General Kwan’s Legendary WeaponBy Donald Hamby
Shrouded by its elegance of design and graceful sweeping curves the Kwan Dao, also known as the Green-Dragon or the Crescent-Moon broadsword, is a deceptively ominous force. This imposing weapon commands respect and admiration for its majestic appearance and highly effective design.
It is composed of a long curving blade used for slicing and chopping that tapers up to a sharp pointed end designed for stabbing and thrusting. The backside of the blade has a sharp upturned hook toward the base, which is used for catching and trapping an opponent’s weapon. Between the hook and the pointed tip are several sharp saw teeth.
Even the innocuous-looking red tassel attached through a hole near the end of the hook serves as a distraction to an opponent. The blade is firmly attached to a long wooden staff with a metal cap at the opposite end. This cap sometimes has sharp thorny protrusions and a pointed tip for piercing the ground to assist in blocking sweeps. From top to bottom — every line, every curve, and every frill — every element of its composition has a purpose. The Kwan Dao is power concealed in elegance.
Looks Are Deceiving
• Hack — An overhead chopping movement.
The Kwan Dao is named for its originator, the legendary hero General Kwan Yu. Upon entering many gung-fu schools, a statue or painting of General Kwan can be seen. He is pictured with a long beard and vivid red face, his hand clutching the broadsword. Over 1,700 years ago, during the latter part of the Han dynasty Kwan Yu, then a commoner unaware of his destiny for greatness, came to the aid of a neighbor who was being victimized by corrupt government officials. Kwan was a very large, powerful man with a distinctive red face and made a most formidable adversary.
A Common Hero
A true legend, to this day he is still highly exalted for his high standards and virtue as he is recognized as the Patron God of Chinese martial arts. His likeness is maintained in traditional shaolin kung-fu schools as well as in many government offices in China, such as police stations and post offices. He was the epitome of righteousness, loyalty, humbleness and justice.
During his reign as General, he found the need to develop a weapon that could best take advantage of his great size and superior strength. Additionally, since many battles ensued from horseback, the weapon needed to be effective from atop a horse or on foot against a horse, the rider, or a foot soldier. His creation, the Kwan Dao, is named after the General who also was its greatest master. The original Kwan Dao weighed 100-to-200 pounds. The present-day Kwan Dao, weighing ten-to-40 pounds, has changed very little throughout the years. Because the manner in which war is now waged has changed so drastically, the Kwan Dao’s present-day usage is mostly for shows and demonstrations.
There are many virtues that have come through the ages of time. The best of all virtues is knowledge, for knowledge is power, and the understanding of knowledge is the application of power. Learning the Kwan Dao requires discipline and mental fortitude. This, however, was not a problem for me because I was imbued with these virtues by my parents from childhood. Upon learning the Kwan Dao, my teacher master Bucksam Kong would demonstrate the intricate movements of this powerful weapon.
Each morning I would get up and practice the routine I had learned from my sifu, being attentive to the smallest detail. In the beginning it was a trying task. But anyone wishing to learn the Kwan Dao must be willing to sweat blood, gasp for air and struggle against pain. After many years of tenacious training and public demonstrations, my sifu was proud to present me on cable television. But most of all I represented the Kwan Dao in the masters division at the 1997 Tat Mau Wong Tournament and received a standing ovation that would have made General Kwan’s face the brightest of red.
According to a Shaolin proverb: "He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened. He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty. He who knows contentment is rich. He who keeps on his course with energy has will. He who does not deviate from his proper place will long endure. He who might die but not perish has longevity." It is almost as if this proverb was written specifically for General Kwan Yu and his magnificent weapon.
Donald Hamby is a hung gar student under master Bucksam Kong. He studies in Southern California.
reprinted with permission from CFW Enterprises