Most of the weapons used in Chinese wushu have evolved from arms used in fighting in ancient China. Roughly speaking, they fall into four categories: short weapons, long weapons, double weapons and soft weapons.
The most common short weapons are the broadsword and the sword.
The broadsword is the most popular of all the weapons used in Chinese wushu. It is of antique origin, being used by soldiers as a major weapon as far back as the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220). There are a great variety of broadswords. The main types used in modern wushu exercises include short-handle broadswords, choppers, sabres, nine-ringed broadswords and so on. In spite of the immense variety, they are all quite similar in structure, each consisting of a handle, a hand-guard, and a blade that has a convex cutting edge and a pointing tip at the fore end.
A sword is made up of the following parts: a hilt, a guard, a blade that has two cutting edges and a sharp point at the fore end. In modern wushu practice, the length of a sword should be such that its point is as high as the performer's ear-lobe when it is held at the back of one arm with its tip pointing up.
The spear and the cudgel are representative of the long weapons.
The spear was an important weapon used in ancient battles. Down through the ages it appeared in countless varieties, as evidenced by detailed descriptions in the Song and Ming dynasties from the late 10th to the middle of the 17th century. A modern spear consists of a shaft made of Chinese ash and fit with a steel tip at one end, with red tassels tied to the intersection between the shaft and the tip. A spear used in competitions should be of such a length that when it is placed upright by your side you can reach its upper end with your fingertips.
The cudgel is yet another major type of weapon used in ancient warfare. A modern cudgel is usually made of Chinese ash and should be at least as long as the performer's body height. Its thickness may vary with different ages and sexes.
Typical of the double weapons are the double broadswords, double swords and double spears. Performances with double weapons make exacting demands on coordination between the two hands.
Among the most common types of soft weapons we may mention the nine-section whip, the meteor hammer and the rope dart.
The nine-section whip is an ancient weapon that dates back to over seven hundred years ago. Formerly it was regarded as a kind of "hidden weapon" used for sudden attacks on targets at both short and long ranges. It is called a soft weapon because it consists of a flexible series of joined iron links with a handle at one end and a metal pointed head at the other. But when it is swung around at great speed it becomes as hard as an iron rod. It can be used for performing a variety of movements, such as wrapping, sweeping, circling, whirling and so on, all propelled with vigorous arm and body movements.
The meteor hammer is derived from a kind of hunting weapon of remote times. It consists of either a five-metre-long rope with one hammer at one end, or a two-metre-long rope with one hammer at each end. The hammer is made of bronze and is as big as a duck's egg. A skilful performer can have the rope wrap around his/her neck, chest and back, shoulder and elbow, wrist, legs, feet or waist before unwrapping it to release the hammer with a powerful jerk of the body. In this way, the hammer shoots forth quickly like a meteor, making a deadly impact on the target.
Like the nine-section whip and the meteor hammer, the rope dart is also a kind of "hidden weapon" used for sudden attacks. It consists of a metal dart of either prismatic or conical shape attached to an end of a long rope. It is used in the same way as the meteor hammer.