5 Kung Fu weapons you need to learn to further your combat practice?

Aug 31, 2022

Martial arts weapons are what got me enamored with all martial arts styles.  Movie legends like Bruce Lee use the nunchucks, Gordon Liu use the tri-staff, Toshiro Mifune kick ass as Musashi Mifune, and Jackie Chan use anything and everything as a weapon.  I especially fell in love with Kung fu weapons.

Learning how to use weapons is extremely important for ANY martial art journey.  The weapon guides the practitioner to move correctly and gain adequate penetration or purchase.  Teaching your students these 5 different weapons will boost and heighten their footwork, core, torso strength, finger/hand strength, etc... the list goes on and on.  The added benefit is that you, as a teacher, can keep what little sanity you have left by letting your student figure out the weapon by themselves.  Remember, weapons are tools, and human comprehension heightens when using tools.

The 5 Kung Fu weapons and their main benefits:

  •  Single side saber or Duck feather broadsword - This one-sided sword is your standard issue sword given to soldiers.  It teaches you how to use your entire arm as a weapon, from the shoulder to the fist.   The most important lesson from these swords is how to manage impact by understanding flow and weight distribution.
  • 2-meter pole or staff - a pole teaches the student to learn how to maneuver within the pole's large movements and most importantly, understand fulcrums and pulleys.  Spinning poles around is fun and meditative but not very practical.  Poles, spears, or kwan daos naturally teach your student how to position their bodies when doing throws and takedowns.
  • Butterly swords or twin batons - are super fun weapons and so beneficial in learning how to use all sides of your fist, "unraveling", and "shackling." (Ask me about these terms)  Kung fu has tons of complicated fist or arm strikes.  Your arms will turn, twist, swing, slip, catch, and collide in so many ways and Butterfly swords will teach your student on how to naturally unravel and weaponize every arm movement.  Butterfly swords force your arms to be whirling blades.
  • Tornado Broadswords - are twin Chinese broadswords that are equal in all their specs.  These twin weapons are so important in the development of your student since it forces them to balance their body and stance.  Swinging these swords pull your students out of their stance, making them imbalanced.   They learn how to reel that escaping force back in and load the next move or strike.  I call it "rooting".
  • Chain whips or rope darts - are fun and mesmerizing to watch but don't practice the wushu way for combat.  The wushu way of the has way too much unnecessary spinning.  The fast turning and twisting speeds are daunting but your more advanced students will benefit from "soft" weapons.  Practicing "soft" weapons develop your students' catching, grappling, sensitivity, and especially their chin-na techniques.  Practice these weapons as if you are using your belt to protect yourself.

If you are a teacher and contemplating teaching weapons then here are my suggestions:

  • Use Dragon well spring steel.  They bend but always come back.  Do not use foil steel.  Those are useless and detrimental to training.
  • Mid-level students should use combat steel weapons.   Make sure they are heavy yet balanced.  Warn your students to keep their concentration or else the weapon will bite them.  A painful one at that.
  • Gaining speed is NOT the goal.  Proper use of angles, gravity, prehensility, and strength are the goals.
  • Spinning the weapons is great to do while alone or performing, that's it.  Always tell your students that spinning weapons is healthy and meditative but never in combat practice.
  • Combat practice with weapons.  How do your students do this and keep themselves from being pummeled or dissected?  This is a much longer explanation and to do it safely you'll need strict adherence to partner support or our KKP Combat practice method.
  • Clumsy students will benefit immensely from weapons training.  If you pull your hair when teaching certain uncoordinated students or children then weapons training should be your therapy.  Have one of your top students have them teach another student the movements then let that student alone figure it out.  Have them hit something with that weapon.

There are so much different types of Kung Fu weapons out there and each weapon focuses on certain movements of the body.   There are 6 Kung Fu weapon families:  Short, Medium, Long, Soft, Flying, and Poison.  I'll write about this next time.

When your students ask why they are learning a weapon that is obsolete, tell them "these weapons are merely tools, like a dumbbell.  They are your unforgiving teacher's assistants."

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