Barbarian Surrendering Maneuver
This month we talk about staff
and spear. For a look at two person staff action
please watch this video clip of Shaoxun and I
performing in Tainan City.
|Since ancient times military generals
and masters of weapons have praised the power of staff
and spear. Among the spear techniques the most praise
worthy is the so called undefeatable 'barbarian
surrendering maneuver.' When a spear master points the
'barbarian surrendering maneuver' at the rebels
they should lay down their weapons in surrender!
Unmatchable Power and Incomparable
Qi Jiguang (1528-1588) published a book in 1562 with
details of his military methods. Called New Book on
Effective Training Methods, it has become one of the
most influential books within Chinese martial arts. the
book's spear method combines 24 maneuvers, each one
illustrated like below.
Four Level Barbarian Surrendering Maneuver
This is mid-level spear method. It is the king
of 'six harmony spear' and the root of the
twenty-four maneuvers. The applications are
mysterious and limitless. From ancient times to the
present other weapons have rarely matched its power.
None of the other maneuvers can compare to it.
General Qi was very clear on the difference between
small scale fighting and large scale warfare. The need
to keep all the troops in formation as they enter battle
and move as a single unit is vastly different from the
rushing, jumping and dodging of small fights.
An awe-inspiring well arranged display of
military force with hundreds or thousands of
soldiers in a platoon moving forward makes it
impossible for the brave to rush to the front or the
cowardly to hide in the rear. As the enemy troops
arrange their spears or swords to attack us and we
return the attack all the soldiers move together as
a single unit. The platoon shape is so dense and
tightly packed that even a minor movement of the
hand is difficult. How can it be allowed to have
everybody jump and move left and right?
At this point it would only take one person to
turn back and everyone would feel doubt. It would
only take one person to turn around and retreat one
small step and everyone would lose their confidence.
Reading these words of General Qi helps me to
envision the claustrophobic sense of impending doom that
the soldiers must have felt before rushing into battle.
They have locked themselves into a tight formation
held in place by their surrounding
soldiers. They face a massive army with each individual powerless to control
their situation. Even something as seemingly minor as
turning your head to look behind you can have
devastating consequences for the courage of the troops
as they go into battle!
Having to face what for most was their impending
death helps us to keep in perspective the seriousness
that should be brought to the training of these
techniques and the respect we should hold the training
From Warfare to Shaolin Temple
Most methods of staff and spear that have been passed
down to us are the techniques used by small groups or even
fights and battles of one or two people. One
place that such small fights would arise is around
mountain temples. Not only must the temples be able to
defend themselves from bandits, but monks were known to
travel through dangerous countryside to reach other
temples. They had to be ready to defend themselves from
dangerous encounters on the mountain and forest roads. Records of weapon fighting
at Shaolin Temple were
recorded by Cheng Zengyou in his published book,
Exposition of Original Shaolin Staff Fighting
(1621), which builds on and expands the earlier work of
General Qi's spear method.
Mid-Four Level Spear Maneuver
calls it ‘four-level barbarian surrendering pose.’
New Book on Effective Training Methods
It is the king of spear and first of all
maneuvers. Every move comes from it, its changes are
stab high, I immediately grasp.
You stab low, I immediately lift or
You stab to my left, I immediately
You stab to my right, I immediately
The changes and transformations
always come from it.
Your spear attacks, my spear seals.
Cheng Zengyou calls his move mid-four level spear
maneuver, but gives credit to General Qi in mentioning
the original name of the move. The three essential
moves of defense are grasp, lift and intercept
which are blocks to the right, bottom and left
respectively. The counter in spear methods is
usually stabbing to 'tiger mouth' the webbing between
left thumb and index finger.
Spear With No Tip
Staff is like a spear without the
penetrating power of the steel tip. For this reason it
shares techniques and methods with spear, but also has
its own range of techniques for smashing, swinging and
jabbing with the butt of the weapon. Since staff was the
specialty of Shaolin Temple Cheng Zengyou concentrates most of
his detailed descriptions on staff.
Like gods and
demons it appears and disappears unpredictably.
Closed, open, horizontal and
vertical it can change at will. All the other
maneuvers always rely on it.
‘Mid-four-level maneuver’ is singularly
The original theory of spear method states
that ‘mid-level spear’ is king of spear. It can
defend high, low, near and far. The leader of all
maneuvers, its’ changes are limitless. Regardless if
the stab comes from high, low, left or right. This
maneuver can change at will. This makes it difficult
to predict and is not easy to defeat. It can only be
defeated by ‘four level.’ Therefore, in the chapter
on questions and answers it is said that
‘four-level’ also uses ‘four-level’ to defeat it.
To defeat the ‘mid-level maneuver’ when we
both stand in this maneuver I first am startled by
his posture. I wait for him to give up ‘four-level’
and change his posture. I give it up and change back
to ‘four-level.’ Pick a clever way to enter. Shoot
out your staff when the chance appears. The sonnet
calls it uncanny.
To defeat staff attacks of high or low you
must use the ‘mid-level maneuver.’ To defeat the
‘mid-level maneuver’ you also must use the
Defeating the Undefeatable Maneuver
What to do when we both stand in mid-level? I can
wait for him to give up his position or I can give up my
position as a ruse. In the following example Elen will
give up her position as a ruse to induce me to stab at
her. Afterwards we go to the methods of 'six harmony
staff' to complete our attacks and counters.
Due to limits of photography the distance between
Elen and I had to be shortened. In actuality we would
attack a few feet farther apart. We face off in the same
Elen provokes attack by opening her defenses.
I seize the chance to attack by stabbing at her knee.
Her staff travels around in a circular motion like the
rowing of a boat and pushes my staff to the outside.
Before I have time to react she has advanced her step to
bring other end of her staff down on my head.
I retreat and simultaneously bring the right end of my
staff to her staff, or better yet, to her hand.
Though the telling is long the action is quick! Once
I have stabbed at Elen's knee her attack to my head and
my retreating defense pass just a moment of time.
The ancestors of Mantis Fist had the following
to say in regards to weapons.
- Add weapons after mastering empty hands.
- Weapons uses the same principles as short
- Weapon methods are hidden within empty hand
short strike methods.
Martial training strengthens the body and
develops self-control. Take this method and train it
to perfection and you’ll progress by a thousand
miles a day.
Afterwards you can add weapons training.
Invading armies attack with weapons. To use sabers
and swords follow the methods of short strikes. It
is simple yet applicable. Using the short for long
and taking the near for far. That is what is meant
by short strikes are weapons and weapons are short
The sages of old often passed down pugilism
without teaching weapons. This was their type of
morality. But the method of weapons is often hidden
within the strikes of pugilism. It still shows that
a strike is a strike.
To have determination, study with a
circumspect mind. The morally upright won’t lose
their kind and compassionate heart.
Through the training of weapons can we better
understand the training and application of empty hand
The Method of Stick Fighting
Shaolin Eighteen Movement Stick
The Cleaving Staff Method