The Trident (Cha) Axe
The first weapons were probably made for hunting game. Then it would be a toss-up to see if they were first used in attack or defence of a human being. Since that time, Weapons have had an ambivalent place whereby many believe they are a defensive and preventing instrument and many more believe that they are just for killing and intimidating. Which ever camp you belong to, we do not belong to either. Although we train with Weaponry, it in the mind set and spirit of the Shaolin (without needing to be Buddhists or follow any other set Philosophy or Religion). We use Weapon Training/Play for exercise, for competition, for fitness and recreation but not as a defensive or offensive instrument.
That said and done; we do seek to understand and recreate the true spirit of each Weapon; it's main purpose, it's function, how best it can be used and then how best it can be defended against using only your Kung Fu skills. And that is also a contributing factor (to the above) why we try and understand the true meaning and value of each weapon and how it can be best used and how it might have been best used in history; so to say, Walk in the Footsteps of Ancient Warriors and Masters.
That is also the reason we share this on the WEB, on these pages. Aside from making the material available for our Members to be able to practice at home and have all the relevant information available, we also do this for our Cyber Members which are spread over some 80+ different countries through out the world. About half of these, our international Members, are experienced martial artists and instructors. Some run their own Schools, Studios and Academy's; and have chosen to incorporate Shaolin Academy teachings and techniques into their own curriculum. We are honored. We even certify those schools and individuals who complete our Assessment and Review process and pass (92% pass average).
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Burmese Trident, Wushu Fork, Medieval Trident, Fishing Spears and Bronze Chinese Hunting Trident.
Pitchforks are another of the quintessential tool-weapons together with such items as Flail, Axe, Shovel and other items that may be used on a farm. Why do we mention this? Well ~90% of the world were farmers for quite a while. With the Industrial Revolution this started to change but before that most 'Civilized' countries were mainly occupied by farmers and thus with farming tools and implements. There were not enough resources for Farmers to have both good tools and weapons for protection. So, the Pitch Fork which could have two, three or even more prongs (Dung Forks had up to 10 prongs) was a common tool on the farm. Tridents, usually, as the name describes, has three prongs
Pitchforks were usually made to pick up stuff and Tridents were made to stick stuff. Where as Pitchforks would be curved like a shovel and most of the prongs of equal length, Tridents can be all over the place as far as width, prong length and prong spacing.
In principle, we can thus divide Tridents into main functions; Farmers Tool, Fishing Spear and Hunters Spear and Weapon. To understand the Trident-Axe we need to have a look at the Hunters Spear Trident and the Weapon Trident. Fishing Spears may have three prongs but are mainly used more like a Spear and Pitch Forks are Pitch forks.
Tridents are in principle Spears with multiple heads. Be it for Spearing Boar or Fish, the function is mainly the same. So why a Trident instead of a Spear? The first and most obvious advantage of a Hunting Trident is that is has 3 prongs and thus a higher chance of sticking the boor or pig, both when thrown or when rammed. It also stops the animal, when it reaches the prong cross bar, from sliding further up and possibly inflicting some damage in it's death throws. Another advantage s a weapon is that it can be used to block Swords and Staffs and other weapons because of the width of the head. The main disadvantage of the Trident is that it is heavier and more prone to sticking someone accidentally; usually the user if they are not competent enough.
On the right you have 7 Shaolin Academy Long Weapons that may look like Tridents, but only three are true Tridents. From left to right we have the Wushu Tri-Spear, (Tang) Wolf-fang (Tooth) Spear, Ghost Spear and Double Hook Spear (also available in single sided single hook spear). Then we have the three true Tridents, Tiger (Hunting) Trident, Trident-Axe and the Flying Fork (Trident). You may also come across (in Chinese Martial Arts) the Ox Head Trident (various shapes), Nine Dragon Trident (many, many versions), Cha Fork Trident (rounded and square versions). With all the Gaming Around nowadays you will find a host of fantasy Tridents but that is beyond our scope here.
The Trident-Axe, 6th from the right, is another variation on the Trident but made more as a Weapon rather than a tool or hunting spear. In reality you may look at it as a Spear combined with the Sharp Bits of a two sided Axe as the outside edges of the rounded prongs are sharp as is just the middle tip.
