Weapons in Kung Fu

The weapons used in kung-fu training represent the long history of self-defense and warfare in China. A huge number of weapons exist in the kung-fu arsenal, with variations arising based on local customs and styles, individual needs for self-defense, evolutions in warfare, and the physical build and skills of the practitioner. Traditionally, kung-fu is referred to as having "18 Weapons", each representing a standard or norm upon which many other weapons may be based. The list of 18 weapons varies depending on the source, but there are four standard categories that each weapon falls into:

  • Short Weapons - Includes swords, such as the Broadsword and double-edged Gim (Jian). These can be practiced individually or as paired weapons (e.g. Double Broadsword, Double Gim, Butterfly Knives, etc.).
  • Long Weapons - Long weapons originate with the Staff and Spear, and include many variations, both in terms of the length of the weapon and the striking implement mounted to the weapon. Other examples include the Trident (three pronged spear head), Kwon Dao (massive broadsword mounted on the end of a long, thick staff - also known as a Guan Dao), Monk Spade (modified from agricultural origins or fighting of animals), and Halberd. Long weapons could be used on foot or, historically, when on horseback.
  • Assistant Weapons - These included Shields, and a variety of defensive implements that could also be used to attack, such as spiked shirts and wristbands/forearm guards.
  • Hidden Weapons - Stemming from 36 traditional kinds, these were weapons for surprise, secret attacks, and emergency self-defense. Hidden weapons include darts, throwing stars, blowgun, darts hidden in shoes, needles hidden under the tongue to be spit out, and arrows hidden behind the back in secret launchers. Hidden weapons could also be contained within other traditional weapons for surprise use.

Weapons Practice at Song's Kung-fu Academy

Weapons are practiced at Song's both individually, through form practice, as well as with partners for forms and self-defense exercise. Weapon forms are excellent for increasing strength and stamina, and for developing an understanding of extending the mind and will externally from the body. The movements of many heavy weapons forms, such as the Kwon Dao (Guan Dao), for example, are an excellent way to build strength throughout many muscle groups simultaneously through the use of coordinated movements, running, and jumping with the weapon.

Self-defense aspects of weapons are also learned through partner weapons forms (such as Broadsword vs Unarmed combat, and Broadsword vs Spear combat), and through drills and practice of weapon sparring.

Example Weapon Forms at Song's Kung-fu Academy:

  • Staff
  • Praying Mantis Broadsword
  • Gim/Jian (double edged sword)
  • Spear
  • Nunchaku
  • Guan Dao/Kwon Dao
  • Three Section Staff