This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details


Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 18:18:20 -0500 (EST)
From: "phil.west" (
Subject: Piau

Piau seems to be a generic term for various forms of chinese missiles - I'm not even sure that piau have to be edged. I've also seen it spelt "PIAO" but this may be because the author's first language was German - or it Peking is now Beijing. Anyhow, this is what I know so far:-

The most familiar form is the Jen Piau (though I think these are also known as Fei Piau). These resemble a short knife blade with a tassel on the butt. Length of blade can range from 3-20cm. These are used by the female throwers in a scene in "Enter the Dragon" - I'll take the technique of blowing the thing from the palm of your hand with a pinch of salt, though. There are also untasseled double pointed spikes, identical to Bo-Shuriken.

Also identical to japanese weapons are the star shaped piau, having 4,6,8 or 12 points. Similar to these are sharpened and saw edged discs - some of these are as big as plates or discus. Interestingly, Chinese explorers of Sumatra during the Sui dynasty (581-617) reported a weapon unknown to them, a discus knife the size of a mirror with a hole in the middle and an edge like a saw. (Draeger) It seems possible that the Fei-pan -piao was based on the Sumatran weapon.

Unusually shaped piau include spiked balls- Gau dim piau and butterfly piau, the Woo dip piau, which has two crescents for the wings and a short rod for the body. The throwing leaf piau (lin ye piau) resembles a broad leaf with several slits -I think a Hawthorn leaf is the closest I've seen. The Swastika piau and the Hook piau (Fei she gou piau -like a sharpened integral sign) can be thrown so they return to the thrower, apparently.

Most piau were thrown horizontally.

A Kunato school in Indonesia uses an oval piau with 8 hooked blades, resembling a tick to my eyes.

The Paku is a piau used by the PPSI of Indonesia. The old form is a 2-3" spike sharpened at both ends. This was to make them difficult to master so someone attacked with them couldn't thrown them back effectively. The newer form is longer (4-6") and single pointed.

Also included in piau are things like cherry stones, chopsticks and huo bi coins. The latter are round and have a hole in the centre so probabally flew well. The majority of piau were rejected by Kung Fu schools as being murder weapons or too easy to use. (Bear in mind the true translation of Kung Fu is "attainment by practice" rather than "martial art". You can study kung fu by making pancakes, filleting fish or even throwing knives). Many schools did teach the throwing of chopsticks and coins, however since these needed considerable skill to use effectively.

Many schools also studied the use of "Attached Piau" for similar reasons. These are piau with chains or ropes attached. Names of some of these translate as "Flying Tiger claw", "Flying Guillotine" and "Double Comet". The only illustration of one of these weapons was a "Rope Dart" resembling an oval weight on a rope. I assume it was thrown by whirling like a lariat or single bolas and that the rope was used to jerk or snap it back to the thrower like the missile section of the Kyoketsu shogi.

That's about all I know. Most of it is from "Shuriken jutsu" by Wolfgang Ettig with a little from "Weapons and Fighting Arts of Indonesia" by Don F. Draeger. Obviously more information is needed, particularly about the attached piau. I'd like to know the shape of the cross section of the Hook piau as well. If you want to use this information on the web page or think it will be of interest to other subscribers, go ahead and forward it.

Check out Phil's Weapons Analysis page! Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 22:09:03 -0600
From: Kevin She (
Subject: Re: Piau (fwd)

I was born in Hong Kong, moved to Canada when I was five, and am, late, in Iowa... PIAO, when I say it, sounds a lot like 'piu' - a word that I associate with 'point' or 'dart' - for whatever thats worth.

> The most familiar form is the Jen Piau (though I
> think these are also known as Fei Piau).

Fei Piau - flying point (or flying dart)

I've also seen solid balls of lead, with iron, bronze, or steel spiked embeded in it, in a geometric pattern, similar to a blowfish - usually poisoned or drugged.

> Unusually shaped piau include spiked balls-
> Gau dim piau

Gau dim piau - nine pointed dart

> Many [kung fu] schools did teach the throwing of
> chopsticks and coins, however since these needed
> considerable skill to use effectively.

Very apt, the same word (kung fu) in Cantonese (kung fu is a cantonese derivative - the mandarine derivative will sound different, like peking and beijin) is also used generically as 'hard work'.

