Weaponry remains an important part of advanced Lau Gar practice.
As you progress through the grades weapons become increasingly important. At first glance weapons practice may not seem to have much direct use in a self-defence environment (let’s face it, you are not going to last very long walking down the street with a sword before you attract the attention of the Police – and quite rightly so).
However, weapons practice gives you two important things: Firstly weapons practice teaches you principles which can be applied to everyday objects such as umbrellas, walking sticks etc. These can then be exploited successfully in self-defence. Secondly, a weapon is really just an extension of the body. As such weapon training provides an ideal platform for advanced martial art practice requiring strength, speed and coordination. All of these are to the benefit of any martial artist.
The butterfly knives (‘Wu Dip Dao’) are very much a southern Chinese weapon. They are more like short swords than knives being roughly the length of your forearm. Each has a blade edges on one side and a closed handle that protects the fingers. There is also a hook on the non-edged side of the blade which allows the practitioner to pivot the knife around so that it runs down the forearm. Rotating, slashing and chopping movements are common with this weapon.
One of the first weapons to be taught to Lau Gar students is the wooden staff (‘kwan’). The Lau Gar staff is about 6 feet in length and in the region of 3.5cm in diameter. It is made of hard wood and is therefore almost completely inflexible.
The Chinese broad sword (‘Dan Dao’) is a single edged weapon. It can vary in length according to the practitioner’s stature but is generally in the region of 90cm long. The blade of the dan dao is quite stiff, unlike some other Chinese single edged swords which can be very flexible.
The tiger fork (‘Pa Fa’) is a key Lau Gar weapon as it is closely associated with the style’s founder, Lau Sam Ngan or Three Eyed Lau who was a tiger hunter. The Tiger Fork is in the region of 6 feet in length and has a substantial steel trident or fork at its head. The supporting staff is made of hard wood and is usually very thick. The Tiger Fork is a heavy weapon being in the region of 30 – 40 lbs in weight and requires both skill and strength on behalf of the practitioner.
The Kwan Dao takes its name from its inventor, General Kwan Yu, a central figure in many Chinese myths and legends and a figure that can often be seen in statue form. In fact General Kwan can be regarded as the patron deity of the Chinese martial arts and shrines devoted to him are not uncommon in traditional kung fu schools. Other organisations such as the police also pay homage to him.
The cane shield (‘Tang Pye’), supposedly used by the Tiger soldiers who were elite ‘shock’ troops used to terrify the enemy during wars of the 19th century. There are records of them being present during both the Taiping and Boxer Rebellions, as well as some earlier references to tiger-striped uniforms during the 18th Century. The large gently convex shield made of heavy cane is often painted dramatically with a tigers face with open jaws.
The Lau Gar spear (‘chung’) is a long weapon being in the region of 7 feet in length. Unlike the spears that evolved in many other parts of the world the Chinese spear is not a throwing weapon. It further distinguishes itself by having a flexible rattan staff rather than a rigid hard wood one.