By third degree Shou Shu Kung Fu black belt, certified teacher of Xing Yi, and writer Noel Plaugher.

When you hear the words "martial art weapons," undoubtedly the image of Bruce Lee's body, glistening with sweat, and dual nunchucks tucked under his arms, comes to mind. We watch amazed as he dispatches a series of attackers, all attacking one at a time, with ease. But aside from being a flashy addition to a martial art movie, what good are they?

In all of the styles I have studied there have been weapon forms, and initially, I was loath to learn them always questioning, "What's the point? Am I going to walk around with a broadsword? A six-foot staff? However, to ask the question was really missing the point. True, that today training with weapons for combat or self-defense may not be practical, but that doesn't mean they aren't useful.

Studying weapons has many benefits.


Body Motion

The weapon becomes an extension of your body and by moving around a broadsword, staff, or Bokken you will improve your body motion and have a better feel and understanding of energy flow. Using a weapon, especially training with a wooden one like a sword or staff, will build up strength in your arms, shoulders, and core as well as better coordinating the hips and hands. You tend to get an overall integrated feeling with your body the more you train. You will feel the difference in your empty-hand techniques as well. Moving the weapon will help you move everything together with unified power.

Fighting Distance

One thing that became apparent the first time I took out an entire shelf full of cherished ceramic knick-knacks with my staff, is that training with weapons will also help you better understand fighting distances. If you can imagine a series of shrinking circles, with yourself in the middle, it will help illustrate the various distances and ranges from: long weapon (staff), short weapon (sword), kicks, hand weapons, and grappling. If your training encompasses all these distances you will have a more complete knowledge of the space between you and your opponent.

Forms

Does your art have weapon forms? If so, get started with those. Start slowly and build up your skill. If your style doesn't have any weapons, then train in something that does. In this age of Covid-19, you can find a lot of material on YouTube. Review some weapons forms that look interesting to you, order your chosen equipment and start.

Jackson Rudolph Bo Staff Tip of the Month: Showing Difficulty in Traditional Forms www.youtube.com

Remembering my mishap with the decorative ceramics, you should consider how much space you need. I prefer to practice my weapons outside. Sometimes I go to a park, or just workout in my driveway. I like training outside, there is plenty of room and the rain, sun, and wind feels good on my skin. Do what works for you.

So what'll it be? A heavy Bokken and some Kendo drills you found online? An old Butterfly sword form you learned way back when at a seminar by a visiting monk? The complete Nunchuck routine from "Chinese Connection" that you plan to perfect, film, and post online for millions of views? They're all good choices. Study something new or old and have fun. But first, choose your weapon.
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