Suggested Gear For Chinese Swordplay

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

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Suggested Gear For Chinese Swordplay

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:15 am

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Student's regularly ask what equipment they will need to practice Chinese Swordsmanship. While there is no commercially equipment for this art, there are some substitutes that work well enough for the moment, assuming practitioners are using wooden swords & not steel blunts. Note that this equipment list is meant as a guide line, not an endorsement of any gear listed & that the user takes full responsibility for his or her safety & the welfare of his or her training partners.

Some gear is required from day one, other gear will be needed as one progresses to more advanced levels of play.

Before anyone begins training in Historical Swordsmanship of any type it must be understood that protective gear is no guarantee that one will not be hurt, perhaps seriously. To the contrary, injuries are common and should be expected. Protective gear at best only minimizes the injuries students training in this art must expect to receive.

On day one-
Every student must have a light sword, a full weight sword will come later once one is use to moving the sword properly. Using a lighter sword for the first couple of months will help prevent injuring the ligaments of the wrist.

Gear required soon after starting-
Racket Ball Glasses for use drill two-man drills such as:
http://www.sportsauthority.com/product/ ... Id=2208168

Note: Googles provide only minimal eye protect, anyone practice drills or free swordplay is taking a risk at losing at eye, even with googles on, for everyone's safety, please practice mindfully & safely, especially where it comes to eye protection.

Gloves, such as the Lacrosse variety-
http://www.sportstop.com/product/STX06S ... loves.html

Children's Soccer Shin guards worn as forearm guards.

A realistic weight sword, such as those offered by:
http://www.tigers-den-swords.com/
&
http://little-raven.com/RS/MA/Gim.html

Gear required for intermediate level classes-
Head Gear such as:
http://www.spargear.com/Product_181.html
& my Company
http://www.sevenstarstrading.com/html/helmet/

Additional Gear required for Swordsmanship TCSL Tournaments & Intermediate Level Retreats-
Gambeson (padded jacket), such as those made by-
http://alendreia.blogspot.com/search/label/gambesonid

or vest gambeson made by my company (see photo below of blue version)-
http://www.sevenstarstrading.com/html/helmet/

Image

or make your own, see - http://www.chinese-swords-guide.com/pro ... rmour.html &
http://www.chinese-swords-guide.com/pro ... -gear.html

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Last edited by Scott M. Rodell on Fri Aug 08, 2008 9:13 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Suggested Gear For Chinese Swordplay

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:24 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote: Gloves, such as the Lacrosse variety-
http://www.sportstop.com/product/STX06S ... loves.html
Hockey gloves don't allow enough wrist flexiblity to work well for jianfa, though they are okay for daofa. If you can not find Lacrosse gloves, I've used gloves like these:
http://www.combatsports.com/detail.aspx?ID=23990
Though they are not are good as the lacrosse gloves & the finger tips are not protected at all, i.e. your hand will still be injured when hit.

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Post by Nik » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:12 pm

Is that an intentional decision to skip protection for forearms and elbows ? What about upward strikes from a parry or evasion that could hit the elbow tip ? At least hurts like hell. Or are those swords foam coated ?

What about stabs to the sternum that slide up (when both go forward in the same moment and the whole control thing goes out in the heat of the moment) under the throat protection and end up hitting into the throat ?

I'm experimenting with steel jian with safety tips, and the latter is my biggest concern. To the point it freaks me out a bit, and gets me questioning if that is something you can rule out enough to actually refer anyone into that kind of sparring.

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Aug 13, 2008 9:31 am

Nik wrote:Is that an intentional decision to skip protection for forearms and elbows ?
At GRTC students begin training with only googles to protect the eyes. We aren't practicing a sport, or looking to create a Chinese Swordplay equivalent of kendo. To the contrary, the elements of real danger are purposely kept in as we are practicing a martial art. It does hurt like hell when you get hit on the elbow & believe me, that teaches you very quickly to keep your elbow down & behind the blade where it belongs.

Only intermediate students who have learned their lessons playing "naked" move on to fighting in full protective gear.
Nik wrote: ... those swords foam coated?
We never use padded swords, we practice Historical Swordsmanship, we endeavor to use full weight weapons that are the same as used in Imperial times.

