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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hawaiian Koa vs. Shaolin Monk: Warrior Profile: Shaolin martial monk

 The Shaolin monk carries with  him a proud tradition dating back over a thousand years(going by the time of the monk I am using), as well steel weapons!

 Warrior monks?:

   Most people have this built in image of the peaceful pacifist who only fights when provoked or to defend others. This is surprisingly far from reality. Not only were there an abundance of "poser monks" or people who people who had some martial training and became essentially thugs , but real monks were increasingly called up to serve in the mid 1500s. The Ming Dynasty's military capacity had crumbled by the 1500s and the empire was constantly beset by barbarian invasions to the North and Pirate incursions to the east, along with the ever present Peasant insurrections. Becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to fend off such threats, many local Ming Officials began hiring or enlisting monks to protect the provinces.  The most famous account took place around 1550.

  Their was significant division among the ranks as the rivalries between the different schools of martial arts came to a boil. Tianyuan, leader of the Shaolin forces, sought total leadership of the entire contingent. This was opposed by the other monks , who challenged him to a duel, unfairly selecting eight men to fight him. First, the eight men came at the Shaolin monk with bare hands, but he fended them all off. They then grabbed swords; Tianyuan responded by seizing the long iron bar that was used to lock the gate. Wielding the bar as a staff, he defeated all eight of the other monks simultaneously. They were forced to bow to Tianyuan, and acknowledge him as the proper leader of the monastic forces."

 Four battles were fought all save the last were listed as victories for the monastic forces. The second battle was the monks' greatest victory: the Battle of Wengjiagang, fought in the Huangpu River delta in July of 1553. On July 21, 120 monks met an approximately equal number of pirates in battle. The monks were victorious, and chased the remnants of the pirate band south for ten days, killing every last pirate, even those that tried to surrender . Monastic forces suffered only four casualties in the fighting.
During the battle and mop-up operation, the Shaolin Monks were noted for their ruthlessness. One monk used an iron staff to kill the wife of one of the pirates as she tried to escape the slaughter. The expedition ended when a infective Ming general took over and lost the next battle, resulting in some monk deaths and successfully irritating the monastic forces enough that they refused to partake in further military adventures.

      Many religious and spiritual orders haven't always lived up to their ideals, and the Shaolin are just another example of this.  The Shaolin monk are humans, and as such are just as given to the negative aspects of our species as the rest of us.

Long Range: Chinese flying dart, flying knives

 It was extremely difficult to find adequate information on the monk's long range game, simply because they didn't really use any.  What follows are two projectile weapons that were used by Chinese martial artists, and as such would have been available to the rest of the monk coalition.
Chinese Flying Dart: 

  The Chinese flying dart was a stealthy weapon that could easily be concealed in a monk's robes. Exactly five inches long with no fin or tail components,  It was designed so that when thrown it would not spin, greatly improving it's accuracy.  The Chinese martial artists had two uses for it: They could either  throw it with a flick of the wrist or they could grasp it in the palm of their hands so that it would it stick up from between the fingers, and punch with it. The throwing option  would have been preferred as there were plenty of other, better weapons that could be used in close combat. The range for this would have been quite short, being around twenty feet max.  Multiple darts could be carried on one person.

Flying Knife

  The Flying knife could have either a single or double edged blade and were rather small, usually around 7.9 inches. Shaolin monks would have kept them tied to their waits, allowing for conceal-ability and thus  the element of surprise. Like the darts multiple knives could be carried on one person. Also similar to the darts the range was rather short, being only around 20-30 feet for accurate throws.

