Miaodao and spear (or whatever...)

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

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Linda Heenan
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Miaodao and spear (or whatever...)

Post by Linda Heenan » Sat Aug 05, 2006 9:08 pm

Let's talk about miaodao swordplay for a bit. I'll start....



Yesterday afternoon I went to reenactment. That is always a good opportunity to try out against different weapons. One of the men had a spear (about 8 feet long), so I tried it with miaodao. It's very tricky to find the timing to get past a spear. The spearman is able to change range, just with his hands, He also has stepping to add to the difficulty. Then, the tip of the spear is jabbing, circling, moving high and low - all very quickly. I tried beating it to the side and stepping in. That ought to work. It did sometimes. It all depends on the timing and how well you can anticipate where the tip will be in the next split second - not easy. I tried my interpretation from the miaodao form (line 2), hitting the spear to the ground and stepping on it. That will work if you hit it hard enough, and especially if he does not automatically step back dragging the grounded spear with him. Beating it aside and then stepping in is more likely.



I think the miaodao is heavy enough to cut through the shaft. It is also a good idea to hack the shaft up a bit so he can't slide his hands along the full range of movement. The upward beat and L shaped descent from the form could work. It would take a lot of power to sweep a heavy spear upward out of range and I like that one better for a sword.



Another thing I tried was using those two Pi (hmm, well whatever the spinning moves in line 2 are called). I used them as deflections depending on which side the spear is. The thing is, you have to time it to half step forward during the deflection and get inside the range close enough to use one of those slicing movements. From this experience, I can see how miaodao could be used against various polearms in a battle. I can also see there would be plenty of good luck in staying alive if you were being attacked from several directions at once.

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Post by J HepworthYoung » Mon Aug 07, 2006 12:19 pm

Very interesting.

Did you notice any ways to usurp the momentum of the spear or wielder so as to make one, or the other, commit to a direction or move that can be predicted well enough to counter? It would come down the stability of the other person I suppose, but the spear may lend itself to specific tactics against its user.



Could the spear be hit (like a parry riposte), but only when it is extended enough, to provide enough leverage in the beat or hit to make the hands vulnerable during the recovery?

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Post by Linda Heenan » Mon Aug 07, 2006 2:52 pm

That man I was training with uses polearms as his primary weapons. Spear and long handled axes are his favourites. He does not normally make simple mistakes such as over extending or allowing access to his centre. His main tactics, while playing with me, were to keep at a distance of about 3 metres from his body and to keep the spear jabbing in from many different directions at the speed of about 2-3 thrusts or sweeps per second.



There is a certain amount of agility required just to avoid being stabbed and not a lot of opportunity to use his momentum, most of which is forward anyway. I did manage to beat his spear briefly wide enough to step in on a number of occasions. If his timing is good, he can step back as I step in, maintaining the distance.



A less experianced spearman would sometimes leave his hands exposed as a target. This one knew how to release the fingers into an open hand hold from underneath as a strike was coming at them - a very similar avoidance to the one I learned in quarterstaff training. We have a similar hold from the side in miaodao form.



There is one thing that works very well against a long heavy spear. The routine he was following is quite strenuous and it is really only a matter of avoiding him long enough to tire him out. He was wearing a gamborsen, heavy helmet, maille covered gauntlets and other pieces of armour. I was wearing a pair of glasses, lightest helm I could find, and padded leather gloves. Inside of 15 minutes, he was panting and dropping his tired arms. It was only a matter of time before his defences fell. Of course, you can also maneuvre them into unfavourable terrain - uneven ground, the sun in their eyes, backing into a tree, etc. The main advantage of the spear is it's reach. The main disadvantage is its weight.

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Aug 07, 2006 4:44 pm

Linda Heenan wrote:... man I was training with uses polearms as his primary weapons... keep at a distance of about 3 metres.. spear jabbing in from many different directions at the speed of about 2-3 thrusts or sweeps per second...There is one thing that works very well against a long heavy spear. The routine he was following is quite strenuous and it is really only a matter of avoiding him long enough to tire him out... Inside of 15 minutes, he was panting... dropping... tired arms. It was only a matter of time before... defences fell...


The "let them tire themselves out/over extend themselves" strategy is the easiest strategy to use when facing longer more powerful weapons. An experienced/seasoned spearman might well wait you out rather than tire himslef out. A spear blow is so potentially devastating, he only needs one good hit.



Mimic & I were discussing the movements in General Qi Jiguang's Shuangshoudao (Two-handed Saber) form which includes using a reverse grip with a deflection followed by a horizontal slash. Henrick had found this reverse grip quite useful when facing a spear, the vertical blade gives you a lot of coverage. No matter what techniques one attempts to employ when facing spear with a sword, one is really going to have to close the distance the very moment an opening appears.

