Major Methods of Wudang sword

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

Moderator: Scott M. Rodell

Post Reply
taiwandeutscher
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 83
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:26 am
Location: Gaoxiong, Taiwan, R.o.C.

Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by taiwandeutscher » Mon May 10, 2010 2:04 am

Just finished reading this little book over the weekend. There are some interesting parts in the beginning and at the end, especially biographical stuff on Li Jinglin, the famous general and sword saint.
The technical part was nothing new for me, as I found all the techniques to be similar to those transmitted via Chen Weiming's 54 sword form of Yang Chengfu. Seems clear now, that the later really got his sword stuff from the general.
Some strange notes are to be found on weight and pob, as on p. 71, where one finds the advise that shiyongjian, application sword, should have the pob near the handle (guard?).
How can it be that such an accoplished general, who should have some reliable experience, gave such advise to his students?
hongdaozi

Nik
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 292
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:06 am
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Nik » Mon May 10, 2010 6:37 am

Question is, what does he mean with "near" ? A sword with POB some 5mm closer to the guard than the norm of 6" makes it easier to handle, which could be favorable under certain ideas. A sword with a POB really close to the guard is useless - literally. Try to hit someone with that, it's impossible to cut with that if the sword has remotely a normal weight. And historically, such swords did not exist, if we trust Scott on the measures he mentioned on the ~2000 originals he handled.

Bottom line, these notes could be fake, or misunderstood.

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed May 12, 2010 9:30 am

"Near the guard" is a rather vague description, I wouldn't spend much time pondering its meaning. Over the last few years, there has been a real hang up on what the exact POB should be for jian. The thing is, it's not really the POB, but the overall mass distribution, that determines how a sword plays. For example, you can have cut & thrust swords such as jian with the exactly same POB as rapier balanced to be tip light for fast movement (but no cutting power). Clearly, though the POB is the same these are very different swords...

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed May 12, 2010 9:37 am

taiwandeutscher wrote:J... little book ... some interesting parts ... on Li Jinglin, the famous general and sword saint.
The technical part was nothing new for me, as I found all the techniques to be similar to those transmitted via Chen Weiming's 54 sword form of Yang Chengfu. Seems clear now, that the later really got his sword stuff from the general....
It is just as likely that both systems, that practiced by Li & by Chen, simply used the same basic cuts, cuts that are common to all systems of jianfa. Keep in mind the the form Yang Chengfu taught would have originated with his grandfather, Yang Luchan, in the 19th c. If Li's book provides a list of the basic cuts, can you please list them for us here? Thanks...

taiwandeutscher
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 83
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:26 am
Location: Gaoxiong, Taiwan, R.o.C.

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by taiwandeutscher » Wed May 12, 2010 6:52 pm

Thanks for the reply and interest, Scott!
To call such a work a fake or the author misunderstanding is a bit cheap and shows not much understanding for the history of the Chinese sword in the 20th century. The author Huang Yuanxiou, a very trained martial artist, became an indoor of the general Li Jingli in 1929, and the work in question consits of training notes from summer 1930, out of comparing formerly learned stuff and the general's teaching, so it should be of interest to any sword student.

Here the 13 basic techniques:
Chou 抽 draw (upwards and downwards)
Dai 帶 carry (vertical and horizontal)
Ti 提 lift (forward and backward)
Ge 格 parry (downward and turning around)
Ji 擊 strike (regular or reverse)
Ci 刺 stab (straight or flat)
Dian 點 point
Beng 崩 making the tip of the sword go upward by pressing the wrist down abruptly (regular and turn over)
Pi 劈 split
Jie 截 intercept (flat, right, left, reverse)
Jiao 攪 stir (vertical and horizontal)
Ya 壓 press
Xi 洗 slice

Any differences? Learning the CWM 54, I also learned those and some more, to differenciate more in detail.

I hope I can get the original text in Chinese, to see what words were used to descirbe the pob "near the handle".

Concerning YCF's form, haven't there been speculations that his family originally didn't have sword, only suff/lance, added sabre and sword later, with influence form outside? Always curious!?

Thank you!
hongdaozi

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu May 13, 2010 8:16 am

taiwandeutscher wrote:... author Huang Yuanxiou, a very trained martial artist... indoor of the general Li Jingli in 1929... the work in question consits of training notes from summer 1930...

