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More Efficient Way Of Blocking With The Chinese Broadsword

July 31, 2017

Coiling or wrapping the Dao (Chinese Broadsword) around your head is a very commonly practiced and effective technique to block and counter-attack in a fight.

 

In most videos that I've seen, the practitioner is always circling his hands around his head. In this video below, I would like to share with you an alternative method that I've found to be quicker and more efficient.

Please let me know what you think in the Comments section below!

 

Even though I've demonstrated with a single-handed weapon, you can still easily apply the same principle to even a two-handed weapon, such as the Chinese Long Saber, or the Chinese WWII Dadao.

 

Thank you,

Jack Chen

Ancient Chinese Martial Arts Manuals
www.ChineseLongsword.com

 

UPDATE: 1st Aug 2017

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Shortly after I posted this video, Paul Andrews from UK Chinese Swordfighting, group heavily influenced by the work of Sifu Scott Rodell, posted a detailed and length critic. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/218378828577405/permalink/385394401875846/

 

I would like to thank Paul for his comments, as it can help to spur further discussion for the benefit of all martial artists.

 

Below are Paul's comments in Red, while my replies are in Blue

So, here goes!

 

1.Paul: I got this video in an email from Chinese Longsword guy Jack Chen. Whilst I applaud Jack for his work to publish some historical material with translations some of his ideas on practical swordplay are a bit lacking in substance. I don't like to criticise people openly but I want to make sure that guys who are training with me will be critical of videos like this and not just take them to be true because he's published some stuff and has some videos on the internet. Hell I tell my students to question me all the time and not take anything I say on faith but to test it and test it and test it again. For a start, he's using a foam sword. Please use practice weapons that have some resemblance to the real thing. A heavy wooden practice sword or a metal sword (it can be blunt) that simulates a real weapon. For my sins I don't yet have a decent wooden dao, I've been looking for a metal training dao for a while and bought a small antique butterfly sword recently which I've been doing some training with. I also have a plastic dao which is very rigid and has more weight than the usual cheap wooden dao. At some point I will buy or make a better one. So do use what you have but there is a limit, using something completely unlike the real thing (light and floppy) isn't going to help. Even a broom handle would be better than a foam sword!

 

1.Jack: The "foam sword" that I'm using in the video, has the real weight and balance as a real metal combat-ready sword. Using this for sparring or practice is much more realistic than using a wooden sword.

 

Also, it is not floppy. It stings when you get hit by it during sparring practice.

 

I'm not sure where did Paul get the impression that I'm using a "light and floppy" foam sword?

 

2.Paul: Often when he raises his hand he lets go of the hilt except for his first finger and thumb - a recipe for getting your sword knocked out of your hand. Dao methods should be structurally solid and are often more forceful and aggressive compared to jianfa. You have to be robust in both attack and defense or your opponent will overwhelm you or batter you weapon out fo your hand!

 

2.Jack: You are right to say that my grip is loosened when I perform the technique as shown in the video, and you are right that with a loose grip, the weapon can be knocked out of your hands.

 

Of course, with a firmer grip, anyone can hold the weapon in a more stable manner. You don't need to be a genius to know that. You don't even need to learn from any Sifu or Laoshi. But what if someone can achieve the same level of stability, yet with a looser grip?

 

Also, this is a training drill, to develop a certain skill-set. It doesn't mean you have to blindly use this method for all situations. You use the right methods for the right situations.

 

3.Paul: The circling of the arm can add momentum into the cut (like a slingshot effect) so just going up and down may in-fact take out some of your speed/power even if the path to the target is shorter.

 

3.Jack: Once again, circling the arms is easy, which anyone can perform right on the very 1st day. I'm not saying it's not effective, but it is already part of any human being's instincts to circle the arms to generate more momentum. There is no need to learn this from a Sifu or Laoshi. 

 

You are right that going straight up and down may take out some of your speed and power, but here's 2 points to ponder about:

  • In a real fight, I may want to cut the opponent first perhaps with something lighter but faster. Then subsequently follow up with a more powerful finishing blow. 
     

  • What if you can generate the same amount of speed/power without circling or slingshot-ing? Wouldn't it show that you're someone of high caliber, since you can do something which someone that I randomly pick up from the streets can not?

