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Chinese War Sword
The Big Saber Of World War II

Dadao Chinese War Sword Martial Arts Book 實用大刀術

     This manual was written in 1933. The Chinese War Sword 大刀 (Dadao) was made famous by the 29th Army of the Chinese Nationalist Army fighting against the Japanese invaders during the World War II period. The 29th Army fought and held their position for 7 days and 7 nights at Xifengkou, killing 3000 enemies. However, in the 500 elite soldiers of the 大刀隊 (Dadao Dui) "Big-Saber Contingent", only 20 survived

     The Dadao is almost the same length as a Japanese Katana, but it has a much broader blade. Simply because of its size, it is durable and able to withstand harsh combat conditions, even though it did not go through a rigorous sword forging process like the Katana. High durability and ease of manufacturing made the Dadao a widespread weapon of choice.

     Due to its broad size, the Dadao is heavy and delivers a mean swing. Legend has it that it's so effective that heads could be cut off easily with ease, and the Japanese Imperial Army had to invent a metal collar to prevent themselves from getting beheaded in the battlefield.

     On 9th March 1933, 金恩忠 (Jin En-Zhong) was assigned to the Northwest Army's "Dadao Contingent". On June 1933, he published 實用大刀術 (Shiyong Dadao Shu) "Practical Dadao Techniques".

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Dadao Chinese War Sword Manual Preview #1
Dadao Manual Preview #1
Detailed explanation of the stances, as well as movement lines.
Dadao Chinese War Sword Manual Preview #2
Dadao Manual Preview #2
The 1st technique:
Strike Saber.
Dadao Chinese War Sword Manual Preview #3
Dadao Manual Preview #3
The "Ready Stance", to prepare for training.
The WWII Dadao Soldier

     The Dadao War Sword is a symbol of martial valor, exemplified by the bravery of the Chinese WWII soldier who fought with swords against the technologically superior Japanese forces. The Dadao soldier made up for his inferior fighting equipment, with his fighting spirit and martial skills.


     Today, the Dadao is an inspiration to all martial artists, not only in terms of fighting techniques, but also in having the right values and dedicating one's life to a worthy cause.

     On the right is an old photo of Dadao soldiers. You can see the Dadao War Sword slung on the left of their backs, and rifles on the right. Bicycles were a cheap and effective means for transporting ground troops across long distances. Even the Imperial Japanese Army used bicycles.

     In order to wield the Big-Saber, one needs to be of a certain fitness level. The harsh training and strict selection of the Chinese Northwest Army ensured that.


     According to 兰玉田 (Lan Yu-Tian) who witnessed the battle at 喜峰口 (Xifengkou) fought by the Dadao soldiers led by 赵登禹 (Zhao Deng-Yu), he said that, “These folks were of very high fitness level, and were always training with the Dadao. With a short rustle, they could climb up the ledge of a room. When the villagers climbed the 老婆山, “Wives’ Mountain”, they had to take a rest in between. However, these guys can climb up the entire mountain without making any noise, thus the Japanese soldiers were caught off-guard. After killing a dozen Japanese soldiers, they threw their bodies down the mountain and made their way off with the rifles and ammunition.”


     Such a thick and heavy Saber needs to be wielded by soldiers of such calibre, in order for it to be effective.

     An interesting photo that I found at Kung Fu Tea, is a Dadao picked up by a Japanese soldier. If you notice closely, the spine of the blade is made like a saw.


     This suggests that the Dadao can also be used as a tool, perhaps for cutting wood, in addition to being a weapon. Or perhaps someone took an existing saw, forged it to become a Dadao, and had the good sense to retain the saw teeth.

     Because the Dadao was used in more recent times, so it's easier to find antique Dadao, as compared to other weapons. Below are some photos of antique Dadao contributed by friends of

Dadao War Sword Chinese WWII Soldier

Swords & bicycles against bullets and bombs.

Dadao Chinese War Sword captured by Japanese soldier.

Dadao captured by Japanese soldier.

