You will find an overview on Traditional Chinese (Cold) Weaponry; the principle 4 Weapons, a description of these as well as an intro to the 5 Weapon Family's. A bit further down is a feature on the Shaolin Red Eagle Spear in the form of a Techniques Listing and a Video. Towards the bottom of the page is an Interesting Weapons Game as well as links to a comprehensive Weapon History and the Weapon Family's. Enjoy.
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. These 4 primary Weapons, that everyone should learn before attempting anything else in weaponry are;
Heavy Staff also known as the Father of All Weapons due to the fact that it is mainly a very long wooden handle and that most any weapon will have some aspect of the Staff within it, even thrown knives but not say Thrown Stars.
Broad/Curved Sword - also know as the Marshal of all Weapons as it is the most popular of all cold weapons (non explosive) weapon types used in ware fare as in Martial conflicts.
Spear also referred to as the King of all Weapons as it is a very difficult weapon to over come and army's who had a trained spear force usually were very successful.
Straight Sword titled also as the Lord of all Weapons as it is the one requireing the most skill to learn to be efficient but than also is the most lethal both in one on one and army type wars.
The Shaolin Gun/Cudgel owes its reputation to its use as a tool for many purposes. It is a Walking Staff, Load Carrying on 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 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 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.
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 and use Strength and Force.
Shaolin do not use weapons against other human beings but they are prepared to be attacked by weaponed attackers. For this reason they need to learn and train the use of weapons before the learn and train how to defend against these weapons effectively. By learning to defend against these 4 fundamental weapons, you will have a good grasp of defending against 80% of Cold Weapons and in reality to 95% of possible weaponed attacks. But this in now way represents anything other than a fraction of the Weapons developed and used over Chinas history. It would be almost impossible to list them all and probably also futile. But you can gain a better understanding of Traditional Weapons if you understand their basic functions, possibilities and limitations. Below you can explore Traditional Chinese Weapons based on the 5 Functions of Cold or non-explosive weapons.
At last count we were able to list well over 500 unique Traditional Chinese Weapons and believe this was not even half. But you can achieve an understand of many of these weapons if you understand them as a group and function not as an individual item. Below is a summary of these 5 Groups and Links to more extensive listing and Explanations.
Most anything can be used for Pounding, Hammering and Bludgeoning but in essence there are just two forms, either a Stick or a Weighted Stick like a Club or Hammer. Even the English Claymoor was not really a Sword for Cutting but a very heavy stick to dent the knights armor. Of course you can also have a rock and a chair, but as far a specific weapons go it is usually a Staff and a Staff with a Ball, Hammer or some-such not sharp, at the end of it. In the Western world these items are often strong symbol be it Thor's Hammer or the Queens Scepter with Cross or the Pharaohs Crook.
There is a full curriculum for the Shaolin Staff with all techniques presented and explained. Just click on the following blue text, Shaolin Iron Staff page and you will be taken there..
Swords would possibly have the greatest variety and are considered the most usable of weapons. There is a great variety of these with Long Swords, Straight Sword, Curved Swords, two handed Swords, Inverted Swords, Sword Breakers, Long Handled Swords, Swords on the end of Staffs (Kwan Dao) and Axes.. But in reality there are only three types in this category if you bring it down to the fundamentals. Swords that Cut and Slice (Curved Swords), Swords that Stab and Pierce (Straight Swords), and Chopping Swords and Axes (Executioners Swords and Axes). Of these though we have a great variety of sizes; blade lengths, single or two handed, curved, straight or jagged, on the end of a stick (Spear Like) or even double ended. Yet all said and done they either Cut, Stab or Chop as a group.
There is a full curriculum for Broad Sword and Straight Sword with all techniques presented and explained. Just click here on the following blue text Shaolin Curved Blades page or the Spear & Straight Sword page to be taken there.
If you are strong enough you can throw a horse so, theoretically, most any object can be used as a thrown weapon. But on this page we focus on those weapons that were specifically made to be projected in some way, like the simple Sling Shot, Blow Pipe and the Bolos! Many require a great skill to use them and some like the Bow and Arrow have been very prominent in Cold War history. Their great advantage is that you can get your enemy from a distance but in just the same way they have their disadvantages. If you miss, your own arrow may be coming back to kill you, or that thrown dagger fill find it's way back into a fellow warrior! That said, this group is all about Shot, Thrown and Blown and includes Catapults!
