This weapon is one of the first to be learned, but it has two forms both bearing the same name one a little more difficult than the other.
The name comes from the hand configuration which is predominantly held at the chest height with open palm as a traditional Shaolin salute.
Both forms involve all the basic striking and blocking but as this weapon is a hacking type it has some spinning and jumping techniques to add power to strike.
Within the forms there are also kicking techniques coupled with twirling the Dao and also rolling and cutting low.
This weapon was mainly used against a long range weapon like a spear or pole but we also practiced close range techniques.
Control was one of the main training exercises you would twirl the Dao then attack a dummy and stop the Dao an inch from the dummy. Eventually you could control the weapon, as the idea was being able to change the angle quickly if your attack was blocked at full speed and power. I also learned the Chu Gar Dao, completely different from the two forms I learned in Sil Lum Hung Kuen. The training was also different with more emphasis on close range and manipulating the Dao at soft targets on the body, instead of hacking them and cutting and blocking at the same time.
These are some of my favourite weapons in the system and the forms are difficult in having jumping and rolling techniques. The knives themselves are much like the ones commonly seen in Wing Chun, but the guard is a rolled bar not square which makes it easier to reverse the knives.
There are two forms to be learned the first is relatively easy jumping and blocking in four direction performing the cutting as well. The second is more difficult in that it has rolling techniques as well has jumping techniques.
This is a very flexible weapon and because of the length can change height and direction quickly enabling the practitioner to defend against multiple opponents.
Within the system there is also a two man set involving the knives against the pole. Myself and John Farrell performed this many times, it is a very fast set and the pole is used double ended which is a real test of speed to defend and counter against.
We performed the set for Lama Yeshe Losal the Abbot of Samye Linge temple who told us he could see our energy in colours spiraling as we performed the moves it was a great experience.
The Baat Charm Dao can also be called mother and son knives and that is their traditional name within Hung Gar, but for us they were 8 Cutting Knives.
Within the system this is a formidable weapon, it is approximately 7 feet long and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds it was not a weapon I chose to learn but it was what Chu Sifu thought would be best for me as I was a big guy back then and I think he gave it me to develop the attributes of stable fast footwork with power.
I am so pleased he decided to teach me this weapon I grew to love it but it was as with everything in the system difficult and very hard work.
First I was taught the basic movements pressing, uplifting, sweeping, thrusting, twisting and striking with reverse of the Pa. This was done in a straight line involving horse stance, bow and arrow stance and twisted stance turning and repeating until Chu Sifu said enough. This was repeated daily and after about 6 months I felt the Pa was not heavy and I could control it without it controlling me.
Over the next five years I was taught two forms each about 12 moves long which eventually linked into one form. The moves were what I had been practicing but in a set of movements with some additional flourishes and designed so I could perform it when needed at events and Chinese New Year.
As well as the basic movements there are exercises designed to strengthen the grip and forearms.
Some of you might think that learning an archaic weapon such as this is not relevant to today’s world of Martial Arts, but to keep alive a tradition and also to develop the strength and skill this weapon bestows was well worth the effort.