Correct Way Of Using The Chinese Long Saber (aka Dan Dao or Miao Dao)
Ever since I uploaded my first Chinese Long Saber videos on YouTube back in 2010, I occasionally receive comments about how the way I perform the movements in the manual is 'not Chinese-like'. I do not exactly know what they meant. Perhaps they are more accustomed to modern Wushu's display, whirling all around the place? I'm not sure.
Recently, I shared an old vintage black-and-white video of old masters using a long wooden Staff. I see many instances in this video that relates to how I use the Chinese Long Saber. Here's my comparison analysis and break-down.
1) Horse Stance
I use a wide version of the Horse Stance, pushing my lower-limbs' joints to the limits of their range-of-motion. The thighs are opened wide, pushing the hip joints (acetabulofemoral joint) to the extreme. The feet are aligned with the knees, so you will see the front foot pointing straight forward, while the back foot is pointing backwards at a slight angle.
I've had people who said to me that my Horse Stance is very "Japanese-ish". Well, 3 things:
This style of Horse Stance can be found in Chinese martial arts. As proven above in the old footage.
The Long Saber manual was derived from Japanese swordsmanship anyways.
In the Shaolin Staff manual by the same author, you can see such type of Horse Stance too.
In most displays of Chinese martial arts, you may see that they keep their legs closer. This may be good for unarmed fighting, or when you're using short weapons. I use a wider Horse Stance when using a longer weapon.
What do you think? Does your style have different variations of the same stance when using weapons of different lengths too?
2) Load Bow Stance
The "Load-Bow Stance" is named as such, because it looks like how you'd squat down to draw a Bow or Crossbow in the past. You can see how low the old master actually went down in his Load-Bow Stance.
3) Outer Watch Stance
Of course, it's not always 2 feet planted firmly on the ground. Here is "Outer-Watch Stance". Notice that the front foot is somewhat tip-toeing, with majority of the body's weight resting on the rear leg.
4) Arms Straightened
This is my favorite topic: Keep the arms straight. In fact, not only the arms, but also keeping the wrist joints straight as well.
You don't do that 100% of the time of course, but if you observe my Long Saber videos in the past, you can observe that frequently my arms and wrists are kept straight. This is what I emphasize in my Long Saber DVD video training as well.
The reasons for this:
It is a more viable way to wield a long and heavy weapon.
You won't tire as fast, because you're using your body to wield the weapon, rather than just your arms.
It is harder for the enemy to knock your weapon away.
After making an attack or a move, it is easier to recover and perform a second move.
If you use the Long Saber with your arms and wrists bent, it doesn't mean you're wrong. You may have your own reasons for doing so. Please share them with me in the comments section below.
All these years I haven't found anyone that actively uses the Long Saber as I did, with the arms straightened. If you spot anyone, please kindly let me know as well.
Thank you for reading and I hope this article has been useful in your martial arts practice.
Jack Chen Ancient Chinese Martial Arts Manuals www.ChineseLongsword.com