Classical Kung-Fu Weapons:
An interesting feature of Shaolin Kung Fu, from
where Hung Gar claims it’s roots, is it’s weaponry. No other Martial Art in the world can boast of a range of
weapons as wide or as varied as those from Shaolin Kung Fu .In most Martial Arts today, Students learn mainly unarmed combat,
with some techniques for use against armed opponents. In Shaolin Kung Fu there are complete weapon sets which are as important
as unarmed sets in the standard curriculum.
In the past weapon sets were more important than
unarmed sets. This was natural at the time as who would not use a weapon to fight if it could be carried freely. However,
carrying a weapon is now illegal in most countries. Why then, you may ask, learn to fight with weapons if you are not likely
to use them in real combat?
There are many good reasons why Classical weapons
are still being taught today, though many people who practise them may not know them! If you ask a Kung Fu Instructor why,
he or she may say they are part of the tradition and Kung Fu is incomplete without them, or they are a way to attract Students,
who are enticed by the prospect of learning to use these beautiful and strange weapons, and also that practising with them
gives a Class a distinct Kung Fu flavour, as there are no such elaborate or impressive weapons in other Martial Art systems.
These are all valid, though there are reasons
more relevant to real Self Defence. Nowadays, you do not lash a sword onto your back, or grab a spear in your hands and walk
around the streets, as many Kung Fu exponents did in the past (or at least I hope you don’t!).But in a fight, even under
ordinary circumstances, you can often find a piece of wood, or a stake, or bar, that
can be used, if even clumsily, as a rod or a spear. Moreover, if your opponent uses improvised weapons against you, you will
be better qualified to handle this situation competently, if you have learned the principles and properties of their Classical
counterparts in Weapon Sets. Many improvised weapons act like classical ones, for instance a broken bottle like a dagger,
a bicycle chain like a soft whip, an ordinary chair like a Kung Fu bench.
If you carry weights while practising your unarmed
sets, you will not only find it more tiring, you will also increase your stamina and power. Practising Weapon Sets is similar
to this, and you will probably prefer to hold novel weapons than boring dumb-bells. Some special skills are often required
for, or achieved through, the use of certain weapons, and these skills can also be useful in unarmed combat. For example,
when practising weapon sets with heavy weapons like the Trident or the Guan knife, you will need stable stances to prevent
swinging yourself off the ground. These stable stances, consolidated by training in Weapon Sets, are transferable to and useful
in unarmed combat, enabling you to swing an opponent off the ground.
There are opportunities in martial arts training
to learn to use various martial arts weapons. Many martial arts schools, especially those that teach Japanese karate and Chinese
kung fu styles have weaponry as part of their overall curriculum. Chinese kung fu styles have broadsword, 3 section staff,
kwan do, whip chain, butterfly knives as well as their own versions of staff. Of course, there are many other types of weapons
in martial arts but the above are the more common ones taught. Some of the more exotic weapons include the fan, rope dart
and the hook swords.
Martial arts weapons can be divided into short and long range. An example of a short range weapon would
be a pair of Butterfly Knives. The Chinese Sword would be a long range weapon because of the longer reach. Weapons can also
be divided into bladed and non-bladed. Swords of course would be bladed weapons where Staffs
would be non-bladed. In most training situations with bladed weapons, the blades are not live. That is, the blades
of swords are blunt rather than sharp. This adds to the safety aspect of martial arts weapons training. Weapons can also come
in different weights from heavy traditional models down to ultra light weight versions for forms competition.
Martial arts weapons are considered as extensions of a martial artist’s own body. For example,
strikes with a weapon are really extended hand strikes. Blocks with weapons are modelled after traditional martial art blocking
techniques. Therefore, it is important for martial arts students to be relatively proficient with martial arts techniques
using their own bodies first before learning to use any martial arts weapon. This will help the students understand the applications
behind each weapons technique much better.
There are many benefits in training with martial arts weapons. Because most weapons have some weight
to them, their use will help develop muscle tone and strength. Performing forms with weapons will also develop coordination.
In today’s world, martial arts weapons may not be as practical as the days of the past when it was acceptable to carry
weapons wherever one travelled. However, with some understanding of weapons techniques, a martial artist today can turn almost
any household item such as an umbrella, cane or even a set of keys into weapons of self defence if required. Another important
point that shouldn’t be ignored is that most practitioners will claim that training with martial arts weapons is a lot
Weapons training can open up a whole new dimension to overall martial arts training. Even advanced
tai chi practitioners use swords in some of their forms. It doesn’t matter if sometimes the swords are made entirely
of wood either since the actual weapons techniques will still be used in the forms. For many martial arts competitors, weapons
forms are their favourite divisions to compete in. From a spectator point of view, weapons forms can be very exciting to watch
especially when weapons such as Knives or Swords are used since their presentations are so dynamic and even somewhat dangerous
to the user. Such weapons have caused injuries to users when certain techniques were sloppy or mistimed. But like other aspects
of martial arts, proficiency with a martial art weapon after much hard training can bring a high sense of satisfaction to
a martial artist.