The Sworsdmanship Festival - After Action Review

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

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The Sworsdmanship Festival - After Action Review

Post by Seth Davis » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:22 pm

This is an AAR After Action Review of the International Chinese Swordsmanship Festival that was just held in Estonia July 1st-7th, 2007.

Albert's unit on spear, staff, and pike handling was highly informative. The major value that I picked up was how to handle the spear with an emphasis on maintaining peng and and proper structure. Gongfu! Everyone involved would likely agree that this was not so easy to do while using the long pine "pikes" or staves. Even though they were lighter than a combat grade pike, they were much more challenging than using the light weight wax-wood spears that people frequently practice with. I have begun to work with my own spear at home. It is a short-spear with a metal head mounted on a six foot red oak staff. It is heavy, and I have found that I need to be extremely careful and have to move correctly or it gives me painful feedback. Thank you Albert for your excellent instruction and advice.

The next unit was Rodell Laoshi's class on Jian Swordsmanship which I will not review since I was simultaneously teaching Miao Dao or participating in the Tengpai (shield) and saber class. I got the impression that it was great, as usual.

Henrick taught tengpai (shield) and saber.
Although this is not typically part of the taiji system, it aided me to put all of our weapons use in the historical context of the battlefield. It was also a very exciting class. Although I have familiarity with individual dueling and self-defense, the use of formations really made it clear to me that individual skill is far less significant than the necessity to work as a cohesive unit in a tight formation. I found this extremely useful in putting all of the different pieces together in my understanding of what role each weapon might be used on the battlefield. It was particularly useful when Hendrick pointed out that taiji mechanics must be used when handling a shield with a saber. One does not just block and then attack. Both the deflection with the shield and the counter-attack with the saber must be simultaneous. This follows the concept from the classics of "yield on one side and attack with the other."
Thank you Henrick. Hope you and your crew can make it to the US sometime soon.

It was interesting to experience how spear, shield and saber, and miao dao might be used with varied tactics in a battle. We experimented with this when we conducted the final mass-battle with Laoshi as one captain and Henrick as the other. It was clear that the job of the shield-man is to survive, which was not easy with spears constantly thrusting at the head and legs. Even with safety buffers to avoid serious injury during the larger scale combat scenarios, it was clear that death likely came quickly even to well trained soldiers, and was almost garanteed if their formation broke. Luck was probably a significant factor in who got to come back alive and teach their "survival skills" to new recruits.

In my own class, the Miao Dao (double-handed saber or "cat-cutter" as Phillip Tom informed me it could be called) the objective was to teach the basic-cuts, and free-play using the Miao Dao form as a catalog of techniques and basic combinations. I hope the course was enjoyable and that students gained some useful skills and information. If anyone has any questions at any time, please feel free to ask me.

The Yang Dao (saber) form was an excellent ending to each day. I will be sharing it with the students at my own school this Saturday (July 21st) in an all day- seminar/ barbecue. (Any excuse to use the grill!!)
The Dao will serve as an excellent link between the Miao Dao and Jian, just as Miao Dao is a good link between Dao and spear.

In conclusion, each of the component workshops provided a piece of a larger puzzle. The information on the use of a specific weapon both in the context of individual combat and also in the structure of larger scale formations based combat showed the strengths and potential disadvantages of each weapon. It also gave me a sense of the relationship between each of the weapons which we studied and I was left with the impression that we had acquired a very logical, balanced and well organized knowkedge of a broad cross-section of Chinese Historical Swordsmanship.

The Festival venue was beautiful and I would like to thank the Estonian students who committed so much time and resources to planning the event and preparing all of the outstanding practice gear. It was a pleasure to meet and study with so many serious and dedicated martial artists from Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Australia, and the US (Laoshi's country :wink: )Hope to see you all again. Thank you Laoshi for teaching me and for having me at the festival. It was awsome!

Best wishes,
Seth
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Post by arrow » Mon Jul 23, 2007 10:41 am

Nice review, Seth, thank You.

On my own part I would like to share a selection of some photos I did during the festival:

http://no.spam.ee/~ts2rod/?id=691

Enjoy ;)

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Second Sword Festival Article

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Sun Aug 19, 2007 10:30 am

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A piece about the Festival is now posted in the Articles Section of GRTC.org:

http://www.grtc.org/articles/festival2007.html

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International Swordplay Festival 2007

Post by nyrell » Tue Nov 13, 2007 11:05 am

Here is my article from the event:

http://nyrell.se/swordplay_festival_2007/

Enjoy!

/Mattias Nyrell


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Moderator Note: Those interested in Chinese Saber & Shield Play should cross-reference with thread:
viewtopic.php?t=181

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Chinese Spear Fighting

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Dec 05, 2007 8:43 am

I came across this video of a Chinese Spear Fighting competition & thought students who studied spear at the festival might find it interesting, though I would very strongly recommend throat protection for anyone considering this kind of play, it is very dangerous...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SJ1v28J ... re=related

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Post by Dan Pasek » Wed Dec 05, 2007 4:53 pm

Scott, thanks for the link.

From watching the clip I would guess that the rules specify only the torso as a legal target (no leg, arm, or head strikes allowed?). Still dangerous, but with head and hand protection to guard against accidents as well as a chest protector to protect the legal target, perhaps not too bad.

