Long Weapons of Northern Shaolin
The long Weapons of Northern Shaolin are the Staff, Spear, and Kwan Dao. Although there are others these are the most important by far and the ones we’ll explore now.
The Staff – Specialty Weapon of Shaolin Monks
Shaolin monks were famous for their staff skills. They preferred the staff, because they could defend themselves without using lethal force, cutting, or piercing the opponents’ body. The staff is a common aid in walking, especially in the wilderness, and is not considered to be purely a weapon. Thus a monk can rationalize that they are not armed and have a more peaceful appearance.
However, carrying a staff obviously shows that one does have some self defense capability. This immediate awareness by a potential attacker can act as an effective deterrent. Especially if one or two skillful passes or flourishes are made to show an aggressive person you have some skill in self defense!
The staff is also a practical weapon for modern self-defense because many commonly found items can be used as a staff.
The staff is very valuable for developing the strength of the wrists, arms and shoulders. Practicing with a staff also helps to develop the coordination of the whole body and build power for empty hand techniques. In particular the staff develops power and skill joint locking techniques.
The Staff is considered the easiest of the Traditional Chinese weapons to learn. Therefore it is excellent for students new to weapons training to learn first. With hard work one can acquire skill in staff with 100 days in a row of practice.
Spear – The King of Weapons
The Spear is considered the King of the weapons. It is called the King of the Weapons because it is the most difficult to defend against, because of its versatility and power. The spear is long and has a sharp point. One small poke to the torso will usually produce a deadly injury. Even an unskilled person who only knows how to thrust straight ahead is dangerous with a spear because it is hard to get around the length of the spear and reach their vital areas. For equipping an army the Spear was the primary close combat weapon because it only uses a little metal and is therefore much cheaper than a sword and much more deadly than a staff.
Spears are made from white wax wood poles, with a metal tip and red tassel made from horse hair. The tassel serves several purposes. It is confusing to the opponent, can be used to trap the opponents’ weapon, and prevents blood from making the handle sticky and hard to slide. Spears along with crossbows and Kwan Dao were the main weapons of common foot soldiers.
The spear, like the straight sword, makes use of many spiraling techniques and helps to focus the internal spirals within the body. The spear is excellent for opening up the shoulder blades and rotating the hips and shoulders in unity with the spine. The spear is also excellent for developing the power of the waist and center of the body and for developing power in punching techniques. Because the spear thrusts are very similar throwing punches when you thrust with the spear and you are supporting and guiding the spear its weight helps you develop strength and proper alignment for powerful punches. The spear also helps to develop shoulder strength, size, and density.
The spear is a good weapon for women because it does not requite as much strength as many other weapons and can extend their reach. The spear also relies on intelligence and speed. Thus women who are not as strong as a large man can use their intelligence, speed, and the length of the spear and its many tricks to overcome a much stronger male attacker.
Many spear forms also have exceptionally beautiful choreography that makes them fun to learn and practice. Spear is considered to be a much harder weapon to master than Staff. It is said that the Staff takes 100 days of steady practice to master and the Spear takes 1,000 days.
The Kwan Dao is a large heavy weapon. It has a thick heavy blade shaped like a broadsword that is attached to a thick pole. The butt end will often have a round loop or large spiky bit. It is heavy 10 – 20 pounds being typical. Some are very heavy. It is named after general Kwan the Chinese hero who invented it. General Kwan ascended to God status as the God of War. Statues to him can be found in many restaurants (Chefs use knives) most Chinese martial arts schools and wherever his energy might seam useful or welcomed.
The Kwan Dao is a heavy weapon. It makes staves and spears feel light. Training with a Kwan Dao rapidly builds excellent whole body strength and especially strengthens the shoulders. The Kwan Dao helps build power in all ones empty hand techniques. It also helps to build the whole body connection and great alignment of the arm shoulder and spine.
This is an excellent weapon for a larger person whose superior strength allows them to move the weapon with ease. The main techniques of Kwan Dao are usually pretty simple. Step forward and deliver a huge whack or chop! Because of the weight and size of the Kwan Dao most other weapons just can’t block these moves. In fact, armor really isn’t going to help much either.
If your have a Kwan Dao your opponent is going to be dodging. The drawback of the Kwan Dao is of course it is not very fast to change directions or movements. The Kawn Dao person must guard against the agile smaller person getting inside with a skillful dodge and cutting their wrists, arms, or legs. The trick here of course is that some very large men are actually quite fast as well as very strong and they can move a Kwan Dao with great precision and speed. Much like a normal person would wield a spear.