The Weapons of Choy Lay Fut
Tat-Mau Wong On the Southern Arsenal

By Michele J. Harris

As a young martial artist growing up in Hong Kong, Master Tat-Mau Wong was familiar with the Chinese saying "Sup bot boon bing hay geen geen guy lung." Loosely translated it means, "A good martial artist should be expert in 18 kinds of weapons." The meaning further breaks down to 9 short weapons and 9 long weapons. Wong explains, " The word for nine, gau, also means never ending. So the bottom line is that a good martial artist must be expert in many weapons." Today, in Tat-Mau Wong's three Bay area schools, as well as his branches in Brazil, weapons training is still an important part of the curriculum.

From the earliest times, man's need to survive and protect himself brought about the development of weapons. China, whose history is very long and turbulent, developed a wide variety of weapons that are particular to the Chinese martial arts. Choy Lay Fut kung fu has its own impressive array of weapons. "I think one reason that Choy Lay Fut has so many weapons is because it incorporates both Southern and Northern influences. Also, because the founder of Choy Lay Fut, Chan-Heng, was a dominant force in the fight against the Ching Dynasty in the early 1800's, our weapons had a very practical and martial purpose."

There are many thoughts as to how to divide weapons into categories, including short, long, flexible, single, double, hooked weapons, spiked weapons, bladed weapons, and more. Wong prefers to divide weapons into three major categories; short, long, and flexible, and he believes most weapons will fall under one these three categories.

The Short Weapons
To begin with there are short weapons. "A common characteristic of short weapons is that the angle of strikes and blocks quickly changes directions," Wong notes, adding, "This makes having a strong and flexible wrist very important. A common practice for developing this strength and flexibility is to hold a metal bar or weight and do both inward and outward circles rotating from the wrist."

One of the most important short weapons is the sword, dahn-do. This single bladed knife utilizing cutting and thrusting techniques was a primary combat weapon in ancient China. Wong says, "The sword is as fast and strong as a tiger. One of our Choy Lay Fut forms is even called Fu Mei Dahn Do, Tiger Tail Broadsword. We also have a saying, Dahn Do Hon Sau. This means, single sword watch your hand. That's because with the sword, the non-weapon hand plays an important part of the coordination and execution of the techniques.

Although some single short weapons may also be used as double weapons, the butterfly knives are always used in pairs. "The butterfly knives are a concealed weapon most commonly seen in the Southern styles," Wong explains. "The butterfly knives are unique because they are often used hidden under the forearm and executed with elbow techniques. The Choy Lay Fut form is called Bow Jong Do, Hidden Elbow Butterfly Knives." Wong then demonstrates how the hooks that stick out from under the handle are designed to make it easier to quickly change the hand position and striking area of the knives.

The gim is a straight double bladed sword with three cutting edges, including the tip. The characteristic of the gim is one of graceful, fluid movements. Historically, the gim was not typically used in combat by the average soldier, but rather by high level officers and scholars as both a weapon and a symbol of class. The highest quality and most prestigious of all gims are known to come from a place in China called Lung Chuen, Dragon Well.

Another interesting short weapon is the fan. This common everyday object was easy to conceal and appeared non-threatening. But, when made of steel and razor sharp edges, it had deadly results. Wong tells us, " When the fan is closed either end of the weapon can be used for striking and stabbing. When open, the sharp edges are used for cutting and slicing." And the effectiveness of the fan often relies on striking the body's pressure points.

The Horse Bench, Wan Tao Dong, was often found in the everyday Chinese market place. It was used for seating at the outdoor food stands. However, in the hands of a trained martial artist, it became a very powerful weapon. All parts of the bench, including the legs and seating area could be used for a combination of blocking, striking, and trapping an opponent's weapon. The bench could also be used in a swinging motion, generating a great force that could be used for devastating high level and mid-section attacks, as well as low section sweeps. Wong remarks, "Usually a very heavy weapon, the Horse Bench is also a great device for helping the modern day practitioner develop their strength."

The Cane, Jueng, is another everyday object that in the right hands becomes a most practical weapon. To its advantage is the element of surprise. One can easily carry a cane without anyone suspecting that it is a weapon. The shaft, bottom tip, and curved handle can all be used for effective striking, blocking, joint locking, and hooking techniques.

The Long Weapons
Moving on to long weapons, Wong explains, "The long weapon obviously gives you the advantage of striking your opponent from a greater distance. With a long weapon it is most important that your power and energy transfers throughout the length of the weapon, all the way to the tip. Each long weapon has its own unique combinations of training drills designed to develop this extension of power and energy."