Picture from

Antique Dadao Chinese War Sword Big Saber

Antique Dadao
Notice the tip has chipped off.
Contributed by Rodney Bennett

Antique Sabers with Dadao in the middle

Bunch of Antique Sabers, Dadao in the middle. Notice the tip is chipped off too.

Too much thrusting in WWII?

Antique Republican Dadao Chinese War Sword Big Saber

Republican Dadao
Contributed by Peter Dekker from

Below are more photos of Chinese Dadao soldiers.

Bringing The Ancient Manual Back To Life

Video demonstration of the Dadao Chinese War Sword 

techniques as documented in the manual. 

     Most of the Dadao videos found on YouTube are solo practice forms, like what you'd normally see in Wushu. So we decided to make a video that is specifically based on what's written in this Dadao manual, pitting against an opponent who will actually thrust with a rifle.

     The "rifle" that we used is actually a thick piece of PVC pipe, heated at the trigger area to create a curve. Then we glued on metal strips along the entire length for increased stability & weight. Foam was subsequently glued onto the butt-stock area to beef it up, before we duct-taped the whole thing completely.

     This may be a good way to create a mock rifle that you can use when practicing the Dadao techniques.

     The 2nd video we made was to apply the Chinese Long Saber techniques with the Dadao. Although it predates the Dadao by more than 300 years, but the principles behind the techniques remained the same.

     The Chinese Long Saber manual documented techniques in fighting against the Spear. We simply replaced Spear with Rifle, and Long Saber with Dadao

     This video was created to show that, if you can understand the principles behind the techniques, you can easily tweak and apply to any weapon appropriately.

Applying the Chinese Long Saber techniques

to this Dadao War Sword.

Spreading The Dadao Legacy

     As a martial arts manual that was written in more recent times, the instructions inside is more direct and straightforward, compared to other ancient manuals which are written in a more poetic manner.


     My vision is to see more martial artists practicing the techniques in ancient Chinese martial arts manuals, so that the art can be passed on for future generation.

     The manual was translated as literally as possible, so that the interpretation is open to anyone of any martial arts background. The English translated version of this Dadao manual was released on December 2011.

     Every single line of text is translated individually, so that I'm forced to work on every single word. This prevents me from skipping over difficult words, and helps to ensure that the translation is as precise and complete as possible.


     With a nominal price of only USD 12.99, you can download the English translation instantly as a PDF and read it easily at your convenience. Your contribution and support will help us to continue running this website, and further the research of ancient Chinese battlefield arts.

Contents (152 pages, A5 size):

  • Introduction to the Dadao

  • 12 Techniques of the Dadao
    Each technique is broken down and explained in 3 parts:

    • Movement

    • Stance

    • Application

  • Quick-Reference Sheet - for you to practice the form easily. ​

Features to help you learn & understand:

  • Hanyu Pinyin pronunciation for all Chinese text
    To help you pronounce the stances' names accurately.

  • Chinese text side-by-side with the English translation
    For your reference to the meaning of every word.

Thank you,

Jack Chen

English Translation 

Download the English translated

Dadao War Sword eBook Instantly

Dadao Chinese War Sword English Translation Preview #1
Dadao Translation
Preview #1
The Whirl Saber Stance.
Dadao Chinese War Sword English Translation Preview #2
Dadao Translation
Preview #3
The Upwards-Cut Stance.
Dadao Chinese War Sword English Translation Preview #3
Dadao Translation
Preview #3
The Chop-Saber Stance.
Dadao Chinese War Sword English Translation Preview #4
Dandao Translation Preview #4
Explanation & elaboration of the stances.
Reviews & Testimonials
     "I really like the format of your books with the line-by-line translation. Since translation is usually an approximation of the original meaning, I like to be able to look to see what the original character was. For example in your book, I looked to see that the lengths you reported were Cun and Chi. That helped me understand the lengths a little better. This is a simple illustration, but it applies to more subtle meanings when the author is discussing principles and other things too."
~ Richard Johnson,
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