By Marc Melton
The North American Tang Shou Tao Association teaching curriculum includes the study of numerous Ba Gua Zhang two handed specialty weapons. In order to provide an introduction to some of these weapons, North American Tang Shou Tao instructor Marc Melton has submitted the following article. Marc is of Chinese descent on his mother's side and speaks the language fluently. In addition to his study with the North American Tang Shou Tao Association, Marc has also traveled to China on several occasions to study with direct students of Li Zi Ming and Liu Feng Cai.
A distinctive quality of Ba Gua Zhang is its incorporation of two handed specialty weapons. These weapons use and build upon the basic principles of Ba Gua which include balance, proper stepping, body alignment, and coordination of the hand with the movement of the waist and the legs. These weapons effectively achieve this result by adding more weight and momentum to one's movements in a more balanced fashion because they are held in both hands. Also since most of these weapons are bladed on more than one side, the practitioner's body and hand position must be correct in order to avoid cutting oneself. Although these weapons were mainly designed with the purpose of being used to fight against longer weapons, such as a spear or staff, they also teach important principles of movement and fighting. And more importantly, the practice of such exotic and diverse weapons gives the practitioner a particular kind of insight that isn't found by practicing just one kind of weapon. This insight will be discussed later. In the North American Tang Shou Tao organization, we study the Liang Zhen Pu ffiiki^ ) and Gao Yi Sheng A Mt) styles of Ba Gua Zhang. Some of the specialty weapons practiced in these two systems (but not exclusive to) are; the Rooster Knife, the Chicken Claw Knives, the Wind and Fire Wheels, and The Mandarin Duck Knives.
In this article I will give a brief introduction to each of these weapons and then present, in photographs, a demonstration of a short form sequence using each weapon, followed by a weapons application of that sequence, and then a bare hands application using movements of that sequence. The bare hands application sequence will demonstrate how use of the weapon in training will not only enhance fundamental Ba Gua mechanics and develop new principles of body motion, but can also help spark creativity in the employment of Ba Gua bare hands applications.
The Rooster Knives, also known as the Rooster Claw Yin Yang Blades, were a specialty weapon of Liang Zhang Pu. When applied properly, they are particularly vicious. As seen in the photo, stabbing, tearing, and clawing happen at almost every angle-of application. Like the rooster itself, these blades have a head, feathers, claws, and even a tail. There is even a "eye" for placement of poison if so desired.
One of the results of training with the rooster knives is an increased coordination between body movement and the positioning of elbows and forearms. The added weight, as well as the increased alignment, enables the practitioner to refine and increase the power in the large circular chopping movements that are characteristic of Liang Zhen Pu Ba Gua. Additionally, this particular weapon teaches one to control an opponent's attack with the forearms while simultaneously striking to the body.
Rooster Knife Application against a Staff (demonstrated by Marc Melton and Matt Hillman)
The Chicken Claw Knives
The Chicken Claw knives, an adaptation to the Rooster Knives, were Guo Gu Min's (iP-fr forte. Guo Gu Min was a student of Liang Zhang Pu and senior brother to Li Zi Ming (4- i The chicken claw knives teaches many of the same principles as the rooster knives but because of its design and the way its held, it extends the practitioner's energy out further and allows a more dynamic extension of one's body. This characteristic gives the practitioner a greater insight into Ba Gua movement and applications. One advantage of the blade's design is to catch an attacking weapon and maintain control of it while attacking the opponent. (see photos)
The Wind and Fire Rings
The Wind and Fire Rings were the choice weapon of Li Zi Ming. These weapons are bladed on five sides with the ring bladed on the outside and inside. The purpose of the blade on the inside of the ring was for decapitation. In combat, the goal was to place both rings over the head and separate them at the neck. This particular weapon also had wavier straight blades that extended out one side of the circle blade (see photo). The purpose of these blades were for parrying, closing and setting up the enemy, as well as stabbing and slashing. This weapon connects the turning over of the wrist with the circular movement of the shoulders. Furthermore, it coordinates this quality with the step to allow one to penetrate and circle while controlling the opponent's attack. There is also an extended energy illustrated in the practice of this weapon that teaches the practitioner to use a deflection to gain the position to throw an opponent.
The Mandarin Duck Knives
The Mandarin Duck knives are practiced in the Gao Yi Sheng style of Ba Gua. These weapons were a favorite of Wang Shu Sheng ( the senior student of Gao Yi Sheng's student Liu Feng Cai (#1 M< These knives are similar to the Crescent Moon or Deer Horn knives except that they only have three blades with one being a hooked duck head shape (see photo). At one time, the "eye" of the duck head was laced with poison that would enter the enemy with each stabbing. The duck knives emphasizes the hooking and coiling motions of the arm and the wrist. Furthermore, it ties in these motions to the twisting of the body as well as the step.
Mandarin Duck Knives Form Section
Mandarin Duck Knives Form Section
Mandarin Duck Knives Application against a Staff
For many practitioners it may seen a little obscure for somebody to be practicing all of these exotic specialty weapons. Especially since no one these days would carry a pair of these weapons for self-defense. If they wanted a weapon for self-defense they would probably buy a gun or some other modern weapon. However, training with these short weapons does provide something more valuable than just knowing how to defend oneself with these particular blades. In other words, "the whole is worth more than the sum of its part's." The "whole" in this case would include several things. The most important thing is a greater understanding and insight into the detailed mechanics of Ba Gua martial applications and Ba Gua theory. After training for a few months with a variety of short weapons, like the ones mentioned in this article, and the proper foundation in Ba Gua with a good teacher, a practitioner may be able to grasp many Ba Gua principles that may have been too obscure to understand before.
Another advantage of training with numerous specialty weapons is that it changes the nature of the practitioner's insight to become versatile in using any sort of tool or object as a weapon. The practitioner will be able to see advantageous aspects of ordinary objects around him to use in self-defense. In other words, training with such diverse strange weapons causes a person to be able to see and use almost anything as a weapon, and even more so to use that object in a skilled fashion.
Those who wish to find out more about the North American Tang Shou Tao Association can write to:
North American Tang Shou Tao P.O. Box 36335 Tucson, AZ 85740 or call: (520) 544-4838
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