If you have a closer look at the image above of the Trident-Axe you will see it 'overlayed' by two battle axes to show how the curved part of the Trident-Axe approximates the Sharp Edges of the Axes. And there is good reason for this!
Battle Tanks on Horse Back
A rider on horseback was a weapon of destruction. 500kg (1100lb) of horse plus a rider with protection and weaponry was an almost impossible force to stop. The movie idea of jumping onto the horse and taking a rider down is more of a movie fancy than a reality. As long as riders were free to move, the horse trained to kick and nip and some protective padding, it was a devastating weapon of destruction. Just a few dozen of these could ride through a troop of hundred or more foot warriors and unless they had a special strategy and/or weapon, they were doomed. It was an awe inspiring experience to be charged, mowed down and injured by this Ancient version of a Battle Tank. If you did not want to loose all your foot in a single charge, you needed a counter.
Long Weapons, Shields and Spears
Long Weapons seem to be the historical answer both against charging riders on horse as well as charging foot soldiers. Organized spear men interlinked behind shield and reinforced by archers can usually do some real damage to charging horses. Arrow will find legs, eyes and other exposed areas and if not always kill the charge, they slow it down and lessen the impact.
Long spears, up to 3 meters long (14 foot) pointed at the charging horse, aimed to go through the neck of the horse into the rider behind it was very devastating, especially if the rider did not know of this strategy. The spear would be invisible because of the horses neck and the next thing the rider knows is a spear coming from the back of the horses neck into him. This would usually damage the rider enough to stop them but also damage the Spear Wielder if they did not have back-up and shielding. great for the defenders, not so good for the individual soldier holding the spear and having a horse and rider fall on them, possibly still swinging a sword or ball and chain mace.
A Spear Shield was not always the best solution as once it came to close quarter combat, the long spear were useless. In a highly organized army (Alexander the Great for example or the Romans) this was a good solution but required a lot of individual and group training. Not always possible especially if you were the defender and needed to use farmers and such for defence. It would be much easier to train individuals to use a speciality weapon than it would to give them structured group training. And not every army used the Long Spear strategy, some never discovered it. It was also bad when the Horse Cavalry was aware of this defence and used it against the defenders; with a two pronged attack, a blitz strike with the Light Horse from the side totally disorganizing any forward organization and then the heavy cavalry from the front to mow the disorganized defenders down.
Having specialized and secret weapons with which you were able to surprise the oncoming invaders (or defenders) was always a key in War Strategy. Bigger, Stronger, Badder weapons meant to give you an edge over your enemy was always a good compliment to a good strategy (never a replacement) and sometimes were the main strategy of surprise. Many specialist and odd weapons were developed to deal with Horsed Attackers against foot. The most successful of these was the Halberd and Ge.
There are many shapes of Halberd. The two pictured above to the left were just the right combination of a Spear and Grappler. Spear to penetrate into the attacker, but not too far as to loose your grip on the weapon, and a grappling bit to pull the rider off their horse if you had the help of one or two more soldiers with grapplers (figure 1). Some of these also had a Axe Shaped attachment allowing (figure 2) for three different action, Spear the Attacker when they are charging, chop at them when they are passing and grapple them to the ground when there are a few people to do this together.
Some History of the Trident
Korea seems to have more of a Trident history than China. The only know (to us) record of a Trident being used in warfare in China was during the Ming Dynasty but that is very sketchy. Tridents are used in Chinese costume dramas and theatrical shows. Yet, that needs also have a root somewhere; possibly from Korea but possibly also not. There are two further references to trident training and usage as a tool of war.
China around 200 BCE had seen 300 years of tumult. This period in Chinese history is known as the age of the “Warring States”. Many people died and generals/leaders were often of humble origin, commanding massed ranks of infantry and cavalry of even more humble origins as farmers, beggars and anyone else who could be pressed into the ranks. Weapons used were what you could get after 300 years of strife. Some records show 5 hand held weapons; Axe (Fu), Helbard-Grapple (ge), Spear(ji), Staff (bang) and Trident (Cha) together with the Shield (Dun) and Crossbows (Nu).
