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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 meters (20 ft) 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.
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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Martial arts, toys, and performances
- In the film Crippled Avengers, Mr. Wan, played by Wang Lung Wei, was an expert of the weapon.
- In the film Shanghai Noon, Jackie Chan uses a rope and horse shoe to fashion a makeshift version of the weapon.
- In the film Kill Bill: Volume 1, Gogo Yubari, played by Chiaki Kuriyama, uses a modern version of the weapon.
See Meteor (juggling) for non-weapon versions of the meteor made of soft materials such as rope.