Martial Arts Tools for Self-Discovery
Sifu Josh Schafer, 2004
Josh Schafer Is pictured here in a performance of the form: 5th Son Staff (Ng
Long Gwan) at a Martial
Arts Tournament benefitting Chinese flood victims. The event was held at the Chinese Cultural Centre in
the heart of historic Chinatown, in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
had the good fortune of being introduced to the challenging
and rewarding practice of martial arts at a relatively young
As a direct consequence of this, throughout my life I have continually received
the collateral benefits of balance, focus, strength, coordination,
discipline, and flexibility, all of which have positively
impacted on many aspects of my existence.
However, I feel that
no component of my martial arts training has given me as much
pleasure or challenged me both physically and mentally as
much as that of weapons training.
It is no exageration to say that all of the styles of kung fu contain a component of training with weapons. At the simplest level, the martial artist attempts to forge his hands and feet into blades. Beyond that, a strategic fighter is continuously interacting with their environment and seeking a tactical advantage over their 'enemy' with any available object.
Weaponry provides an infinite advantage over open-hand techniques in that the weapon-wielder may strike a contested blow and absorb no damage while simultaneously inflicting pain and possibly death to their opponent. In essence, "A Flawless Victory!"
However, a weapon can also defeat its wielder.
During battle, one must be careful not to 'over-focus' on one's weapon or one will risk being overcome by a faster opponent who has solid defensive skills. Such an enemy will avoid, parry, and neutralize, waiting for their opportunity, and then will strike in the opening that an over-focused individual will create. Like having a blind-spot in which one cannot detect the approach of a strike.
In agreement with
many of the other martial artists with whom I have had conversations
over the years, I consider weapons training to be one of
the most challenging aspects and the highest level of my
martial arts experience.
To some martial artists, the idea of training in Modern times with Ancient Chinese Weapons may seem pointless
or anachronistic. It is my opinion, however, that there are many benefits on
a variety of levels to be gained from such practice.
The preservation of techniques which evolved from a bygone era adds a deeper component to ancient-weapons practice. When a weapon from the past is handled with strong mind-body-spirit connection it is as if the wielder is speaking an ancient and devastating language. The fluidity and ferocity of weapons play can stun the eye of a novice observer. To a knowledgeable observer, though, there is such a depth and complexity that there are many aspects to admire. At a demonstration of "Masters" there will be many heads nodding while "knowing smiles" creep upon thoughtful faces.
fact, training with each individual weapon-type may offer an
enhancement to different martial arts "skill sets"
and provide insights into a variety of aspects of body mechanics
or kinesiology. Every weapon has something to offer its master, and each kind of weapon may appeal to a different student.
aspects of weapons training are:
- the benefit of muscular (upper body in particular)
strengthening and conditioning;
- a deeper challenge to
one's physical coordination and stamina; and
- the expansion of one's
"self-defense strategy-set" in the event of being confronted by an adversary with
a weapon in a conflict situation,
The chance that one might, during combat, capture the enemy's weapon dictates that studying all 18 classes of weapons is a good idea in order to be ready to handle anything that one might encounter in battle.
Importantly, in the modern day as in the past, any weapon - including such objects as a tree branch,
broom, tire-iron, key-ring, or even a handful of dirt - can provide an important
equalization factor in the skilled hands of a smaller-weaker
person, even against a much taller and stronger assailant.
Many of the older kung fu forms sets contain a special movement which embodies this concept of improvisation. This movement is often referred to as "Throwing the Coins", or "Throwing Change". In this posture of the form the practitioner stands in a cat stance, reaches behind their back with a palm hand positioned flat against the lumbar spine region, and then flings their arm out and forward into a high hand, palm-outward, hanging-arm position. This simulates reaching into one's waistband to throw an improvised weapon at an assailant's face while simultaneously delivering a lower-body kick.
The 'cat-stance kick' is typically hidden in the praying mantis traditional method of playing forms. In some branches of mantis, the kick is hidden in a seven-star stance position, rather than a cat-stance.
my initial martial arts school, weapons
were integrated at the very first level. in the white belt
novice class, we often trained basic techniques through
repetetive motion with weapons. Straight punch after
straight punch would be thrown with the instructor admonishing
that we extend our fists out 'straight' and bring them back
Simple enough instructions, perhaps. However, many
novices would continue to waver, and wobble, and shoulder-raise,
and angle their fists in an incorrect manner. Nothing quite brought the message
home as clearly as when our teacher would tell us to go
to the weapons closet and return with two sai (three pointed
knife) each. Upon repetition of this drill with weapons
in hand we would see and feel more clearly the angling and
wobbling as it was emphasized by the point of our sai.
as important, if we were sloppy in retracting our punches we would discover it first-hand since the sharp points of the
sai would poke us in the ribs or catch and possibly tear our shirts!
the lowering punch (an angled downward hook punch) almost
taught itself when a baton was placed in our hands. The
correct angle of striking became that much more obvious and the weight
of the weapon forced our arms into the appropriate fluid arc.