Here the 13 basic techniques:
Chou 抽 draw (upwards and downwards)... Xi 洗 slice

Any differences? Learning the CWM 54, I also learned those and some more, to differenciate more in detail.

Concerning YCF's form, haven't there been speculations that his family originally didn't have sword, only suff/lance, added sabre and sword later, with influence form outside? Always curious!?
Thanks for the list of Basic Cuts from Li's system.
The first thing one notices is that this list is identical to the basic cuts for the public Yang Style Taiji JIan, although they are given in a different order in books of this tradition. The earliest published recording of these basic cuts in the Yang Tradition was by Chen Gong in his book in 1932 (Chen Weiming published his book, "Taiji Jian" in 1928, so he must have studied the art in the years before then).

I have not read LI's book, but assuming that he means the same cuts when he uses the same names, there are a few terms I translated differently in my book, "Chinese Swordsmanship - The Yang Family Taiji Jian Tradition," see pages: 51 thru 58.
For example, Xi means washing, & is not slicing, but sticking to the duifang's blade to control the center, as one moves forward, typically for a chou cut. Note that Xi & Jie are often confused by contemporary practitioners who look to apply a Jie cut at each place in the form where a Xi would be applied. This demonstrates a general misunderstanding of how this system of jianfa works. Another example is Ge, which means blocking, & is a counter- or intercepting cut. Ge is not used to parry.

When attempting to trace the "origins" or influences of any Chinese martial art we often run into the same problems over & over, which came first, which influenced which, & is there a third (&/or foruth) art, we are not familiar with, that might be the origins or inspiration for both? In short, I suspect that there has been a lot of borrowing back & forth for so long that one can not easily trace a "family tree" for any one art.
taiwandeutscher wrote:Concerning YCF's form, haven't there been speculations that his family originally didn't have sword, only staff/lance, added sabre and sword later, with influence form outside? Always curious!?
I have heard these speculations & don't give them much weight. Most people making these comments appear to be ignorant of the times Yang Luchan & his son's worked in & of Qing history in general. How can one expect that a man (i.e. Yang Luchan) who lived thru an era of rampant warfare, conducted largely with bladed weapons, would have gotten a job teaching the military elite (Shen Ji Ying), in the capitol, if he did not have an expert level understanding of swordplay? That doesn't make historical sense, does it?

Nik
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 292
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:06 am
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Nik » Thu May 13, 2010 9:50 am

I didn't mean that the general made something up, but the people who made up this special "application sword" or the notes about it - strictly IF the note meant a POB really close to the handle. There are modern makes on the market of such a sword, with a POB immediately at the guard. It's not possible to cut with something like that, because you don't get speed on the slash, and it's really messy for the wrist and whole movement architecture if it has remotely something like a real weight. Calling this an especially "application sword" is a hoax to me, sorry to be blunt. If a well-known general was so fond of such a tricky blade, we would have found many more of that "application swords" within the given time span, no ? Basically you need heavy fittings with a heavy pommel to get such a balance, as you otherwise would need to make a blade with a crazy distal taper and a floppy, ultrathin front half. Interestingly, the super duper Wushu tin foil swords of the $10 alibaba class have such a balance. Ein Schelm wer da Überlegungen anstellt.

Basically, I am sick and tired of people who hand flashy chrome-plated blades with a POB of 22cm or 0 cm Wushu tinfoil as those nifty super makes, which cannot be used in any way in a real fashion.


If the general really made such notes, I am 100% sure he meant some moderate shift of the POB towards the handle, but NOT by much. As far as I remember, there are some korean makes who have this needle like shape, which could have been influenced by such a fashion in older times in China. Something like earlier Ming. Scott should know more on that.

I don't intend to raise a war on that issue, but I simply cannot feel nice about this revisionism I hear all the time about. Well known Taiji teachers claiming "Wu jians" with a weight over 4lb as the "real battle swords", or another "Wudang expert" calling a 6" balanced 700g jian "much too heavy and wrong balanced!" because he "trains" with a 200g $20 SLO. If there are virtually no surviving samples of a full size jian with the guard being the point of balance, in 600 years, I contest the existance and meaning of such a mythical "application sword" that somehow noone used.

taiwandeutscher
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 83
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:26 am
Location: Gaoxiong, Taiwan, R.o.C.