The use of gear that makes swordplay totally safe & secure, i.e. without consequences, leads to play that is totally unrealistic where people will try things they would never try otherwise.
Nik wrote:What about stabs to the sternum that slide up... under the throat protection and end up hitting into the throat ?
In full gear, including a gambeson, everything, including the throat is protected, but there are no guarantees. Forgive me for repeating myself, but this is real swordplay, not fencing. And as you may know, even in sport fencing there have been deaths. My son is a very active competitive fencer & has been hit quite hard in the throat. Ultimately, what really protects you is your own skill, don't count on your armor, if you do, you will be hurt.
Nik wrote: ... experimenting with steel jian with safety tips...
Using steel blunts bring up a whole other set of safety problems. For that reason at this time we using wooden swords, not steel.

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Post by Linda Heenan » Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:30 pm

In my experience, some of the more serious injuries happen while armoured because people play harder, faster, take more risks, and are less conscious of hurting their training partner. Here’s a personal comparison list.

Goggles (and sometimes gloves) only:
Countless bruises - Healing Time - 2-4 weeks
Burst blood vessel in the hand - HT 2 weeks
Egg on the head - HT 1 week
Bone bruise on right forearm HT 18 months

Gambeson, fencing mask, cricket gloves, elbow cops, greaves
Broken right thumb - HT 7 weeks
Cracked left thumb - HT 6 weeks
A few bruises - HT who cares?
Bone bruise on wrist - HT 7 months
Bone bruises on 2 fingers - HT 6 weeks
Meniscal tear and slight ACL rupture in left knee - HT unknown

….. hey …. you should see the other guy …. well, he’s better than me …. so far …

As you can see, in my experience it is actually safer to train unarmoured. The hospital doctor rolls his eyes every time I show up. The x-ray department knows me well. I could do something safe and boring like knit socks for the grandson, but this is more interesting.

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Post by Nik » Thu Aug 14, 2008 7:14 am

How did the meniscal tear happen ? Kao moves in close up, sliding step kicks ? Fajin or any rams, throws, etc. should be forbidden, other than just indicated, when I was well-trained (somewhere in the last century) I could have (did) seriously hurt people doing that.

You could experiment with gel fillings for the gloves that are used in equipment for pro bike races. They harden on impact, you can whack a hammer on such a protector on your arm and it doesn't hurt. Or place a metal cap with a cushion underfilling on thumb and wrists, as that are main targets.

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Post by Linda Heenan » Thu Aug 14, 2008 7:25 am

Meniscal tear ... very simple - I did it making a sudden turn off the line at speed. My foot stayed in one direction and the rest of my body went the other way. There was a loud popping noise and I came to a dead stop - couldn't put the foot on the ground or straighten the leg. As for close up body contact moves - my training partner and I do that all the time, fairly gently. Fajin - I try (somewhat unsuccessfully), to put it into all my strikes. It's part of taijiquan. We don't strike full power, but we should use correct principles as much as possible.

I'm interested in the gel fillings you were talking about - never heard of them. I live in Australia. Can you give me a link to something that shows or explains this?

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Post by Nik » Thu Aug 14, 2008 1:25 pm

I mean moves like you find in Baji when you manage to grab someones forearm, pull it down sinking into it simultaneously doing a shoulder kao fajin. King Li Jen knocked a friend of mine unconscious for 10 minutes with that. If a 250lb man with serious power would do fajin type body collisions on a hobby tournament to people half his size, they would go to the hospital, and I don't really appreciate such behaviour. I thought someone did that with your knee on such a tourney.


For the protection, just visit a good motorcycle shop. It should be contained in every high duty / top end protection wear, like from Hein Gericke. You would probably find a racing glove that has enough protection so your wrists and thumbs don't break anymore.

I'll ask a friend of mine, Thomas Stöpper, what they use. He does european medieval fencing.
It could possibly be enough to find someone to make you carbon cups for the knuckles, wrist and thumb, to fit on your old wear.

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TCSL Tournament Sword

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Oct 03, 2008 11:04 am

See - http://rs-grtcjians.blogspot.com/
for lots of photos of Raven Studio's version of a TCSL Jian...

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Re: Suggested Gear For Chinese Swordplay

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:42 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote:... Note that this equipment list is meant as a guide line...t the user takes full responsibility for his or her safety & the welfare of his or her training partners.

... it must be understood that protective gear is no guarantee that one will not be hurt... injuries are common and should be expected.

Gear required for intermediate level classes-
Head Gear such as:
http://www.spargear.com/Product_181.html...
This past weekend we had our third Swordplay Retreat for Intermediate Level & above students. Everyone in attendance was required to wear gambeson & helmets. One problem with the head gear listed above became apparent when a student was knocked out. These helmets do not have an adequate amount of padding on the back of the helmet, nor on the top to protect the head. If a student tips forward or turns his or her head as a blow is about to land, he or she can end up taking most of the power to the head. Those using these helmets should consider adding some padding to the top & back of the helmet.

