The number of combative weapons used by the Chinese before the introduction of the firearm is staggering. The eighteen chief fighting weapons of the Chinese traditional martial art schools are as follows:
- The sword (double-edged long sword and short sword)
- The broadsword (single-edged broadsword or saber)
- The spear
- The halberd
- The staff
- The three-section staff
- The whip of leather
- The mallet or hammer
- The lance
- The ax
- The hook
- The mattock a weapon similar to the pickax
- The chain link whip
- The dagger (includes various short knives & cutting weapons)
- The bow and arrow (includes Chinese long bow / cross-bow)
- Throwing darts and throwing steel rings or sharpened coins
- The iron fan
- The rope dart
The techniques had to be guided by the type of implement used. Many of the weapons were farm tools. However, many were highly specialized weapons designed but for one purpose: to defeat and destroy an enemy.
With edged weapons the Chinese found at a much earlier date the same thing European fencers discovered many, many years later — that the point of the weapons which affords greater range, centralizes power and safety from counter, was more effective than the edge of the weapon. Thrusting, parrying and fending techniques were therefore favored over many wide slicing or hooking tactics.
Becoming Calm Through Weapons Training
Another interesting point is that among scholars and martial arts masters, not soldiers the skill with weapons was considered to be a sort of moral training. When one was highly skilled philosophy and also in the offensive and defensive arts with weapons one was more likely to be kind and tolerant of others. The theory is simply that when one has master his or her own apprehension about being harmed by others then the cause of aggression which is most often fear tends to recede. Training in weapons also is highly aerobic and so is beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Ancient masters used these methods to increase tendon and joint strength as well as developing the ability to focus energy or Jin outside of the body. Therefore those learning the hand to hand methods of Gong Fu would greatly benefit from these added skills provided by weapons training.