Although the idea of "The 18 Weapons" of martial arts is most likely a Hong Kong Cinema inventions, there is another reference to the 18 Weapons of Warefare from the n the late Ming Dynasty during Wanli Emperor's reign (1572-1620), Xie Zhaozhi in Volume Five of his book Wu Za Zu (Five Varied Groups) writes: "the Eighteen Weapons are Bow, Crossbow, Spear, Saber, Sword, Throwing Spear, Shield, Axe, Deer-horn Knives, Halberd (Ge?), Whip, Mace, Talon, Staff, Fork (Trident?), Rake, Rope & Lariat and Bai Da (hand to hand combat or close range combat) (unverified).
Tiger Spears were used by the Tiger Spear Division of the Manchu banner armies. They originated from a type of Jurchen hunting spear that was used in Manchuria and Siberia to hunt the great Siberian Tiger, and most of the peoples that later would be united under the name "Manchu" were in fact Jurchen. The Jurchens were hunters pur sang that did not develop any agriculture until as late as the 16th century but instead relied mostly on hunting, gathering (Hunters & Gatherers) and the trade in animal derativates and ginseng to neighboring people that included Russians, Koreans and Chinese.
After the conquest of China the Manchus held close to their hunting traditions in an attempt to uphold their traditional (Jurchen) culture of mounted hunters / warriors. This is reflected in their vast array of specialized hunting arrows, and the appearance of their tiger spear design listed among Chinese weapons in official texts. It has a head that resembled other spears in use at the time, with the difference that its head was somewhat wider to do more damage, as there was no need to penetrate clothes and armor. Another difference was that it has two horn bars attached to cords right after the head. The purpose of these bars is to prevent the spear from penetrating too deep, and thus preventing the beast to reach the wielder.
It is disappointing but that is all we have. At this point any historical information about any Chinese Trident would be most. welcome.
The Trident has a lot of symbolic meaning both in Western and Eastern culture. Aside from Greek Mythology we have many who use the symbolism from Weapons Manufacturers to Insurance Agencies, Computers to Tyre Centers and so on. In Oriental World we have the Trident in Shiva's Hand, as Dangpa in Korean Martial Arts and is often use in Chinese Plays. Yet, all said and done as a real weapon of war there seems to be very little account. Hunting and Fishing, plenty but as a Weapon of War, very little. And, in a way, this is good.
If you choose to take up the Trident as your weapon it will not be for reasons of war and killing but for training, appreciation and dam good workout. Because of it's in balanced nature it will make you work on your posture and stances, improve your core strength and balance whilst it is giving you a good Cardio-vascular workout and muscle development. In a way, once you have learned the control of the Trident and can do the form, it is a better workout than Gym, Aerobics and Yoga thrown together. So, choose this weapon for the right reasons, your health and well-being, and an appreciation of the skills of past masters of the art.
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy Main Focus - 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!!
First Things (always) First
It seems that there are always obstacles to overcome before you get to the good bit. The same problem here; before you get to the Shaolin Training Material, we need to tell you about a few essential skills and habits you need to acquire. The two most important are your Warm-up and preparation before any sort of training. You also need to learn some essential Bare Hand Kung Fu Skills before you try this weapon. Even if you think you know the techniques, try them out the way we ask you to do them. The Shaolin Style is an integrated system where one skill builds on another and crosslink's with everything other! to below are the Minimum Required Bare Hand and Stance Skills you need to be able to perform before you commence your Trident Axe training.
The 9 Tests of the Axe-Trident (Trident-Axe) Warrior
The 1st Test - Bare Hand Skills
Below is a list of the Bare Hand Skills required to safely and correctly learn the use of the Shaolin Trident-Axe. It is a fairly standard curriculum mostly equal to the 1st Level of Shaolin Kung Fu training sans the Punches. Ideally though you would want to be 2nd Level or even a 3rd Level Martial Artist to commence the Trident-Axe training. That said, check you skills against the requirements in the 1st Test just below. To be Shaolin Accredited you need to complete all 9 tests. These need not be done all at the same time but each test needs to be done at the one time without interruptions to the test or the recording.
2nd Test - Foundation, Endurance & Patience
The DD Warrior needs to be able to patiently wait for the right moment, the perfect time to explode into action. This requires a solid stance and strong arms. The first test is to stand 10 minutes on a medium Horse Stance with a Trident-Axe in Guard or.....
Test 2 - Record yourself performing a 10 minute Stance Horse without interruptions and with a Trident-Axe in your hands; either as Sijo Demonstrates to the right or in Golden Bridge Position. Refrain from any movement, twitching, etc., If there are any interruptions or movement, start again or do the test another time.
