The meteor hammer (Chinese: 流星錘; pinyin: liúxīng chuí), often referred to simply as meteor (Chinese: 流星; pinyin: liúxīng), is an ancient Chinese weapon, consisting at its most basic level of two weights connected by a rope or chain. One of the flexible or 'soft' weapons, it is referred to by many different names worldwide, dependent upon region, construction and intended use. Other names in use include dai chui, flying hammer, or dragon's fist. It belongs to the broader classes of flail and chain weapons.
The meteor hammer could be easily concealed as a defensive or surprise weapon, being of a flexible construction. The primary advantage for using a meteor hammer was its sheer speed.
Using a meteor hammer involves swinging it around the body to build up considerable speed, before releasing the meteor to strike at any angle. Since the meteor has two heads, one could be used offensively, while the other could be used to defend, parrying attacks or ensnaring an opponent's weapon to disarm them. When used by a skilled fighter, its speed, accuracy and unpredictability make it a difficult weapon to defend against. While being swung, a meteor may be wrapped around its user's arms, legs, torso, neck or waist, before being unwrapped by a powerful jerk of the body to deliver a devastating and lightning fast blow. A master is fully capable of striking, ensnaring or strangling from a distance.
There are two types of meteor hammers: a double-headed version (the typical image of a meteor hammer is generally of this type) and a single-headed version.
The double-headed meteor hammer is typically 2–3 meters in length (traditionally 2 meters) with a spherical head on each end. While the ends of the meteor hammer can be heavier than a rope dart head, the difference in weight is not normally great. Some meteor hammer versions have heads which are much lighter than most rope dart heads. The lighter versions of this weapon are typically used for practice and for modern wu shu displays since they are faster and less dangerous.
The single-headed version of this weapon is used in a similar manner to the rope dart in that it is a long reach weapon with a single head. The main difference between the headed meteor hammer and a rope spear is that traditionally the meteor hammer has an end shaped similar to an egg or melon. The single end can traditionally weigh up to 3 kg and is attached to a rope that can be 6 (20ft) meters in length (in contrast a rope dart is typically 3.6 meters long). Because of these traits, a single headed meteor hammer can be a very effective weapon, despite being very difficult to control. The weapon could attack in multiple directions and even in an arching pattern when engaged in formation attacks. This weapon would be tossed up and over an enemy formation to hit troops not yet engaged in the head.In modern times, this version is rarely studied or taught since a weapon of this nature isn't needed and is very complex to learn. The double headed version is flashier and better known.
Freestyle Meteor refers to the use of the meteor weapon (used in martial arts) in a more visually stunning manner, rather than a combative way. This makes freestyle meteor one of the flow arts.
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All chain-based weapons tend to be handled in a similar fashion; however, the meteor hammer is unique in a few respects. Firstly, it has no handle and secondly it is weighted at both ends. These allow for more effective control over its movement. Even at the most basic levels, a meteor hammer is often seen as unpredictable and intimidating. The difficulty people have in following it makes it very effective in combat.
- Throw: A meteor may be thrown, while holding one of the heads to enable its retrieval. This is a highly unpredictable form of attack, often used effectively to catch an opponent off guard. A throw can be initiated quickly and efficiently by a skilled fighter, with a simple pull in the correct direction.
- Grab: A correctly placed throw can cause the meteor to wrap itself around an object and grab it. If done correctly, the meteor will wrap over itself and ensnare a weapon, an object or even an opponent's limb. Alternatively, if the meteor does not wrap over itself, it can be used to spin an object, providing a helpful way of swiftly disorienting an opponent.
- Whip: a simple linear strike can be effected, as from a whip.
- Slam: Sometimes referred to as "storm from above", this powerful attack involves a wide overhead arc, resulting in a vertical strike. Difficult to counter, but relatively easy to dodge, this attack can be repeated a number of times, similar to the technique used with a Bō.
- Swing: The swing is a simple side attack, capable of tripping an opponent. A basic move to learn, but a difficult one to master, being as a horizontal swing can very easily backfire and injure the one wielding the meteor.
Further moves include blocks, short strikes, figure eight motions, locks and holds. It is also possible to use many of the same techniques common to the nunchaku, by bouncing the chain off the body or even other objects for even more unpredictability.
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Fire meteor and other variations
Beginners tend to start by using simple monkey fist meteors. These are simply a length of rope, terminating in a large monkey fist knot (sometimes containing a weight) at either end. Only once skilled does a practitioner stand a chance at wielding a fire meteor.
In Shaolin schools, the water meteor made a useful training aid once a student had gained a certain level of skill. These water meteors consisted of a length of chain with two inward facing bowls for heads. These bowls were then filled with water (or occasionally, sand), in order to train a smooth technique and gain control over the weapon. When the meteor was spinning fast enough, the water would be held in the bowls, with the intention being not to spill any. In China where this technique was originally developed, once a student had practiced for several years and gained mastery of the meteor, then they could progress to fire meteors. Cirque du Soleil's Varekai features water meteors as an act.
The traditional fire meteors were essentially the same as the water meteors, except that instead of containing water, the bowls were instead filled with fuel. This fuel was then lit, and the meteor spun exactly as before, looking like a pair of real harnessed meteors. It is also a dangerous weapon to behold, because one slight mistake could send flaming fuel around in a radius in excess of 20 feet.
Modern fire meteors are commonly made similar to the monkey fist meteors, which is made of kevlar, cotton or other natural fibre rope, then connected by chains or rope; also made of kevlar, cotton or natural fibre. The natural fibre or kevlar rope is necessary as synthetic ropes will melt rapidly, and the natural fibre ropes will also need to be replaced often as well. The kevlar rope works much better as it is designed to take stress and resist high temperatures. The wicks can then be soaked in kerosene, alcohol or some other fuel to produce different effects, brightness, ease of ignition or burn times.
Another option that some people take when they use the meteor to perform is to put long tails or flags on the weights, thereby leaving an extension on the meteor that replaces the flame. This works well for those who are progressing to fire as the tails will simulate the noise that is produced by the flames when spinning.
Another style of new age meteor is called a "puppy hammer". The "puppy hammer" is a very long meteor that adds a knot followed by extra arm length on each side. This design allows for more flexibility in being able to perform meteor, poi, and rope dart maneuvers without changing tools.
- Fire Meteor Tribe.net
- Freestyle Meteor Info Page
- Shaolin Kung Fu Australia
- The Chinese Olympic Committee Official Website
- Rare Kung Fu Weapons
- Nine Dragon Baguazhang