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Spear: King of the Hundred Weapons

Venerable Shi Guolin

Spear forms are also important components of martial arts. According to the Journal of Spear Forms, 'Spear is the king of hundreds of weapons.' The reason why ancient military strategists valued spear so much is because it can be extended to strike far away, submitting the opponent at a distance. When manipulated properly, the spear holder's fighting spirit is fully expressed in situations ranging from vanguard to ambush. That is why spears occupied a very important position in ancient warfare. Shaolin spear forms originated from the Song Dynasty, and the techniques prospered in Yuan Dynasty. Shaolin's techniques surpass the famous Law Family's Spear Form and Yang Family's Spear Form because Shaolin monks in the successive dynasties have creatively absorbed the essence of other techniques from many other branches of martial arts, converging the accomplishments from many other weapons, instilling Shaolin's unique characteristics in the spear forms.

Throughout Shaolin history, the spear forms that are frequently practiced consist of Thirteen Spear Form, Eighteen Spear Form, Twenty-Seven Spear Form, Thirty-Six Spear Form, Forty-Eight Spear Form, Silk Twisting Spear Form, Six United Spear Form, Large Blossom Spear Form, Matching Blossom Spear Form, and many other systems. The main characteristics of Shaolin spear forms are lively variations of the body, light and animated steps, speed, balance, distinctive movements, flexibility compensating rigidity, leisurely retraction and extension, comeliness and stateliness, like a roaming dragon.

Concerning spear form techniques, although different branches of martial arts have different specialties, the major procedures do not go beyond the basic set of blocking, taking and piercing. Spear blocking combined with spear taking is also know as spear circling, which is a defensive technique to prevent the opponent's weapon from entering through loopholes. This is why 'circling' is a major part of spear training technique and a basic foundation of spear form, and also a method of spear technique application and transformation. Spear piercing is a method of attack, and is also the reason for using spears. It is differentiated into upper level piercing, mid level piercing piercing, and low level piercing. Mid level piercing is the most important of all. There is a fist form idiom that says, 'Mid level spear, king of spear. Its middle point, hardest to foil.' Actually it is not easy to achieve a tight coupling and coordination of movements of spear circling and spear piercing. In order to successfully apply the techniques of circling and piercing, one has to fully understand and be proficient in the principles of circling and piercing exercises, which require the mind to be oblivious of the hands, the hands to be oblivious of the spear, and the mind to accommodate simultaneously the state of spearful and spearless, achieving the state of the spear following the mind, taking advantage of available opportunities and instantaneously reacting to changes. The masters of spear forms usually mention this chant, 'Inner circle spear, outer circle glance. Outer circle spear, inner circle glance. Seeing far and near by glancing around high and low. You tangle and I tangle too. You hamper and I hamper too. Splits and strikes against attacks from high. Rubs and holds against attacks from mid, blocks and pokes against attacks from low,...'

These are all detailed explanations of the important technical complications and procedures and contents of the circling and piercing procedures. More important is the ability to grasp the degree of accuracy an to take advantage of timing, opportunities, and positions, in order to peform spear piercing in a single line. In other words, pay attention to the effects of spear head probing, and also coordinate the waist strength with movements of the upper and lower limbs. The spear form has to be level and straight, the spear tip should go straight in and straight out, the force should reach the spear tip, with agile and sharp forward motion and quick backward motion. Its appearance is like a magnificent dragon emerging out of water, and its disappearance is like a ferocious tiger retracting into a cave. Besides the aforementioned three kinds of basic spear techniques, there are also techniques like striking, cracking, pointing, penetrating, scooping, pulling, and twisting that are used in numerous lively variations.

Compared to other weapons, spear is a kind of equipment that is more difficult to learn and practice. There is a saying, 'broad sword in a year, staff in a month, sword in a decade, spear in a lifetime.' Thus it is necessary to have the determination to repeat each movement hundreds of times during spear form practice, to thoroughly unify the blocking, holding, and piercing techniques, linking top and bottom, and traversing left and right. We need long periods of persevering practice to go beyond the door of the spear system.