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The meteor hammer (???, liúxing chuí), often referred to simply as ‘meteor’, 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 sheng bao, liu xing chui, dai chui, flying hammer or dragon’s fist. It belongs to the broader class of chain weapons.
When intended as a weapon, the meteor is referred to specifically as Meteor Hammer. 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 (in a similar way to the nunchaku) its sheer speed. It acquired its name because it was said to strike “as fast as a meteor”.
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 punch. A master is fully capable of striking, ensnaring or strangling from a distance.
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, allowing much more effective control over its movement. Even at a most basic level, a meteor hammer may be seen as unpredictable and confusing to try to follow, making it very effective in combat.
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.
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.
In a manner reminiscent of Indiana Jones, a simple linear strike can be effected, as from a whip.
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 simply dodge, this attack can be repeated a number of times similarly to a techniques used with a bo.
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.
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, a useful training aid, once a student had gained a certain level of skill, was the water meteor. 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, inertia would hold the water 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.
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 or more.