Name of Wooden Swords

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

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jonpalombi
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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by jonpalombi » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:34 am

Welcome back Aidan! Your returning comments are clear and succinct, without falling into the trap of returning blow-for-blow (as I certainly did). Please forgive me if I got a little debative in your absence. Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront, as I too, share your admiration of Graham and his handy-work. He is in a league of his own (no pun intended), in terms of scientific research and the pragmatic development of wooden fighting jian and dao swords. Any of us privy to the dozens and dozens of design considerations, measurements and repeated trial and error, which predated this project's triumphant success... were thoroughly exhausted just being witness to the great task! I second your idea and applaud your sentiments, however touchy it turned out (in this controversial thread). It is an inspiration to meet a young practitioner of the CSA, with so much passion and natural abilities, conjoined with a thoughtful demeanor. To quite the master guitarist Jimi Hendrix, "Keep on thinking free." 8)

Hi Linda,

Thanks for your eloquence and composure, in this discussion. Also, thanks for your enthusiasm for my next painting! I have methodically begun to bring elements of this process together. I am beginning with the swords, of course. I have been going through the various cuts and deflections from the Yang Family jian and dao forms, with the aim of matching the appropriate techniques, within a clash of the two primary Chinese sword types. This is the first step in the finished composition. Now, what became instantly apparent, is that without anthropomorphizing these mythic creatures, so as to parallel the correct human postures and body-mechanics found in these sword forms, it wouldn't make much sense. This, however, makes for a composite of sorts... and a decidedly cartoonish or fantastical result. This is not exactly what the vision which appeared before my mind's eye, originally saw and i don't want to muddy it up with abstractions. Besides, many of the movements inherent in the CMA mimic the distinctive movements of such animals and why toss them out?

So, after much consideration, I have decided there are 4 distinct possibilities with such an endeavor and perhaps, three or four different purposes for which they can be utilized or reproduced.

#1. Just the tiger and dragon, without any CSA connotations.
#2. A composite-anthropomorphising of the beasts, so as to have them actually performing the martial applications with authentic human postures.
#3. An emphasis on the swords themselves, overlaid upon the image of the beasts (picture-clock fashion).
#4. Just two swordsmen embodying the principles of Yin-Yang. Essentially, an action portrait clothed in traditional Ming or Qing garments.


I have decide to do all of the above, eventually. #1. and #3. can be either used together or separately from one another. If we picture a detailed portrait of the jian & dao (locked in combat) on a transparency, it can be placed over any background image. Basically, it can be overlaid upon the picture of the dragon and tiger or a landscape or a neutral background. Now, this may or may not be a wise thing to do. After all, this could create far too much visual confusion? :shock:

Hmmm... could be waaaaaaaaay over-kill. Much as with the inexpensive, mass-produced picture clocks we see in department stores. That being said, I want to follow through with the swords first, as is my primary emphasis of study, interest and proclivity. It would be a fine design for T-shirts, cloth patches, stickers and/or decals. You know, for those who fixate on imagery and such? By it's purely graphic impact, this may be as far as the sword imagery goes. But the jury is still out on this issue.

I will upload the finished drawings when I cull the proper picture of the swords conjoined in free-play. Baby steps for this one, definitely. :wink:

Zai jian, Jon
A wise person aspires to learn the practice of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy Teacher. A fool cannot tell the difference.

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by J HepworthYoung » Mon Aug 23, 2010 9:38 am

And and because the below quote caused such offence.
J HepworthYoung wrote:The silly pajamas that people often wear to do taiji is a good example.
You mean these ones? http://bit.ly/bDyGet

Or perhaps these: http://bit.ly/dyVtex
It is hard to appear legitimate with a sword in hand, while wearing jeans and a T shirt.
Still, some people won't even practice the form without their pajamas and their taiji speaks for itself.

Taiji in silk pajamas is like taiji in the flowers
it is no good if it doesn't allow taiji in a storm

anyone who reads my opinion can note my objection to the conflation of culturalism and nationalism, with tradition in regard to martial arts practice

if Rodell has any skill, and I believe he does,
is is because of wearing soft silky clothes?
is it in spite of it?

All mu-jian are wooden swords...
but not all wooden swords are mu-jian

Qi is a great example of a borrowed term
one which has caused endless confusion and problems
and which has many functioning equivalents in english according to numerous translators

again the reason for inclusion of the term eludes me
but then why conflate a consensus with a function?
those who look for reason in the ways of the world
never seem to find it.

