The three-sectional staff, triple staff, three-part staff, sansetsukon in Japanese, or originally sanjiegun (三節棍), is a Chinese flail weapon that consists of three wooden or metal staffs connected by metal rings or rope. The weapon is also known as a "coiling dragon staff," or in Chinese as a "panlong gun" (蟠龍棍). A more complicated version of the two section staff, the staves can be spun to gather momentum resulting in a powerful strike, or their articulation can be used to strike over or around a shield or other defensive block.
Although there is no historical evidence to support it, a popular modern-day legend states it was made famous by Zhao Kuangyin, the first Emperor of the Song Dynasty (960 AD).
Historically made of white oak, waxwood or Chinese red maple, modern staves are constructed from rattan, bamboo, various hardwoods or aluminum. For optimum fit, each of the three sticks should be about the length of the combatants arm (usually 60 centimetres (24 in) - 70 centimetres (28 in)) and have a combined diameter that easily fits in the hand. (usually about 1.25 inches (32 mm)). These are connected by chains of rings (usually of five inches (127 mm)) ; modern versions use ball-and-socket joints.
The total length of the weapon is about the same as the Chinese staff, the głn and greater than that of the single staff (known in Japanese as a bō); Its larger size allows for an increased reach compared to the staff. Some of the techniques are similar to that of the staff, so spinning moves over the head and behind the back, such as helicopter spins and neck rolls, can be practised with a regular staff. Other weapon techniques the three section staff makes use of are similar to that of a pair of sticks used escrima, a simple short chain, a whip and the two section staff. It is therefore advantageous for the user to have some familiarity with these weapons. The three-section staff has the advantage of being used as a long-range (whip), intermediate range (flail or two section staff) or a short-range (pair of escrima) weapon. Acting as an extension of the users arms, the three sectional staff can strike, flail, block, choke, trap, disarm and whip, often with different sections of the staff acting at the same time. The chains or binding ropes of the staff are used to entangle an opponent and their weapons. While it has three ranges, the three section staff is best used as a short range weapon against long ranged weapons. In this configuration, a skilled practitioner can nearly simultaneously block an opponent's strike, trap his or her weapon and disarm them while executing their own strike with the free side of the staff.
While some martial artists have held that the three section staff was used on the battlefield to entangle horses' legs or to strike around shields, the complexity of the weapon and the length, difficulty of use, lack of sharp tips or edges and other advantages of such traditional battlefield weapons as spears, polearms (such as the yan yue dao), swords and so forth meant that the triple staff was more likely restricted to personal self-defense.