SPECIFIC ESSENCE OF VARIOUS WEAPONS
Is there a specific essence to each Shaolin weapon and if yes, what is the specific essence for each weapon that is going to be taught at the Special Weapon's Course?
Sifu Claudien Scicluna
Yes, there is a specific essence to each weapon.
The five weapons to be taught at the Special Weapon Course are
- Big Trident
- Soft Whip
- Guan Dao
Because of its weight, some people may consider a Big Trident clumsy. But in the hands of a master, the Big Trident can be very sophisticated. Because of the weight of the weapon, its three pointed fork can be employed to capture an opponent’s weapon.
The essence of a Soft Whip is flow. Unlike in all other weapons where their techniques can be applied in isolation, the techniques of a Soft Whip must be applied in a continuous flow. In other words, in all other weapons there can be pauses in between patterns, but in a Soft Whip there cannot be any pauses.
For example, after slashing with a sabre or thrusting with a spear, you may pause to consider what technique to use next. But with a Soft Whip, you cannot pause; you have to continue with other techniques in a continuous flow.
This flow aspect has its advantage and disadvantage. The flow of continuous techniques give an advantage to an exponent. He does not hesitate, for example, to think of the next pattern to use. But a skillful exponent may anticipate the flow of a Soft Whip, and thus be able to counter more efficiently.
The essence of a sword is agility. Besides agility of footwork, which is very important in swordsmanship as it is disadvantageous to clash a sword with another weapon, the lightness of a sword enables it to be manipulated by the wrist, which further enhances its agility.
It is a common mistake to use a sword as if it were a sabre. A sword and a sabre have different characteristic features. Their philosophy and application are vastly different.
The essence of the spear is the thrust. A spear thrust is technically the most difficult weapon technique to defend against. It is like an opponent pointing a gun at you, with the exception that you could block a spear thrust but not a bullet. Hence, in kungfu culture, one is consider capable in the use of his chosen weapon only if he can use his chosen weapon to defend or counter a spear thrust
To overcome an opponent blocking a spear thrust, the spear exponent uses circuling or sometimes merely pulling the spear a short distance back. Hence, circling and thrusting and pulling back are important techniques of a spear.
Like the Big Trident, the essence of a Guan Dao is also weight. The Guan Dao, which means the Big Knife of Guan Yu, a great warrior of the Three-Kingdom Period of Chinese warring history, is also a heavy weapon. But unlike a Big Trident where the essence of its weight is used in pressing down an opponent or his weapon, the essence of its weight of a Guan Dao is in chopping.
The weight of its heavy blade enabled a Guan Dao exponent to chop his opponent right through the latter’s armour. As fighting was on horseback, the weapon needed to be long. So a long shaft was attached to its heavy blade.
It is a common mistake in performance of the Guan Dao today for performers to hold the weapon with his front hand just at the base of the blade. This negates the advantage of the Guan Dao as a long weapon. The hands should hold the shaft at the other end of the blade. To neutralize the heavy weight of the blade, a heavy pointed knob is attached to the other hand.
The blade of most Guan Dao today is flimsy. This negates the advantage of the Guan Dao as a heavy weapon. Not only the flimsy blade cannot chop through an armour, it can be easily damaged by blocking with another weapon, which is a bad defence in the case of a real Guan Dao as the heavy weapon may chop right through.
Besides knowing the essence of these weapons, in today’s world it may be more important to know why and how the training of these weapons with their essence can benefit our daily life.
The training of the Big Trident enables us to use our weight fruitfully, not throwing our weight around arrogantly but using it for beneficial purposes. If you are an instructor teaching your students, for example, and treating them like your peers, you could benefit much from learning the Big Trident. You would learn to use your weight as an instructor. When you students question you impolitely, you press them down with your authority, like pressing their weapon down with your Big Trident, then when they are quite helpless, you thrust at them, not with the three pointed forks of the Big Trident, but with your teaching material.
The training of flow of the Soft Whip can enrich us in many ways in daily life. Many people fail in their endeavors because they hesitate in their actions, or worse they do not complete the series of actions necessary to accomplish their endeavors. As an instructor you may want to start a new class. You talk to a few friends, or talk to a newspaper agent for an advertisement, often at your own convenience. Then you stop doing any other relevant actions until days or months later. Worse, you stop your endeavor all together.
Training the Soft Whip may enable you to see your endeavor not as isolated actions but as a smooth flow. You do not market your class in isolation but perform the whole process continuously and smoothly cumulating in successfully teaching a large class. In other words, just like in the performance of a Soft Whip, you do not perform an isolated task like distributing brochures of your impending class to some people, then stop at that, irrespective of its success or failure. You perform the whole process of starting a class, including the distribution of brochures as one of many items in the process, in one continuous flow.
