Chinese Weaponry

Kung Fu weaponry has a history as ancient as the various styles themselves. The use and development of weapons in Kung Fu varied with the time and place in which each weapon originated and flourished. Over the years weaponry usage has been utilised for the development of strength in the arms and wrists, eye-hand coordination and timing and control.

Wooden Staff/Stick (Kwan)

One of the first weapons to be taught to students is the wooden staff (or stick).

The staff is about 6 feet in length and in the region of 3.5cm in diameter.

It is made of hard wood and is therefore almost completely inflexible.

Chinese Broad Sword (Dan Dao)

The Chinese Broad Sword is a single bladed weapon which dates back many centuries.

Blades are moderately curved and single-edged, though often with few inches of the back edge sharpened as well.DSCN1117

Hilts (handles)  are canted, curving in the opposite direction as the blade which improves handling in some forms of cuts and thrusts.

Cord is usually wrapped over the wood of the handle and may also be pierced  for the addition of lanyards, though modern swords for performances will often have tassels or scarves instead.

Guards are typically disc-shaped often with a cupped shape to prevent rainwater from getting into the sheath, and to prevent blood from dripping down to the handle, making it more difficult to grip. Sometimes guards are thinner pieces of metal with an s-curve, the lower limb of the curve protecting the user’s knuckles.

Most schools still train extensively with the dao, seeing it as a powerful conditioning tool and a versatile weapon, with self defence techniques transferable to similarly sized more common objects, such as canes, baseball or cricket bats, for example.

One measure of the proper length of the sword should be from the hilt in your hand and the tip of the blade at the brow and in some schools, the height of shoulder. Alternatively, the length of the sword should be from the middle of the throat along the length of the outstretched arm.

Butterfly Knives (Wu Dip Dao)

DSCN1115The blade of a butterfly knife is roughly as long as a human forearm, which allows for easy concealment inside loose sleeves or boots, and allows greater maneuverability when spinning and rotating during close-quarters fighting.

Butterfly knives are usually wielded in pairs. A pair of swords will often be carried side by side within the same scabbard, so as to give the appearance of a single weapon.

The knife  has a small crossguard to protect the hands of the wielder, which can also be used to block or hook an opponent’s weapon. They may also be used as a knuckle duster when non-lethal application of the weapon is desired.

Traditionally, the blade of a butterfly knife is only sharpened along half of its edge – from the middle of the blade to the tip.  The blade from the midpoint down is left blunt so that it can be used to deliver non-lethal strikes and to block without damaging the sharpened edge.

Tiger Fork (Pa Fa)


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The Tiger Fork is in the region of 6 feet in length and has a substantial steel trident or fork at its head.

The supporting staff is made of hard wood and is usually very thick.

The Tiger Fork is a heavy weapon being in the region of 30 – 40 lbs in weight and requires both skill and strength on behalf of the practitioner.

Spear (Chung)

The spear is a long weapon being in the region of 7 feet in length. Unlike the spears that evolved in many other parts of the world the Chinese spear is not a throwing weapon. It further distinguishes itself by having a flexible rattan staff rather than a rigid hard wood one.

DSCN1129The spear is regarded by many as the oldest Chinese weapon originally developed for use as a cavalry weapon to be used from horse back.  Its flexible staff lends itself to some unexpected uses such as slashing movements. That is why it is common to have a pointed, double-edged head which can be used to slice as well as thrust.

When the spear is moving quickly, the addition of the tassles aids in blurring the vision of the opponent so that it is more difficult for them to grab the shaft of spear behind the head or tip. The tassles also serve another purpose, to stop the flow of blood from the blade getting to the wooden shaft (the blood would make it slippery, or sticky when dried).

Kwan Dao

According to legend, the Kwan Dao ( or Guan Dao)  was invented by the famous general Guan Yu during the early 3rd century AD, hence the name. Due to his large DSCN1126stature, he was able to wield such an imposing weapon and developed the guan dao into a versatile tool being able to use it on foot or on horse back.

The considerable weight of the blade and the leverage of the handle would have allowed it to cut through most leather, chain,  or  armour of medieval China.

In Chinese it is properly called a yan yue dao (“reclining moon blade”) and has a  heavy curved blade with a spike at the back and sometimes also a notch at the spike’s upper base that can catch an opponent’s weapon. The blade is mounted on top of a 5-6 ft long wooden or metal pole. With the blade being heavy it is useful for sweeping cuts that rely on range and power.

Used more as an attacking weapon it can also be used to deflect using the back of the blade and rear of the handle, with direct blocks done more often with the handle to avoid chipping the blade.


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