Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:11 am

Peter Dekker wrote:As a purist I take a different view. The danger of one's own edge was a real and daily thing for a Qing -or any other sword wielding- warrior. And so it will be for me if I want to understand, best as I can, the arts practised by the Qing officers, soldiers, rebels and militia I attempt to study. Other fellow cutters have their own reasons for test-cutting, but apart from plain fun this is my main reason for taking this risk: proper understanding of as much facets of the art as possible. The more authentic, the better.
I have to say, my thoughts are much the same as Peter's. As I travel the globe teaching Chinese Swordsmanship I am often struck by the absurdity of students' attitudes today. On the one hand they consider themselves martial artists & even "swordsman," on the other they don't want to get even a single bruise. One I met recently wrote me before taking a class that he considered himself "a man of honor & a man of the sword," but after coming to our class, & wearing far more protective gear than the typical GRTC student, decided not to continue because it wasn't safe. Safe martial arts? Isn't that more than a little bit of an oxymoron? Where is the spirit of the "Falcon about to seize the rabbit?" The martial spirit is almost completely lost... Yes, test cutting, practice with sharp blades, free swordplay, sanshou, are all quite dangerous, no one should begin them without proper training from a qualified teacher, but if one is going to be a martial artist, then one has to accept that the training includes certain very real dangers. Serious, real training isn't for everyone, but we have to be honest with ourselves & acknowledge that without this training something will always be missing.

For comparison, please see how the Zulu people are practicing their art-
http://www.truveo.com/BBC-Last-Man-Stan ... 2552682918

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:22 am

Bruise is one thing, a lethal cut another. A cut-resistant woodwork jacket is $100, the trouser $70.

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:06 pm

Peter,

what is your take on these ?
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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Peter Dekker » Wed Jun 17, 2009 4:41 am

These look much better. There are still some fantasy aspects in their details, but overall they look quite a bit better proportioned and styled than the ones you showed previously.

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Wed Jun 17, 2009 5:29 am

Unfortunately, they're more than 3 times the price of the other ones ... :(

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:59 am

I have some questions regarding the make of a sample liuyedao I received yesterday.

- the length: is 70cm for the blade excluding handle normal for a liuyedao ?
- no distal taper - constant width from guard to tip, with the tip being reduced in weight to meet the balance by thinning out a part of the back
- total dao weight 1130g excluding scabbard
- balance dead on the 6" mark (15cm from end of handle)
- handle with yuanshi fittings is the same size as the ones found on Niuweidao, i.e. a bit on the thick side, is that normal ?
- feels clumsy when moving, despite the 6" POB (or, because of it ?), I would expect a slightly more top-heavy feel on a saber in respect to a jian, no ?

It's a long time since I last had a dao in my hands, so I might have forgotten a bit how it should feel. However, this blade just doesn't feel right, although the one I remember seemed to be quite a bit longer than the one I got now.

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Ray Z » Fri Jun 26, 2009 12:22 pm

Nik,
I've been enjoying the progress and development of your project. A couple of thoughts: 1) having practiced and competed in both European fencing [foil and epee] and kendo, I think "blunts' give a more realistic feel for the technics unique to the particular weapon. While the foil is imperfect, the use of a shinai in kendo has evolved/devolved the practice even further from its historical roots; 2) historical/antique Japanese and European blades that I've handled tend to have distal taper; 3) I really like the appearance of the fittings on last dao you uploaded - while I would prefer a simpler design for my own sword, they seem more substantial than other replicas.
Do you have any timeline for when these swords may be available on the market? Thanks.
Ray

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Fri Jun 26, 2009 1:37 pm

Hello Ray,

thanks for your kind input.

The ship with my main bulk of samples has left China last saturday, and was said to need 25 days to Hamburg. So I think we will have that here end of July, and the smith can start making samples. I ordered the best huawen pattern-welded blade they can make from the factory in China for pure curiosity, I don't think the smith will begin doing this kind of work immediately. I would like to do some more research on the subject before having him make more expensive custom work. Training tool monosteel versions should be ready in the first couple of weeks, since making such monosteel military sabers for the current world wide militaries is his main job. I think that samples are ready by mid august, but I would lilke to check with some authorities first without throwing them at the market. I ordered only a small number of samples for dao anyways, the main portion is for jian. This should be ready to be shipped by end of august, since I can test them myself. The main target at first is the local german market, but I think I can get some samples out to international buyers at special conditions immediately. :) I am a bit reserved about hurrying into the market, since there were some quality issues with the sample dao I received via airmail. The box simply was unbearable, smelling like heck from overdoses of conserving chemicals, broken, missing screws, and made from unearthly miserable balsa wood (if wood at all). I don't like to make promises and then see that what I got via ship is not suitable to meet my own expectations.

