Kung Fu Weapons Training
by Bob Ellal
“There are four major kung fu weapons: the staff, the sword, the sabre and the spear,” says Ramel Rones, disciple of Dr.Yang Jwing-Ming. “The staff was the foundation weapon of the Shaolin Temple. Thus it’s nickname ‘the father of all weapons.’”
According to Rones, the four major kung fu weapons generally are learned in a specific order in all schools. “First you learn to fight with your body—your hands and your legs. Then you learn the staff. It’s the easiest weapon to learn. It teaches you balance and coordination with something held in both hands.
“In our school we learned the sabre next. The sabre is called the marshal of all weapons. Now the kung fu weapons training become more difficult. You have to learn to coordinate both hands together—the one holding the sabre and the one that is empty. This is how you judge if someone is good with a single-hand weapon—by the balance exhibited in the empty hand.”
Normally sword training would come next but in Dr. Yang’s school a personal weapon was selected for each student based on body type and temperament. “For me, the pi dao was the logical choice of kung fu weapons,” says Rones. The pi dao is a long-handled weapon six-and-a-half-feet in length with a long blade on the end. It’s designed to cut the horses legs from cavalry to bring the riders to the ground where they can be dispatched. “The pi dao was right for me because I’m tall with a long reach and I move smoothly. It’s very much what I’d call a ‘water weapon’—one requiring smooth, continuous movements.”
The straight sword is called the “gentleman of all weapons” by the Chinese. “The narrow blade sword is my favorite of the kung fu weapons,” says Rones. “That’s because it is the most efficient and precise weapon; strikes are directed to cavities and arteries so you must know the human body well and be able to direct it there with great skill. Plus, it can counter any weapon.”
At Dr. Yang’s school many weapons are taught beyond the four major kung fu weapons. “For example, I learned two short rods and the sais as part of the white crane kung fu repetoire. As part of self-defense training we learned to use the knife and the belt as offensive and defensive weapons. During ba qua training, I became proficient in the deer hooks.
“Each style of kung fu weapons we learned had its own way of expressing power. Ba gua deer hooks use circular movements; hsing-yi moves like a cannon; white crane, like a whip.
“Eventually, I learned the spear, the ‘king of all weapons.’ It’s called that because it’s the most difficult to master.” The spear was the major military weapon in ancient times. It requires flexibility, quickness and great agility to learn.
“Besides gaining balance, coordination, and strength from kung fu weapons training, you also learn to move energy, or chi, away from your body, into your hands, and beyond. This is an invaluable skill in real fighting,” concludes Rones.
Ramel Rones is a disciple of Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, noted master of Chinese martial arts, writer, scholar and lecturer. For over twenty years he has studied full-time with Master Yang as an in-house student, mastering Northern Shaolin, White Crane, Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing-Yi, Ba Qua, Chin Na, Chi Kung, and Kung Fu Weapons. Currently he teaches at Yang’s Martial Arts Association headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts and privately in his clinic.