Here we speak of Weapons that are flexible like the Whip or 9 Section Staff or made to be hidden. And there are some ingenious ways of hiding weapons. We all can imagine the usual of a blade hidden in an object =like a walking stick or umbrellas but the ingenuity does not stop there. Sword so flexible but still usable that they are worn like a belt. Wall decorations representing Chinese Fortune symbols hung on walls, made of steel and in reality are sharp edged weapons hidden in plain sight. hair needles, fans with sharp edges and fingernail extensions with poison tips. A most fascinating group of Weapons hardly fully explored!
There is a full curriculum for Short Weapons with all techniques presented and explained. Just click here on the following blue text Shaolin Short Weapons page to be taken there.
Modern movies have used a great variety of weapons in films from an ashtray to a Credit Card. So most anything that is not officially a weapon or listed previously (like axe, knife and such) falls in this group. And here two there are two distinct parts; Tools and Every-Day-items. Tools like a Pitch Fork, Flail, Scythe and the like and of course everyday items which is most anything else that is not classified as a weapon in the normal sense of the word.
Shaolin had 5 such tools that they would train in depending on their station in life and age. These were the Monks Staff for Traveling, Monks Spade for earning a keep, Monks Lantern for walking at night, Damo Cane for the elder to support their legs and of course the Humble Sash. Some consider the bench to be part of this but that is unlikely. Anyone traveling in the day where journey were by foot would be traveling as light as possible and not with a bench.
Boxes, boxes and more boxes. Well yes, that is th way to order your cloths and your thoughts. Socks in one draw, underwear in another, shirts in a third. Much in the same way the above groups can be used to understand how these weapons can be used against us and how to defend against them. We may need to add another 6th group, called Hot Weapons but that is beyond the purview of a Traditional Kung Fu school who teaches the way of the Peacefully Warrior. Using guns or trying to defend against them as a private citizen is too dangerous. For professionals maybe but not for a Lifestyle art like the Shaolin Kung Fu Academy!
Please note - In Victoria Australia quite a number of weapons are deemed illegal to own, carry or sell. Below is a quick list, but please click on the link above to access the official Victoria Police PDF on this subject. And if any doubts or questions please visit the Victoria Police - Our Services - Weapons WEB page.
Following is an indication of the type of weapons prohibited; visit the Police Web Site for details; Acoustic anti-personnel device, Article concealing a weapon, Ballistic knife, 'Baton-chucks' and 'Bo-chucks' (or similar device), Blow gun, Blow gun dart (or similar device), Butterfly knife, Butterfly sword, Canisters discharging capsicum spray, Canisters discharging other harmful sprays, Catapult, Cat o'nine tails with knotted lashes, 'Chinese Whip', 'whip spear', 'seven-piece iron chain', 'nine-piece iron chain', Bian Tzu Chiang' and 'Lien Tzu Chiang' (or similar device), Crossbow, Dagger, Dart projector, Double-end knife, Electric current emitting device, Extendable baton, Flail (or similar article), Flick knife, Hunting sling or slingshot, Imitaiton firearm (longarm or handgun), Kama (or similar device), 'Kasari-Fundo', Kusari-Fundo' and 'Manrikigusari' (or similar device), Knuckle-duster, Knuckle knife, Kubotan (or similar device), Laser pointer, Mace (or similar article), 'Ninja climbing claws', 'ninja hand claws' and 'ninja foot claws' (or similar device), Non-metal/ceramic knife 'Nunchaku' (or similar device), Push knife (or similar device), Retractable sheath knife, Sai or jitte, Shark Dart (or any other similar device), Slingshot, 'Shoge', 'ninja Kyokeysu-Shoge' and 'Kyotetsu Shoge' (or similar device), Studded glove, 'Suan Ywe Gou' (or similar device), Sword, Throwing blade, 'Throwing star', 'Tonfa', Trench knife (or similar device), Weighted glove, Whip with metal lashes.
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