The staff, perhaps the oldest of long weapons, is known as the "father of all weapons."
Wong says, "Choy Lay Fut is famous for its Single Double End Staff, and a well trained practitioner will devote time to developing the internal and external power and techniques of the staff." He points out, "This weapon is very practical. As you can see, one side of the staff is bigger than the other. Holding the staff in the middle allows for double end blocking and striking. And a change of hand positions to the end of the staff allows for single end techniques."

Known as the "King of Weapons," the spear was most commonly used by ancient Chinese horse soldiers. The red tassel, called "huet dong," or "blood blocker," was not decorative, but there for the purpose of blocking blood from spurting out and getting the weapon slippery. "With the spear, you can quickly change positions for both thrusting and blocking," Wong says. "A typical drill for the spear is "Lon La Jot, -- block, trap, thrust."

Perhaps one of the most famous long weapons is the Kwan-Do, a long handled broad sword. Wong explains, "This extremely heavy weapon was made famous by General Kwan-Kung. He was considered a great protector of the ancient Chinese people. Even today, in most Chinese homes and businesses, you'll see an altar honoring General Kwan-Kung, with his red face, long dark beard, and holding the weapon he made famous."

With a large flat blade at the end of a long, thick handle, the Kwan-Do is often used with wide circular movements. The Kwan-Do is frequently the choice weapon for a practitioner of great size.

Two of Choy Lay Fut's unique long weapons originated with the monks of the Shaolin Temple. The Golden Coin Spear, Gum Cheen Cheung, and the Half Moon Monk Shovel, Yuet Naah Chon, were used by monks for carrying, shoveling, chopping wood, and when necessary, for protection.

The Flexible Weapons
The weapons in the flexible category are usually reserved for the more advanced practitioner. By its nature of being flexible the weapon can be most dangerous and difficult to control. The flexible weapon, like a short weapon, is easy to carry and can even be concealed. Yet, when fully extended, it carries incredible force and has the distance advantage of a long weapon. Its flexibility also allows for trapping and controlling an opponent's weapon.

The Three Sectional Staff, Sam Jeet Kwun, is made up of 3 pieces of wooden staff joined together by metal rings. The additional rings are for the purpose of creating an intimidating rattling sound.

Known for his three sectional staff form, Wong tells us why this weapon is one of his favorites. "When I was a kid, I remember seeing Shek Kin ( Mr. Han), Bruce Lee's enemy in Enter The Dragon, perform the three sectional staff. I was fascinated with the power and dramatic movement. Of course like all students I had to start with the more basic weapons, but as soon as I was advanced enough I went for the three sectional staff." On a practical note, Wong continues, " Because it divides in three, it can be used for both short and long range attacks and blocks. When short, one end can be used for blocking, and the other end for striking. When extended it is a powerful staff. It can be flung overhead for striking and used in a whipping motion for mid-section attacks and low section sweeps."

The Chain Whip, Gow Jeet Bien, comes in a variety of lengths and sections. There is the 7 Section, 9 Section, 13 Section, and the 3 Section, which is most often used in pairs.

Easy to carry, the chain whip could be wrapped around the waist or kept in a pocket. Favored by both horse soldiers and foot soldiers, it could trap an opponent's weapon and strike with deadly force.

Sharing some good advice, Wong laughs, "When you first start training, it's best to use a rope, that'll help cut down on the injuries." He also suggests that to develop the necessary flexibility in the wrist, one should practice a lot of figure eight and reverse figure eight rotations.

Reflecting further on the discussion of weapons, Wong says, "Besides these weapons we've talked about, there are so many unusual weapons that developed from everyday objects such as the Wooden Sandals and Garden Hoe, among others." He continues, "Every weapon has its own unique character, and each practitioner will gravitate towards a weapon that suits his or her best ability, physique and character."

Weapons are no longer of the militaristic necessity of past history, yet their role today in martial arts training is just as vital. Wong agrees, remarking, "Weapons training helps us carry on the traditions and art of kung fu. And from a practical point of view, it does give students the knowledge and ability to use everyday objects as a weapon if absolutely necessary for self-defense. Also, depending on the character of the weapon, it will further develop a student's coordination, strength, stamina, and muscle tone."

Tat-Mau Wong believes, "When one is truly expert in a weapon, it's no longer separate from the martial artist. It becomes part of the martial artist and also an extension of one's power."

"Sup bot boon bing hay geen geen guy lung."

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 1999 .

Written by Michele J. Harris for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM

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