"If we were sloppy in retracting our punches we would feel it first-hand since the sharp points of the sai would poke us in the ribs or catch and possibly tear our shirts!"
Waist power is clearly described by the movement of
the tip of a staff or spear following a variety of strikes,
both linear and circular with such weapons.
When one trains with flexible wushu weapons, the metal will make a special "shing" noise as the waist power is directed down the length and out the tip. At the end of the movement, if the wrist snap is strong and the rooting is good, there will be a special higher-pitched noise.
It is highly advised for
students who are attempting to improve their understanding
of waist power to experiment with different weapons and strive
for a greater "wobble in the tip", or whipping action.
- When you are relaxed then the power will rise from the earth and pass through your body and out whatever part of the weapon that you direct.
- When you execute a strike with the weapon and can hear the wind "singing" during the technique then you know you are creating excellent velocity in the tip.
- When you stop being pulled off balance by your most powerful strikes then you know you have good rooting and structure in your stances.
- And when you observe the wobble in the tip then you will understand waist power more deeply.
hundred days with the staff, one thousand days with the
spear, ten thousand days with the sword."
As an instructor, I am in agreement with the Chinese proverb which states "one
hundred days with the staff, one thousand days with the
spear, ten thousand days with the sword". I would suggest
that the sword is a weapon which is best suited for more
senior students, except in special cases. There are so many facets to the complicated jewel that sword-play represents in the martial artists crown, that many students may become frustrated and/or discouraged if introduced to the weapon too early in their journey. Alternatively they may not perceive their own technical errors. In that case, their errors shall compound (like steep interest) and then cement themselves in the motor neuronal pathways, resisting retraining at a later date with the correct techniques.
And yet, a beginner who applies themselves diligently, shall some day become a master.
benefits to one's precision and coordination from training
with the sword - in all its variety of shapes and sizes - are
immense and will provide years of challenges to any
martial arts enthusiast.
Wrist strength and flexibility will improve steadily with sword practice. Once the basic cuts, deflections, and thrusts have been learned, it is time to introduce more difficult concepts such as the translation of waist-power and disarming techniques.
Many of the kung fu sword sets also contain more advanced and challenging techniques from the system, subtly woven into the fabric of the forms. For example, in one praying mantis kung fu sword (jien) set, the use of pressure point strikes (a.k.a. dim mak, vital point hits to lethal, "non-striking" targets) with the "invisible sword" hand, as well as bagua circle-walking techniques are utilized. On their own, each of these techniques can take many years to perfect. And yet, they represent merely a small portion of the overall breadth of techniques incoporated into the sword form.
Three-Sectional Staff: Master
Luo Gwang Yu's Favourite Weapon
of the more challenging weapons to learn, the personal favourite
of Master Luo Gwang Yu, is the 3-sectional staff. The 'staff
in three parts' is an excellent weapon to teach total body
coordination and waist power.
The three-sectional staff is a perfect example of the combination of both rigid and flexible weaponry. As such, it requires that the practitioner be capable of combining both sets of strategies, and be competent to switch rapidly between hard and soft movement patterns. The great variety of movements in the arsenal of the three-sectional practitioner allow for many years of challenge to anyone bold enough to tackle the learning curve. Nowadays, since flexible and padded three-sectional staves are available for purchase online, it is highly recommended that the novice train with such weaponry to avoid injury.
A Deeper Level of Weapons Training
the Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu school at which I studied, a
deeper level of weapons training is pursued than in many other schools. This deeper training includes
the instruction of more complex weapons forms with a great variety
of weapons, padded weapons fighting, weapons self-defense, weapons grappling, and group-fighting
role-playing scenarios where the introduction of weapons
as another parameter is used to expand the training of martial
arts strategy during simulated combat.
Josh Schafer and Lisa Hill Practicing Padded
response to a question which I am frequently asked by
novices in my school: "When can I start training
with weapons?" I simply reply, "as soon as you
like," or "whenever you're ready!"
important aspect to training with weapons is the ability
to feel comfortable holding the weapon. This skill can only
develop through the constant handling of the implement.
