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Introduction to Traditional Chinese Weaponry

What is made for death and protection is used for life & fitness!

On this Page

We introduce you to the concept of Traditional Chinese Weaponry, how it fits in with Shaolin Buddhist Principles and why it is a good idea to compliment you martial art training through Traditional Weapons Form practice. Towards the bottom of the page we also introduce some specifics including the basic 1st four weapons and at the very bottom we have links to a whole host of weaponry forms, styles and routines. Also there are links to other Weaponry and Kung Fu related pages.

Preamble

It is interesting to note how the Shaw Brother movies of the 70's and 80's influenced martial arts, especially some of the more violent and gory films. Although the Shaw Brother productions took inspiration in legend and mythology, they were very liberal with the facts and detail. Especially the depiction of Shaolin Monks and Shaolin Influence in Chinas history had almost nothing to do with reality.

Rumors have it that when China wanted Wushu (Kung Fu) included in the 2008 Olympics one of the sticking points for the Olympic Committee was the violent depiction of Wushu in Cinemas! Interestingly enough it was the American serial production "Kung Fu" from the 1970's with David Carradine† that captured the Shaolin Buddhist Spirit more accurately.

Brief Account of the Evolution of Shaolin Exercise

Shaolin was built around 497 CE as a Chinese Buddhist Temple by and Indian Buddhist Priest. Rigorous exercises were introduced some 40 years later to help with the health and fitness of resident monks. These were initially based on Yoga and were very similar to what we would call Chi Kung and Tai Chi today. Yet, after only some 40 year of existence, the temple was destroyed and the monks scattered in an anti Buddhist upheaval. It took another 30 years before Shaolin was rebuilt and reoccupied. It was also decided that a select group of monks would learn how to defend the temple and monks from warlords, bandits and such. Thus cam to be Shaolin Kung Fu or Shaolin Martial Arts.

Shaolin Weapons?

The 5 Shaolin Tools

There is no such thing as Shaolin Weapons! Not 18, not 144, not any. The principles of Buddhism suggest that any harm you do will come back on you and prevent you from becoming one with Buddha in this life. Without going into great detail, Shaolin determined that the only way to apply their martial art was by using their Bare Hand Skills and Evasion; including against weaponed attacks (in some Chinese martial art movies you will note how the hero will disarm an opponent and throw the weapon away rather than use it back against the person). To be able to do this successfully and without causing harm to the weaponed attacker they needed to learn all about Weapons. Thus, in the confines of the Temple they trained many, many weapons both for exercise and to attack each other and learn how to defend against these weapons. In no way would they ever use these weapons outside the temple and be able to remain Shaolin!

Yet, Shaolin, like any other self-sustaining organizations, had it's own specific tools of the trade. Items which were used in day to day life but which also were adapted for use as defensive items. There are 5 of these; The Walking Staff and the Walking Stick, The Monks Lantern and the Monks Spade, and the Sash. You can find more on these items in our 5th Weapon group, not-Weapons.

The (Shaolin) Buddhist Precepts

Although we at the Shaolin Academy do not follow any particular religion and have students from many religions, we do seek to follow the 5 precepts when training our Kung Fu, Bare-Hand and Weaponry.

  1. To undertake the precept of refraining from destroying, harming or hurting living creatures.
  2. To undertake the precept of refraining from taking that which is not given.
  3. To undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct and any negative discrimination.
  4. To undertake the precept to refraining from incorrect speech and misdirection through action, word or silence.
  5. To undertake the precept to refraining from intoxicating drinks and drugs which can lead to carelessness or influence judgment unless medically prescribed.

We expect our students to be aware of these precepts and adhere to them when training Shaolin Kung Fu or in the Shaolin Academy uniform. These are in line with most religions and safe human practices. We ask all our students to agree to be Safe, Legal, Honorable, Equal and add to the enjoyment of training Shaolin Kung Fu.

This extend explanation is to show the real reason that Shaolin learnt the use of Traditional Chinese Weaponry. Not to use this weaponry against human beings but to learn the use of weaponry to understand, what is possible, with each weapon, and what limitations each weapon is subject to and how it can be overcome bare handed. Thus they can learn the most efficient way to successfully and safely (for all) defend against weaponed attackers without the need to do the attackers undue harm.

You may have noted this action in some Chinese Kung Fu movies when the bare handed attacker captures a weapon and instead of using it against the person who attacked them, throw it to the ground and continue to defend themselves bare handed.

What are Cold Weapons?

