Historically, the Chinese martial arts arsenal counted an enormous variety of personal weapons, designed for specialized use for almost any occasion. Displaced by the march of progress in modern firearms, most have lost their martial relevance in modern society.
Yet we continue to practice the weapon forms because, they are the best way both to increase body extension through the arms and to become more agile through mastery of its footwork.
As extensions of the human body, all weapons lend themselves to large open and extended movement. With the sword in particular, when wielded with skill, the large, elegant movements create the impression of the sword as graceful ribbon curling and swirling in the wind.
Moreover, the footwork of the sword, like that of the stick, fan, and other weapons, is very intricate and its practice and mastery will result in an increased agility and fluidity in our movement.
Fans are usually thought of as tools to battle heat and temperature, and not as lethal weapons designed to kill human beings.
But in ancient China they were lethal weapons. This came about because there was a rule in the imperial court that prohibited the carrying of long weapons like swords and sabers in the palace.
This rule was then circumvented by making the ribs of the fan out of metal, and sharpening their edges and points to razor edge sharpness.
This made for a formidable weapon that could conveniently be hidden in the wide sleeves characteristic of palace garb.
Today, of course, all practical reasons for practicing the fan forms have disappeared.
Yet we continue to practice it simply because its intricate movements are beautiful and a joy to practice.
A stick or cane is generally perceived as a non-threatening aid to walking for the elderly or others who are movement impaired, and is therefore socially acceptable worldwide.
Perhaps for that very reason, the stick, or cane, is probably the one weapon that has retained some practical value.
Like the sword and the fan, the movements of the stick are also large and elegant. Combined with the intricate and subtle footwork, this makes the stick form is a pleasure to watch and a joy to practice.