From: "phil.west" (
Reply to:
Subject: Re: RE: Piau (fwd)

On Mon, 27 Jan 97 4:48 EST wrote:

> Date: Fri, 24 Jan 97 3:48 EST
> From:
> To:
> Subject: RE: Piau (fwd)
> Phil..
> Just a note to say that I have seen drawings of attatched "Piau". The one
> which caught my attention was shaped similar to a half closed hand, with
> possibly 8 or 9 sharpened "hooked fingers", attatched to the end of this
> devise was a chain/robe and a tassle. The idea being, when launched, the claw
> is opened but when it strikes anything it will close and cut whatever is in
> its grip. I think it could be launched like a sling, or from a cattapult.
> I do not think this was for accurate warefare, rather as an organised
> harassment of the opposition....

Thanks for info'. I'm guessing that this may be the weapon that Ettig calls the "Flying Tiger Claw". It also stirs a memory of a defensive seige weapon that I think may have been used by the Greeks or Romans - then again I may have seen it in a Fantasy battle game.

Still on piau (or piao), many thanks to Kevin She for translating some of the terms. If anyone else knows anything let me know. I'd like some confirmation that the ropes are used for retrieval, as with the Kyoketsu shogi.

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 13:58:39 -0600
From: Kevin She (
Subject: Re: Piau (fwd)

I'm fairly sure that there where a band of chinese assasins (late middle ages (european - don't know the corresponding 'age' in china) who had those lead balls with spikes, with a thin strip of cloth attached - that way, the 'mark' can be poisoned (it'd look like a bite from some animal or large insect) and the delivery system (weapon) could be retrieved, so as to leave no evidence.


Date: Fri, 28 Feb 1997 15:03:57 -0500 (EST)
From: "phil.west" (
Subject: Re: Warming up the piau thread again

On Fri, 28 Feb 1997 13:13:43 +0100 "Alexander J. Pirchl"
<> wrote:

> I was off list for a few days, and don't know what has beend discussed
> lately, so I am getting back to the Piau threat someone started earlyer.
	Yep, it was me. Great title by the way!
> Yesterday I saw on TV the old Dolph Lundgren movie "The Punisher" again,
> and just realized that in one scene they actually use a weapon which seems
> to be a Gau Dim piau (spiked ball). For all who know the movie, it's in the
> scene where the Yakuza raid the Mafia drug operation in the harbor. On of
> the yaks climbs out of the water and throws the thing at a mafioso, who
> get's it lodged in his forhead *Ouch!* ;-)
> When I first saw this movie I thought this some Hollywood dumbhead's idea
> of a shuriken, but now i think this might actually be a piau. Still I am a
> little at loss about the usefulness of such an item. First it would be much
> harder to make than a conventional shuriken, harder to carry and conceal
> and I doubt the penetration potential of the item altogether. Please get me
> right, I don't want to say in any  way that the excellent post about piaus
> was inaccurat, only that I can't seem to figure out why to bother with such
> a complex and limited useful weapon.

	It maybe the movie maker was familar with piau, or it may 
be a prop guy just broke a morning star mace.....
	A ball piau would be difficult to carry or more 
particullarly conceal. I can't see it penetrating any less than a 
throwing star -ie as deep as the point. It should hit a little 
harder since it will be heavier and therefore retain its energy 
more-it would also have more carrying power. Presumablly the 
chinese who used it wore thick gloves, though I think it was Kevin 
Shea who mentioned a ball piau with rope handle for throwing - or 
better still throw it with a sling! Most of us forgetthat weapons 
such as shaken were only really effective when poisoned, so 
penetration needn't be very deep.

> Also about those "Flying Guillotine" I think I saw it  in a old martial
> arts movie once, and also blieved it some Hollywood 'fantasy'. I'm really
> not sure if what I saw was the real thing (looked like a length of chain,
> which had some kind of cloth sack attached to its end, the size of a human
> head. The bottom of the sack was open and had a metal rim attached, which
> had serrated blades insides and outsides. It was used by throwing the sack
> over the victims head, and then *somhow* by janking the chain the user
> impartet spin to the device, sawing off the poor guys head in a few
> moments). Well lookt like unworkable bulls**t to me, but was definatly
> called "Flying Guillotine". I really don't think this is the item refferd
> to by the poster, but I am always willing to learn, so please correct me
> when I am wrong.

	My book definatelly says the Flying Guilotine was used in a 
movie, so this must be it - thanks for letting me know what it's 
like. The mechanism isn't that different to the Clawed hand like 
piau that closes on its target. I think Bill or Chris described 
> If I remember correctly, there were also piaus mentioned that returnd to
> the thrower much like a boomerang, I would be very interested in the shapes
> of these, maybe on of the boom-experts on this list could tell us then if
> this is possible.