Cold weapons are 'non-explosive' weapons; items that predominately rely on the skill, strength, speed, accuracy and targeting of the wielder and are usually made for one-on-one engagements. Explosive weapons are anything the need a spark or light to work such as pistols, guns, cannons, rockets, bombs and the-like (Records suggest that Chinese inventors had land torpedo's and rockets almost 1000 years ago). The Shaolin Academy weapon training is limited to Cold or non-explosive weapons.

Initially, traditionally, the first 4 weapons taught are;

  1. The Heavy (Shaolin Iron) Staff. also called the Father of all weapons as most every weapon has an aspect of the staff.
  2. The (Tiger) Broad Sword, also called the Martial of all Weapons; as the curved sword is uneatable the most prolific of all swords
  3. (Red Eagle) Spear, also called the "King of all weapons" as when correctly wielded, it is almost unbeatable.
  4. (Wudang) Straight Sword, also called "The Lord of all weapons" as it requires a high degree of stile and learning to master.

When these 4 a learned then the student is open to choose almost any other Weapon Form to learn. The bracketed information are the specific weapon styles we learn at the Shaolin Academy; we chose these for the greatest variety of experience.

What good is Traditional Weapon Training Today

The short answers;

  1. Performance Arts, Theater, Movies, Stage, et. al.
  2. Historical Recreations & Interest
  3. Street Defence & Application of non lethal defence
  4. Workout, fitness with weights
  5. and just for the fun of it.

Although there are many stringent laws prohibiting the carrying and usage of weapons, there are still a lot of 'incidents' that involve people being hurt by items used as weapons. Although Guns are still rampant and unnecessary for anyone other than Law Enforcement incidental weapons such as sticks, clubs, knives, bottles and such everyday items are more likely to be encountered by normal human beings. Thus the most common and easily obtainable items, ones that can not easily be named illegal as they are also tools and food processing implements (unless carried concealed and found by the police) are bats and clubs, slicks and walking sticks, knives and sharp knife like objects, hammers, hatchets and axes. Although many countries have laws against carrying these and severer punishments when caught, this is of little consequence if you are down bleeding on the footpath. Yet, most people will not normally be in a situation where they are confronted with such violence so the 2nd reason for weaponry training is actually our first and main reason.

Learning Traditional Weaponry for Fitness, Recreation and Appreciation is the main aim of the Shaolin Academy. Have a look at the recording to the right for an idea of the Weapons Training we do in class at the Shaolin Academy.

But there is another reason for training Traditional Chinese Weaponry. These apparatus are for us what weights and other equipment is for Gyms. They are weights that require more strength and a greater balance to be correctly welded. Weaponry training broadens your perspective on Body Awareness and Hand-Eye Coordination.

Another Reason for Weaponry Training

Many movies are being made in places other than the US. Many US companies are looking to Australia for better working conditions, less expensive production costs and easier working conditions. The three sequences of Matrix was a fully, in Sydney Australia made movies. Other movies like the Man from Hong Kong, several Jacky Chan movies were all made in Australia with Australian Martial Art talent. Often though, the movies are no martial art based but still require fight stunt person. Although many martial arts are good, the variety and richness of Shaolin Kung Fu makes it one of the ideal styles to be able to adapt to most any situation!

But movies are not the only show opportunity. Stage, Steer Theater, Armature Production, Short Movies, Commercials, Street Feasts and even Corporate Events, Private Functions and Product Launches have used martial art actors to enhance the event.

Prologue

Simply put, as an art that has developed with the human race over millennia, martial arts is the original physical exercise that was developed by the winners, victors and successful person not by commerce or theory. Successful warriors know how to calm themselves, know the importance of a strong posture and bearing, the value of avoiding conflict but not being afraid of it. Together with all the strategy and tactics that developed of many, many years, kung fu and martial arts are the most comprehensive method for an all around, well balanced exercise without need to go into battle.



Martial Arts is not artificially and theoretically developed; it was developed by the survivors, winners and victors.
Fortunately, we can benefit from these without ourselves ever needing to put our lives on the line!




The Four that turn to be the Many

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

Shaolin Iron Staff - Father of all Weapons

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

The (Tiger) Broad Sword - The Marshal of all Weapons

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!


The (Red Eagle) Spear - The King of all Weapons

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 5 Animal 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.

The (Wudang) Straight Sword - Lord of all Weapons

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.

Summary

It is generally accepted by most traditional styles that an all around Kung Fu practitioner need be familiar with the basic 4 weapons both in using them and defending against them bare handed. Yet, we are no longer in a time where we are very likely to be attacker by a Spear Wielding Brigand. So, the motivation for learning Traditional Weaponry is more esoteric. Yet, again, the modern world has a lot of use for the Ancient Skills, for Movies and Shows, Historical Recreations and Appreciation and one of the most important, for Health and Fitness!