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Dan Pasek » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:30 am

jonpalombi wrote: Since 1974, I have been drawing and painting dragons and tigers, as incarnations of the principle of Yin-Yang. Now I am really psyched!!! Next, I am going to paint a purple dragon, fluidly coiling about the ferocious and dynamic form of a white tiger (entwined as one). Somehow I've got to work jian and peidao into the mix! ]
If I am correct, the Chinese dao is traditionally associated with an enraged tiger charging down a mountainside due to the ferocity; the jian with a swimming dragon (or a flying phoenix) due to their circular paths.

Dan

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Linda Heenan
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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Linda Heenan » Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:11 pm

Just a little note on the wearing of silk mandarin jackets and taiji uniforms. The reason some teachers or students wear them is out of respect to the preferences of their teacher or school, or out of necessity to appear legit in a world of symbolic meaning. Appearances still speak loudly of skill in some countries - probably most countries. Incidentally, they are also very comfortable if you get the right cut, and only really suitable for sword, if you use the ones with cuffs so the pommel doesn't catch..

For mature women such as myself, t shirts can look less than flattering. If you are embarrassed to train in a T shirt, why not change to a silk jacket and feel comfortable. I recently did that and it's nice not to have to think about what I'm wearing all the time. Also, to enter national taiji competitions in Australia, silk pyjamas are compulsory. I had a set specially made to compete a couple of months ago. I've now lost so much weight I can't wear them for the next competition. Hmmm .... teal next time, I think... We also had to use flippy steel competition swords which didn't have the balance and weight of the ones this thread was written for. Appearances can be important if you want to win competitions so don't be too dogmatic about what you will or won't wear. I could go in my t-shirt and trackies, with a mujian, but they would score me lower. *Shrugs - who cares. If they want me in pyjamas, I'll wear them. It's part of the pagaentry. I dress up for European reenactment too. At home I practise with all kinds of swords and in all kinds of clothes - no big deal :D

By the way, I'm trying out a pair of Graham's latest first student mujian. They have fewer finishing touches to keep the price lower. We've used them consistently for several weeks and they've stood up to everything we've put them through. One of them took a hard block against my competition hickory sword this weekend. The wielder of the hickory sword was a very strong young man. I checked carefully to see if there was any damage and there wasn't. It survived a real cracker. They're not intended for that, but it did survive it.
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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Aidan O'Brien » Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:23 pm

Linda Heenan wrote:By the way, I'm trying out a pair of Graham's latest first student mujian. They have fewer finishing touches to keep the price lower. We've used them consistently for several weeks and they've stood up to everything we've put them through. One of them took a hard block against my competition hickory sword this weekend. The wielder of the hickory sword was a very strong young man. I checked carefully to see if there was any damage and there wasn't. It survived a real cracker. They're not intended for that, but it did survive it.
When I had them in my hands, I was impressed. I'm glad they stood up to that, because I've been recommending people at Sifu Ho's class try getting one when they're available (I did inform them that they are still in the testing stage). Honestly, even the entry level ones are still in a class above anything else on the market. Especially since they're cheaper than a competition hickory one.

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Graham Cave » Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:45 am

Hi, thanks for all the kind remarks. I'm very pleased to hear that the new model can stand up to a good beating. This new model is aimed at experienced practitioners as well as beginners. Quite a number of them have expressed the desire for a lighter sword for everyday practice, and one that is suitable for forms, partner work and moderate sparring. Hopefully, this will fit the bill as a general purpose jian but of course it will be too light to meet TCSL competition weight requirements.

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:52 am

Aidan O'Brien wrote:...) Disappointed that we don't have a proper name for them...
We have.. Wooden Swords. Or more commonly Wooden Jian/Dao.

While I am aware that Bokken literally translates to Wooden Sword, there is a certain professional sounding link between the name and the product. Plus it doesn't sound awkward mixing the English (or other language) with the Japanese name. Plus as Jon Palombi said while I was chatting to him earlier, Bokken is so evocative of the Japanese Sword. We also agreed that having a proper Chinese name for them would feel much better, even from a personal standpoint just for referring to it in general...