	So would I! It should be feasable. The two types were the 
hook piau and the swastika piau. I've heard you can also 
"boomerang" Chakram.

> Also in jet another movie (I think you guessed it by now, I was sick for a
> few days and spent my time watching old videos ;-)
> namly Mad Max 2, ther is those little wild kid, with the metal boomerang
> that is all blade. Gave me some thougths. Does such an item exist (besids
> in hollywood)?
> Or is such a weapon just to dangerous? I mean to the thrower as much as to
> the target (remember they guy trying to catch it loosing his fingers ?
> *Ouch* ;-)

	Metal boomerangs were used, particullarly in India. These 
were fire and forget - you don't want any kind of war boomerang 
coming back at you if you suddenly have to defend yourself. I think 
the Boom' experts will confirm that even specially desined 
returners only do so under set conditions of wind direction.
> BTW, anything new about the Chakram who are in development?
> I also would like to ask the person who posted the message about those
> piaus earlyer to please post (or reposte, think I just missed it) the
> source of this information, I definatly want to find out more about this
> stuff.
	Main source was a book by Wolfgang Ettig which is mentioned 
in the article. I pleased to say that it now forms part of the 
thrower page and that I'd love to add more information too it - it 
poses more questions than it answers, which is why I wrote it.

	Ps How's the PPPS?

Ed. Note: In late June of 1999 the thrower list changed hosts once again, this time to Onelist. In Phil's first post to the new list he says...

From Fri Jul 16 08:19:58 1999
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 19:56:51 -0400 (EDT)
Reply to:
Subject: [thrower] piau

From: (

	Seems very apt that my second post to this new list server should be on 
this topic, since two and a half years ago my second ever post to the list was 
on the same topic.
	I've finally located some decent information on attached piau (also 
called piao and biao, it seems). This comes in the form of Dr Yang Jwing-Ming's 
new book on Ancient chinese weapons. 
	The rope dart (sheng biao or Suo biao) is basically  a blade on a rope 
of up to 25ft. The other end of the rope has a loop for the wrist of the 
non-throwing hand. As was theorised, the blade is thrown by whirling it around 
on its rope, rather like a grapple -though a push throw a-la Shurikami might 
work too. An interesting feature on some models is a bamboo tube that slides 
along the rope and acts as a handle for the weapon, varying the length of cord. 
Such a device was illustrated in Draeger's book but not explained. Another 
feature shown in the illustrations is a collar of cloth behind the blade, no 
doubt for drag stabilisation. The text includes the interesting comment that it 
"...could be directed for stabbing with the elbow, neck, knee or foot" The same 
comment is made for the steel whip -so may not refer to the throwing role and 
sounds a little like a tactic using Numchukas or kusarigama -though I wouldn't 
have expected that to work with a rope -I might have seen something along these 
lines in a Wushu book featuring the rope dart.
	Comet Star hammer (Liu Xing Chui) -like the rope dart but with a blunt 
	Plum Flower Claw and Dragon Claw (mei zha and long zha) -like the comet 
star hammer but with sharp fingers, that were sometimes poisoned. The Flying 
Claw (fei zhua) is like the other claws but had flexable fingers -Yang says it 
was ineffective as a weapon unless poisoned. The flying Hook Fei gou has points 
curved back towards the thrower, like a grapple (for which it was aslo used) 
The illustration shows a lenght of chain between the head and rope.
	There are also described Double head Comet star hammers and Double head 
flying mauls (shuang tou liu xing chui and shuang tou fei chui) which had a 
head at each end -one end was thrown while the other was retained for a second 
attack or defence. There was also a Double flying claw (shuang fei zhua).
	All of these weapons could be thrown and the weapon retrieved with the 
	The free flying piao are as detailed on the webpage, though mention is 
also made of daggers and short swords with tassels added for throwing. A weapon 
not detailed is a throwing cresent /dart knife (biao Dao) -a cresent with a 
bifurcated end " All edges and points were sharp, but the lower part of the 
blade, which was used for throwing, was less sharp". Yang claims this was 
originally tibetan and could be thrown in a curve.
	Other throwing weapons include the sleeve egg (Xiu Dan) -made of stone 
or metal. Flying Sting (fei ci) -drawn as a rhomboid and Iron Mandrin duck-made 
of brass or iron.

Mail to mjr, goto Survival, or back to Thrower

This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details