Weapons - Halberd
Other names: Tian Fang Ji; also seen in Taiji Mantis
taught: Shaolin (Grandmaster
Recommendations: learn spear and staff first. Cost: varies from $150 to $200 or more. There are versions with a different central blade, and only one or no side "crescent moon" blades. The fifth page has comments from March 2017 about a Ji with a steel screw-apart handle (the compact result fits well in a nondescript bag, so well-made for travelers desiring to blend in) and a spear point as the central blade. I have not found a name for the crescent-shaped hand guards yet. They are a very mysterious feature. I am not sure when they first appeared (say, to the nearest dynasty) nor whether they came first or were a modification of larger crescent-shaped blades. As nearly as I can tell, the crescents are uniquely Chinese - and not all that common even among Chinese martial arts.
There are halberds and spears with either one or two of the crescents. Personally, I prefer the style with two opposing crescents and a central wavy (usually called snake or flame type) blade, but that may be influenced because that is what I learned first. In Northern Shaolin the weapon is called a hook blade spear.
I have not yet seen a halberd (ji) with one or two crescents and a straight central blade, but I would not be surprised if there were. I have seen weapons with one or two crescents and a large spear point in place of the
wavy blade. Alas, just sitting in a glass case (unused) and no one knew what art or arts they might be associated with.
Not to sound too jaded, so as to speak, but even on the long-handled versions I would question whether the added weight of the crescents is worthwhile. I am not clear what exactly they are defending against. If they are not offset from the central blade they prevent that blade from penetrating very far, so that can't be good. If you strike with the crescent itself it does not have much cutting power (there's a reason, in fact, several, that concave blades are very rare). The added weight of the crescents makes beating aside the halberd very difficult even for a heftier weapon like a saber. The tactic of striking the long weapon on the shaft below the cutting
blade(s) and sliding down to attack the lead hand usually does not work because of the crescents, so it takes a very good swordsman to hold his or her own against the hook blade spear. Were I fighting such a spearman I'd prefer a two-handed sword both for the additional reach and the additional power. All that said, the hook blade spear is a showy weapon.
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