thicker at the top and slightly slimmer at the bottom, much like a normal walking stick (and that is mostly what they were used for). There were also different lengths of staff, depending on inclination. Less famed versions of the staff include the Dragon Pole, (up to 2½ times the height of a man), the shorter Flute (quarter to ¾ mans size), the flexible and many length Shaolin Rat Tail Staff (much favored by current Wushu practitioners) and even some shorter and longer. We can certainly imagine that over a period of 5000 years there would have been a lot of experimentations and those who survived defined the length of the staff; (Darwinian selection).

Holding/Handling the Staff

Shaolin Iron Staff has two aspects, Long Staff and Short Staff. Short Staff is for closer, quicker and harder engagements and Long Staff is for keeping distance and managing other long weapons. For the Short Staff aspect, you hold your Gûn (pronounced Guen) at the ⅓ and ⅔ points. In Shaolin Long Staff you hold the staff one sided, with the leading hand at the ⅖ point and the anchor hand in the middle of the bottom fifth of the staff. See the graphics below.

Shaolin Traditional Weaponry, Shaolin Iron Staf, Short Staff Hand Holding

Usually, in the Shaolin Short Staff you manage the staff with both hands on top; ie the thumbs facing inwards as in the graphic & picture above. At this level, until you learn the swapping of the Leading or Controlling Hand, it is best to maintain and practice this simple way of holding as many other styles do. It is also important that you learn to hold fairly exactly at the ⅓ and ⅔ points so that you become familiar with the reach and positioning of your staff in your hand.

Whereas the Shaolin Long Staff is held with the thumb side of the hand towards the tip of the Staff. The rear, Anchoring hand is away from the butt, at least two to three fingers widths off and the front hand is just behind the half way mark on the staff. Look at the graphic above.

Keeping the Thumbs tucked away; hands are already the number one vulnerability point for Staff Wielders!

How you hold your staff is a key point in the Shaolin Iron Staff. The connection of your feet with the ground is the source of your power and Earth Chi; the connection of your hands to your staff is the weak link in a strong defensive system. Learning the hand holds, how to shift from one to the other and how to change from Short to Long Staff and back is one of the greatest assets of the Shaolin Iron Staff and when learned well an asset but if not, then not.

Having said that, there is a lot of information and detail possible around the Shaolin Iron Staff and it would take a whole lot of reading, graphics and pictures to do it justice. The Recording to the right and other recordings allow me (Sijo) to 'ramble' on a bit emphasizing certain aspects and pointing to parts that i think are important. So, those who have a capacity for rambling and detail, i feel the recordings give a whole lot more 'incidental' information. the Core information is above; this is the same and a lot more in 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

The 13 Targets of the Iron Staff

Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy, Traditional Chinese Weaponry, 9 Shaolin Iron Staff Jab Points

Points 1 + 2 - The most vulnerable points of any weapon wielder, especially for the long two handed weapons, are the hands/fingers/joints and wrist! These on most any Staff are exposed to attack. They are usually closer to the attacker than the rest of the body when holding the staff in front of you. Especially when using the Iron Staff, with the metal ends, a hit to the knuckles will be fairly conclusive, even if these are protected by Iron Gauntlets or Metal Hand Coverings. Be very aware about the safety of your hands when using any Weapon and especially the Iron Staff.

Points 3 + 4 - are the Staff's Universal Points. Very vulnerable to a 45° strike, this well muscled and fleshy area will usually not be damaged but have a momentary effect of disorientation, dizziness and even unconsciousness; but not any breakage or permanent damage. It is a Number One target point for a Traditional Staff User and Number Two (after the fingers) for a Warrior. that said, after hitting the fingers a good warrior would then go for the Neck to debilitate the attacker without causing permanent damage. Note - For Shaolin, causing any serious damage when defending themselves would usually require them to heal the person afterwards. A Neck Chop usually has only bruising and trauma as a result not breakage or severe damage

Points 5 + 6 - Anything on the head is most vulnerable. But many heads are hard and not every blow to the head will have a debilitating result. Only some very hard hits will cause an effect and these can be permanently debilitating which is a no-no for Shaolin. A horizontal chop to the ear or temple area is that which had the greatest effect without usually causing permanent damage and need excessive force. Even a less than full strength blow can cause a black out, disorientation or worse. Once you hands are protected, the head and head are needs the next most attention when defending.