Roped Weapon: Meteor Hammer 

  The Meteor hammer was another one of the weapons that the Chinese could easily conceal, since it was just a long rope or chain  with a metal ball at the end.  The primary advantage for using a meteor hammer was its sheer speed, being so fast  that it was said to strike "as fast as a meteor", hence the name.There are two kinds of meteor hammer - single ones and double ones. The single one is a five-metre-long rope with one end tied to a hand and another to a duck-egg bronze hammer, shaped like a melon. And the double one is two-metre-long rope with one small bronze hammer at each end. When in action, the hammer in the front hand could be used offensively to bludgeon, smash or even strangle, while the other could be used to defend, parrying attacks or ensnaring an opponent´s weapon to disarm them. Its  speed, accuracy and unpredictability make it a  very difficult weapon to defend against.

Shaolin martial artist with Meteor Hammer 

Kill Bill meteor hammer 

Mid Range : gangcha (steel trident) , gouqiang (hooked spear) 

 Sometimes referred to as the trident-halberd , the steel trident was a key part of the Shaolin warrior arsenal.   It was around 3 meters long with the shaft being 2.5 and the head being .5(about 9 feet total). The head consisted of three prongs each about 15 inches wide and made of carbon steel. When in combat the Shaolin would use this to either block, parry by catching the blade within its prongs, or straight up thrust into the enemy. Three blades means three different puncture wounds, and warriors equipped with the trident would have twisted it as well .


Hooked spear The "King of all weapons" 

  In addition to the trident , the Shaolin also has a unique spear variant, the Gouqiang (spear) . Like the spear in the Caesar vs Cao Cao blog it was around 7-9 feet long and was made out of flexible wax wood. Unlike the spear of Cao Cao the Shaolin spear comes with a small hook, which could be used for pulling riders off mounts or hooking into flesh. Additionally the Chinese martial artists used it to block, sweep, pierce, hack, stab, and parry. Spear techniques are designed to teach the principles and the importance of fluidity, grace (smoothness), good balance, precision-based attack, and defense techniques.

  Historically the Shaolin were criticized by intellectuals at the time for not using the spear to its full potential. Among them was Ming Dynasty general Yu Dayou, who mocked the Shaolin for overusing the staff and one Wu Shu, who stated

"The Shaolin staff method has divine origins, and it has enjoyed fame from ancient
times to the present. I myself have been quite involved in it. Indeed, it is as high
as the mountains and as deep as the seas. It can truly be called a 'supreme technique'
(jueye A:,) ... Still as a weapon the spear is entirely different from the
staff. The ancient proverb says: "The spear is the lord of all weapons, the staff is
an attendant in its estate." Indeed, this is so ... The Shaolin monks have never
been aware of this. They treat the spear and the staff as if they were similar

 Eventually the Shaolin reformed their spear training because of negative critique by military experts such as these. But this was not in the timeline of the Warrior monk that I am using .

 As such while the Shaolin are no doubt proficient with this weapon, they may not be as skilled as they should be.

Hook spear itself
Shaolin Qiang

Close Range: The Liuyedao  sword, Shaolin spade

Dao the "General of all weapons" 

  The Dao sword was the primary side arm of the Ming Dynasty and as such would have been easily available to the Shaolin. Of the many Dao variants the The Liuyedao was the most common during the Ming Dynasty.
         What makes the Liuyedao different from all dao variants is that it has a moderate curve all the way from hilt towards tip, becoming more pronounced towards the latter. It could still be used to thrust and stab, but the curve transformed it into a devastatingly powerful   hacking or cutting sword. In the hands of an expert it is fast and versatile, and the Shaolin would have trained with this weapon.

Shaolin Dao

Shaolin Spade

 Out of all the Shaolin weapons, this weapon excites me most. Out of all the Shaolin weapons, it has one of the longest and storied histories. Quoting from the article of the crescent spade

"The Shaolin spade actually began as 2 seperate tools.  A special spade that was used  for digging graves, and a crescent blade for weeding.  Both were much smaller than the current version.  The crescent blade was very small, so that you could cut roots of the weeds and not damage the actual plants or bushes around the area.   The Shaolin would commonly use these tools for farming, performing processions or burying the remains of animals that the would ecounter while they were travelling from one place or another.

