As martial artists—by that, I mean someone who frequently watches kung fu movies and attempts to imitate the moves used whilst holding a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other—we often strive to master our chosen disciplines.
However, the competitive fights that you see on TV/Internet rarely have practitioners wielding weapons, which is a huge blow to those of us interested in the martial times of wielders of steel and iron.
Fortunately, we here at TWOC share your interest in these ancient weapons used for spilling blood, so we’ve compiled a short list of notables. Enjoy!
The sword is the most recognizable weapon from bygone eras. Whether the rulers were Roman or Greeks or Orcs, each regime had their own spin on this classic weapon.
And the Chinese were no different.
Visually the dao (刀) is similar to that of a sabre. It is sharp on only side and is often referred to as “The General of All Weapons”. In essence, the Chinese word dao can be used to refer to most bladed implements. For example, the sword that the Hero named “Nameless” used can be called a dao, but so too could that blunt kitchen knife you have tucked away in your top drawer.
So we’ve talked about the Chinese sword. Now it’s time to move on to the next “classic” weapon, the…sword…again.
However, the difference between the dao and the jian (剑) is simply the number of sharp sides. A jian looks like the standard swords you see wielded by combatants from Game of Thrones or Highlander (remember Highlander?). With two sharpened edges, the jian is often known as “The Gentleman of Weapons”.
Taking a step away from the one-handedness of the entries above, we move onto one of the four major weapons in ancient China—dao and jian are two other ones—“The King of Weapons”, the almighty spear.
The qiang (枪) has the same character as modern day guns so its best to be certain which one is referred to when dueling at dawn.
I know what you’re thinking and you can immediately discard that thought. A gun (棍) is not that weapon that looks infinitely cooler if you hold it sideways, but rather it is the Chinese name for a staff.
While it may seem to be at a disadvantage compared to the other classic weapons (yes, this one is the forth), the staff has a long history in the application of Chinese martial arts and is nicknamed “The Grandfather of Weapons”. Its fame rose even further when China’s favorite superhero, the Monkey King, chose it as its main weapon.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the four major weapons, it’s time to introduce some of the more peculiar ones.
Take the emeici (峨嵋刺). On a purely visual level, these pair of blades look similar to chopsticks. The two ends are sharpened and a ring is present in the middle. The user puts his finger through the ring to fully grasp and utilize the weapon. The ring in the middle can free spin which means that the user can manipulate the weapon in many different ways.
With a name like this, you can imagine the amount of brute strength the user needs to completely master this weapon.
The meteor hammer (流星錘) is comprised of two weights connected by a chain, and belongs to the flail and chained family of weapons. While swinging one end around may produce tremendous force, a lack of coordination can easily leave the practitioner with mush for a face.
Digging is a form of manual labor that also acts as a great method of body strengthening. So it comes as no surprise that a weapon would be formed from this.
A type of pole weapon, the monk’s spade (月牙铲) has a bladed spade on one end and a crescent shaped blade on the other. Rumor has it that monks used to carry these weapons so that they could bury any bodies that stood in their way—lethal and functional at the same time.
DEER HORN KNIVES
A close combat weapon, deer horn knives (鹿角刀) are comprised of two crescent shaped blades that intersect.
Wielded as a pair, these knives are generally used to trap an opponents weapon and then finish them off in close combat. It is often implemented in the Chinese martial art of baguazhang (), which means “eight trigram plam”.
Cover image from Nipic