Rather than playing with dumbbells and weights, grab a Quandao and learn an ancient form of usage. Not only do you get a great workout, but you also acquire a skill. Both something for the mind and body! What a juxtapositions turning instruments that were once for death into instruments for Health, Recreation and Life!

Beyond this Point

You have three choices;

  1. There is more general info about the 5 Types of Weapon under the heading 'Weapon Types' (just below)
  2. We have video recording and often whole histories and stories of individual weapons just a bit lower down under 'Specific Weaponry Forms and Styles'.
  3. Finally, at the bottom we have links to Weaponry History, Advantages of Training Weaponry and more including a WARNING!

Dealers Choice!



5 Weapon Types Information

Below this is a full listing or Shaolin Academy Weaponry forms as we have them on Video. Just below are overview pages about the topic of Chinese Cold Weapons though each has a full Shaolin Academy Weapons Forms Recording Links at the bottom as well as links to other Shaolin Academy and Weaponry pages.

Shaolin Academy Blunt & Impacting Weapons
Impact and Trauma
 Shaolin Academy Cutting & Piercing Weapons
Cutting, Stabbing and Chopping
Shaolin Academy Projectile and Thrown Weapons
Flying Weapons
Shaolin Academy Flexible & Whipping Weapons
Flexible and Hidden Weapons
Shaolin Academy Shaolin and Not-Weapons
Tools and Objects

Shaolin Academy Weapon Training Forms

If you are more interested in the specific Weaponry Forms, just below is everything we have recorded at this time. Feel free to browse through!

Long Weapon Styles
Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Shaolin Iron Staff Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The Sun and Moon Saber Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The 'Bar Guest's' Chair Defence Form Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Fatale Flute, Whipping Staff Form Traditional Chinese Weaponry Recreational Routine, The Thief and the Vagabond, a staff duel Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Red Eagle Spear Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Ghost Spear
Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The 'Bar Guest's' Chair Defence Form Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The Sun and Moon Saber Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Tiger Trident Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Shaolin Monk's Spade Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The 1st of the Wood Chopping Long Axe Forms, Mad Monk Axe Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Duan Da Dao, Long Handled Broad Sword Kwan Dao, Yan Yie Dao, Quan Dao the Polearm of General Gwan Yu, the Red Faced General
Short Weapon Styles
Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Shaolin Tiger Broad Sword Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The 'Bar Guest's' Chair Defence Form Kwan Dao, Yan Yie Dao, Quan Dao the Polearm of General Gwan Yu, the Red Faced General Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The Confusing Whilring Dancing Chinese Broad Sword Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Wudang Straight Sword Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Two Handed Chinese Battle Broad Sword Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Twin Broad Sword Form Hawk Wings
Unique Weapon Styles
Traditional Chinese Weaponry, The 'Bar Guest's' Chair Defence Form Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Shaolin Monk's Spade Traditional Chinese Weaponry, Deceptive/Drunk Walking Stick Martial Art Weapon Skills, the Alimunium Ladder
Show & Student Demonstration Forms
Traditional Chinese Weaponry Recreational Routine, The Thief and the Vagabond, a staff duel Traditional Chinese Weaponry Recreational Routine, The Thief and the Vagabond, a staff duel Traditional Chinese Weaponry Recreational Routine, The Thief and the Vagabond, a staff duel Traditional Chinese Weaponry Recreational Routine, The Thief and the Vagabond, a staff duel

More Info

We are happy to hear from you and answer you martial art, health and developmental questions. If you wish to train with us, the first 3 sessions are free. It is best to try these before making any commitment. If you have any other questions or would lust like to explore some possibilities, you can;

On this WEB site you will find information about quite a number of Kung Fu Styles, Systems and Techniques as well as complete Style Training Programs (Cyber Training). The Colored Tiles Below are direct links to the pages with the Information and training. The Grayed-out Tiles are the Programs, Styles and Information we are still working on bringing to the WEB. If there is anything in particular you are interested in, let us know; we may have some info on the topic. Write to us at Shaolin Academy; Thank you - Sijo Robert Z

Links to other interesting Shaolin Kung Fu pages.

Shaolin Kung Fu Academy, Mordialloc and Camberwell, Bayside, Victoria, Australia Shaolin Kung Fu Academy, Mordialloc and Camberwell, Bayside, Victoria, Australia Shaolin Kung Fu, What is it Shaolin Kung Fu, What is it Shaolin Kung Fu, What is it Shaolin Kung Fu, What is it Shaolin Kung Fu home training Shaolin Kung Fu home training