When martial arts were created, the gun was not yet a weapon. Warriors used sticks, staffs, spears, swords, and other weapons.
In our arts, we learn forms that include the staff, straight sword, broadsword, spear, and elk horn knives. We also practice single and double sticks, although they are not part of our internal curriculum.
Here's a great exercise -- and for this, you should pad up or use foam weapons. It's very important not to thrust at someone's face, and if you're going to allow non-contact thrusting to the face, everyone should have head gear that covers the face and goggles for the eyes. I've never believed in hurting anyone, or being hurt, just to learn martial arts.
This article shows photos taken last week at our practice. Chris Miller (black sash), Kim Kruse (brown sash), and I took turns in the middle and had to defend and counter while we were being attacked by weapons. Chris and I chose the Bagua Elk Horn Knives as our weapons to defend ourselves. Kim chose the broadsword.
The most difficult part of learning a weapon, other than the internal body mechanics required in our arts, is how to use it against an attack. To recognize the incoming attack, deflect or block it and counter-attack are the skills you're trying to develop.
With the Elk Horn Knives, one is used to defend while the other is used to counter, usually with a cutting/slicing action but sometimes with a stabbing/thrusting action.
With weapons, as in empty hand combat, you have to be fast on your feet, and against multiple opponents, as we were practicing Thursday night, it's a good idea to get your opponents on one side of you.
You start by having someone attack. The person in the center has to defend and counter, and then turn to the other attacker.
It teaches you a lot about how well you can use a weapon. Winning a weapons form competition is nice, but if you have no idea how to use it in self-defense, your form will be empty of intent. Remember, in the internal arts, intent does not mean anything mysical, and it doesn't mean you're focusing on "chi." Intent is the meaning of the movement, and the body mechanics required for the movement. All movements are fighting applications. This is why all the weapons DVDs that I make have detailed instruction not only on body mechanics, but also fighting applications.