Points 7 + 8 - are dual points. They represent both the Floating Ribs and Elbows, which often protect the ribs or at least are at the same hight. A strike correctly executed can hit the 'Funny Bone", Ulna Nerve (Prime Target) and this would render that arm useless for use for a while. Else, the Floating Ribs (Costae Fluiantes 11 & 12) will be hit and as these are only attached at the spine not the chest cage, the result can usually be a Winding (A Stealing Breath Dragon point) of the attacker. Of all the possible outcomes, this is one of the best as the attacker is debilitated for 10 to 40 seconds which is more than enough time to get away or secure the person.

Points 9 + 10 - the knee joint is a mobile trocho-ginglymus joint called a pivotal hinge joint. Aside from the ankles which are to close to the ground to be a really viable target, the attackers entire mobility rests on these two points and can be severally impeded if bruised when attacked from the side. A moderate strength Chop will bruise the Knee and make every move painful and distracting. A stronger hit will 'bounce' the tendons and make any movement almost impossible and very painful. Avoid damaging the knees when defending and seek only to do what normal unaided healing can undo with time.

Point 11 - is the usual suspect and often a good warrior or soldier will have protections which makes this point dangerous. If you hit it hard enough to work through protection and the person is not wearing any, an exceeding amount of harm can be caused. If you hit this area as for no protection, the attacker can use this to force down your staff and be in your face. Not really a clever point to attack but an important point to defend as any of the points on the Center-line.

Point 12 - is difficult to hit with an uppercut but not impossible and can be very dangerous if contact is made. The bad habit of some people to bend forward and thus expose their head and chin makes this a technique to be watched for and to remind people not to bend towards their attackers.

Point 13 - is the obvious hit on the top of the head. Although almost any hit on any angle to the head is effective, when training and then Assessment this technique has to be performed at the right angle as an attach and at the right tangent when defending.

When defending against an attacker wielding a staff or a long stick, these are the points to defend. Getting a hard hit is already bad enough without being hit on a joint. If you can not block the strike, substitute a different body part. For example, if the attacker is aiming at your knee and you can't stop it, offer them a fleshy part of your body like shin or quad; it will hurt but not shatter a joint or bone. Be particularly protective of your Hands, ie. Finger Joints and wrist joint.

Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy, Traditional Chinese Weaponry, 13 Shaolin Iron Staff Safe Sparring terget Points

Iron Staff Chop, 13 Safe Sparring Target Areas

When Sparring we need to Risk Manage the encounter. The best way of doing this is not coming close to any Points that may, when hit accidental, cause more than just discomfort. But you need to avoid the Scapula and Clavicle, the two bones which are just below the shoulder line. So, where in a real encounter we would seek the bony bit's of the body, in a safe sparring session we look at the fleshy bits of the body.

1 & 2 Upper Arm midway between Shoulder and Elbow.

3 & 4 Lower Arm midway between Elbow and Wrist.

5 & 6 Floating Ribs but just on the side and front side.

7 & 8 Hips and Bum on the side and behind but not between the hip bones on the front.

9 & 10 Quads half way between the Hips and Knee joints.

11 & 12 Calves all around, half way between Knee Joint & Ankle Bone.

13 Stomach the part below the Solar Plexus but above the Bladder directly where the Belly Button is.

The Shaolin Academy Weapon Warriors Main Principles

10 Principles of the Shaolin Staff Warrior

1 - Safety - Is always at the forefront, never do any harm, even if attracted, if possible. But also consider the long term effect that your training and practice of the martial art has; will it cause long term damage to your body, mind or spirit; will it create health issues through its practice or use (excessive impact on training objects) and even to the point; will it mark your body in such a way that everyone will recognize that you are a fighter and assume that you are also a thug!

2 - Consideration - Is a key element of Shaolin Style Martial Arts. Think and Consider before you Act. If you feel that you are becoming aggressive, emotive and possibly out of control, the style should be one that promotes a calming, reconsidering process rather than a "Strike First - Think Later" action. A true Shaolin Academy supported style places Thinking and Consideration before Action and Violence.

3 - Peace - and health are the reason for Shaolin Martial Arts. It is not about War Style that seek to kill and destroy. The level of skill needs to be such that no one needs to be hurt or damaged more than the situation requires.

4 - Management - not Domination of a volatile situation. It is a tool for conflict situations which has a number of options, tactics, strategies and methods of dealing with these, backed up by the possibility (not inevitability) of an active response (which also gives the confidence not to need a physical action).

5 - Appropriateness - is a far reaching concept. Do you really want to spend year learning to bash someone or does your training have considerable other benefits? Is the style right for you; your physical, mental and spiritual aspects. If you are a non-violent person how can a martial art help you or if you are a violent character, how can it support you in finding human and intelligent outcomes.