When weapons became illegal to carry, the Shaolin found a loophole.  They combined the 2 tools into one weapon and attached the spade on one end and the crescent blade on the other.  There were no laws on the sharpenening of spades, so the Shaolin had an effective weapon to carry while still abiding by the laws of the country.

The spade is unique in the fact that it allows you to slice, stab or bludgeon your opponent.  The spade end is fairly heavy and allows you to parry smaller headed weapons, such as spears, very easily.  And, with a blade on either end, it also allows you to be offensive as well.  The crescent can be used to trap or puncture, while the spade can be used to cut the limbs or your attacker.  Add the range of a long staff, and you have one the most diverse and effective weapons in the Shaolin arsenal.
 To further add onto that, the shovel could also be used to pick up dirt and fling it into a opponent's eyes, which would temporarily blind them and allow for a finishing strike. The crescent spade was around 5-6 feet long.
Shaolin spade

Extremely close range: Emeici piercers, Flying dart 

Emeici Peircers

  While belonging to the Wu Shu  sect more then the Shaolin, the latter still would have occasionally made use of such weapons. About 12  1/2 inches these dual blades were able to be easily concealed with in the robes of the monk.  Each blade had a ring which allowed for greater flexibility and twirling once put on. When a monk was forced into extremely close combat he merely had to slide them out of his robes to have a weapon.  The blades were  of a subtle design and weren't meant to be seen until to late.  With dual blades and double points, this weapon gave its user four opportunities to stab.

(Handheld) Flying Dart
 The flying dart, as mentioned in the long range section, could be put inside the fist and used to punch with but this tactic wouldn't have been proffered.


Special: Staff
"Father of all weapons"

 What? You didn't honestly think I'd forget about the chief weapon of the Shaolin did you?

  Of all the weapons featured thus far, the Shaolin are most known the Staff. They would have trained with it since their training began,  to the point where the staff basically became an extension of their own bodies.  According to Cheng Zouyou, the staff used by the Shaolin during the Ming Dynasty was around 7-8 feet and could be made of iron or wood. The weight of the wood was around 3.5-4 pounds, while the Iron version could weigh as much as 20 pounds! Cheng lists in his book, Exposition of the Original Shaolin Staff Method no less then 53 staff positions and 5 methods.
 In terms of Lethality, it is very rare that a single blow is able to kill(although with the Iron staff this may be possible). Due to the incredible skill of the monks with this weapon and the staff's natural speed, it wont be just one hit rather it would be a series of them. Deadliest Warrior underrated this weapon in my opinion.


Head: None 
 The Shaolin wore no helmet, preferring to keep all their senses free and alert.

Body: Robes, (Rare) Shaolin Steel jacket

The simple robes of the Shaolin symbolized their dedication to Buddhism and by themselves didn't give much in the way of defense.

  The Shaolin Steel Jacket technique may be one of the most unique armor types I have ever come across, mainly because it involves nothing other then human skin and chi, or spiritual energy. From the site "Shaolin Steel Jacket training, as with its counter part Iron Shirt, allows its practitioners to withstand any strike, either empty handed or with a blunt weapon (such as a baseball bat or metal bar) without sustaining any injury. At advanced levels practitioners can even withstand sharp weapon attacks, such as from a knife or sword, with little or no harm to their person."
  While without a doubt very effective , their are four  points that must be made here lest the reader thinks I am telling them the Shaolin is superhuman. One the concept of "bulletproof monk" has been proven false, with many causalities. Two the Steel jacket is going to be counted for the body only, as that is the and the neck is the only part I can find demonstrations for, and there is no way you will ever be able to convince me that the Shaolin can withstand a spear to the eye. Third it does seem to be a rather rare technique during Ming times.  Lastly it does seem to require some preparation, which will be taken into account when scoring. 
Here are two demonstrations

Spear to throat/ fork to stomach

Arms: Robes 
 Most of the time the Robes of the Shaolin extended past the elbow, which allowed for concealing weapons. 