Familiarity leads to trust. Without trust there will be fear. When fear exists, the weapon will seek out the wielder. -Sifu Josh Schafer
the novice-stage of training, a balance should be struck by the instructor
- providing guidance (ie: demonstrating basic, simple
techniques with the weapon); and
- allowing the student to
play with the weapon to gain a good feel for how it is handled in order to achieve a reasonable level of natural comfort.
If a student is a "natural" with the weapon, then they should discover the full movement-range instinctively. Once a degree of mastery of the weapon has been obtained by the learner, then a more refined structure as well as exposure to the more complicated "passes" and movement possibilities can be provided by the teacher.
Of course, it is easiest on the instructor if the novice has a solid grounding (pun intended) in footwork prior to discovering weapons. However, as long as the teacher spends the time to reinforce and emphasize the footwork throughout the weapons practice then 'the novice' will fast become 'the intermediate' and eventually the master.
with all other aspects of martial arts, in weapons training
the use of technique is very important. Good balance and
supple-linked body movements come into play when handling
Strong waist-power will translate into excellent
weapon power. However, as any martial artist who has competed
with weapons in tournaments will share with you, one of
the most important aspects of weapons work is proper stances.
Stances and footwork are the foundation upon which all further
martial arts skills are built.
Stances and footwork are the foundation upon which all further martial arts skills are built. If you wish the structure to be tall, you'd best build solid foundations. -Sifu Josh Schafer
training can be useful for teaching basic skills and developing
physical strength at the novice level, and while weapons
forms and padded weapons fighting are often the highlight
of a martial arts tournament spectator's experience, weapons
training is important at the highest level of the martial
arts experience in providing the expert martial artist with
their deepest challenge on the road to self-improvement.
Further information about weapons:
Chinese Weapons - A Guide
Three Sectional Staff
Mantis Weapons Forms
Chinese Weapons - A Guide
is a country with a long and rich martial arts heritage.
During the course of its extensive history martial arts
weapons of all styles, shapes, materials, and fabrication
techniques have been invented, developed, and refined.
is the name for the science that studies human combative behavior and performance.
Throughout human evolution the use of tools has characterized
humanity's development. The use of tools in combat is as
old as the history of human civilization, and over that
time a large number of weapons have been created by imaginative
and aggressive people.
In order to characterize the vast multitude of human arms and armaments, certain
common categories of weapons must be defined. In this setting,
these weapon categories will include:
or flexible, and
some weapons fall into multiple categories and versions
of varying length have evolved over time.
The "18 Classical Chinese Weapons"
In some reference sources, the classical 18 Ancient
Chinese Weapons are described. The term was widely
used during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). A martial artist
proficient with all these types of weaponry would be said
to have mastered the "eighteen kinds of martial techniques". The
eighteen weapons evolved from traditional armaments and
are widely referred to as the "eighteen military weapons".
version of the Ming novel "Outlaws
of the Marsh" mentions this frequently. In the
17th century, Jin Sheng-tan published what is now famous
as the original version of a novel that obtained the interest
and infatuation of successive generations.
Outlaws of the Marsh
Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh
is an immortal novel because its tale is universal: it speaks
of beings who are outlaws but also notables, strong-muscled
heroes but also intellectuals, anarchists, and also philosophers...
who cannot bear injustice nor abuse nor arbitrariness. It
is set in the Liangshan Marsh (in what is now Shandong Province
in China) at a time when government corruption was rampant
and those who opposed the ruling class were often put to
unordered list of the 'eighteen weapons'
as from the Water
following is a more modern list of the 'eighteen weapons'
Other Versions of Name(s)
gwan dao/ kwan dao, horse-cutter
||short and long bow, compound bow, crossbow
following list corresponds to a small sample of a variety
of weapons of the various classes. Further details for specific weapons are linked in the list:
| Flexible | Projectile
Sword (two-handed sword, Nine Ring, Chay Yang)
Axe (single, double, long handle)
Spear (Single Headed, Double Headed,
Crescent Moon, Snake Headed)
Long Sword (General Kwan, horse-chopper)
Halberd (single, double)
Sweeper (large, small)
Whip (multisectional chain-whip,
bull whip, rope)
Tiger Fork (trident)
Three Sectional Staff
Sai (single, double)
Butterfly Swords, Butterfly Knife
Broadsword (single, double)
Nine Ring Broadsword
Willow Leaf Broadsword
Double-edge Sword (single, double)
Tiger Hook Sword (single, double, swordbreakers)
Walking Cane or Crutch
Small Sweeper (nunchaku)
Shovel (combat, Moonteeth, Golden Coin)
Wheel (Fire, Heaven and Earth crescent moon)
Soft Flexible Weapons
Sectional Chain Whip
Mother and Son Hammer
Dart (throw-dart, blow-dart, pin)
Bow and Arrow
small knife, the dagger tends to be defined as any knife
used or designed for fighting one handed and inefficient
for eating or cooking. Primarily a stabbing weapon, the
dagger is usually double-edged and narrow. Most of the knife techniques
involve stabbing inwards and tearing outwards. The strikes
tend to be punches or hammer fist strikes modified for speed
and with a weapon in the hand.