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by taiwandeutscher » Thu May 13, 2010 9:35 pm

[quote="Scott M. Rodell"]
Thanks for the list of Basic Cuts from Li's system.
The first thing one notices is that this list is identical to the basic cuts for the public Yang Style [i]Taiji JIan[/i], although they are given in a different order in books of this tradition. The earliest published recording of these basic cuts in the Yang Tradition was by Chen Gong in his book in 1932 (Chen Weiming published his book, "Taiji Jian" in 1928, so he must have studied the art in the years before then).

I have not read LI's book, but assuming that he means the same cuts when he uses the same names, there are a few terms I translated differently in my book, "Chinese Swordsmanship - The Yang Family Taiji Jian Tradition," see pages: 51 thru 58.
For example, [i]Xi[/i] means washing, & is not slicing, but sticking to the duifang's blade to control the center, as one moves forward, typically for a [i]chou[/i] cut. Note that [i]Xi[/i] & [i]Jie[/i] are often confused by contemporary practitioners who look to apply a [i]Jie[/i] cut at each place in the form where a [i]Xi[/i] would be applied. This demonstrates a general misunderstanding of how this system of [i]jianfa[/i] works. Another example is [i]Ge[/i], which means blocking, & is a counter- or intercepting cut. [i]Ge[/i] is not used to parry.

When attempting to trace the "origins" or influences of any Chinese martial art we often run into the same problems over & over, which came first, which influenced which, & is there a third (&/or foruth) art, we are not familiar with, that might be the origins or inspiration for both? In short, I suspect that there has been a lot of borrowing back & forth for so long that one can not easily trace a "family tree" for any one art.

I have heard these speculations & don't give them much weight. Most people making these comments appear to be ignorant of the times Yang Luchan & his son's worked in & of Qing history in general. How can one expect that a man (i.e. Yang Luchan) who lived thru an era of rampant warfare, conducted largely with bladed weapons, would have gotten a job teaching the military elite ([i]Shen Ji Ying[/i]), in the capitol, if he did not have an expert level understanding of swordplay? That doesn't make historical sense, does it?[/quote]

Thanks for your explanations, Scott!
I gave the translations of the book, even I myself would prefer some different explanations, like washing. But I also find those terms not very clear and always need to see or show.
Anyway, it has been a nice little booklet to read and hope some more primary sources are translated into western languages. One nether can know too much!
Thank you!
hongdaozi

Nik
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 292
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:06 am
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Nik » Fri May 14, 2010 7:31 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:How can one expect that a man (i.e. Yang Luchan) who lived thru an era of rampant warfare, conducted largely with bladed weapons, would have gotten a job teaching the military elite (Shen Ji Ying), in the capitol, if he did not have an expert level understanding of swordplay? That doesn't make historical sense, does it?
I would go as far as saying that he should have had to have active expert knowledge on all major weapons involved, i.e. spear, saber, and required to a some lesser degree, sword. That means, he would have had to be able to not only wield some sword around, but best the senior military guys in spearplay and saber, with authority.

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Major Methods of Wudang sword, YCF's Intro

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:31 am

I'm about half way thru Major Methods of Wudang Sword, & find it quite interesting. Anyone seriously interested in Jianfa will want a copy, but if one if looking for a How-to manual, better go with Zhang's, Art Of Chinese Swordsmanship: Manual Of Taiji Jian, Yang's, Northern Shaolin Sword, 2nd Edition: Form, Techniques & Appilcations or my own, Chinese Swordsmanship: The Yang Family Taiji Jian Tradition.

I really enjoyed finding Yang Chengfu's calligraphy reproduced inside. I'd never seen his brush work before & now must question everything I heard about him being uneducated. I've translated his verse below...

Jian qi ruhong jian xing si long
Jian Shen he yi xuan miao wuqiong


Which I would translate differently than the author as -

The Jian's qi is like a rainbow, the sword's movement is like a dragon.
Sword spirit coming together as one in endless mysterious & greatness.

or more directly as -
Jian's qi a rainbow, sword moves like a dragon.
Sword spirit meet as one, mystery, greatness never running out.
Attachments
YangCengfuShoufa.png
YangCengfuShoufa.png (31 KiB) Viewed 12169 times

Dan Pasek
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 45
Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2004 2:12 pm
Location: Pittsboro, NC

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Dan Pasek » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:49 pm

I recently purchased the translated book (The Major Methods of Wudang Sword), and I would like to make some comments/observations that may help to clarify issues raised on this forum.