Regarding the make, I am confident to have good enough knowledge on the jian measures, however, the dao blades give me some worries. I dug through a load of articles recently, and the measures seem to vary quite a bit. I have only experienced a limited number of daos, and the ones I used were somewhat longer and different in feel in my memory. I know that the POB is shorter than on mass market versions produced earlier (articles were from 2006) which had one of 17.5cm (7"), but the feel of the dao I received was not right although it had such a shorter, oftenly used POB of 15cm (6"). The POB of the "nice, lively" original sold by Scott to the writer of the article was not mentioned, only the measures of the blade. The samply jian we made to this point were absolutely perfect in handling, and I wouldn't like to sell any dao without the same good feel.

So, I am up to suggestions regarding lengthes, weights and POBs for practice daos. I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all measure, but the number of makes should be limited to some typical or desirable ones. The blade length for example with 70cm (27.5") was short for my liking.

Thanks,
Nik

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:02 pm

Does anyone have a reference to articles, or correct spans of measures regarding the POB and weight, for liuyedao and niuweidao styles ? Articles I read differ quite a bit over a "good" POB. I would like to have a small number of variations that cover the desirable ones.

Problem is, I cannot gauge that myself. Playing with my current 1130g liuyedao, I found that I cannot handle it good enough since my shoulder cannot support it in certain angles, due to a damage (elbow snap leading to the sinew relocating to where it doesn't belong).

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by josh stout » Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:20 am

Sorry to jump in so late on the thread, but I wanted to mention that the top jian you show with the lighter fittings seems the most historically acurate.

I like the idea of blunt steel for practice. It is true that nothing concentrates the mind like a sharp edge, but it is not as if you would want to start daydreaming and hitting yourself with blunt steel. I think wood feels naturally more like a club, so it is difficult to work on good edge alignment. The problems Peter mentions I think are mostly problems that come from using wood.

For the best training there is nothing like the antiques, no reproduction has quite gotten the feel the same, though some are coming close. If an antique has not been recently polished, the edges are usually not insanely sharp and cloth can stop an accidental touch. Nevertheless, a well-balanced, historically accurate, blunt steel jian would be very welcome. There are many times that call for added safety, and it would be easier to explain to a policeman. I almost lost an antique when my workout bag was searched getting on the subway. Luckily I clouded their minds with Jedi mind tricks and none of the five policemen at the checkpoint noticed my sword. I wouldn't have been so shaky afterwards if I had a blunt reproduction in my bag.

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:32 am

Thanks for answering, Josh.

Well, the bluntly said cheapest fittings of that style I can get are the ones on the left in the attachment. It's a somewhat quick & dirty remake of the fittings on a Qing officers jian in the Royal Armouries pictured on Philipp Toms website: http://chineseswords.freewebspace.com/s ... _page.html
That would enable me to oppress the smith with Jedi tricks into the segment of very affordable prices, not to say really cheap ones if we get some numbers together. One problem is that the capable polishers who do the form grinding by hand in some old hut ask very different prices whether you want one, ten or hundred blades. When hearing what the smith paid when he made 10 european historic fencing swords I could not believe that. I can assure you that they are capable of making something behaving 100% like old originals, if the fittings have the correct weight. This is actually a major issue, since there are extreme ranges of weights from rather small original fittings to big, shiny, full-material molds of today.

The other one which is not too high in price is the topmost on the picture you mentioned, but in plain brass with no decoration. They also have a very good weight, while not being too flimsy to break on impact.

I got a couple of very beautiful fitting makes, but at the moment, the prices are too much for cheap training tools, since they would cost the same as the blade itself. I also have the suspicion that they are made for fine looks, but too heavy since the mold form was not carefully carved out to lighten the pieces.

Regarding the dao balancing, I experimented a bit with additional weight on the pommel, reaching a POB of 5". That was borderline ok for doing cuts, but the saber of course moved a lot better at the weight of 1130g. I would just like to know if such a balance was outrageous for either liuyedao, yanmaodao or niuweidao, since some blades listed by William on the swordforum archives were like that. At 6", the handling wasn't nice, at least at that weight. Didn't try the 7" found on some blades yet.
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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jul 03, 2009 9:56 am

Nik wrote:Bruise is one thing, a lethal cut another...
I have to imagine, that in the course of learning marksmanship there have been people that have shot themselves or hurt others at the range. Such accidents are truly unfortunate, but they are the nature of learning marksmanship & a risk anyone interested in learning marksmanship has to accept, you just can't learn to shoot by dry firing alone. Likewise, one can't become a swordsman without learning how to use a live blade & being comfortable with that weapon in hand.

A few days before the TCSL Tournament up in Vermont, I was talking with a Swordsmith friend about fencing (my son is a serious competitive fencer). He told me about when he was younger fencing at a school in NY where the old timers would fence with rapiers with rebated tips. They did this so that the tip would only penetrate a 1/2". He said after the bouts, they would sit around discussing the matches, no grudges, in the schools cafe... You have to respect men like that, why should we water things down today? If we do, can we expect to reach even a medium level of skill?