Plus the Shaolin Academy Iron Staff Warriors Main Principles

6 - Centerline Control - always and in every aspect of the Shaolin Art. Although this could be seen as very much the standard for most martial arts, the Shaolin Staff Defender can become almost untouchable by most any weapon if they control and manage both theirs and the opponents centerline.

7 - Distance Management - As the Shaolin Staff has a short and long encounter distance, maintaining the attacker at one or the other and then swiftly changing is a uniqueness of the Staff. If you can manage to say, keep the person at bay using long staff defence and 'allow' the attacker to sneak in, rapidly changing from Long Staff Defence to Short Staff Offense

8 - Focus on Defence - Staff Warriors are not aggressive or inclined to attacking; Shaolin Staff Warriors would seek to win the fight by allowing the attacker to beat themselves. it is a bit more difficult to do but that is the Shaolin way.

9 - Avoid the Sharp - The Shaolin Staff is not made to stop sharp blades, heavy object or metal implements; any such contact will damage the staff, no matter how solid it is. A warriors true staff is a life long tool and as such would be used in a wise and protective way not in a brutal and direct way.

10 - Notice the Small - The Staff wielders biggest single weakness are the hands on the staff, so exposed and both necessary for optimal use. As a Shaolin Staff wielder you should be hyper aware of this.... thus see the big picture but focus on the small weaknesses of your attacker.

Beyond this Point

Reading beyond this paragraph you agree to follow the instructions given on these WEB pages, in a safe and responsible way including the following rules;

  1. Do not cause harm through action or inaction if anyway possible and/or reasonable
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Only use Shaolin Skills for fitness, competition, fun, development and when needed self defence. Never initiate the course of violence. If you agree to this, please read the following also and only continue if you are in agreement with both this and the below.


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Shaolin Academy Main Focus for ALL Members - Safety

It would be difficult to achieve perfection through hard work if you constantly injured yourself in the process. The very spirit of Kung Fu is Safety and Control. What use is any exercise if it causes you pain and injury and sends messages to your brain of pain whenever you are exercising your body? Eventually you will associate health-giving exercise with pain.

Pain is nature's way of telling you that there is something wrong!!

The human body has in-built redundancy to allow us many choices which in times of threat allow us to push it way beyond its normal usage. Yet when we do this, we damage our body in some way. This is what top sports people do constantly and why we hear about knee reconstructions, shoulder injuries, ankle problems and damaged backs. We do not want this consequence arising for you when training in Shaolin Academy (Australia) materials. We choose to train in a slowly, deliberate and safe way to allow our Physical, Mental and Spiritual aspects to develop together in rhythm and harmony with each other. This is the Shaolin Way.

It is not about Risk Elimination but about Smart Risk Management!

Even in the Book of War by Sun Tsu, possibly the greatest and most quoted martial strategy book, stats;

"The good warriors first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy"

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If you wish to train the Shaolin Iron Staff; you must agree to be safe and responsible, indemnify the Academy and Instructors and follow the rules and guides as stated above. Register yourself with a $35/y reoccurring subscription with the Shaolin Academy. You will then receive Master Level support when you ask for it to help you there where you need it. Once you have subscribed you will receive confirming e-mails from both PayPal (almost immediately) and the Shaolin Academy (within 72 hours) with instructions how to proceed. And when you are ready book your for a Assessment or just a Review below at the bottom of this page.

Learning Traditional Chinese Weaponry at home!

It is in the 90's that the professional workforce became very mobile. A number of Shaolin Academy members needed to travel a lot and often missed their training. It was especially frustrating for those living in Hotels as there was enough spare time (being away from friends and family) to do training but frequent short term relocation made it virtually impossible to find local training for any meaningful period. Sijo was asked if he could tape a few classes and make these available to members for when they were traveling. And this is how the Cyber Program Started! Around the same time, Sijo was put in charge of a Engendering Development Program. Here the challenge was to inform and update Engineers of the latest developments in Telecommunications, Transmission technologies and Fibre Optics. Long story shortened, Sijo co-developed both programs using the same principles, one for Engineers and the other for Shaolin Academy members.

Since then we have added over 1000 members in around 82 different countries, but mainly US, Canada, Australia, England, China and the EU. The program has expanded to include all the Bare Hand Levels to Black Sash and around 20 different Weapon Forms. One of the reasons this works so well is the detailed description of each technique and form, not only the what and how but also the Why; why is this done and why so. SO, have a look at the Cyber Intro Video above left and the Shaolin Staff Intro Video above right. Specific training videos are below the Indemnity and Safety notices.