The training of the sword will give you physical and mental agility in daily life. Physical agility is not merely doing a physical task elegantly, and then hesitating to complete the intended process. For example, it is not merely finishing your cup of tea and saying good-bye to your friend, but stopping at his door and continuing to chat, then stopping at his gate and again stopping at your parked car. It means elegantly completing the whole process of leaving, including finishing your cup of tea, saying good-bye, walking past his door and gate, and driving off in your car, with your friend smiling and feeling happy about your visit.
Often, many people lack mental agility in their daily life. When they are asked a question, their mind becomes stuck, or they start thinking of other things, or thinking of the questions instead of answering it. Our training in Shaolin Wahnam gives us mental agility, and the training of the sword enhances it. We are trained to do the right thing spontaneously and elegantly.
In swordsmanship, when a horizontal sweep of a Guan Dao is coming at you on your left, you don’t think, “What am I going to do?” or “Which pattern from my sword set should I use?” or “Why is he swing his Guan Dao at me?”. You just do the right thing spontaneously and elegantly, which is moving swiftly to your right and ounter-strike. Usually you are not even aware of the mental process going on.
The mental process is as follows. You perceive the situation. Your mind directs energy flow to the respective parts of your body to enable you to move to your right and counter-strike. You can do so effortlessly because you have been well trained. Many other people will be stuck. The training of the sword enhances this training of mental and physical agility.
Similarly, when someone asks you a question, like “Where did you buy your beautiful kungfu suit?”, you do the right thing, which is answering the question, like “I bought it at Sam’s Batik Shop in Penang.” Many other people may start thinking, “Is my kungfu suit beautiful?”, “Why does he ask the question?”, “Is he wearing a kungfu suit?”, “What did I do in Penang?”, or their mind may go mentally blank.
You can do so effortlessly because you have been well trained to do the right thing. Usually you may not even be aware of the mental process going on. The mental process is as follows. You perceive the question and answer it.
The training of the spear will enable you to be proficient in the thrust. Transferred to daily life, it means accomplishing your aim or objective in a simple, direct and effective manner. This invaluable skill is lacking in many people. If you look back at your own life before you learned from Shaolin Wahnam, you may also find you lacked this skill before.
For example, why do sick people see a doctor? They want to be cured of their illness. But these people forget that their doctors have explicitly said that their illness cannot be cured. Their effort, therefore, is not effective.
Suppose a person wants to buy a particular product. He reads about the product. He asks his friends who have used the product about their experiences. He checks the internet to find out various prices different sources offer to sell the product. His action is, therefore, not direct. A direct action is to go to a shop that sells the product, and buys it (the product, not the shop).
Please note that his purpose is to buy the product. If his purpose were to know more about the product, to know his friends’ experiences of the product, or the lowest price available for the product, then action would be different.
If you want to buy a dress for your girlfriend and want to know the color she likes best, you ask her, “What color do you like best for a dress?”, you approach is simple. But if you start asking, “Do you like the blue sky?, “Is a red rose more beautiful than a yellow one?”, or “Jessie likes purple, how about you?”, your approach is round-about. Again, please note that the objective here is to find out the color you girlfriend likes. If your objective were to create a right atmosphere before asking your girlfriend her favored color, the approach would be different.
Guan Dao training will also enhance the application of weight, which can be transferred to daily life. If you are a chi kung healer and a cancer patient complains that your healing fee of 30,000 euros is exorbitant as other chi kung healers are charging only 50 euros per session, and you argue with him, you do not apply your advantage of weight.
Applying the advantage of weight, which will bring benefits to both the patient and you is as follows. Tell him that he has a choice. He can choose to see other healers who charge much less, and even presuming that he won’t die, he won’t recover from cancer. Here, he is guaranteed to recover. If he does not recover within a year, you will pay him back his 30,000 euros. Certainly his life is worth more than 30,000 euros. Tell him to make a choice and don’t waste your time. You would rather spend your time with cancer patients who value their lives and want to recover.
Editorial Note: Grandmaster Wong has increased the number of weapons to be taught at the course from 5 to 8.
The following 8 weapons will be taught:
- Flowing Water Staff.
- Plum Flower Sabre.
- Traveling Dragon Sword.
- Thirteen-Technique Spear.
- Crescent-Moon Big Knife.
- Crescent-Moon Spear.
- Taming-Tiger Big Trident.
- Three-Sectional Soft Whip.
This answer is taken from Special Weapon Course: 10 Questions to Grandmaster wong of the Shaolin Wahnam Institute Discussion Forum.
Courses and Classes