The Tiger Hook Swords or Seung Ngau 双鈎, also known as Fu Tau Ngau 虎头 鈎 (Tiger Head Hooks), are an exclusively Chinese weapon, unparalleled anywhere else in the world. With a very peculiar shape, it is a weapon as devastating as it is difficult to master. Probably because of the latter, it was never used in the army. Although some trace their origin to the Warring States period (Zhànguó shídài 戰國時代) in the 3rd century BC, such an antiquity is rather unlikely. Its oldest examples or representations date from the Qing Dynasty 清朝 (1636-1912).
Although it is traditionally associated with the martial arts styles of northern China, southern styles now also use it.
Hook swords are effective at short, medium and long range.
The Hook Swords have a unique design that makes them a versatile and very effective weapon in both defense and attack. It is said that the hook swords constitute "four weapons in one", since each sword is composed of characteristic elements of four weapons:
- A long blade like that of the straight sword gim 劍 (jian, in Mandarin), sharp on both sides.
- A dagger-shaped tip at the lower end (below the handle).
- Guard in the shape of a crescent moon blade.
- An open hook at the end of the blade, similar to the hook of a cane, but sharp inside and outside.
Applications of the tiger hook swords in combat:
It is this peculiar design that turns the Hook Swords into highly effective and powerful weapons. Their multiple edges give them a great destructive potential, and their structure an uncommon versatility, since they can be used both at short and medium distances and at a long distance.
At medium distance the main blade, used as a straight sword, allows us to use techniques of cutting and blocking; the hooks allow the techniques of hooking and pulling, digging into the flesh and severing muscles, tendons and ligaments or pulling the enemy's weapon to disarm it. The external edge of the hooks also allows the sword to be thrusted forward like a lunge. The weight of the hook at the tip adds power and speed to the movements of the sword, and is perfectly compensated by the weight of the lower end, in the form of a dagger. This dagger enables short distance techniques, such as cutting and nailing from top to bottom, or backwards. The blades in the shape of a crescent moon complete the arsenal of techniques at close range, allowing to drive forward and, again, catch the enemy's weapons to disarm, in addition to its obvious protection function.
But, in addition to all this, and precisely because of the hook at the end of the weapon, the Fu Tau swords can hook with each other to attack long distance with a circular movement that sweeps all around (using the two swords, linked together, with one hand), and which uses the lower dagger of the second sword as the cutting element.
The true martial artist has dedicated time and effort to the improvement and perfection of each technique.
In conclusion, Hook Swords are weapons that require advanced training and a long time of practice to master them. His learning involves knowing how to use straight sword techniques, cane, daggers and half moon blades; this is undoubtedly the path of mastery. Knowing how to handle a weapon is not just knowing a form or sequence of movements with it. If a student does not train the techniques in isolation, does not know the applications of each movement and is not able to chain them smoothly, the realization of a form is nothing more than a mere choreography, in no way different than a dance. The true martial artist, the one who possesses the Gong Fu, is the one who has dedicated time and effort to the improvement and perfection of each technique and has trained its applications.