Jul 11, 2012

Weapons & Warriors: The Liuxing Chui of the Shaolin

There are two variations of the Liuxing Chui, also known as the Meteor Hammer or Dragon Fists. It gets its name from the lightning speed and power at which it strikes an opponent. The Liuxing Chui is one of the many chain weapons used by Shaolin Monks and requires excellent strength, reflexes, and years of and training to use safely. Once mastered, this blindingly fast weapon is virtually impossible to predict. It’s capable of disarming and then crushing a man’s skull in seconds.

The design of the Liuxing Chui is very simple. The chain or rope has a steel ball attached at either one end or both ends. The chain or rope varies in length depending on the version of weapon. Each steel ball weighs over 6 pounds. The ball is swung in circles as fast as possible before striking at opponents. Six pounds at high velocity is enough force to shatter the skull like a watermelon that’s been slammed on the ground, very messy.

The Meteor Hammer name comes from the blinding speed and power of the weapon’s strikes. It’s almost too fast to avoid once it has been aimed. The circling balls strike with bone shattering force. Some cartoons and movies have altered the balls adding all kinds of things to them. Gogo Yubari, in the Kill Bill movies used a one ball version of the Meteor Hammer. If you’ve seen the movie, I would like to add that her form and technique was very accurate to Shaolin training. The Liuxing Chui she used however was more extravagant. Not just with the chain links wrapped around the over-sized steel ball, but with the retractable saw blades.

The one steel ball version is up to 15 feet in length and is excellent for keeping away enemies. This version was more common in ancient times than it is now. Its use is less exotic and artistic than the other version but equally as lethal. When there is plenty of space to fight then the one ball version would be the best choice due to its longer reach. Many masters can still swing the Liuxing Chui effectively and attack with very limited space. The weight of the ball makes it very easy to quickly spin the weapon without using its full length.

More common today and often used for shows is the dual balled version. The length of chain or rope for this version is usually only around 6 feet. It’s flashy and some shows have converted the weights into torches for Fire Dancing. A performer who masters the dance with a Meteor Hammer is pretty amazing to watch. The flexible chain and dual torches makes for a hypnotic site as they spin around the dancer at blinding speeds and mind warping patterns.

Fire Dancing using the Liuxing Chui is a dangerous art and those who practice usually start with bowls of water. The bowls are tied to face toward the dancer and filled with water. As the dancer twirls the Meteors, he attempts to keep the water inside the bowls. This teaches the wielder to be balanced and consistent as well as keeping the ends in constant motion. The last thing a Fire Dancer wants to do is lose control of his flaming ends.

At one time fire dancers used liquid fuel to ignite the bowls for their Fire Dance. In modern times the bowls have been replaced with knobs of flammable fibers that are soaked in kerosene. This is not any safer for the dancer, but is far safer for the audience. A bowl of burning liquid fuel that is lost control of could end up sending flames into the cheering crowd. Not quite the finale the dancer or spectator would want.

There are other techniques used when fighting with the Liuxing Chui aside from swinging it around and knocking heads. One of those techniques is throwing a ball straight at the opponent by wrapping the chain with the leg and kicking it out, or with a jerk that sends it arcing further out, or by simply hurling one end. As long as the wielder holds the other end, he can pull it back in and return to spinning it within seconds.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. any information or source material for the dual version, which i assume is called dragon fists? i'm looking for anything- books, videos, someone to whom i could write a letter- anything to help me advance in the art.

    i've been spinning a 10-11'(~3.5m) two headed version for several months now mainly using it as an overly flexible staff in addition to some rope-dart moves either holding one end or the center and shooting both heads. i have learned quickly but have also feel i have begun to reach the limits of what i can learn on my own.

    any help would be Greatly appreciated, as other than the fire spinning variety- which only has a small number of videos anyways- i cannot find any dual headed meteor demonstrations that are martially oriented.


  2. I don't have anything off the top of my head, but if I run across anything I'll let you know.