3nd Test - Long Weapon Techniques (Recording available soon)
Test 3 - Record yourself performing a each of the 9 techniques 10 times from the front and 10 times from the side. It would be best if you had a target you are using, a Wooden Dummy, Tree, Chair or some such. But at no time should you strike or touch the object you are using. If you do and it is on record you will automatically fail this test. Also, target the techniques at the right area (as nominated above), as if the attacker was you size and hight.
Test 4 - Control & Safety
In Shaolin Control and Accuracy are the key and most important. The ability to control you weapon and NOT hit an object is the 4th Test in most any Weapon. For this you need a large object that is safe to train with as a target. We use Watermelons as they are inexpensive (in case you make a mistake) and easy to come by but any large vegetable or fruit is suitable for demonstrating and practice. Some suggestions are other Melons, Pumpkin, Grape Fruit, Pineapple, Eggplant, etc. Just as long as there is a clear and fairly smooth surface to aim at, Lettuce and Cabbage are not good for this. In times gone by clay pots and urns may have been used but using vegetables and fruit is safer and cheaper;
Test 4 - Record yourself performing a each of the 5 techniques in one uninterrupted recording; even when moving the camera, keep it running. Should you hit the object or even just touch it, restart from the beginning. Make sure that you record in a well lit area without back light interference and close enough that we can give you appropriate feedback.
Test 5 - Accuracy and technique
Now that you have shown that you can control the Trident-Axe can you use it with accuracy you will show us how accurate you can be. No, you will not be hitting anything. You may have to be bit inventive or imaginative to complete this task
Test 5 - Record yourself performing a each of the 5 techniques in one uninterrupted recording, etc. What to do should be fairly clear by now.
The 6th Test - Drills
A form is the essence of the style of bare hands or weaponry. It is a good workout as well as containing many actual and principled aspects of the style. Drills on the other hand are meant to be practical, applicable and usable short routines that work in a real situations. With the Trident, you do not really parry and block but you Avoid and Thrust, Avoid and Thrust, and Thrust some more. You do not get into protracted duels; each encounter should be finished almost as soon as it began. The following 5 routines introduce you to the concept
Test 6 - Record yourself performing a each of the 5 drills in one recording. Record 4 times each routine, recording twice from the side and twice from the front except Drill 1 which you need only record once for 5 seconds or more.!
Test 7a - Record yourself demonstrating the Shaolin Iron Staff Form showing the right moves, in the correct direction with adequate control. If need be at Tai Chi speed. We teach techniques and forms and once you have learned these and given your body, mind and spirit time to adapt than you can start working on Speed and Power.
Test 7b - Record yourself demonstrating the Red Eagle Spear Form showing the right moves, in the correct direction with adequate control. If need be at ... et.al.
Test 7c - Record yourself demonstrating the Duan Da Dao, Long Handled Broad Sword Form showing the right moves, in the correct direction with adequate control.
Test 7d - Record yourself demonstrating the Mad Monk Axe Form Form showing the right moves, in the correct direction with adequate control.
Test 7e - Finally record yourself demonstrating the Trident Axe Form showing the right moves, in the correct direction with adequate control. Ensure that all recordings are in a well lit place, with no back light and recorded twice, once from the side and once from the front without interruptions to the recording. The completion of this automatically qualifies you for the Shaolin Academy Weaponry Red Sash and together with accredited Teacher Training you can be qualified as a Shaolin Academy Weaponry instructor for this stream!
8th Test - Theory/Knowledge
For the theory/knowledge component you need to write an essay of between 1000 and 1500 words, or about 3 to 5 pages. The topic is the the Trident, any Trident in history or event where Tridents were significant or anything like that.
There are many sources of information on Tridents and many cultures that have featured it in one way or another. Including the Greek god Poseidon, and his Roman equivalent, Neptune. The Hindu god Shiva is also sometimes depicted carrying a Trident. Tridents have been discovered to have existed as far back as the Neolithic Area (Stone Age which is divided into Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic 9,000 BCE to around 2000 BCE) which gives you a large range of materials to choose from.
Choose something that adds to the interest and information on the Trident and it may be added to this page with you as the Author. But what ever you do make it interesting to read and have good sourcing material (tell us where you sourced your info and data from)!
9th Test - Choice
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