there are specialized uses for the dagger, in the past it
tended to be viewed as a thrown weapon or something an assassin
would use. An example of the specialized uses are the ermei
piercers and ring daggers. Both were designed for use in
water with variations mainly focused on being able to swim
and still have control of the weapon. An obvious logic for
this is for recognisance work.
Some other uses that have come to light recently are the
use of the knife in urban settings or other places where
you can not take a sword. The dagger is specialized for killing and is a
perfect weapon to carry into small spaces and for concealing
upon the body. It has impressive applications in a close
quarter combat role.The
twin daggers may vary in length and are often concealed
in a manner that enables quick access.
referred to in China as the “King of weapons”,
the spear as a weapon is as old as China herself. In
ancient times, many advanced martial artists/warriors knew
that this pointed implement, employed by a proficient spear-player,
was both lethal and formidable. Two
of the top Chinese spear proponents were the famous General
Yueh Fei and the first woman warrior Fa Mu Lan. Both warriors
were considered invincible due to their proficiency with
the spear in combat. One legend has it that General Yueh
Fei developed the Xing Yi Mind-Spirit fighting system based
on his proficiency with the spear and other martial art
has been told that during the "Water Margin" period
of ancient China some of "Liangshan" heroes of
the "Outlaws of the Marsh" fame were proficient
The best spear player of that group was a "Leopard
Head" Lin Chung whose finishing move was the "Returning
Horse Spear Thrust." This movement was a reverse body,
retreating tactic that lures the pursuing attacker into
a state of frenzy. Then the spear player would abruptly
stop and deploy an overturning body spear thrust at his
opponent. When executed correctly, the spear rarely misses
Cheng Fu of the Yang Family Tai Chi fame always carried
a short single-head spear for protection. It served the
dual training function of acting as a straight sword and
a short staff. The
British in the mid-nineteenth century acknowledged that
the Chinese spear was far superior to their bayonets. Currently,
the weapon is smaller and its uses are compressed into about
thirty different methods. Spear techniques typically consist
of a series of outward and inward parries and thrusts.
sword (dao) is a Chinese weapon used in many styles. Large, with a curved single edge, its techniques include
a variety of cuts, slashes, parries, thrusts and blows worked
through an intricate set of footwork patterns.The
use of this weapon is often ascribed to the emperor Chou-Mok-Wong,
of the Chow dynasty, who was presented with a large sabre
when travelling through Shi-Kiang province. The
knife or sabre, in various lengths and sizes, has much the
same mystique about it as does the double-edged sword (GIM,
jien), but on a less grand scale. If the double-edged straight sword
was the emblem of the upper classes, the broadsword was the mark
of the warrior.
dao (broadsword) were among the earliest weapons of ancient
China, with the broadsword considered to be 'the root
of short weapons' because its techniques are relatively
simple to learn.
northern China, in the countryside the weapon was generally
longer because its user was taller and the countryside more
open. The southern blade however was shorter and heavier
because shorter people in crowded cities used it. Soldiers
preferred a lighter, quicker blade that could be carried
for long distances. Mountain men and farmers chose a heavier,
machete-like sabre that could double as an agricultural
tool. This type of Dao featured tremendous cutting power,
but lacked speed and was difficult to reverse once the user
began his motion.
most popular knife is the willow leaf. Originating in the
north, the Willow Leaf sword was light with a little curve
to the handle and blade. The
Executioner’s sabre (Pok-Dao) was thick, heavy and
wielded with both hands. From southern China came the Ghost-head
sabre, a shorter weapon used for chopping. Other types of
dao are the Grain-leaf sabre, Goose-feather sabre, Tiger-tail
Knife, Tornado knife, Plum blossom sabre, Oxtail knife,
Whirlwind Sabre, Sun-mother sabre and Crescent knife. All
of these can be used with other weapons, but are most often
wielded in combination with a shield.