Almanzo "Lao Ma" Lamoureux has kindly allowed me to examine his Taiwan manufactured wooden practice sparring swords that he got in ~1976 while learning the Sancaijian sparring form from the Tien Shan Pai system lineage. He was told that they were made out of Chinese ironwood, which I suppose refers to Tielimu, a dense, heavy, and strong hardwood.

Lao Ma also learned many things including Taijijian (Wudangshan style Taijiquan) from Grandmaster Ding Hong Kuai's Wuchang Snake Hill Pavilion School in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in the mid 1980’s (Ding “Ye Ye” was born in 1894 and began studying martial arts at age 11, so he was alive and practicing when the book was written; Ding died in 1986 at age 92). Ding was well known in China for his Tangquan, and his experiences with jian even extended to scars on his skull from old sword wounds! Unfortunately, Lao Ma did not obtain wooden practice swords from Ding’s school, as I suspect swords from that source may have been more accurately comparable to those mentioned in the book. [Note: The Red Guards broke Ding’s martial arts weapons during the Cultural Revolution thinking that they represented remnants of the feudal society.]

Anyway, those wooden practice swords from Taiwan are as close as I am able to come to what may be referred to in the book. They (average of 2) compare to Estonia made swords (average of 3 – in brackets) from Scott’s student, and to what I can tell from the pictures and description in the book, as follows [Note: refer to past posts by Scott and others for comparable information on historic metal “application” swords]:

1. The weight of the sword is ~415g [~600g]
2. The total length of the sword is ~99cm [~100cm]
3. The length of the blade (measured from where the handle meets the hand guard) is ~80cm [~81cm]
4. The balance point (center of weight) of the sword (measured from the tip) is ~60cm [~55cm]

While the Estonia wooden practice swords handle reasonably well in my opinion, they are on the slightly light side (though not too bad, especially if following the recommendation of 20% less than application swords as stated in the book – see quote below) with a balance point somewhat farther from the guard than for historic application swords (but not as far as to the center of the sword – see quote below). The Taiwan swords are not as robustly made; having a smaller hand guard, smaller diameter of blade, etc, and their weight reflects this. The Taiwan swords have an appearance closer to that given in the book than do the Estonia swords. They are made of one piece with a shaped handle (like the Estonia examples), round and slightly oversized pommel, normal sized guard shaped ~ like in the book (bat shaped with gentle forward facing prongs), a fairly oval blade of about the width of an application sword and a hint of the spine (as well as an edge). Though the Taiwan made swords are lighter than recommended in the book (and ~ 2/3 the weight of the Estonia swords) their balance point is closer to the guard than the Estonia swords, though not as close as for an application sword, and they handle fairly well in my opinion.

For comparison, a simple rattan stick (with skin still on) that I had used prior to obtaining the Estonia swords is ~475g and ~92cm long (with the balance point ~ in the center of the length).

The book does not clarify what is being referred to by the following statement (pg 70) concerning the wooden practice sword:
“The focus should be on the center of the sword.”
I doubt that the center would refer to applications since that would not be consistent with techniques that use the tip of the sword; though it may refer to the defensive contact point when touching the opponent’s weapon, I think that it is more likely that it may be referring to the center of weight. The picture in the book does not show much difference in size between the blade, handle, and pommel, which may result in a balance point closer to the center than the wooden swords that I have measured.

The following (pg 71) concerns the metal ‘application’ sword [my comments are in brackets]:
“The length should be the same as that of a practice sword. It is more appropriate to cut 20 percent from the weight of a practice sword. Neither a sword that is too long nor one that is too heavy is considered correct. [But not explained is why a 20% lighter practice sword would be desired – perhaps it is because the balance point is too far out for it to be properly manipulated if it was equal in weight to an application sword?] The center of the weight of a Shi Yong Jian [application sword] should be close to the handle, or it will be difficult to manipulate.”

