Training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
INSIDE KUNG-FU MAGAZINE
March 2009 Issue
The Double Metal Cudgels, The Chinese Door God's Weapon
The double metal cudgels, or Gan in Cantonese, are one of the many ancient Chinese weapons. The Gan were also called Bian (whip). It’s a one piece hard straight whip in the Chinese weaponry, nothing like the metal sectioned chain whip or the western leather whip. In ancient times, Gan were made of brass, copper or steel. The Gan has four edges, like a section of square metal bar, and was about the same length as the Chinese straight sword. The base of the weapon has a metal guarded handle, with the body of the weapon gradually tapering toward the weapon’s tip for balance.
The double Gan became well known during the Tang Dynasty, because it was the favorite weapon of the famous General Qin Qiong. General Qin Qiong (pronounced Chin Chung) lived from 571 – 638 A.D., and was a native of Shandong Province. As one of the first Tang emperor’s lead generals, Qin Qiong was a central figure in the founding of the Tang Dynasty. His double Gan techniques are famous in Chinese history. An interesting story of about this general is recorded in the classical novel "Journey to the West".
According to the tale, there was a river near the Tang capitol called the Jing River. One day the dragon king of the river made a bet with a local fortuneteller. The dragon king won the bet, but did so by breaking the law of the Jade Emperor of heaven. Consequently, the Jade Emperor ordered Wei Zheng, the Tang prime minister, to execute the dragon king by noon of the following day. On hearing of his fate, the dragon king immediately went to see the Tang Emperor to beg for his life. The Tang Emperor promised to prevent the execution and told him not to worry. On the morning of the scheduled execution, the emperor invited Wei Zheng to the palace and challenged him to a game of chess. The emperor made sure that the chess game kept Wei Zheng occupied until noontime.
During the chess game, Wei Zheng became very tired and fell asleep. The emperor was so happy that his scheme was working that he ordered the imperial maid to fan Wei Zheng to make sure that he stayed cool and comfortable during his nap. It seemed that the emperor’s plan worked perfectly as Wei Zhang slept through the appointed execution time.
Unfortunately for the dragon king, the power of the Jade Emperor was great, and as Wei Zheng slept, the Jade Emperor sent him to the netherworld in his dream just in time to execute the dragon king. After the dragon king died, his soul was angry that the Tang Emperor did not keep his promise. So, every night the dragon king returned to the palace to haunt the emperor. This continued night after night. One night, the emperor became so frightened and disturbed by the ghost of the dragon king that he ordered his two top generals to stand guard at the palace gate. One of the generals was Qin Qiong, who stood menacingly with his double Gan at the ready. The energy of the two generals was so strong that the ghost of the dragon king could no longer enter the palace.
The Tang Emperor was grateful to his hard working generals who stood guard for him each night. But as happy as he was to be finally left in peace, he noticed how difficult a burden it was for the two old generals to stand guard each night. It occurred to the emperor that installing a large painting of each general on each side of the gate might be enough to fend off the hated ghost. So, he instructed the palace artists to do just that. Sure enough, after the paintings were installed, the dragon king’s ghost was never seen again. From that time forward, the images of these two famous generals were placed on each side of all main palace entrances. Qin Qiong was the one on the right side of the door as you enter the gate. The generals became the Chinese door gods seen to this day in many of the restored buildings from that period.
In the Choy Li Fut kung fu system, there is a weapon form that makes use of the double metal cudgels. The name of the form is called the Five Dragon Golden Cudgels or Ng Lung Gum Gan. Even though the weapons were originally made of brass, polishing made them appear to be made of gold. The Choy Li Fut double cudgels form has a total of 82 movements that comprise the fighting techniques contained in the set. In modern training, students are taught the movements of the double cudgels using a couple of wooden or rattan sticks, so that they can learn the practical fighting applications of this ancient weapon.
As with most traditional systems, it is up to the teacher to interpret the ancient techniques to suit the practical needs of today’s students. Those who claim that Chinese martial arts lacks the stick fighting techniques seen in Escrima need look no further than Choy Li Fut’s double cudgel form. It’s all in the training.
Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.
March 2009 Inside Kung-Fu