Most people find that the weaponry are among the most unique and interesting aspect of Chinese Kung Fu. It’s because many other forms of martial arts don’t have such a display of so many realistic weapons, kendo have their bamboo swords, fencing have their thin metal swords, but Chinese Kung Fu has such a huge variety of weapons. These weapons look cool and have many flashy moves with their set patterns. But as we know, most martial artists want to know how their skills can be used in a real situation, so are these weapons really useful?
In the modern day environment, in countries which forbid civilians from bearing weapons be it firearms or melee weapons, Kung Fu weapons don’t seem to be useful for self defense. In countries which allow weapons, people already have firearms, so what’s the use of Kung Fu weapons? However the masses learn martial arts because they want to be able to handle physical conflict more confidently and effectively. Perhaps unarmed combat will be more useful to us in this case. But no matter what, when you have the choice of using a weapon when faced with an armed opponent, you best be, or else you will be in a huge disadvantage.
There are some exceptions, for example many learn Filipino Arnis or Kali so that they can use sticks and knives when they face armed robbers. Many Chinese weapons do not fit into this category, but do you know Kung Fu also has their short stick skills, dagger skills and other small concealed weapons? These small concealed weapons are pretty useful in this sense; the bodyguards and assassins of the past use them. It’s like the Ninjutsu of China.
There are some Chinese weapons which do help you in a street encounter; the stick or staff is one example, the saber is another one. If you find a pole-like item on the street and if you know how to use it, you will have much more reach than any of your armed assailants. Remember the scene in Bruce Lee’s Way of The Dragon where he beat down his abductors with a pole? There has been real life encounters by some Kung Fu practitioners in Singapore which their stick fighting skills have helped them fend off an entire gang of knife wielding thugs in the 1960s. If you don’t know how to use a long stick, you’ve lost a lot of advantage, and maybe because of that, your life. Most people who have done weapons in martial arts have tried Kendo or Kali, but when a stick of their height is in their hands they find it better to drop the stick.
If you got a machete in hand, you can’t do the small and tight cuts from Kali that well, not like when you have a short knife. Whereas if you have trained in the Dao (Chinese Curved Sword) before, the machete will fit just nice into your skills. The Chinese have used machete against the katana wielding Japanese in the Second World War and it has been proven to be very effective against the latter.
There is a saying in many martial arts: "a weapon is an extension of your limbs" & "your limbs are like weapons". So is every limb compatible with every weapon? Well, In Chinese Kung Fu the logic is each weapon is compatible with the martial art which uses the weapon. For example, the twin butterfly knives can be used by the Hung Gar or Wing Chun practitioner because their empty hand skills are equivalent to the weapon techniques. Likewise you can also use the Shaolin Saber and Wudang Sword skills with a stick in your hand.
Many styles of Kung Fu practice weapons to enhance their empty hand fighting skills. A very good example is Xing Yi Quan, they use their famous spear training to improve the power as well as the accuracy of their strikes. It is said that their fist style originates from the legendary Yue Fei’s spear skills. Indeed, our body in this sense is like a weapon. Weapon training is a very effective and fun way to improve a person's strength and dexterity.
So are Kung Fu weapons redundant? Not true, they continue to hold great value in many aspects...