Staff: The Mother of All Weapons
Staff is the oldest traditional equipment of the Shaolin martial arts, and is also the most representative one. According to Shaolin's Journal of Staffs, Shaolin staff system originated during the dynasty of Norther Wei. Some monks brought this skill with them into Shaolin Temple around the time when Shaolin Temple was founded. After finishing their Buddhist services, they would usually take time off to practice staff. The reason why some monks brought this skill into the Shaolin Temple was because during that time staffs were not yet important weapons in battlefields, and since staff have no sharp edges, they are not weaponing for killing. Thus, they were more suitable for monks who joined the monastery with compassion in their heart but who needed equipment to exercise in order to strengthen their bodies to lead healthier lives.
As history continued to develop, Shaolin martial arts were no longer limited to staffs as the only equipment. With monks in successive dynasties absorbing the specialties of other branches of martial arts, together with continual enhancement of the content of Shaolin martial arts, staff techniques gradually evolved into a unique branch of martial arts.
There is a wealthy collection of staff forms in Shaolin martial arts. In over a thousand years’ time, the major staff forms created and organized by monks in different dynasties consist of Mountain Breaking Staff, Eyebrow Level Staff, Negative Hand Staff, Six Unity Staff, Plum Blossom Staff, Wind and Fire Staff, Burning Fire Staff, Pack of Five Tigers Staff, Yaksha Staff, Mountain Guarding Staff, Crazy Staff, Meteor Staff, Monkey Staff, Drunken Staff, up to a grand total of more than eighty forms. They can also be classified according to participation, such as single practice, two-person matching practice, multiple person matching practice, and group practice.
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