Dao (Kwan Dao, horse-chopper, Large Knife, halberd)
Literally “Gwan's (or Kwan's) knife” it is a large halberd
used in kung fu, named after the famous Chinese general
Gwan-Yu (Kwan-Kung). Extended
practice with this weapon builds strength in the forearms
and wrists. In modern times it is used primarily for conditioning
and often by larger persons. The heavy “cone”
located on the other end of the staff counterbalances a
long, broad, heavy blade. As general Kwan's halberd weighted
almost 50 kilograms the "cone" was thrust into
the ground when general Kwan mounted and dismounted the
horse. Two broad plates also helped him to keep the balance
of the weapon and acted as guards. One
of the primary strengths of this weapon is that it is difficult
to counter directly and it is adept at disarming or destroying
an opponent's weapon and smashing through any resistance.
Wielded by a large, horse-mounted foe, this weapon was a
daunting force on the battlefield. Smaller versions of this weapon were adapted for foot-soldiers:
The "Dan Dao" and "Pu Dao" .
Swords (Hu Die Dao)
is a southern style weapon, the yin and yang hand guard
is used for smooth transitions of the weapon allowing the
practitioner to flip the sabre much like the sai (chai)
but with the added advantage of the sabre usage.
Sectional Chain Whip (whip chain)
weapon is composed of 3,5,7 or 9 linked steel sections with
a dagger or dart at one end, the whip is easily concealed
and is a valuable secondary weapon, a light version of this
heavy weapon is often used in performance-based martial arts.
A flag is often attached to the last link of the chain before
the dagger in order to stabilize the trajectory of the weapon,
and create noise and distraction from the position of the
is a rice harvesting implement, the Lian (Kama in Okinawa)
was used either singly or in pairs, one in each hand. In
close range combat it can be employed to slash, hook, rake,
chop, deflect and block. The Lian has a short blade set
perpendicular to a hardwood handle, it is the forerunner
for weapons like the Kusari-gama. The lian was a tool used
to cut weeds and bring in the crop. It was a very simple,
but nevertheless very sharp and potentially deadly weapon.
It's structure, however, made it very weak when attacked with
heavy blows directly to the blade. Therefore, innovative
warriors redesigned the weapon. It is stronger in its construction,
because the blade runs through, past the curve of the normal
farming implement and all the way down into the handle.
This makes the cutting edge bigger, and above all, the previous
weak point where the sickle was attached to the stick is eliminated.
Sectional Staff (San jie gun, Sam jeet gwan)
three sectional staff, is a historical weapon, which appears
in the Chinese book "Sangokushi". Its distinctive
feature is three equal length sticks connected with metal
rings, often much longer than a long staff.
The three sectional staff
can be swung around the body and passed from hand to hand
in a wide variety of ways. The metal-shod butt-ends
of the staff, as well as the connecting metal chain links, are exceptionally useful
for striking and disarming opponents.The
three sectional staff can be used as a long-range weapon
when held at one end and swung freely, or a medium-range or short-range weapon when two of the sections are held
and used to strike or parry. It is highly adaptable to various battle conditions, excellent for defense, and fully portable and concealable. A truly expert practitioner, wielding the three sectional staff on horseback, could attack both cavalry and foot soldiers. Meanwhile, a footsoldier wielding a three sectional staff could entangle the feet of a horse from a reasonable distance and thereby unseat their foes. This multivariate piece of weaponry evolved at a time when the common battle troops were armed with sword and shield. One thing that the three sectional staff does better than practically no other weapon is to be able to attack around a shield and negate the defensive advantage of shielding.
The three sectional staff's greatest drawbacks lie in the extreme challenge, focus, and discipline required to wield it effectively and to master its versatile nature. Furthermore, a high degree of ambidextrous coordination is required... which is not available to all martial arts practitioners, many of whom have trained their whole lives to become one-side-dominant (unilateral) warriors.
out more about this unique weapon
to be the precursor to the three sectional staff, this traditional
weapon is rarely taught in modern martial arts schools. It is composed of two sections of wood of variable length, attached by chain links of variable length. The sweeper was featured in the movie Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
weapon is used primarily as a staff, but with added trapping
and circular striking features. The practitioners ability
to generate percussive force at the end of the weapon is
studied in great detail, and is directly linked with their
skillful use of waist-power. The sweeper may be wielded from either end, but is predominantly a long-range weapon. It shares many features with the three sectional staff, particularly its efficacy against horse-mounted opponents.
