Shaolin Nine Section (Chain Whip) by Shifu Guolin
Nine Section Whip is an important component of the soft weapons of the traditional equipment. It was passed to Shaolin Temple around the Song Dynasty. According to the records of the Shaolin Fist Forms Journal, during the Song Dynasty, the Abbot of Shaolin Temple, the Venerable Master Fu Ju, in order to enhance the contents of Shaolin martial arts and to improve the skills of Shaolin monks, invited martial arts experts from eighteen different systems of martial arts in the nation to exchange their techniques at a gathering at Shaolin Temple. The essence of different martial arts styles were then analyzed, refined and absorbed into Shaolin martial arts, and were arranged into fist styles and equipment forms that fit the exercises o the monks. The weapon form of nine section whip was one of those passed along to the monks.
After nine section whip was passed to Shaolin Temple in Song Dynasty, Shaolin monks in successive dynasties continually absorbed the
specialties from hundreds of branches of martial arts on top of the original basic forms to create more than ten sets of nine section whip forms. Some of the forms are Body Protection Whip, Four Styles Eight Steps Whip, Mountain Expel Whip, Double Whip, Broad Sword with Whip etc. Nine section whip is part of the soft weapon system. It has a whip head, a handle and several iron sections in the middle, with sections connected by circular rings. Its important characteristics are retraction as a bunch, extension as a slice, retraction like a worm, extension like a dragon, retraction like a mouse, extension like a tiger, capable of being long or short, possessing both softness and hardness. Since it is such a flexible weapon, it is considered as a fierce weapon that is not easy to defend against. When the whip is extended, it can attack, or slip, or hook or bind. A proficient user can use it to defeat broad sword or sword. It is convenient to carry since it can be either held in hand or wrapped around the waist. It can be released for use with a single forceful swing.The forms and movements of nine section whips are based on 'primary circular motions', depending on the swinging motion of the arm and the rotational inertia of the different parts of the body. Some whipping parts can increase the motions and change the center of rotation and direction of movements. The major whipping methods consist of entwining, snatching, wisting, throwing, waving and ground ward whipping etc. The performer needs to have very strong grips and arm strength so that during performance and practice, the nine section whip can be manipulated both like wheel and a steel rod. Nine section whip can also be classified as single-handed whip and double-handed whip based on its usage. A whip held in one hand is called a single-handed whip. A whip held in one hand is called a single-handed whip. A whip held in two hands is called a double-handed whip. In addition, there are also other weapon practice forms consisting of one hand holding a whip and the other hand holding another weapon. 'Broad Sword with a Whip' is a typical example.
Since the Nine Section Whip is a soft weapon, in general, it is not easy for beginners to master its line of actions and its point of contacts. It is very difficult to avoid the body being hit by a nine section whip in early stages of learning, and this problem is caused by three factors: inexperience in motion, not mastering the characteristics of the nine section whip and hast makes waste. Persistent practice is the only way to go past the stage of beating yourself up by inexperienced movement. The fist form idiom gives this good advice, 'After punching thousands of times, forms and styles become self apparent.' The same principle applies to nine section whip. 'After whipping thousands of times, the rapidly changing circles become alive.' For safety sake, a beginner learning nine section whip can at first substitute it by a thick rope with an object like a small sand bag attached to one end and hold the other end of the rope for the purpose of learning and practice. This will reduce a beginner's mental blocks caused by worries and fears, and help build up the correct motions. It is not until the mastery of the basic manipulations and motions of the rope that the real nine section whip can be used.
After reaching the stage of holding a real whip, the first task is to quickly add the difficult motions into your repertoire. Foremost of all is circular snatching such that the soft whip in its circular snatching actions behaves like a staff. After that you can gradually increase the speed and difficulty of the motions. To 'harden' the practice of such equipment, it is important to grasp its basic capabilities. Otherwise during whip waving, mistakes ranging from minor accidents to hitting yourself to serious accidents of injuring your limbs an face can occur, making it difficult to complete your motions. Thus to fully practice every technique of nine section whip, it is necessary to develop the control of the functions of the whip, especially at the last moment of waving and entwining, you must follow the path of the whip head's movement to provide support and guidance.
If at this moment you are against the path of the whip head's movement, then it will be difficult to grasp the position and direction of the whip's head, and then you will injure yourself easily. Since looking for short cuts to reduce your learning curve can only increase the chance of your body getting whipped, the correct way to train is to develop your patience and not rush or not get agitated. Also, developing patience means to return to the basics as necessary to strengthen the fundamental stepping techniques of fist forms and the basic practices of jumping, hopping, flipping and rolling. This will provide you with good coordination, agility and accuracy.
In general, if you can fulfill the requirement mentioned earlier, then you will certainly know and understand how to master the capabilities and principles of operation of the nine section whip. At a more advanced stage, you will be able to express every special features of the nine section whip, retracting it as bunch, extending it as a slice, retracting it like a worm, extending it like a dragon, retracting it like a mouse, extending it like a tiger, applying it in long or short soft or hard manners.