To me the reference to the center of weight ‘close to the handle’ for the application sword may be referring to being ‘closer’ to the handle than for the practice sword which, according to my interpretation, may be at the center of the practice sword pictured in the book (i.e., I think the statement may be giving distance for the application sword relative to the practice sword, not an absolute location).

Dan

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword, YCF's Intro

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:22 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:... Yang Chengfu's calligraphy...

Jian qi ruhong jian xing si long
Jian Shen he yi xuan miao wuqiong
...

The Jian's qi is like a rainbow...
Since reading this poem of Yang's, I've been wondering about the his allegorical use of the rainbow. The simplest meaning, according to difference references I found, would be that it represents a union of yin & yang (& is often used in symbolizing things in relationship to marriage), suggesting that they are in balance & complementing each other. But more interesting references can be found in WIkipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_(rainbow-dragon) where it explains that the rainbow is a symbol of a dragon that brings rain. This parallels the second part of the first line where the sword is said to move like a dragon, but there is another aspect I suspect Yang might have been alluding to. Rain is a beneficial event, without rain crops don't grow & everyone is hurt. And when it does rain, it doesn't just benefit one farmer or small group, but rains down for everyone. So I think Yang was using the symbolism of the rainbow to say that jianfa is something that can benefit everyone, that martial arts should be for the benefit of society & that the author is working for everyone's good by sharing what he wrote in this book.

Nik
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 292
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:06 am
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 29, 2010 11:02 am

Dan,

I think the words could mean that on a lighter practice sword, the POB should be further away from the handle to still cause some load on the hand. I felt it better on my very light test swords, and one old real sword (that I unfortunately was allowed to use when I was like one foot shorter than when I was grown up, so I cannot authoritatively guess its size and weight), when they had a longer balance, like 17,5 cm instead of 15,5 to 16. At the same POB, a very light practice sword feels like a pencil, no weight. That would explain this, and still be in accordance to observations regarding the POB of surviving historical swords.

User avatar
J HepworthYoung
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 276
Joined: Fri Jul 28, 2006 12:19 pm
Location: Sacramento
Contact:

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by J HepworthYoung » Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:37 am

the jian is straight, thus the cuts must be made at an angle, requiring an arcing expression, this is like a rainbow,
the motion itself involved fluid movement, coiling, curling, spinning etc, all of which flow like the dragon
this type of flowing motion does not cease, has no break, the method does not stop or run out or pause between motions, all flow is as one motion and endlessly so.

In my uneducated and humble opinion, this is what I see in these words, the arc of the rainbow, the coiling and spinning of the dragon, and one endless technique where mind and sword are as one. My interpretation though, is made in ignorance of the wordplay that requires a cultural context, and by numerous definitions of the word education, I am uneducated myself.


The Jian's qi is like a rainbow, the sword's movement is like a dragon.
Sword spirit coming together as one in endless mysterious & greatness.

or more directly as -
Jian's qi a rainbow, sword moves like a dragon.
Sword spirit meet as one, mystery, greatness never running out.

User avatar
jonpalombi
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:08 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

Re: Major Methods of Wudang sword

Post by jonpalombi » Wed Sep 08, 2010 1:33 pm

J HepworthYoung wrote:the jian is straight, thus the cuts must be made at an angle, requiring an arcing expression, this is like a rainbow,
the motion itself involved fluid movement, coiling, curling, spinning etc, all of which flow like the dragon
this type of flowing motion does not cease, has no break, the method does not stop or run out or pause between motions, all flow is as one motion and endlessly so.

In my uneducated and humble opinion, this is what I see in these words, the arc of the rainbow, the coiling and spinning of the dragon, and one endless technique where mind and sword are as one. My interpretation though, is made in ignorance of the wordplay that requires a cultural context, and by numerous definitions of the word education, I am uneducated myself.


The Jian's qi is like a rainbow, the sword's movement is like a dragon.
Sword spirit coming together as one in endless mysterious & greatness.

or more directly as -
Jian's qi a rainbow, sword moves like a dragon.
Sword spirit meet as one, mystery, greatness never running out.
Very insightful interpretation, J. and well said. You romantic devil.... you have the heart of a poet. Thanks for sharing. 8)
A wise person aspires to learn the practice of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy Teacher. A fool cannot tell the difference.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests