Today I’m going to share with you a little bit of a spear technique – the video linked above gives you a reference to what I’m talking about in this blog but I’ve expanded on this a little bit so you get more insight into Xing Yi spear and how the technique really works!
Xing Yi is developed from spear fighting (or so they say), and often the movements from the empty hand practice match with movements used in the weapon practice.
Xing Yi Academy still practice with a range of weapons and spear is one of our most important. We feel it’s important to keep some reality in our training too so we try to apply applications which can be tested and which have a purpose rather than just following forms or set rigid traditions. This doesn’t mean these traditional methods are not important either – in fact, I believe that traditionally the old masters focused on function over form too but that cultural and societal changes in China meant a lot of this became somewhat ritualised and this continued to the present day. In many ways I think that thinking outside the box is going back to the old ways! So let’s get started!
Start with a lightweight training spear
In the video, I am using a basic lightweight pine pole with paint at the end so we know which end is the pointy bit, the bit that goes into the bad guys!
It’s probably useful to begin with a lightweight pole as a training spear. You will want to progress to something heavier, longer and more robust, but this might need a bit of practice and conditioning to gain some strength first. There are a number of exercises to develop overall body conditioning but standing post (Zhan Zhuang) is a good way to begin. Then using a heavier pole to do some basic methods regularly will build that strength. I actually use a large spear with a pole made of ash wood and a heavy antique spearhead but for lightweight training, demonstration, and learning movements a pine pole is fine.
Do try to avoid overly bendy poles and poles which are too short. The bendy poles look good when they bend and whip but were always really meant to be for performance and spectacle, military spears from all around the world are almost always hardwood and rigid.
Knowing the side of the blade
Because some of our techniques are reliant upon cuts or chops we need to know which side is the flat of the blade where the point. Essentially we need to know the blade orientation which bit is the sharp edge. If you don’t have a spearhead on your pole then you might want to carve down two opposite sides a little to represent the flat edge and show where the sharp edges are. Painting the end also helps to show which is a spearhead end and makes it feel more like you are training with a spear.
Chopping with the Spear: Pi Qiang
In the video, I show one variation of “Pi Qiang”. Pi means to chop or split. So, in general, it involves a downwards cut, but the real thing to focus on is what the change in energy is, and what the effect of this is. So when we create a chop or split we say we use “Pi Jin” or Chopping force. There are many ways to apply a chopping force, it’s not difficult to see or to experiment and try out for yourself that you can chop down but you could chop up or diagonal or even horizontal. The quality or character of the way you express the force is a chop or split and the body directs that split to where you want it.
That means that you can have multiple variations of chopping techniques such as Pi Qiang and not just a single way of doing this.
In the video, I show you one variation of Pi Qiang which involves deflecting to left and advancing whilst overturning the spear to perform a chopping Pi cut down to the front.
In the video I start from a San-Ti-Shi position this is the basic guard posture when holding a spear and it’s an important posture for Xing Yi training in general. The same position is used in both empty hand training and when holding the spear. This san-ti-shi posture should be left leg forward with the left hand higher on the spear and the right hand either right at the base or near to the base of the spear.
From that position you can imagine that an opponent thrusts at your leading left leg and you need to avoid that thrust or deflect it. In this case, we deflect it. So the first thing is to get your spear in position and to do that you can chop downwards. This chop could also be to defend or attack too but in this drill it helps us get to the right place. To do the chop the leading left-hand slide back down the spear – this accelerates the tip down using a lever action with the pivot at the rear hand.
Then to begin the deflection we raise the rear hand and this points the spearhead downwards, this also angles the spear a little bit out to the left, this angle creates a small wedge that will deflect the opponent away to the left.
Deflecting and Passing
At the point where the opponent’s spear is being deflected, we need to take advantage of this. If we stay in position and remove our spear it gives the opponent an opportunity to continue to attack. If we step forward it means we get behind the opponent’s spearhead and there is less chance of getting stabbed or cut. So we advance to stay safe – seems a strange thing to do but it works!
In order to advance we need to keep the opponent’s spear blocked off so we need to keep our own spear in pace like a shield as we step past. But to do this the spear needs to pass our left side (see the video). And with a long spear, it’s difficult to do this without it hitting the floor or getting tangled up with the other spear. It’s going to take practice but what you need to be able to do is rapidly adjust hand positions as the situation calls for it in order to shorten or lengthen the spear to allow movement and positioning.
In this case, it means as we advance the left-hand reaches down the haft and the rear right-hand moves towards the middle in order to shorten the spear and let it deflect and pass down our left side. It’s important to try to keep this as vertical as possible. If you stick the spear out too much when you overturn the spear you might get blocked by the opponent’s spear or worse drag their spear over allowing them to chop down at you!
As you pass the tip of the opponent’s spear it’s time to think about the chop. You need to continue the circular movement to bring the spear back to vertical in order for it to come back down.
To get the spear back to vertical you want to press forward with the right hand and pull back with the left. Of course, begin Xing Yi this should begin with the waist transferring to the arms, if you are working with a heavy spear you will find it much easier when you use the waist and if you don’t then the arms will get tired pretty quickly.
This push/pull action with bring the spear vertical with the tip pointing upwards. At this point, we would want to know where the cutting edge is because we ideally want the sharp edge to fall down on the opponent. The weight of the spear and spearhead itself is formidable but with a cutting edge to it is devastating.
At that point where the spear is vertical, we need to reach our right hand back to the bottom of the spear or as close as we can get to it. The right hand becomes the pivot again – the force of the chop is going to come from the drop of the spear accelerated by the left hand again sliding down the haft and shortening the distance between the hands.
With practice, the chop can get some real force into it with relatively little effort. As the chop descends we keep stepping forward and the acceleration of the tip from the left-hand action is combined with the tip dropping under gravity and also the mass of the body moving forward to back it up! CRUNCH!
From that last position if you miss your target you are ready to do another deflection to the left (if you need to) or make a thrust forwards, or do another response. The tip of the spear should end up a level and point forward toward the opponent.
In the drill, in the video, you can repeat the exercise as many times as you like from that end position.
And this movement is common in other weapons too. The same kind of deflection might be used with staff, large sabre, short sabre or straight sword to deflect, enter and chop at the same time.
The “end product” is that you can deflect and counter-attack with the spear. This slow-motion video shows my students demonstrating the full applicaton – https://www.facebook.com/xingyiacademy/videos/2384701115185559/
Like I say in the video – get yourself a big stick and start chopping today!
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