Traditional Chinese Weaponry Curriculum, Grading and Advancement


There are 5 parts to each of the 10 levels of the Traditional Chinese Weaponry Curriculum;

  1. Essential Warm-up - Preparation, Warm-up, Stretching.
  2. Bare Hand Skills - a minimum of Kung Fu techniques, stances and such required for each level.
  3. The Form - and you can choose which form you wish to do first.
  4. Application - is the part where you also show that you know how to use and defend against the weapon.
  5. Theory - is a written paper on an aspect of the chosen weapon style.

Each of these categories is explained below.

1 - The Essential Warm-up

Always, always, always do a full Warm-up before any form of training or sport! In almost 60 years of Martial Art experience have shown me that if you are not prepared to prepare you are not really wanting to do what you are going to do. If you do not have the time to do the preparation for what you are about to do, be it a Warm-up before training, taping and masking before painting, planing and working the wood before making a table, then you just want results without the effort of achieving a safe and superior outcome through Hard Work. As Kung Fu means (loosely) "Hard Work leading to Perfection", your Kung Fu will be 'not good' with proper preparation.

Always, Always, Always, do the Essential Warm-up, unless you are being attacked, that is the one and only exception!

2 - Bare Hand Skills

Each progressive Traditional Chinese Weaponry level has a Bare Hand requirement, independently of the Weapon you are learning. Traditionally, the progression was Staff, Broad Sword, Spear, Straight Sword and for Shaolin, one of the 4 remaining Shaolin 'Tools' (the first being the staff); Monks Lantern, Monks Spade, Walking Stick (Damo Kane) and Sash. After these 5 levels you would have a large range of other weapons for specializations from which to choose. Usually, Weaponry Training would be complimentary to your mainstream Bare Hand, Kung Fu Skills training. But now in the 21st Century, we do not always train Weaponry for Combat and Competition but also for Appreciation, Recreation and Play. So, many people are not 'bothering' with Bare Hand Skills when training Weaponry. This is not possible with the Shaolin Academy. A certain number of basic or essential Bare Hand Skills are required.

As we appreciate that we have very many experienced martial artists training with us both locally and internationally, we do not insist of the Bare Hand Skills being exactly as we suggest. We will accept your skills from other styles as long as they are related to that what we require. We have further detail on this on the Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Bare Hand Requirements page. We strongly recommend you have a look at the page if you are serious in training Shaolin Academy Traditional Chinese Weaponry.

The Iron Staff Forms and Techniques

You have a number of forms to choose from. They are listed in order of difficulty to the right side of this paragraph and we 'suggest' you start with the top most listed. That said, it is up to you as a Cyber Student to choose what works best for you! If you are a smaller, lighter, wiry person you may want to choose the Fatal Flute Form, most difficult but also the best for slender quick members.

The Staff Forms are all a series of either Techniques or Transitions. Ideally, you wish to reduce the amount of Transitions and Empty Movements in a form. At the same time you want to also know what most of the movements do and how they are executed. For this purpose, most of the relevant Shaolin Staff techniques are listed below this paragraph.

The Shaolin Kung Fu Academy Center Line Guard

Shaolin is all about Protection and Management thus after we had a review of the Bare Hand Requirements, the most important Shaolin Iron Staff Technique is the Guard!

The Main Shaolin Iron Staff Guard is held in Short Staff position, controlling the Center-line with the tip of the Guard hovering between the tip of your nose and the tip of the attackers/opponents nose. Although we work with both Long and Short Staff techniques we do not give away this by holding the Staff in Long Staff Guard (mentioned in the training Video) !

To reinforce the Video Recording statement, if you are practicing at home or indoors you may want to use a &frac23 length staff to safe fixtures and fittings. If outdoors use a proper sized staff but indoors a shorter staff is better; even for practical application. Also, start with a light Staff until you start to develop specific Staff muscles and coordination. Now click on the tile to the left and have a look at the Shaolin iron Staff Guard and Safety Posture!

Shaolin Iron Staff Chop Arcs and Chop Angles The iron Staff No1 Strike, Chop

The Number One Iron Staff Strike; The Chop

The Chop is a round movement usually covering 90 degrees of a circle but can also be between 45° and 135°. The movements are either Horizontal, Vertical or on a 45° angle. Why the exact detail? Using a Staff or any Weapon for that matter is about control and accuracy. If you can not accurately use your weapon then you are more likely to hurt yourself or a loved one than be able to protect yourself.