The double Willow Leaf Sword, also known as the
twin Chinese Dao, possess a classical shape and configuration. This weaponry was used
by Imperial troops against rebels and colonial invaders;
by warlord troops against competing warlords; by river pirates and
by anti-river pirates; by independent warriors; and by bodyguards
of rich merchants. It was a very popular style of sword throughout China.
double-handed weapon is a very traditional discipline amongst
many styles of kung-fu. It is often used for coordination
training and valuable dexterity training of students. Performance-based
martial artists have put this weapon into showy routines
where the traditional heavy willow leaf sword is replaced
by a flexible foil-like weapon to enhance its speed and for
generation of noise.
used by Southern kung-fu stylists, the short axes are usually
employed in pairs. Also known as 'hurricane double axes',
a name coined by the Sung dynasty figure Li-Kwai (T’uan
Ful). This warrior discipline contains no blocks or
parries with a belief that the brutishness of this
weapon will overcome all other techniques. Use of this weapons
is enhanced by great core-body strength and speed and it
is often adopted by a shorter fighter.
Fan (Tie Shan)
fan is a popular weapon in kung fu and is often taught as
a first weapon to younger students. A traditional fan could contain 9, 16,20
or 24 ribs, and was often concealed
in the sleeve or waistband. It is the emblem of Chang-li-chuan
of the eight immortals.
Popularised in movies by such stars as Jackie Chan and Jet
Li, this weapon requires amazing dexterity from its user.
It is easy to use, but exceptionally difficult to master
and demands a deeper understanding of yin or soft power.
fans are made of paper and bamboo. This is not well-adapted
for heavy blocking and striking but could still be used
as a distraction tool; as well as for redirecting movements;
as an aid for locking techniques; in Chin Na; and also for
lightning-fast strikes to vulnerable pressure-point targets. It was a commonplace weapon, likely to be acceptable to be carried in all sorts of places where other weapons might arouse suspicion or be confiscated.
iron fan, however, is an actual ancient combat weapon. It
was made with iron plates (slats) instead of wood, and the
top edges of the slats were sharpened, spiked, or bladed. The interstices (or links) could be made of a variety of substances, including metal or wire, and might be used to disguise the location or presence of the blades. As a thrown weapon, the
fan, when opened, has an erratic trajectory which is unpredictable
to the novice observer but highly regulatable by the expert
Sectional Staff - Dominant Weapon
Sectional Staff - Dominant Weapon
new field of competition is developing at martial arts tournaments
around the world. It is the fast-paced, exciting, and spectator-thrilling
experience of "padded weapons
and follow-up strike a legal target within 2 seconds for
new field of competition is developing at martial arts tournaments.
It is the fast-paced, exciting, and spectator-thrilling
experience of "padded weapons point fighting".
Currently, this event is available only at selected tournaments,
but its popularity is growing rapidly. However,
judging from the responses of both the participants and
the observers at the Tiger
Balm International Martial Arts Tournament and the Fireball
International Tournament in Vancouver, it is destined
to become a widespread phenomenon before too long.
observation that may be made from the demonstrations of
weapon-vs-weapon fighting in tournament play is that the
three sectional staff (aka
3-sectional, aka three-section staff, aka jointed bludgeon) with its versatility,
power, range, and unpredictable nature, emerges as a dominant
weapon against any and all challengers.
Train With Ancient Weapons?
to some martial artists the idea of training with "ancient"
weapons may seem pointless or anachronistic. However, there
are many benefits on a variety of levels to be gained from
such practice. In fact, each weapon may offer an enhancement
to different martial arts "skill sets" and provide
insights into different aspects of body mechanics. Additionally,
the added benefit of muscular (particularly upper body)
strengthening, the deeper challenge to one's physical coordination,
and the expansion of one's self-defense strategy in the
event of being confronted with a weapon in a conflict situation
are all undeniable aspects of weapons training. Importantly,
any weapon, even such objects as a tree branch, broom, tire-iron,
or a key-ring can provide an important 'equalizing factor'
in the skilled hands of a smaller-weaker person against
a taller-stronger assailant.