It seems like the tendency to thrust with only the back hand in order to increase the range of the thrust (letting go with the front hand) is employed by about half of the participants shown. I would think that an opponent skilled in deflecting an oncoming thrust should be able to take advantage of that one-handed technique (possibly resulting in the loss of control of the thruster’s spear), although I do not see this skill demonstrated in these bouts.

This bring me to the question – is this a commonly taught technique? I personally would not want to sacrifice potential control of my spear in order to thrust with one hand (unless, perhaps, the opponent was retreating when I was thrusting). In any case, while I have had some training with spear (short solo forms plus numerous solo and interactive drills), I have never been taught to thrust only with the rear hand. The way that I was taught to thrust would result with the back hand sliding towards the front hand as the spear is thrust through the relatively stationary front hand, but not releasing the front hand as is done on the film clip.

Thoughts?

Dan

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:08 pm

Dan Pasek wrote:... the tendency to thrust with only the back hand... (letting go with the front hand) is employed by about half of the participants shown... an opponent skilled in deflecting an oncoming thrust should be able to take advantage of that one-handed technique...
I agree, a one handed spear thrust could easily be deflected causing the attacker to lose control of his weapon.
Dan Pasek wrote:... is this a commonly taught technique?...
No, never seen it before in any form. The Yangjia Michuan Taiji Spear form I learned never uses a single handed grip.
Dan Pasek wrote:... I have never been taught to thrust only with the rear hand... I was taught to thrust would result with the back hand sliding towards the front hand as the spear is thrust through the relatively stationary front hand...
In spear work, the two hands should always work together, in every movement. The front hand is at times relatively stationary, as during the thrust, but still working with the rear & moving.

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Post by taiwandeutscher » Sun Dec 09, 2007 8:18 pm

Agreed, one-handed thrusts don't show up in my Yang spear/stuff form (J. J. Soong, Yijian Taijiquan), either.

But we have this warming up exercise with this weapon, where we thrust to the center front by shortening the distance of both hands 3 times, then taking the front hand away, stepping forward with the back leg, and extending the spear/stuff reach by holding it on the very end, with the back hand (4th time).

It is a training for wrist power and aiming into a hanging iron ring for acurracy, only.

Using it would be a last means, trying for further reach, maybe in persuit, but as stated quite dangerous.

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Post by Dan Fleet » Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:52 am

Interesting video, thanks!

My Wu style spear forms I've studied have one or two points where there is a thrust one-handed, but the majority are two handed, although at points both hands are touching one another near the butt of the spear after a thrust.

Even places in the form where you are turning the spear over ("swapping hands" so to speak), both hands tend slide along the shaft of the spear, without breaking contact.

Seeing the one handed thrusts in the video actually seemed 'strange' to me, although obviously I've never actually poked a spear at a moving target.

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Festival Spear Training Video

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 am

Festival Spear Training Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZCcx4bcDA8

what a great way to start the day, spear training by the lake...

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Post by Michael » Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:47 pm

Dan Pasek wrote:It seems like the tendency to thrust with only the back hand in order to increase the range of the thrust (letting go with the front hand) is employed by about half of the participants shown. I would think that an opponent skilled in deflecting an oncoming thrust should be able to take advantage of that one-handed technique (possibly resulting in the loss of control of the thruster’s spear), although I do not see this skill demonstrated in these bouts.

This bring me to the question – is this a commonly taught technique? I personally would not want to sacrifice potential control of my spear in order to thrust with one hand (unless, perhaps, the opponent was retreating when I was thrusting). In any case, while I have had some training with spear (short solo forms plus numerous solo and interactive drills), I have never been taught to thrust only with the rear hand. The way that I was taught to thrust would result with the back hand sliding towards the front hand as the spear is thrust through the relatively stationary front hand, but not releasing the front hand as is done on the film clip.
In the West, this is sometimes known as a "Flying Thrust." It is incredibly risky. Of the reasonable ways of gripping a weapon, holding a polearm with the back hand only affords about the least amount of control you could ever hope for. One of my teachers likes to show off by holding a flying thrust with an 8-foot quarterstaff, keeping the point very nearly stationary. That said, with appropriate footwork, it's also about the longest-range strike you can perform.

A quick search tells me that the 16th century German master Joachim Meyer made reference to such a thrust as a fliegende stich. However, this article, entitled "Swordplay Through the Ages" seems to suggest that Meyer recommended the flying thrust for rapier(which, as a single-handed weapon, must mean that he is using the term to mean something else, as is common in historical treatises). In any case, I have only been taught the flying thrust with respect to polearms, but theoretically it should also apply to two-handed swordsmanship.

The flying thrust tends to be popular in sparring because it works well against opponents who are lax on the defense and counterattack. Such a long-range attack means that you don't have to set up a complicated entry into measure(distance). Beginners will probably figure it out even if they are not taught. A person will internalize the risk factor better if they are facing someone who will punish a flying thrust that is used incorrectly. I don't think the technique is useless, but I can tell you from quarterstaff sparring that it is tempting to use it way more than you should. It's one of those techniques that had better either strike your opponent or cause them to retreat very quickly.

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