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Fri Jul 03, 2009 11:16 am

Well, regarding sparring, my idea is that it should hurt at most like getting hit with a cane, not cut off limbs in the worst case. If the combination of sword and armor does that, I am fine with it. I was notoriously disliked for sheding some blood during pushing hands when someone did "funny moves" like suddenly trying to just run into me (I instinctively used a shoulder ram to their face because I was trained like this). Learning through pain is ok, as long as it is minor pain that goes over, as opposed to broken bones or crippling. My brother did stupid moves on me that could or would have killed people with lesser reflexes than me. I have hurt people when things went out of hand in a way they needed surgery. So guilt also is responsible for my idea. Someone suddenly "losing his mind" going at me would trigger something that isn't worth it given todays reasons. I was close to getting killed too often in my life, so I cannot feel easy about that. There are other ways of training people into sane behaviour, and getting "warrior" modes.

On forms work, I happen to have exercises where the blade goes too close to the body to risk someone who is learning doing it with a razor shape blade. You can do that with sabers that are as sharp as the one I got from Longquan recently, because it does not cut to the bone just from the lightest touch. If you are suggesting this kind of "sharp" (semi-sharp), I am fine with it, but I would place a big, red, flashing warning on the swords I sell in razor-sharp that I explicitly FORBID using that for doing forms practice, let alone sparring. I hope you don't mind that I have this own personal approach to that.


What is your take on the measures and POB for practice liuye and niuwei dao ?

Thanks in advance,
Klaus

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:54 am

Nik wrote:... What is your take on the measures and POB for practice liuye and niuwei dao ?
I think you are going to have a problem going just by some measurement taken by others for you...

When Paul Champagne decided to start forging Chinese type swords, I arranged for him to study, first hand, over 50 pieces in private collections, some of which he made detailed draws of. Then I arranged for him to visit & study the collection at the Met. If you are serious about this project (& I Take it you are) then you need to get real antiques in your hands. I would suggest building your own collection. Nothing is going to take the place of first hand experience. You can save some money by purchasing unmounted blades, from Dealers like Peter Dekker & myself. Dealers often have blades that are not in sellable condition for collectors due to pitting or other damage, but that make excellent study pieces for smiths.

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Re: Development of swords for chinese swordmanship

Post by Nik » Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:36 pm

Scott, thanks for taking the time to answer.

Well, seeing the prices on Peters website I will certainly do that, since the antique daos are much cheaper than I expected. I wanted to visit him anyways since it's just around a 3 hours drive from here (Cologne region), when things are better (dealing with corruption soaks a lot of energy when about a lot of money).

However, as I understand, Paul Champaigne did historically accurate museum quality copies, including the forging style, materials and hardening procedures used. My first intention is just to give my smith accurate measures regarding length, weight, mass distribution and POB, for simple monosteel constructions for practicing tools with historically accurate behaviour, at best with differential hardening. The smith is astonishingly good at recreating a sword from free forging just from looking at a photo and knowing about the measures and ratio of distal taper, which on the other hand isn't that astonishing since he hand-forges european military sabers and european swords since 30 years.

For the museum quality blades, he certainly has to study those in detail. He told me it took him 4 weeks to forge a museum copy of a medieval masterpiece sword, he did it just as a friendly service for a woman whose husbands family originally owned a sword forge back in those days, as a wedding anniversary gift. Otherwise that would have been prohibitively expensive.

So, for steel blunts and regular practice weapons in monosteel, the plain numbers would be enough. Also as a community service, since the customers approaching me are normal practitioners who want something good for training at an affordable price, knowing that the typical mass product from China is way off in sizes, measures and also a lottery regarding the quality. I don't know if it's funny to see liuyedaos not under 1100g, while the originals seemed to not rarely been half of that. It's outrageous to see an old officers peidao weighting only 455g, and then the "modern high quality reproduction" at 1100g. I wonder if the huawen patterns on the blade are even just somehow printed on the steel surface with some kind of acid color, on my sample.

I am of course definetly open to get a small collection of typical blades for the given periods in a surface-wise non-sellable state, to get a feeling for the measures and makes. It would be nice if you or Peter could put together something like that and offer me. It should be albeit a lot cheaper and easier to get it from Amsterdam to here. :)

BTW, the prices for fittings are not even funny recently, no idea why they raised it by like 50% in comparison to end of last year. Basically they take their enduser sword prices and divide them by 2 for the fitting price, so you get only something affordable when you catch them using good stuff on a cheap sword. At least I finally found one cheaper accurate version of dao fittings good enough for practice daos, which are not hurting the eye with their cheap foil make.

With the lighter undecorated brass fittings, I can reach a weight of 750g total, with a perfect 6" balance. The even lighter sample with a slightly shorter POB just doesn't feel right, although you can whizz away in flashy fashion with it.

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