First a reminder; we are focusing on Shaolin Iron Staff targets and then specifically for Chops, round arc movements as explained above using the 8 different angles of approach, left, right, up, down, oblique; -left up, right up, left down and right down. Please, when training always stay within these bounds and always target your Chops at one of the numbered targets.

The Support Cast - The "3" Iron Staff Support Strikes

The Iron Staff and Moving

You need to be fairly comfortable executing techniques and moving - Forward & Backward, and Side to Side. Just for completeness sake we have included the 5 Shaolin Academy Evasion Methods of which you need to be able to do the 1st, 2nd and 5th in Shaolin Iron Staff and add the 3rd and 4th in Long Staff.

The Iron Staff Form!

This is where you have a chance to show if you have really grasped the Form, Flow, Function, Feel and Flavor of the Shaolin Iron Staff. Now that you have shown you can control the staff, move with it, twirl it and work with a partner; then it is time to show Your Staff Style, your interpretation of the Shaolin Academy #3 Staff Form the Shaolin Iron Staff.

The recording to the right is fairly extensive; Explanation, Slides, Slow-mo, and even how and why it works. The more often you look at it before training the easier it will be to remember and get it right. At the end of the recording is a bit of a show we did some time ago featuring the Shaolin Iron Staff, but only the 1st two frames than we were rained out. Soon, we may finish the unfinished recording.

Defending against the Iron Staff Bare Handed

For Shaolin, defending against an attack by an Iron Staff is really what it is all about. This is the final bit whereby you will be attacked by a partner and will show that you are able to defend against the Iron Staff Bare Handed. Not just defend but also manage the situation, which means stopping any further attacks from coming at you. As usual we have different ways for different types of people.

For 'Pro-active" people, defend and attack or Defend and Disarm; for reactive people, defend and run or defend and hold. Seems simple; choose you style by learning all four and finding out which works best for you. Don't want to sound like a broken record but Choice is also the Shaolin way, though in order to choose you way must first learn and try!

Staff V Staff Defence

Although, for Shaolin Practitioners, the Bare Hand defence against an attacking Staff is most important, you also need to be able, at this level, defend against a Staff attack with your own Staff. This does not mean Sparring or Fighting; no this means meet the attack and manage it. The key three actions are Defend (yourself), Disarm (the attacker) and Debilitate (them from further attacks). And you need to do this the first time correctly and absolutely; often you can surprise an attacker by quick, sudden and determined action; often you do not get a second chance.

So, here is where you manage an attack by another staff wielder and you don't spar ore fight with them but 'manage' the situation by Defending, Disarming and Debilitating the attacker.

Final Words

This will not make an expert out of you, or a Champion or a Warrior; but it gives you are good grounding that will enable you to specialize, if you wish, in a direction you care to take. Some have chose to enter competitions and have done well in All Styles Comps, Kung Fu Comps, Internationally and Nationally. Shaolin Academy students have even been used as action stand-in's in theater, movies, music videos and shows. We even put on a show at the Shaolin Temple in Henan China.

You may choose to want to use the style for Acting, Stage Work, Shows, Street Theater and such but it also applies for everyday life. Recognizing when you are confronted with a Tiger Style personality, you will know what you are up against, be it in the office, at a party, in the street or elsewhere. And the more you immerse yourself in the understanding of your Tiger, you will find that you are able to manage it within yourself better, both to restrain it when it will harm and to use it when appropriate. You will also learn the weaknesses of the each animal and relies that, for example, a Tiger can only be defeated by a Greater Tiger or by a mouse (and you need to work this out).

Level Review Application (and Certification)

Before you attempt the next level, ensure that everything you have learned in this level is correct. As you progress, many, many of the techniques that follow are based around, founded or along very similar principles as the ones from the 1st levels. Fix any problems and details now before you learn new techniques and carry through the errors thus doubling and tripling the effort to fix them later. And as an old and new wisdom stated "It is 5 times more difficult to fix a habit then it is to establish it!

Apply for an Official Review by the Shaolin Academy and Confirm your Skill!

Shaolin Martial Art & Self Defence Instruction & Training

Shaolin Iron Staff Grading Review

Additional Info or Request

e-mail address for report

More Question, Thoughts, Ideas Proposals and/or Suggestions (QTIPS)?

In Australia call us on 0417 5864 38 or e-mail!

Some links that might interest you....

Shaolin Kung Fu Home training/Online Training Program Some information about Shaolin Academy training & membership Shaolin Kung Fu Academy Kwoon, Training Locations in Mordialloc and Camberwell Shaolin Kung Fu levels to Red Sash which then lead to Kung F Black Sash Traditional Chinese Weaponry for Fun, Fitness and Recreations
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