The Spear Mightier than the Pen?

On starting a new book, or why would anyone read this?

I’ve been working on a new book for the last little while. It explores the spear in Kung Fu history and practice, definitely not a best seller candidate. Like some inherited task it comes down to not so much why you would write this as why you cannot leave it alone.

art_spearplay2But there are subjects like certain distant relatives in your family. They may be oddball, but you can’t avoid paying attention to them because they know so much family history, have the scoop on so many strange characters and characteristics, that you really will never understand your family saga without their breathless, gossipy input.

The spear is like that, and in the family history of Kung Fu it is not the only such significant relative. I don’t, for example, believe you can really comprehend Kung Fu without some idea of Qigong and—beyond that—some sense of Chinese medical theory. It doesn’t have to be profound, but it’s a good idea to absorb the basic difference between the modern and the traditional definitions of health.

Promoting spear practice can save hours, weeks and months of practice not so art_spearplay3much wasted as diffused by not playing the spear. Of course it has obvious and immediate benefits like being able to win a fight at the local pool hall, but, as often happens, the “practical” people in the house are actually the most impractical. When was the last time—really— you  needed a spear-like object? No, the full measure of the spear is something grander than a six-foot long finger in the eye. It has all the realistic qualities: it’s long, it’s sharp, you can never tell where you will find something “spear-like,” all of that. But  its true usefulness lies in something quite different and specifically spear-like.

art_spearplay4The spear is a branch of Kung Fu training. Distinct yet integrated like a special branch or method in mathematics. A whole set of math problems may seem insoluble UNTIL you translate them into another system, such as spherical coordinates, where you can solve these problems easily, then return to your system of origin with your solutions. The spear does this. If there were no such thing as a spear there would still be some kind of Kung Fu exercise tool that was long-round-sharp-and-contoured in the spear fashion. Like a heavy bag is to a boxer, the spear complements the program. What’s the short list of the things spear refines? body control through the torso, angular control, real use of coiling energy, integrated whole body action, absolutely efficient movement. And this list is admittedly partial.

art_spearplay5As a Kung Fu teacher I find myself watching some student struggling with a movement for a long time, and know that the problem would disappear quick-step if the spear were referenced. But often the student is still too far from the skill needed to use the spear for his own benefit, so we will still have to take the long route around the mountain. But, with practice, the day will come…

So I think this book will not relieve a need burdening  many people out there, but it is the kind of information that should be available, at least in this pursuit we call traditional Chinese martial arts.

10 Responses to “The Spear Mightier than the Pen?”

  1. Steve W says:

    Great Ted!

    I hope the book will place some emphasis on basic spear drills ……. one more opportunity for “finding freedom”….. maybe to be accompanied by a DVD??


  2. Stan Meador says:

    I love the idea too, though I don’t aspire to mastering the spear at this point in my life. The truth of it, though, is that there is so little quality information available in English that this will be a valuable contribution. I also think the DVD to go with the book is vital. That combination was so well done on your book on the staff. I imagine the set on the Bandit Knife is equally well done, but I have not pursued that one yet. So, I think you’re making some very valuable contributions in areas where many won’t go because the return on investment does not seem worth it.

  3. Jeff says:

    You never know, though, like the Vancouver Island man who saved his girlfriend from a mountain lion last year. His weapon – a spear.

  4. Paul Calugaru says:

    Excellent idea. To understand Quanfa people need to know the interrelationship in shen fa between hand forms and weapons.

  5. Byron Jacobs says:

    The spear is indeed the key that unlocks the treasure trove of Chinese martial arts methods such as body work, tactical understanding etc.

  6. Let me know when this book comes out!!!

  7. Alan Matykiewicz says:

    Are you taking pre-orders?

  8. Plum Staff says:

    Hi Alan,
    Not quite yet! But thanks for asking…will let you know.

  9. Miron says:

    Dear Ted,

    If I’d stumbled across this information 6 mos. ago (and I did; I recall reading it once before), it wouldn’t have meant anything to me.

    However, after being introduced last spring to the versatile Pi Chuan fist via Dr. John Painter (an eminent teacher on the subject), I took an interest in Xingyi—and hence in the spear.

    Now I am inclined to agree that the spear is “king of all weapons.” I also suspect it was the first weapon used by man to hunt (not counting the humble rock, of course).

    For years I had looked for something to keep stray dogs at bay in developing nations, and thought to myself: “What if I had a wooden staff with a piece of metal on the end? Then I could transfer chi down the length of it. Hmm…I wonder what something like that would look like.” It would take me another five years to connect the dots.

    In conclusion, I completely support your effort in writing a book about the spear. It may seem frivolous, but doesn’t so much of what martial artist do (and men in general, when left to their own devices) seem that way to the outside observer? Like you said: The most practical people are the most impractical.

    And Ted—give that man a wooden staff and just ask him to IMAGINE there’s a point on the end of it! Cheers! (^_^)

  10. luis says:

    I love the spear a weapon I definitely want to master. I can’t wait and would definitely by that book. Once I picked up a spear I felt my Hsing Yi drastically improve. Most important to me was the body mechanics.

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