4.Paul: Also note that with the blunt back edge of a single edged weapon you can also use your free hand/arm or even your shoulder to leverage more swing into the cut depending on your position relative to the opponent. You should also be thinking of the relative position of the opponent and what they are doing not just how to perform a technique in the air - how close is the opponent, what are they attacking with, is it a committed attack is it testing you, what is their reach how heavy is their blow etc etc. These kind of deflect and cut methods can be very effective in closing range and getting into close range, so a swinging action backed up by the arm or body can be really effective to slam into and hack the opponent.

 

4.Jack: I agree with pretty much what you've said above. But, this is only a practice drill to develop a certain skill set, not a 1:1 representation of what will really happen in a fight.

 

5.Paul: Turning the hips should be coordinated or even generated from the waist and the movement definitely must coordinate with the arms as well. Why he thinks turning the hips is novel I don't know, we should be doing this all the time - and yes most of us need more practice at this (me included) but we should know that the waist is the commander as Laoshi has said many times quoted from the Tai Ji classics.

 

5.Jack: I have not said that turning the hips is novel. I wonder where you've gotten the impression from?

 

6.Paul: Finally. Note at around 2.18 or so he turns his body in the direction which the incoming strike would be coming - hence simply "blocking" or putting his sabre into the path of the cut. Then he turns back across that line to make the cut. (He turns to his right to block and back to his left to cut). Whilst I'm not saying that this wouldn't work, the more usual thing would be to turn to the left, deflecting the incoming blow behind you as you step or simple shift inside the blade of the opponent and continue that left circle over the head to the right should and cut back to the left in a single circle, like that slingshot of energy I mentioned before. Thus you deflect and take position and attack simultaneously not Block - Stop - Swing - Cut.

 

6.Jack: Again, this is only a stationary practice drill to develop a certain skill set. In a real fight, I will be moving accordingly to the situation, and not just stay fixed in 1 spot.

 

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Ending thoughts: If I were to sum up everything in 4 words, it will be "Principles Before Immediate Applicability".

 

Not everything has to be immediately and observably practical at first sight. There are plenty of training drills out there designed to teach you certain principles or skill sets, which you can then apply it in thousands of different ways.

 

For example: in Baguazhang, we walk in circles. Are you going to say that Baguazhang is an impractical art because nobody will walk in circles in a real fight? 

 

That will be completely missing the point, because the Baguazhang circle-walking is a practice drill only. You must understand the principles behind it, and then apply it correctly during a real fight.

 

Below is a video of my sparring practice with a Chinese Broadsword, foam-padded, but rigid and same weight as a real sword, making use of the principles and benefits that this practice drill has provided me.

  • My weapon didn't drop with a loose grip, even when in contact with the enemy's weapon.

  • Using the hips to generate the movement.

  • My elbows are bent, if you observe. Like I said, the above is only a Practice Drill. But in real fight, you may do things differently as long as you still utilize the same principles.

  • I would not have been able to perform like I did below, if I did not practice like what I've shown above.

 

UPDATE: 3rd Aug 2017

-------------------

I've received numerous emails of encouragement & support. Thank you very much. One of them was from Justin Reis, from the Spanish Swordsmanship Society, St. Louis, Missouri USA.

 

This is what he said in blue:

 

"I just wanted to let you know that the movement you've demonstrated is explicitly described in the treatise I am studying. Domingo Luis Godinho's Arte de Esgrima (1599). While conflating techniques between different sources (and continents) is rarely a good idea (and generally poor scholarship), it may be of some use to you to know that a period author also found a primarily vertical deflection>to>cut a useful enough technique to both describe and use it.

 

In direct contradiction to some of the comments I read (posted by other chinese martial artists it seems) on your site; I can attest that the technique provides both usable defense and more than adequate cutting power. We're using 36-inch steel sideswords and have inadvertently dented several fencing masks under reasonably controlled circumstances (friendly sparring & practice).

 

I have no doubt that a cutting-optimized sword like the Chinese Broadsword you're simulating would cut quite ferociously thus applied. We also have never seen a disarm due to the relaxed grip needed to cover ones right side using this technique. Of-course, our swords have quillons and we generally (well, always) have one or two fingers above them—so that may make a difference.

 

Keep up the good effort, I find your work both thoughtful and interesting and wish you all the best."

 

Thank you Justin for sharing your experience in verifying the practicality of this technique! 

 

Any further comments, please feel free to let me know.

 

Thank you! =)

Jack Chen