WeaponsSpace Part 2

Last time I wrote about the shape each weapon carves out of space and how, as you practice, you begin to blend that space with your own range of motion and possibilities for movement.

art_weaponsspace5When we take this idea to the next step we see that this important idea of shape is the reason that, in two person sets, the weapons are only rarely matched with their identical counterparts. For instance we rarely see sword vs. sword, or saber vs. saber. It is the interplay of two weapons fighting for control of some common space that shows them at their best, combining stamina, speed and ingenuity. Rarely is straight sword matched against itself or saber shown contending with saber. The space of the two similar weapons is so much the same that the fighting form might only last a minute and even then not show these instruments at their best.

Mei Shan Kung Fu

The art of the Kung Fu bench

Each pair of weapons creates a middle zone or, if you will, qi space, that can be thrilling for spectators and downright frightening for participants. A classic example is saber vs. its perennial enemy, the spear. One the one hand we have the big cone-shaped actions just waiting to poke and cut at the saber’s single point of entry. From the saber’s side there is the spinning silver whirlwind we spoke of earlier. This gives the essence of the confrontation. Fro the saber’s standpoint it has one duty, to get past the spearhead. It does this principle using two methods. The first is obvious, jumping or dashing forward fast enough to penetrate the spear’s space. The second relies entirely on the silver bell shape and may come as a surprise and somewhat suicidal sounding: that is, the saber wielder has to lean his torso against the spear shaft and roll his body—while maintaining contact—until the spear’s length advantage is destroyed. The spear’s job is to keep the tip and body so flexible and elusive that even when it is blocked by the saber, it is too unpredictable for that block to set up the saber charge.

The long AxThis brings another wrinkle, literally, to this subject of space as we mentioned earlier. The straight sword has virtually no defensive features in the sense of deflection or parrying. While the saber can stop an attack from almost any weapon, it can and does do that even to the very border of its hand guard. Clashing and slamming bodies together gives us a sense of the inward folding that is also part of weapon space. In other words some movements actually fold toward the wielder of the weapon and create and inner space. The sword tries to avoid this, knowing that it has no structure to actually deflect another weapons with power. In this way the straight sword somewhat resembles the female half of a dance team, taking its cues from the opponent it molds itself to the circumstances.

Without a doubt a high point for those who have had the experience is the combination of individual weapons practice couple with duet performance sets and, of course, weapons sparring. I think that with very little effort most martial practitioners can gain insight and excitement from deepening their studies in this neglected area.

One Response to “WeaponsSpace Part 2”

  1. Andrew Shinn says:

    Interesting follow-up, Mr. Mancuso! Spear versus a short weapon is a very difficult subject, despite the prevalence of spear versus saber sets in Chinese Martial Arts. I personally doubt the efficacy of most of those sets – they seem to assume the sword wielder is a higher level than the spear wielder, and yet it’s easier to poke with a spear than to wrap with a saber.

    I’ve never seen a traditional spear versus straight sword form. Have you? That would be interesting. Based on your depiction of the straight sword’s defensive characteristics, how do you think that would play out (you describe it for the saber).

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