木劍 (Mù jiàn) or 木製劍 (Mùzhì jiàn) - Wooden Sword*; 訓練劍 (Xùnliàn Jiàn) or 訓練之劍 (Xùnliàn zhī jiàn) - Training Sword; 實踐劍 (Shíjiàn Jiàn) - Practice Sword; 玩劍 (Wán Jiàn) - Play Sword [In that you play at Sanshou, you play at swordsmanship etc]...
Very interesting discussion... The fact that is has gone on for 4 pages & counting (I haven't even been able to read it all yet), shows there is something to the question/issue. Both sides have made very good points. Personally I am happy to use both the English equivalent, Wooden Jian, & Mandarin, Mu Jian. I can understand the desire to use a correct Chinese term as it gives one a sense of ownership & belonging, over using terms from other cultures.

To begin with there is a correct, period term, 木劍 (Mù jiàn), which can be properly translated as either wood or wooden sword (like wise for dao it is mu dao). This is the term in spoken Chinese & Peter Dekker recent found the term mu dao in a Qing period text, in a list of war materials.

Be careful using Google translate, literal meanings don't always work, they miss the connotation words have. Wan Jian, for example, sounds really bad because wan can be used for kids playing. I can tell you I've really gotten some good laughs out of Chinese friends when I didn't know the proper Chinese word & just literally translated something from English.

This question of proper terminology also demonstrates how young the renaissance of Chinese Historical Swordsmanship is. Currently, we are largely working on oral transmission. For many subjects we are still hunting for primary sources to back up or improve our understanding. Concerning mu jian, to date only one period illustration has surfaced, that of a Manchu with what his weapons & what appears to be a wooden, we assume, practice jian on the table next to him, see image below -

Image

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:01 am

Graham Cave wrote:... I'm very pleased to hear that the new model can stand up to a good beating. This new model is aimed at experienced practitioners as well as beginners. Quite a number of them have expressed the desire for a lighter sword for everyday practice, and one that is suitable for forms, partner work and moderate sparring. Hopefully, this will fit the bill as a general purpose jian but of course it will be too light to meet TCSL competition weight requirements.
I have to agree with all the praise Graham's mu jian receive... they see a lot of tough use around GRTC & stand up to it easily...

Graham if I could make one request concerning the lighter mu jian, please make them the same thickness as your standard weight TCSL Jian so that they don't go thru the masks on our helmets. We've had problems, near bad accidents, when after training free swordplay for some hours, students switch up to lighter swords & forget that they will slip thru the bars of the masks. Thanks...

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:16 am

J HepworthYoung wrote:...It is hard to appear legitimate with a sword in hand, while wearing jeans and a T shirt.
Still, some people won't even practice the form without their pajamas and their taiji speaks for itself...

if Rodell has any skill, and I believe he does,
is is because of wearing soft silky clothes?
is it in spite of it?...
Thanks for your support...
It is unfortunate that one is often not taken seriously if not in costume/uniform... In a way, it is like the manner in which a banker has to wear a certain suit & drive the right car, or he'll never be taken seriously or advance at work, silly but true. Funny, amusing, & ironic, how those involved in arts which are supposed to enlighten are as hung up on material appearance as the rest of society. I believe this is a sign of just how conditioned we all are. Even more regrettable is the lingering racism within Chinese martial arts that assumes those whose skin is not Chinese colored can not know as much or master an art, only Han people can do that. When I was teaching in Canada to, a nearly all ethnic Chinese group, we joked about it...

BTW, my jackets aren't silk, they are peasant woven cotton, bought in a small Chinese town, from a local taylor...

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Graham Cave » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:08 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote:I have to agree with all the praise Graham's mu jian receive... they see a lot of tough use around GRTC & stand up to it easily...
Thanks, that's great to hear...

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Graham Cave » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:11 pm

Shocking as it might sound, I actually have no problem with people dressing up in fake silks and gracefully waving floppy swords. This apparently modern phenomenon has roots stretching back way past the 20th century. Both Chinese opera and street performance have long held people enthralled with an exciting mix of sword and theatre. Some of the modern styles of Chinese sword/swordsmanship could just be regarded as extensions or variants of this tradition.

What does trouble me though, is when people are unable to distinguish between theatre and real swords/swordsmanship………..

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Graham Cave » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:14 pm

Terminology and translation are perhaps not too important if one is learning a particular martial art from one instructor or from one school….but for anyone involved in research or writing books, being able to communicate ideas and facts to a wider audience in an unambiguous way is absolutely essential.

There are no direct equivalents to jian and dao in the English language. Sword is a generic term encompassing both straight and curved blades and also single and double edged blades. It is inclusive of both jian and dao and therefore has the potential to be ambiguous.