is a Chinese proverb which states "one hundred days
with the staff, one thousand days with the spear, ten thousand
days with the sword". This adage proposes that there
is an ever-increasing amount of skill required to master
the staff, spear, and sword and suggests that the sword
is a weapon which is best suited for more senior students. Mastery
of both the staff and the spear require a student to learn
linear and circular motion strikes, bilateral body movements,
and to link waist power into the weapon. While these two
weapons are similar, the spear may be considered to be more
difficult than the staff for the reason the the practitioner
must exhibit control of the bladed edge.
of the sword is an entire level of magnitude more complicated
than many other types of weapons. The benefits to one's
precision and physical coordination from training with the sword
(in all of its variety of shapes and sizes) are immense and this
weapon will provide years of challenge to any martial arts
staff falls into the category of 'more challenging'
weapons, similar to the sword, and is an excellent weapon
with which to train in order to learn total body coordination
and waist power.
Was the 3-Sectional Staff Created?
SOME BACKGROUND HISTORY
Legend has it that this weapon was conceived in China during
the Sung Dynasty in 960 AD by the Emperor Sung Taizu. It
is told that his chosen weapon was the staff and that one
day in battle he broke his favourite staff on the shield
of an enemy. Later that night he ordered his vassal to re-attach
the broken end of his staff with whatever chain or link
might be found. The next day he waded into battle wielding
a 2-sectional staff which has since become known as a sweeper. A shorter version of the sweeper is the nunchuku (numchuks, literally translated at "equal parts") which has proven a popular weapon over time.
So successful was the first modification that he later ordered
his weapon to be purposely broken and re-attached, and thus
Sung Taizu is also credited with the creation of the 3-sectional
The Different Parts of the Three Sectional Staff
weapon has the obvious advantage as a secondary or short-range
weapon of being easily carried or concealed when folded,
but having great range and being particularly effective
against a horseman or a shielded enemy.
close quarters against a sword or spear, the two ends of the three sectional may
be wielded to block, or trap and disarm opponents. The metal shot butt-ends,
held with the points outward, may be treated as fighting sticks. However, they possess
the added dimension of a centre section which may be used
for blocking, striking, and trapping/disarming. The links of chain and the metal
butts of the staff also provide deadly striking surfaces.
Traditionally, 5 rings are used to join each two-sections
of the weapon. The 5 ring structure creates a much smoother
motion in the swings of the staff, and, when the weapon
is expertly employed, can dull, catch, or even break an
truly amazing aspect of the 3-sectional staff which becomes
clear almost immediately upon starting to train with this
weapon is the huge variety of techniques available in its
of the 3-sections may be held by one or both hands, singly
or in combination, thereby providing a variety of ranges
and options for striking.
The different techniques may be combined in a limitless sequence as the practitioner effortlessly circles the weapon around their body in an endless progression.
Naming the techniques becomes difficult, but many people have put effort into this practice. Some such names of 3-sectional staff movement include:
- Tiger Flicks its Tail
- Spin (Waist-spin, Overhead-spin, Single-spin, Double-spin, Double-alternating spin, Continuous spin)
- Black Dragon Whips its Tail
- Figure Eights (eg: Double-handed figure-eights, Single-handed figure-eights, Block&strike figure-eights)
- Block (Cross-block, Downward-block, Catching-block, Single Overhead-block)
- Catch (coiling-catch, single-handed-catch, double-handed-catch, catch-trap-and-disarm)
Transitions from one hand posture to another are obviously
the challenge in wielding such a weapon. Grip transitions
(hand passes) may be made in front or behind the body in
a seemingly limitless number of ways. It is this versatility
which leads to the unpredictability for an opponent who
is attempting to judge the 'safe-range' or determine the
In addition to having a variety of angles from which to
launch both high and low strikes, the flexible nature of
the chain-linked weapon allows for the end to rebound from
a block to return at the defender from the opposite angle,
only harder! The control of the retraction of the weapon
following a strike is a more advanced technique and requires
the circular torquing nature of the weapon translates hip-power
into incredible speed and powerful strikes. A more experienced
3 sectional staff exponent will understand that to achieve
maximum power one must use both hands and all parts of the
body to effect a strike.
format of the current padded weapons point-fighting division
at martial arts tournaments is naturally quite structured
and artificial, designed to ensure competitor safety at
the same time as providing a venue for fun competition.
It involves donning cumbersome protective head-gear, a reinforced
chest-shield which straps behind the back, forearm and hand
protectors, and a mouth guard, with any other protective
gear being optional to the competitor. The weapons themselves
are lightweight, predominantly made of plastic tubing covered
in padding or foam and then sheathed in nylon. Many
times, spectators who are familiar with one type of weapon
can appreciate its weaknesses and strengths in a new light
after watching padded weapons fighting competition.
some tournaments, home-made weapons are permitted, as long
as they pass inspection by the judges and tournament coordinators.