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Post by raynefall » Wed Oct 22, 2008 5:46 pm

the lack of padding in the back has been a probelm in my kali class aswell. Some of the members use lacross helmets or floor hockey goalie masks with some extra bars wielded on. Another member for upper body protection uses motorcross armor it has hard-shell parts and a spine protector built into a shirt like contraption.
kali, kendo, increaseing my ability with the sword in general

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Post by Nik » Thu Oct 23, 2008 7:37 am

Maybe you should also instruct the participants to simply NOT strike full-force. Also in boxing, you can hit someone in sparring, or hit him with power. Why should I use power in a strike to the head, back or limb when sword sparring, instead of using only speed ? It's a leisure activity, not war. It gets the point over to tap someone on the head, no need to knock someone out, or break his forearm.

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Oct 23, 2008 8:43 am

raynefall wrote:the lack of padding in the back has been a probelm in my kali class as well. Some of the members use lacross helmets or floor hockey goalie masks with some extra bars wielded on.
That sounds like a good alternative for those who have access to a welding...
raynefall wrote:... for upper body protection uses motorcross armor...
To date, the gambeson we are using have done the job. We are trying to stick to gear that is historically accurate whenever we can. Hopefully, in the future, we can have proper helmets made that are based on Qing era examples.

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:01 am

Nik wrote:Maybe you should also instruct the participants to simply NOT strike full-force...
Actually, the knock out blow wasn;t even full force.
Nik wrote:Why.. use power... ? It's a leisure activity, not war. It gets the point over to tap someone on the head, no need to knock someone out, or break his forearm.
Its not a leisure activity or sport for us. We're practicing a martial art, not sport fencing, facing real danger & real pain is quite different than facing the pressures of competition alone, this is one of things that separates martial sports from martial arts. Those who come to the Swordplay Retreat are there because they want to be there, not because they have to be. We choose this kind of training.

While most of our training is with less power, just like boxers, there comes a time to get in the ring. Dealing with real power is different, for those of us who are martial artists, this training is essential. I don't suggest this type of training to hobbyists.

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Post by iglazer » Fri Oct 24, 2008 9:23 am

You are only as good as your worst.

As someone who competed in the Sword Tournament and has trained at multiple sword retreats, seems like I should weigh in on some of these points.

First, there is a world of difference between drills and matches. Two person drills are specifically designed to instruct both participants. Some of these lessons are about accuracy and in these drills both participants must actually do the drill. This seems obvious but I cannot tell you how many times you'll see one person doing a drill and another doing their interpretation of the drill. This includes one person doing the drill too fast or with too much power. This is a mistake and has to be correct.

Matches on the other hand are a far more dynamic, less constrained space. In this case, both players are attempting to do their best. I say attempting here and not actually doing as I have yet to see anyone, including myself, have a match using the same skill level as they demonstrate in non-match situations.

Fatigue and nerves can lead to wild swings and an unconscious disregard for the amount of power you put into attacks. There is nothing more dangerous than someone who swings wildly and charges about. It is dangerous for the person's opponent as they may get tagged with a wild shot. It is dangerous for the person themselves as their wild swings tend to encourage their opponent to put more power into their attacks and also their erratic large movements put them in very bad positions where they get hit and hit hard.

For this reason, the Sword Tournament had a referee. His job was to make sure that things did not get out of hand, that too much power was not being used, and that a hurt player could defend themselves.

So why do I bring this all up? Because you are only as good as your worst.

By having real matches, full speed and full power, it puts you in a position to examine what your worst really looks like. Let me tell you, it can look really really ugly. Both technique and mental focus can fly out the door in a match setting. And this is exactly what you need to not only recognize but also deal with.

In these pressure situations you learn to deflect. You learn to turn your waist. You learn how to intercept. And it is only because you are in a full power, full speed situation.

To be clear, this is a different learning situation than a drill. Drills, for the most part, should not be done at full speed and at full power.

This thread talked about protective gear. I, for a very long time, opted to wear mixed martial arts gloves, and not lacrosse gloves. The reason being was getting hit in the finger gave me very real, very painful feedback as to my abilities. I am not practicing a sport and I am not looking to make it unrealistically safer. I put myself in pressure situations to learn. I want the feedback of getting hit to learn; I need it.

Finally, let me be very very clear about something. No one is looking to cause harm to their opponent. In the Tournament and other training events, I know that no one is looking to hurt someone. You can tell in their body language. You can tell in their demeanor. Participants are looking to test their skills in real pressure situations to learn and see how well the stack up against others. And let me tell you it is a heck of a lot of fun.

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