I am not familiar with the U.S. usage of saber, but in the UK, the word sabre is synonymous with deep curvature. So much so, that the word is borrowed to describe other curved entities. Examples being the sabre leg of Regency furniture and the Sabre- toothed cat. Dao on the other hand, are not always curved, so consequently I have some reservations about using the term sabre/saber.

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Peter Dekker » Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:51 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:This question of proper terminology also demonstrates how young the renaissance of Chinese Historical Swordsmanship is. Currently, we are largely working on oral transmission. For many subjects we are still hunting for primary sources to back up or improve our understanding. Concerning mu jian, to date only one period illustration has surfaced, that of a Manchu with what his weapons & what appears to be a wooden, we assume, practice jian on the table next to him, see image below -
The color on this picture is a bit weird but I own a large 50 megabyte file of the same painting with better colors. Here we can see that the jian next to him is in fact most likely a steel jian with gilt fittings. The style being rather Ming-like, I wonder whether it is new or antique. It is positioned among his scholarly items, and it is known that (antique) jian have been collector's items for scholars from at least the Ming onward.

Some other interesting notes on the portrait: His feather, an award given by the throne for special service, points to his bow and arrow suggesting that despite his literary interests in tea, calligraphy, the jian, and Ming furniture, he owes his rank to his prowess as a Manchu bannerman. The feathers on his arrows are of a rare bird that only the Qianlong emperor had access to, showing that this was a man of considerable rank. It is the only Qing portrait I know to exist with the subject smiling and was probably commissioned for private use. The Euro-Asian style suggests it was made by the imperial academy, either by Jesuits or artists trained by them.

Graham Cave wrote:Shocking as it might sound, I actually have no problem with people dressing up in fake silks and gracefully waving floppy swords. This apparently modern phenomenon has roots stretching back way past the 20th century. Both Chinese opera and street performance have long held people enthralled with an exciting mix of sword and theatre. Some of the modern styles of Chinese sword/swordsmanship could just be regarded as extensions or variants of this tradition.

What does trouble me though, is when people are unable to distinguish between theatre and real swords/swordsmanship………..
I fully agree. Late Ming general Qi Jiguang already complained about huaquan or "flowery boxing" in his day, which he used to describe styles that looked flashy but were not practical. It seems that Chinese martials arts can be divided in folk arts and military arts. The military lineages are typically easier to trace back through extant manuals while most folk arts were passed by word of mouth and example. Having only local opera stages as their source of history, village people started to mimic their heroes and (as we do with TV nowadays) took the quasi historical plays for actual fact. Showy acrobatic "boxing" was also a means to popularize one's school on village markets held several times a month. Besides that there were professional acrobats touring the country with their feats of show-boxing and qigong excercises not unlike modern day Shaolin performances. These methods even made it to the military when they drew soldiers from young vilage martial artists, which in turn led to the frustration of generals like Qi Jiguang about these martial artists who thought their "wushu"-like techniques were actually effective. He was rather good at turning them around though, and led some formidable armies against the Japanese.

So as Graham already put forth, modern wushu is not without precedent. People should only be straightforward about what they practise, not only to others but perhaps more importantly, to themselves.

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Re: Name of Wooden Swords

Post by Dan Pasek » Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:49 pm

I am looking for a source to supply me with a small amount of a specific wood (Tielimu 铁力木 or 'ironwood') in order to have Graham Cave reproduce Chinese wooden sparring swords (Jian) using historic Taiwanese material that was used for a pair of wooden swords purchased ca 1970, but I have not had much luck searching the internet using English (my Chinese language skills are extremely poor). What I am looking for grows in southern and western China (as well as Japan and Taiwan) and is also known as the following:

赤皮青冈 chi pi qing gang
http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx? ... =210000371
Also:
英文名 English name Red Bark Oak
學名 scientific name Cyclobalanopsis gilva
異名 Synonym name Quercus gilva
Other common names: Stone Castanopisis, Red Ke, Red Leather Fagaceae

Other Fagaceae species (e.g. C. glauca) may also be usable if C. gilva is not available.

This wood was used for some of the less expensive of the classical Chinese furniture, as well as for pillars and architectural decorative materials in buildings, shipbuilding (steering head), vehicles (wheel, wagon, axle), farm tools, railroad ties, etc. Any help locating a possible source for this wood (new or used) would be appreciated.

Dan

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