In recent times there have been many advances in the art
of manufacture. As a consequence, there are many new sources
of high quality flexible or padded weapons becoming available
and online all the time. At
the majority of touraments which support a padded weapons
fighting division there are a minimum of padded sticks provided.
tournament as an example: at the Tiger
Balm International Tournament in Vancouver, British
Columbia the available weapons are either one-handed
(batons, arnis-style sticks, tonfa, nunchuks, short swords)
or two-handed (katana; short, medium, or
long staff; and 3-sectional staff).
There are at least two
of each type of weapon available and competitors may use
any weapon (or combination of one-handed weapons) with no
restrictions on switching between fights. This frequently
provides for interesting and compelling match-ups and represents a higher level of strategy for the fighter that can use multilple weapons.
the context of point-fighting, the weapons division is very
similar to open-hand in terms of the judging and scoring.
The range of targets is limited: strikes to the head, torso,
and leg below the knee score one point. Strikes to the weapon
arm from shoulder-to-fingertip score two points. Any disarm
of the weapon or sweep with the weapon with a follow-up
strike scores two points. No thrusting, stabbing, spearing,
or strikes to the neck or back of the body are permitted.
with all other aspects of martial arts, in weapons training
technique is very important. Good balance and supple-linked
body movement come into play when handling a weapon. Strong waist
power will translate into excellent weapon power. However,
as any martial artist who has competed with weapons in tournaments
will share with you, one of the most important aspects of
weapons work is proper stances. They are the foundation
on which all martial arts skills are built.
while weapons training can be useful for teaching at the
novice level, and while weapons forms and padded weapons
fighting are often the highlight of a martial arts tournament
spectator's experience, such training is important at
the highest level of the martial arts experience in providing the expert martial artist with their
deepest challenge on the road to self-improvement. If
nothing else, padded weapons competition provides an eye-opening
experience for those martial artists who have not had the
opportunity to experience the challenge of the multi-dimensions
of weapons in tournament fighting competition or bouting. The exposure to a variety of styles in
tournament competition has a very useful, if humbling component.
Under these circumstances the 3-sectional staff with its
deceptive striking range, and variety of striking angles
emerges as a dominant weapon.
Mantis Weapons Forms:
and abiding strength of the Praying Mantis system is that
all major weapons sets may be played with 'mantis flavour'.
Contained within the weapons forms sets of the praying mantis
system are movements which may be applied to any and all
of the classical Chinese weapons. Once one has mastered
the mantis system and perfected the mantis forms, any object,
from the mundane to the exotic may be utilized as a weapon
and played with mantis flavour.
following lists some of the weapons sets in the Praying
Mantis System which are taught at the Red Mantis Athletic Association:
Star Mantis Double Dagger. Knife Combat and Knife Self-Defense
Brother Staff, Ng Long Gwan
Swallow Sabre, Yeen Tzerng Doe, Ching Dao
Mantis Chain-of-Rings Double Broadsword, Twin Whirling Broadsword, 6 Harmony Double Broadsword
Tail Three Sectional Staff, Plum Blossom Three Sectional
Staff, Three Sectional Staff acrobatics and ground
rolling, trapping and disarming
Plum Blossom Spear. Spear-play Tactics, First Route
Plum Flower Spear
Praying Mantis, 8 Diagram Tiger Hook Swords (Double)
Sectional Chain Whip
Praying Mantis Nine-Sectional Chain Whip
Edged Straight Sword
Northern Praying Mantis High
Noon Straight Sword, (Jien, Gim)
Edged Sword (Jien)
|Two-Handed Long Sword
||Tang Lang Dan Dao, Mantis Long Sword
Taiji Mantis Twin Head Spear
||Monk's Crescent Hook Spade
||Horse Chopping Sword
Mantis Gourd Boxing
Praying Mantis Weapons Sets
Mergence Double Broadsword
and Military 8 Fairy Sword
Qing Single Broadsword
Broadsword vs Spear
Star Double Cane
Rolling Double Broadsword
Star Mantis Double Hammer
Star Double Handed Longsword
Tian Hua Lance
Sectional Staff, Spear
Sectional Staff vs Spear
Broadsword vs Spear
Dagger vs Spear
Hand vs Spear
Blossom Meridian Broadsword
Mantis Gwan Doe