Probably the most deadly of all of the short weapons, the 'Deer Horn Knives' from Baguazhang are normally used against longer weapons such as spear, sword, broadsword etc. It would be a bit of over-kill using them against an empty hand attack. These knives are so deadly, that there is the slight chance that one might even stab oneself! So it is imperative that one learns the Deer Horn Form set in order to learn exactly how to wield these beautiful knives.
During the Deer Horn Knives form we not only learn the postures of the form, but also at a sub-conscious level, how to move the body in perfect harmony with the hands and wrists and arms so that we do not do ourselves any damage as there are five cutting edges and four points to use in attack and defence! There are many names for these knives, 'Deer Horn Knives' being the most common. However, 'double moon shape knives' is also used normally when the cutting knives are of equal length. The more classical of the deer horn knives has one half of the knives longer than the others and when one puts them together, they resemble deer horns. Another name when only 3 points are present is 'Mandarin Duck' knives. 'Sun and Moon' knives is another name. In modern times as with much of the classical Baguazhang forms, the Deer Horn Knives form has changed to represent the tournaments so that the form will adhere to the rules of these Wushu tournaments. Hence, you will see forms whereby the practitioner will move out of the circle or even not use a Bagua circle for the form. The form that I have been taught still makes use of the Bagua circle and movements and postures are all done with reference to that circle as in the Classical Bagua empty hand form. 'Slashing' 'cutting' 'slicing' 'de-boning' 'rising' 'dropping' 'leaping' 'axe' 'ice-pick' 'stabbing' to name only a few are all attacking methods used in this form.
Unlike the Bagua empty hand circular form, the Deer Horn Knives form will often move to the centre of the circle, or even cut across the circle to the other side. These movements were a way of combining both circular and linear movements rather than having separate forms as for the empty hand forms. Blocking weapons using the weapon is a joy, a quick block and a flick of the wrist and his weapon is out of his hands with the other knife killing as this is happening. You can use single handed methods or use both knives together when fighting against perhaps a very strong attacker with a broadsword or spear. On a health note, this form is excellent as it works every acupuncture meridian in the body, twists the waist and gives great flexibility as well as an excellent total body work out. In other words, you really know that you have practiced a form! Some of the movements are not perhaps for those who for instance have damaged hips or knees or if the new student is perhaps not that young. However, when these movements arise, alternative movements are always given so that damage is not done. I remember when I learnt this form when I wore a much younger man's clothes, I could not walk then next day and going to the toilet was not a happy occasion as it became very difficult to even sit down. But then I do tend to over-do things that I become passionate about. Photo No. 2 shows the classic 'Duck Lands on Water' posture.
The 'Sleeves Dancing' posture which goes into 'Examining the Tree's Roots' is one that I personally love doing, however, it is not advisable to do this straight away without warming up when you are just beginning. It involves a leap into the air turning in mid-air and landing in the classic 'snake creeps down' posture (I have used a Taijiquan posture name here as most people are aware of this posture). See Photos No. 3, 4, and 5.
Photos Three, Four and Five
Just to give you an idea of an application, an attacker perhaps attacks using a straight lunge with a long edged weapon, you might take his weapon away using the front end of your left hand knife as you step behind and cut his neck with your right weapon.. Photo No. 6.
Photos Six and Seven
Then, as Bagua is the 'art of over-kill' you would spin around with great force cut his head off from behind! Photo No. 7.
As with the Classical Bagua Circular form, the Deer Horn Knives form also has 8 parts beginning with some relatively simple knife changes and building to one of the most complicated changes of all with the 8th Knife change. Most people, who have no difficulty in learning the empty hand forms, will always say that learning this form is difficult. However, the rewards both in health and self defence are great, as it not only teaches you to use these weapons, but also will enhance your empty hand forms greatly. Unfortunately in most civilized countries, it is illegal to carry this weapon. And in my country Australia, it is even illegal to purchase the proper knives! I have to make do with a set of wooden weapons. However, if Police officers were to carry a set, any criminal confronted with this weapon would back off very quickly if he were armed with an edged weapon.