Guest Author - Caroline Baker
One of the beautiful martial arts weapon, the fan or iron fan can flick deadly force with the grace of a dance. This weapon is most often seen in either Chinese or Japanese forms of Martial Art. The Chinese name for it is shanzi. The Japanese is tessen.
The iron fan is normally constructued out of metal with eight to ten rods that collapse and open as required. In a more deadly form, the ends of the fan can be spiked to a point for further damage. The fan can be used in either a strike or piercing manner when completely closed or open in either a blocking or slicing motion.
The key to performing a good fan technique is having strong wrist muscles. The movement to open and close the fan is a slight flick of the wrist that sends a sharp crack of sound as the fan slices open or closed.
In Chinese Martial Arts, one would most often find the fan in the internal styles, such as ba gua or tai chi chuan. As one story goes, in ancient times ba gua practioners in the monestary were forbidden to practice martial arts ourside of the temple. But they needed a way to protect themselves. Thus, they chose weapons that were light and easily concealed within the long sleeves of their uniforms. A fan made an ideal weapon in that it could easily be explained why they were carrying them.
In Japanese Martial Arts, a style known as tessen-jutsu exists that is dedicated to the study of the iron fan. Early Japanese legends tell of the hero Yoshitsune who was taught this among other weapons to defeat his opponents.
Today, the fan seems to be a favorite weapon among many women. Men tend to shy away from it because of the delicate gracefulness. Some wrongly interpret this softness to weakness in the weapon. But when moves are executed correctly, it is as deadly as any blade or other weapon available. In fact, in traditional times, this style of fan (closing) was actually carried by men in China. The solid fan (with no ribs) was actually more the female style of fan.
Tai Chi Single Fan
The first video by Master Helen Wu with a four sectioned form that builds upon the basic knowledge a tai chi practioner would have.
Tai Chi Double Fan
A beautiful instructional video by Master Helen Wu showing the power and grace of the double fan, a tricky form to learn that balanced the body.