Monday is spear training day. There are several types of spear, of varying lengths. In particular, I’ve been learning with the Flag Spear Form which is part of the syllabus for dan grades. The flag spear, known as Ki-Ch’ang (기창) was traditionally 2.7 meters (9 foot) long and with a 23cm (9 inch) blade. The use of the ki ch’ang is sited in the Korean martial art treatise commissioned in 1790 and known as the Muyedobotongji (무예도보통지). Indeed, the form I’m learning is based on the one explained in this treatise.
Because of the length of the spears, we train in the nearby park. This is an interesting experience as it attracts a few onlookers some of whom just stop and stare for a few moments, while others sit and watch. They are mostly elderly but occasionally there is a group of kindergarten kids who pass by the spot where we train.
I once spent a week in China and every morning I went to the park to train. The park was packed with people, mostly older, practicing a wide range of styles mostly Tai Chi based and with numerous weapons – including the fan. I was in Guangzhou (Canton), staying in a hotel on Shamian Island which is on the Pearl River, nobody paid the slightest attention to those training in martial arts, or the ball room dancing that was also a popular form of exercise.
In all my time in Korea, I have never seen an adult, either in a school or outside, training in a martial art and the only adults who do practice are instructors.
At first we practiced with what was in fact a lengthy rattan pole which was flexible. However, we very quickly moved onto a spear with a real steel point, and the following week, a pennant was added. The spears are made of a light metal and are in sections which connect. The traditional Korean spear has a wooden shaft and a flattened point which is sharpened in exactly the same manner as the swords and a number of techniques involve turning the blade sideways and then swooping the spear, using momentum from the hip, in a wide arc in order to slash opponents. On such techniques the pennant makes an impressive swish which gives a sense of power to the arc.
Each week I learn about ten movements of the pattern which I then practice on my roof in the morning or evening. At first I was using a short ‘bo’ type pole of much less than 2 meters and it was problematic because holding it in the right place towards its base, meant there was only three inches of shaft to use as a spear. My teacher has since lent me one of the rattan poles and the feel is much better.
Here is the first of the series of videos on the Ki Ch’ang (기창) pattern. For locations of the remaining videos hit the ‘Korean Weaponry’ button at the top of the page. The video is uploaded by courtesy of my instructor, Daniel Kwon (권용국).
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