Hand fans have occasionally been used as unconventional and discreet weapons throughout history, especially in cultures where carrying concealed weapons was restricted or where women needed a means of self-defense that didn't draw attention. While not a widespread practice, the use of hand fans as weapons demonstrates the ingenuity of people in finding ways to protect themselves.
Japan: Tessen - The Iron Fan:
In feudal Japan, a unique type of hand fan called the "tessen" (also gunsen) was developed for self-defense. Tessen were usually made of iron and resembled ordinary folded fans. Samurai and warriors would carry them as a seemingly innocuous accessory, allowing them to blend in during times of peace. However, in times of conflict or danger, these seemingly harmless fans could be used to strike or block attacks. The tessen's metal ribs could inflict serious damage when used with the proper technique.
Tessen, ribbing made of metal. Gunsen, sticks made of wood and guards made of metal. Sources: wikipedia.org and pinterest.es
China: Kung Fu Fighting with Fans:
In Chinese martial arts, fans have been utilized as weapons in certain fighting styles. Martial artists trained with specially designed fans that had sharp edges and could be opened rapidly to surprise opponents. Fan techniques were incorporated into some Kung Fu routines, and practitioners could execute strikes, blocks, and disarming moves using the fan as an extension of their combat skills.
Kung fu master using a hand fan for defense. Source: shaolindragon.es
Europe: Parasol and Fan Defense:
In Victorian-era Europe, women's fashion often included accessories that could double as self-defense tools. Parasols and fans were sometimes employed for protection in situations where carrying visible weapons was not socially acceptable. Some self-defense manuals of the time even provided instructions on using parasols and fans to fend off attackers, showcasing a more subtle approach to personal safety.
A young lady with a red fan (1897), by Eugene von Blaas. Source: mutualart.com
India: Marital Arts and the Maru Muthu Vara Koppai:
In the Southern Indian martial art of "Silambam," fighters have been known to use various everyday objects as weapons, including hand fans. The "Maru Muthu Vara Koppai," a fan made of metal or wood with sharp edges, could be utilized for striking, blocking, and trapping an opponent's weapons. Silambam practitioners showcased their agility and skill by incorporating these improvised weapons into their training.
Silambam combat representation. One of the common weapons used practicing this martial art was hand fans. Source: swadesi.rog
While the idea of using hand fans as weapons might seem unconventional, it underscores the resourcefulness of individuals in adapting ordinary objects for self-defense. These examples serve as a reminder that necessity often drives innovation, leading to the transformation of the seemingly mundane into tools of empowerment and protection.