Instructor’s Notebook: Tiger Hook Blades

The life and death of our art depends on the Quality of shared knowledge we maintain. Proper teaching informs the student while educating the teacher.  Confucius told us that “wherever a few are gathered, I have a teacher.” As we see, all faces of Kung Fu offer a deep well to draw from.



Just this side of an electrified lawn chair, the Tiger Hooks are frontrunners for strange weapons. And even centuries of usage (the fancy word for applying skill to fighting) there are few reliable clues to build any intelligible case with arrows and off ramps.

The Tiger Hooks are said to incorporate ten normal weapons, but we’ll do the counting later. The historically accurate “Hu Tou Gou”, or Tiger Head Hook, is said to represent the head-shape of the animal. At present we heft these to find them strangely front-weighted , a characteristic of this weapon’s design,  blades forward. In most cases you would normally compensate for this by hand/grip adjustments. But this special balance of the Hooks limits hand replacement, along with another restraint: every edge on the Hooks is sharp, with the exception of the cloth-wrapped handle.

This is not the weapon you try to practice in the dark—at least, not as a beginner.


Your Students will appreciate this detail of the training. The first principle of the Hooks starts with a close-in position—at this point the weapons are, for a moment, exactly parallel to one another. 

So the classical rule is that when stopping to pose, or when you are delivering a double shot with both hands, you should maintain a fixed distance between the blades—like parallel lines. This will happen when performing some cuts, definitely certain poses, and sometimes when you are striking with both blades on one side of your body. Holding them parallel  allows you to measure, at least with a glance, just how much control you have mastered.


By this we simply mean the opposite of close; each of the two hands performs non-symmetrical movements: a horizontal right slash with the right hand might be accompanied by a whipping arc with the left hand. This is an uncharitable example of “letting the right hand know what the left is doing.”

It is this unique coordination of open and close that makes the Tiger Hooks a useful practice tool.



If you Close (run parallel) then you can Open—that means separate the blades and continue to move them separately. The combat usage is anything that’s possible. Most times, strikes will initiate from either hand followed by a second strike. Just this pair of actions—Open/Close—will give you great insight into the Tiger Hooks and their effectiveness in combat.

Conversely it’s easy to misunderstand or over-simplify a weapon’s personality. Standing in the middle of your studio and trying to invent the wildest whirls possible is not a path to Tiger Hook mastery. Tempting as this weapon is to swing around, its nuanced  and sophisticated usage is not easily stumbled upon.


The “Ten Weapons” hidden in Hu Tou Gou:tiger hook blades

  1. The curved head of the weapon, like a cane
  2. The pointed rear butt and dagger
  3. The Crescent Moon at the handle
  4. The back blade like a straight sword
  5. The front body blade, like a saber

Oh, and by the way: since each of the five different weapons is doubled by each hand, the hooks are considered a deadly combination of techniques, and ultimately deliver ten weapons

All these blades are naked and require a skilled hand. Have fun, get better, definitely pay attention. 

Thank you to Linda D’arrigo Sifu.

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