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The 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 Maneuvers

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 method.

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 techniques 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

New Book on Effective Training Methods calls it ‘four-level barbarian surrendering pose.’

It is the king of spear and first of all maneuvers. Every move comes from it, its changes are limitless.

If you stab high, I immediately grasp.

You stab low, I immediately lift or row.

You stab to my left, I immediately intercept.

You stab to my right, I immediately grasp.

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.

Mid-Four-Level Maneuver

‘Mid-four-level maneuver’ is singularly uncanny. 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.

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 ‘mid-level maneuver.’

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 posture.

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.

  1. Add weapons after mastering empty hands.
  2. Weapons uses the same principles as short strikes.
  3. 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 strikes.

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 techniques

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