Legs : Robes, boots
The Robes extended all the way to the Shaolin's feet. They also wore boots, although it is speculative as to what protection value this gave the Shaolin. 

Blocking: Shaolin Kung Fu, (Rare) Rattan shield

  The collection of martial art styles know as Shaolin Kung Fu would have certainly helped with blocking. It is possible that a very small number of Shaolin monks would have carried the Rattan shield, which seemed to be a part of the Shaolin training regimen and other monk styles of the coalition force would have carried it. The Rattan shield is a very small shield made of out Rattan wood that has a diameter of 2.5 feet. It is conical and formed by stacking rows and rows of Rattan wood upon each other. 

Tactics: Surprisingly ruthless, close combat  oriented, Staff emphasis  Spatial fighters, superior agility, calm, 

  Believe it or not ruthlessness is a trait not unknown to the monk , as the following quote demonstrates "The monks scored their biggest victory in the Wengjiagang battle.
On July 21, 1553, 120 fighting monks defeated there a group
of pirates, chasing the survivors for ten days along the twenty-miles
route southward to Wangjiazhuang iSEI (on the Jiaxing AN
Prefecture coast). There, on July 31, the very last bandit was disposed
of. All in all, more than a hundred pirates perished, whereas
the monks suffered four casualties only. Indeed, the monks took pity
on no one in this battle, one employing his iron staff to kill an escaping
pirate's wife. (Zheng Ruoceng does not comment on the monks'
disregard for the Buddhist prohibition on killing, even in this
instance when the murdered woman presumably was unarmed.)"
 As much to my surprise as everyone else's, not only did the monks kill an unarmed women, they also refused to allow the enemy to surrender and gave them no rest pursuing them for ten days.  Ming Commenters also had a different view of the "pacifistic" monk then we do, frequently accusing Shaolin members of banditry or other seditious acts(perhaps not unjustly).   What this means for the fight is that the monk wont hesitate to mimic  some of the more ruthless tactics that the Koa will be fond of doing, particularly after having experienced dirty tactics like double teaming . Hell they may even commit some heinous tactics without provocation! 
     The Shaolin monk rarely used ranged weapons and will seek to close the distance as soon as possible. Of the close quarter weapons the most emphasis is placed on a staff and as such they will feel more comfortable using weapons that have the basic staff design (spear, trident).  Like the Koa they place an emphasis on space and will adjust their weapons and tactics  accordingly.  The agility of the monk is legendary, and the Shaolin would be wise to capitalize on this, especially against inflexible phalanx. Through years of training and meditative techniques the monks have become more calm, which will help improve group coordination. 

Rules: Close Combat oriented, Leadership 

  Unlike the Koa, whose Leaders pretty much backed off from commanding once the battle reached melee stage, the Shaolin did have a centralized command who seemed to have kept command during the battle. As previously stated the Shaolin are going to want to get to the close combat stage as soon as possible.

Motivations: The State (Ming Dynasty)

  The Shaolin were known for their loyalty to the Min Dynasty, a loyalty that eventually resulted in the Temple's destruction by anti-Ming rebels.
Training and active experience: Lifelong extensive training, Quality of enemies :medium

   The training for the Shaolin monk begins when he is just a small child, and grows as he matures. Constant exercises, physical endurance training , and endless repetitions of fighting techniques that increase with the more skill that you acquire defines the Shaolin childhood.  It is physically and mentally challenging as the Shaolin leaders put an emphasis on both. The Warrior monks that will be featured in this battle will have fought bandits and Wokou. The latter were Japanese pirates that plagued the coastline, and would have consisted of both average citizens and regular soldiers from Japanese, Chinese and even Portuguese origins. They also sparred quite frequently with rival monks!

