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The rope dart or rope javelin (simplified Chinese: 绳镖; traditional Chinese: 繩鏢; pinyin: shéng biāo), also known as Jōhyō in Japanese, is one of the flexible weapons in Chinese martial arts. Other weapons in this family include the meteor hammer, flying claws, Fei Tou flying weight, and chain whip. Although the flexible weapons share similar movements, each weapon has its own specific techniques.
The rope dart is a long rope (usually 3–5 metres or 10–16 feet) with a metal dart attached to one end. This was a weapon from ancient times, which allows the user to throw the dart out at a long-range target and use the rope to pull it back. The rope dart can be used for twining, binding, circling, hitting, piercing, tightening, slashing and other techniques.
Rope dart play consists of twining, shooting, and retrieval. Twining and shooting can be done from any joint such as foot, knee, elbow, and neck. The rope is anchored on one hand and played primarily with the other hand.
Skillful use of the rope dart can easily trick an opponent because the dart can shoot out very suddenly, from a person beyond immediate reach.
Just like the chain whip, excellent hand-eye coordination is a must for the practitioner to use this weapon well. In some Wushu training regimens, the chain whip and Changquan are prerequisites for learning the rope dart.
A variation of this weapon is the meteor hammer, which has a blunt weight on the end of the rope. It was used in a similar fashion to the rope dart, and many of the techniques are the same.
The rope dart is constructed from 4 to 5 parts:
- rope or fine chain
- flags or bright feathers
- handle (optional)
The dart is made of a hard material, usually iron or steel. It can be of variable weight depending on the users preference, and can be variable in shape (conical, triangular prism, pentagonal prism).
The rings (usually 4 or 5) are attached to the dart head.
The rope is attached to the final ring. Traditionally, the rope was constructed from Chinese rope and covered with wax to minimize friction. In modern times, the rope is often made of a softer synthetic material and covered with talc powder or some other substance to reduce friction.
There is at least one flag attached near, or onto the dart head itself to conceal the dart during play and to add control. Additional flags can be attached to the side rings to slow down the dart and increase control.
The handle is made from the last piece of rope as a slipknot to attach to the anchor hand's wrist.
Rope dart as an art form
While relatively new, rope dart is becoming increasingly popular in being used in the object manipulation scene due to its impressive performances. Because of this, there have been modifications to the original design. Some rope darts have been created to be set alight. A section of fireproof chain between the dart or meteor head and the rope attaches it securely and Kevlar wicks form the flammable head. Other rope darts have heads filled with LED lights. Both of these can be performed in the dark, adding excitement and mystery.
Rope dart in modern media
- In Rope Dart Instructional DVD Intermediate & Advanced (2013), Master Frank Hatsis, (International Gold Medalist), teaches Rope Dart.
- In Rope Dart Instructional Series (2007), Master Disco Duck, (Gold Medalist for the 2008 USA Wushu Team, China), teaches Rope Dart.
- In Heroes of the East (1978), Gordon Liu's character uses a rope dart against a Ninja.
- In Romeo Must Die (2000), Jet Li's character briefly uses a firehose as a rope dart.
- In Shanghai Noon (2000), Jackie Chan's character Chon Wang fashions a blunt rope dart with a horseshoe and a length of rope.
- In 2000's Scooby Doo movie, the character of Fred Jones was shown experimenting with rope dart techniques in the finale.
- The characters Scorpion and Smoke from the Mortal Kombat series of video games each use a rope dart (or alternately a kunai on a rope) in a special attack that impales and drags opponents closer for a melee attack. * In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Scorpion also uses this weapon like a more traditional rope dart.
- In Super Smash Brothers Melee and Brawl, Princess Zelda, as Sheik, uses a rope dart or chain whip type weapon as her side B attack.
- In Stormbreaker, Alex uses the rope dart technique to take out four auto wreckers and escape another two.
- In Ong Bak 2 (2009), one of the villains uses a rope dart to attack the main character Tien (played by Tony Jaa). Tien then proceeds to steal it, and uses it to attack several other villains for a short time.
- In Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl uses a rope dart to dispatch several opponents when storming the penthouse.
- In Code Geass, the Chinese mecha Shen-Hu features rope darts mounted in its forearms, which can be electrified for extra damage, or spun rapidly like helicopter blades to generate a shield-like effect.
- In the animated film Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011), Laira Omoto creates two rope dart constructs while fighting her father, Kentor Omoto.
- In the Assassin's Creed series, the Assassin characters Shao Jun, Edward Kenway, Shay Cormac, Adéwalé, Ratonhnhaké:ton and Arbaaz Mir use rope darts.
- In the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, the K'un-Lun ninja Scorpion uses a exaggerated tail-like rope dart against Iron Fist which is later incorporated into his suit tail in battles against Spider-Man and allies as a member of the Sinister Six.
- In Pulimurugan (2016), Mohanlal's character Murugan uses rope dart as a primary weapon of defense, though the use of the same is animated.
- In the sixth second season episode "A Fractured House" of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA operative Marcus Scarlotti uses a thick rope dart as a weapon against S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Melinda May.
- Chain whip - a multiple section chain often trained at the same time as the rope dart due to some technical similarities.
- Meteor hammer - similar to the rope dart except is longer and has a heavier blunt weight on one or both ends of the rope.
- Slungshot - a rope with a weighted end, far shorter, though similar in construction.
- Jwing-Ming Yang (1999). Ancient Chinese Weapons: A Martial Artist's Guide. YMAA Publication Center Inc. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-886969-67-4.
- "Fire Rope Dart - tribe.net". Fireropedart.tribe.net. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- "fire rope dart (Fire dragon)". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
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- "Talkin' Bout Assassin's Creed III's Revolution". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- Li, Keqin; Li Xingdong (1996). Soft Weapons -- Nine-Section Whip and Rope Dart. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 7-119-01883-3.