In the old days, the need to become skilful at defending against, and using, a variety of edged and blunt impact weapons was a necessity for those with bagua skills while employed as bodyguards or as professional escorts for groups travelling between the cities. For this purpose bagua uses the common weapons of that era, two short—the sword and broadsword, and two long—the staff and spear. It also specialised in a variety of smaller edged weapons of various shapes; the most famous of which were the Deer Horn Knives.
Bagua also became famous for its use of very large weapons. Various styles utilised extra heavy and long straight swords, broadswords, and spears. Incidentally, I am not sure that oversized weapons are ever of any real value in combat outside of their original purpose under certain battlefield conditions. For example, long spears were designed to be used en masse to hold off groups of cavalry or masses of similarly armed men. They are of less use at close range, and oversized chopping weapons are of limited use when fighting in close quarters or in an urban setting.
In fact, the oversized bagua "knives" (dao, as broadswords are called in Chinese) were originally meant to cut the legs out from under a horse, so you could more easily get at the opponent riding the animal. They were not for duels between men on foot, as the skilful man with a shorter weapon, or a pair of shorter weapons, has a real advantage against the fellow with the big cumbersome weapon, if he can get within the range of that longer weapon.
There are certain training benefits (relearning the balance of a top-heavy weapon, developing stronger muscles) to practising with an oversized weapon of any kind. However, this is not my cup of tea. It is hard to be impressed by the modern versions of these forms demonstrated with light and overly flexible replicas of the original weapons. When you can see the blade bending floppily as the wielder does his form, it is less impressive in terms of the potential martial value of the performance.
The movements associated with each bagua weapon help to develop the body in ways that are not often easily accomplished through empty-hand forms and exercises. Having a weapon in one or both hands changes the ways in which you can move and necessitates a heightened sense of awareness of your body and the space through which both you and the weapon(s) move.
You have to learn not only to control your body and its six directions, but also extend that to the weapon(s) moving forward and back, up and down, and side to side. This is hard enough to achieve when practising by yourself, but these new skills become even more crucial when you are trying to be attentive of someone else who is trying to use a weapon against you.
So, in the old days, you had to not only know how to use at least one weapon in a practised and efficient manner, but you also had to have some idea of how each of the other types of weapons you were liable to have to fight against would operate in the hands of a skilled opponent. No easy answers once you add weaponry to the equation of developing advanced bagua martial skills.
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