Watch the rest on Youtube

Martial Arts: Shaolin Kung Fu, intense physical  and mental conditioning

   Though far from the first or only martial art in China, Shaolin Kung Fu is certainly the most famous. Shaolin Kung Fu is not any one martial art style, rather it is over 72 different positions grouped into one. From the site
" During the Ming dynasty, Shaolin's fighting arts had its next major evolution. First, the Mei Hua Ch'uan (Plum Flower Boxing) style was developed by Pai Chin Tou, a Shaolin graduate, as a means to capture Shaolin Ch'uan's more internal and circular, dynamic energy into continuous, uninterrupted body movements. The Ming Empire continued to have various rebellion arise on numerous occasions. This bothered the patriotism of many Shaolin monks, and many began to document and collect the many techniques they had learned. At this time, came the young monk, Chueh Yuan Shang-Jen, who is considered the founder of the modern type of Shaolin Ch'uan Fa that has become the root of today's Shaolin derived arts and also has most evolved Shaolin Ch'uan Fa into an amazing fighting art. Chueh Yuan learned what his teacher's taught him and analyzed the techniques deeply, feeling them to be incomplete, and combined them with numerous ideas of his own. He developed a style that consisted of 72 different positions, each with fighting principles of their own.
Students came from all over to learn from him and his ideas spread all over. But, Chueh Yuan was far from satisfied. After some years, he wished to visit other places that were known for their fighting schools. He left Shaolin and learned many new techniques as he traveled. He eventually reached Shensi province and met a master, Li-Shao, who taught him much. Li-Shao and his son took him near the Lou Yang monastery. There he was introduced to a great master named Pai Yu Feng, whose style was Hit Tai Tau. Chueh Yuan convinced them all to go to Shaolin, where they altered their styles, combining them with those of Shaolin Ch'uan.
They created a radically new system, by grouping together the best of similarly oriented moves that were both internal and external, and it consisted of 170 (some say 172) different techniques, subdivided into areas of emphasis. There were originally about 12 animals that represented these areas. But, Bai or Pai Yu Feng died before he could finish the last few. By the end of the Ming Dynasty, these techniques had reached the south of China, where they techniques were regrouped and simplified into Five major areas. The Southern Shaolin martial artists named the style Wu Hsing Ch'uan (Five form/pattern/element/animal boxing), based on the essence of five animals:
  1. Dragon [Long]- exercises that are both internally flowing and externally powerful, stressing circular, ever changing, grabbing movements ;
  2. Crane [He]- exercise to internally strengthen the tendons and joints, stressing external balance and swift kicking;
  3. Tiger [Hu]- exercises to internally strengthen the bones and muscles, stressing clawing, large, external, hard, fast movements;
  4. Snake [Shi]- exercises for chi development, stressing swift, pin-point striking of the vital body points; and
  5. Leopard [Pao]- exercises for internal power and speed, stressing sudden, external powerful movements.
The Five Animals Style of Shaolin met with remarkable popularity and was considered to pinnacle of Shaolin's Fighting Arts. Each of the five animals is a complete form of it own. Many of today's surviving Shaolin derived martial arts styles contain movements and techniques elaborated from this style: Black Tiger (Fu Jow Pai), White Tiger, Hung Gar, Lian Shi, Lung Ying, White Eyebrow, Ho Ch'uan, Pao Ch'uan, among many others"
  In addition to the actual martial art, Shaolin monks endured intense mental and physical conditioning since childhood. This would have hardened their bodies and like the Spartans given them a degree of resistance to pain. 
(Monks appear 25 minutes in)
Also watch fight science by National Geographic

Throwing knives here
Chinese flying dart here
Shaolin in the Ming dynasty here
Some info on the trident Here
Some info on the spear Here
Meteor hammer Here
Spear here
Dao types here
Martial Art weapons book here
Crescent Spade here
Shaolin steel jacket here
Rattan shield here 
Shaolin monastery here
Growing up Shaolin here
Shaolin Kung Fu here

1 comment:

  1. I'm seriously impressed by this. I'm in awe of your dedication to historical accuracy ;) You deserve a round of applause. I'm really going to enjoy this fight. These guys are worthy enemies for the Kao :)