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sword vs spear

Post by yowie_steve » Mon Aug 07, 2006 5:45 pm

How did you go with grabbing the spear with one hand and thrusting with the right? I noticed the left handed deflect followed by step and thrust (in line 1 of the form) could be used that way.



I haven't had a chance to field test against a spear yet, so my understanding is merely theoretical at the moment. I guess there are alot of other factors that make grabbing a spear/polearm difficult. Like how long the sharp tip at the end would be determining how close you have to get into grab the shaft. Or just being pulled off balance when the spear retracts. Or having your hand carved up when the spear retracts while you haven't got a proper grip.



Grabbing comes in handy with southern kung fu staff play. The choy li fut guys like to use the staff as you would a spear (except your right side faces the dui fang). You slide in a bit and your extending hand grabs your dui fang's weapon and close in.



I got caught out heaps at sword camp with a grab. As soon as the that happened to me my focus was immediately on freeing my weapon rather than on the incoming attack.

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Post by Linda Heenan » Wed Aug 09, 2006 10:20 pm

The catch and thrust method is risky. I did try it several times and one of them was successful. Those aren't good enough odds for me to see that as an option. For a start, it depends on grasping the shaft in the right position to have advantageous leverage. It also assumes you are stronger with one hand than the spearman is with two. There are better ways to beat a spear. Controlling the spear as you move in past the tip, is a important strategy. However, since the range is further out, using a hand is a bit risky.

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Post by Roland Tepp » Thu Aug 10, 2006 3:58 am

Linda Heenan wrote:It also assumes you are stronger with one hand than the spearman is with two.


Just playing with the idea here - suppose you are not trying to overpower the spearman but use this strength against him and actually use his energy as he pulls his spear back to get closer to him. In other words - just let him pull you close to him instead trying to wrestle for control over his spear...



This just a hypothesis and one I have no experience to back up, but as an idea, I see how it could work.
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Post by Linda Heenan » Thu Aug 10, 2006 4:59 am

Or.... pull just hard enough to bring him into play .... like a fish on the line, so he pulls hard, and then release so he overbalances backwards..... :)

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Post by Mimic » Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:00 am

Just my two cents to add here, coming from experience of fighting spearmen (viking style mostly, but a spear is a spear is a spear, even if sword styles may be VERY different). Grabbing actually is a very viable technique, even when facing a spear with a spear. Not to stop the opponent's point, not to drag it out if his or hers hands or to drive your opponent around, but to lead his point away, sure, he'll still try to thrust, but he isn't the one aiming any more ;) The idea is just to keep your hand attached to his spear and aim it elsewhere when he thrusts, not by forcing, but by leading (rollback, anyone ? ;) ), all the while approaching. I you're yourself using a spear, you'll have to 'shorten' it by grabbing it almost from the spearhead, using it pretty much as a dagger or a short thrusting sword, wielding a sword it is so much easier even.

And reverse grip is rather useful also for facing a spear. Against a spear of any experience at all a swordsman is constantly on the defencive until the moment spear makes a mistake, creating an opening for the swordsman to use to close the distance. That is the time the full defenciveness changes into full attack mode. Thus the reverse grip is useful in the way that it's almost like a shield. Trust me, an experienced spearman really likes to vary thrusts between high and low, torso and legs, being able to do it very fast. And against such tactics, reverse grip is much easier to use to parry different levels of attack.



Best regards,

Mimic



PS: You won't be able to pull a spear strong enough to move the wielder, if the wielder know at all what he's doing. Remember, he's holding it with two hands and has the control of the weapon, while you at best have unsure one-handed grip. Leverage works against you, among other things.
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Good thoughts

Post by Kyro R. Lantsberger » Sun Aug 13, 2006 9:45 pm

I was glad to find this thread. It is a topic which has been on my mind as of late.



Ive been spending a great deal of time in the last couple years in Historical European Swordsmanship, and have questioned many things in regards to jian/dao as a result. There are certain things in the forms and the postures which make no sense........



.....until you consider engagements with weapon combinations more varied than sword vs. sword.



If you have ever encountered someone who really put some time into spear/staff work, you will be amazed at the lethality. I think in European tradition, English Master George Silver in the 1600s(?) wrote that he thought staff weapons the best for personal combat.

That being said, I think it is important to remember that a sword holds a position similar to the handgun today. Its not the best weapon for many things, but it handles most scenarios adequately, and is easily carried.

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Post by Jeremy Sambath » Mon Nov 05, 2007 8:54 pm

Sorry guys, I know this is dated but there was something wrong when I joined this forum last year and I couldn't post on this particular msg as I wanted to, so now's my chance !

Something very important we should not forget is that an edged weapon will 'catch' a wooden shaft and this can be used to help 'control' and 'guide' or 'lead' the wooden shaft away as you enter.

The miao dao has quite an emphasis on this concept.

Linda is spot on, the miao dao was also considered a 'spear killer' as it was a very favourable against the spear.

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