Shaolin weapons

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Four major weapons

The four major weapons - sabre, spear, sword and cudgel - have been widely used by Kung Fu masters since ancient times in different styles of martial arts. They are also the main weapons in current Kung Fu competitions.


The sword is called the "gentleman of all weapons". It is the most widely used of all weapons and its influence goes beyond the field of Kung Fu. Every school of Kung Fu uses the sword as the basic weapon for rigorous training. Sword play in China was first seen in sacrificial offerings to gods or ancestors. In the Spring and Autumn Period and during the Warring States 2.000 years ago, sword play became a common practice in society. It is now one of the major competitive events in Kung Fu competition today. Sword play is brisk, agile, elegant, easy, graceful and natural in action. The movements are flexible, as well as variable. Attention is paid to both motion and stillness. Hardness and suppleness supplement each other. So sword play is likened to the "flying phoenix".

There are many techniques in sword play. The main techniques include hitting, piercing, pointing, lifting, jumping and leaping, hanging, chopping, floating, poking, sweeping, wrestling, blocking, and wiping. These actions, combined with body movements and footsteps, form various routines of sword play. There are varied styles of sword play routines, handed down from ancient times. The popular ones include Taiji, Wudang, Bodhi-dharma, Longxing, Sancai, Qingping, Baxian (Eight-Immortals), Mantis, Lianhuan, Drunkard and Xingyi. The Chinese Physical Culture and Sports Commission has also worked out new routines for competition and physical exercises. It is said that the Chinese sword play, although a simple form of play with hand weapons, has deep ideological connotations. From emperors, high-ranking military officers and ministers to common people, experts and scholars, the wearing of swords shows them to be a refined person signifying they are cultured and familiar with the arts. The skill and theory of sword play was perfected and eventually formed the distinctive "Sword Culture" in China.


Sabre is called the marshal of all weapons. It is one pf the most used weapons in Chinese Kung Fu. According to the shape and size, it is divides into short-hilted sabre, twin short-hilted sabre, sabre, nine-ring sabre ( named as nine rings on the handle ), broad sword, long-bladed short-hilted sabre and others. Sabre play is vigorous and quick in defence and offence so it is likened to the "fierce tiger". The main techniques of sabre play include chopping, hacking, cutting, pricking, lifting, poking, winding, blocking, pushing and knocking. When you have sabre practice, the cooperation between the sabre and the hands is very important and both hands must closely coordinate with each other, so as to maintain balance. Sabre play calls for rigorous training and constant practice. The sabre and the body must also be consistent. "Make sure that sabre is always around your body, and your hands, feet, shoulders, and arms turn together with the sabre".

The main routines of sabre play include Panlong (coil dragon), Bagua (eight-diagrams), Qinglong (green dragon), Miao Sabre, Nine-Ring sabre, Liuhe (6 combination), Shaolin Twin sabres, Taiji, Yexing (night travel), Meihua (plum blossom), Drunkard sabre and monkey sabre. In addition, the combination of sabre with other weapons forms many more routines. For example, the play with sabre in one hand and staff in another is called "sabre play with staff", a favourite exercise for Kung Fu enthusiasts. Sabre play demonstrates hardness and powerfulness, but not always. In defence and dodging actions, suppleness is needed.


The spear is called the king of all weapons. It is one of the major long-shaft Kung Fu weapons. There are different types of spear, such as carefully designed and delicately made "flowery spear", thick and bold spear, zigzag spear with a sharp point and blade, double-head spear with blades on both sides. The spear was the major military weapon in ancient times and compact technique was developed. The main characteristics of spear play are flexibility in body movements, lightness and agility in footwork, quickness and steadiness in turns and somersaults. The movements are clear and the tricks are practical. Spear play is likened to the "flying dragon". Spear play is very difficult, but it has a great effect on strengthening the physique.

The basic techniques of spear play include pricking, thrusting, circling, blocking, pointing, poking, holding and wringing. When you practise, you are advised to hold the spear firmly and flexibly, advance and retreat freely and smoothly, pricking the opponent quickly and directly, with the force on the point of the spear. This is one of the important basic skills in spear play. When you hold the spear, it must be close to your waist for support so that you can exert your force easily. In all routines of spear play, the point of the spear moves in a circle, which is regarded as the fundamental of all styles of spear play and requires hard practice. The main routines include Bagua (eight-diagram), Luihe (6 combination), Double-head, Yueya (crescent), Meihua (plum blossom), Shewei (snake-tail), Yang family, Siping and Big spear play as well.


The cudgel is called the "father of all weapons" meaning all other weapons were developed from it. As the cudgel is easy to make and use, and is practical, it has become a very popular weapon. Cudgel play lays stress on a sweeping action so the saying goes "with a cudgel you sweep all around". Some tricks employed for other weapons (such as spear and sabre) can also be used in cudgel play. there are many methods of playing the cudgel. Among the most commonly used are chopping, swinging, jabbing, hanging, jumping, leaping, smashing, pointing, blocking, sheltering, holding, piercing, floating, carrying, poking and lifting. The different schools of cudgel play have different emphasis. Cudgel is played as quickly as heavy rainfall and cudgel play combines offence with defence, always changing the ways of play.

The main routines include Qimei, Shaolin, Panlong (coiled dragon), Jiuzhou (9 continent), Luihe (6 combination), Tianqi, Bhodi-dharma, Monkey and Drunkard. Cudgels are mostly made of wood but some are made of metal. In addition to long cudgels, there are two-section cudgel and three-section cudgel.