TEST CUTTING - things to think about

This Forum is a place for students of swordsmanship to ask advice from moderators Paul Champagne & Scott M. Rodell on how to practice test cutting in a manner consistent with how swords were historically used in combat. Readers use this Forum at their own risk.

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TEST CUTTING - things to think about

Post by PaulC » Tue Feb 14, 2006 10:26 am

I will put these things in an abbreviated bullet list format so we can modify the list as we go on.

5 parts to a successful test cutting session



test area

test cutter



secure handle. if its removable, pinned or threaded check before each cut. not each cutting session - each cut.

examine edge and be honest with the capabilities of your blade. Is it designed for heavy cutting or light fast cuts?

check blade for before EACH cut no cracks or chips, even hairline edge cracks can open up under light cutting stresses


know your material, dont swing at something you haven't thoroughly examined.

use a secure stand. don't set bottles on a table on a windy day. you may try to ' chase the cut' and hurt someone or yourself

dont strike material that can only do damage to the blade ( rocks, bricks, sword edges etc) this kind of testing will tell you very little.

test area

clear of obstructions

clearly marked off.

know the terrain. Its good to practice on different terrain and surfaces but start with clean, clear and dry.

no one within 2 arm+sword lengths of the cutter. the cutter controls all movement. they give the clear signal when the cut is done and the sword is in a rest position. no one walks about until the clear is given.

no one in front of cutter- picture the sword coming out of the handle, cutters hands or the tip breaking off.( ! )

only one drawn sword at a time - that is the one in the cutters hands.


be honest with your skill level

be aware of your surroundings

no alcohol, none, not even 1 drink.

warm up and concentrate on edge angle, edge angle, edge angle

be aware of where your arms and legs are. A bad cut can deflect and sink into your forward leg.

always be in control - do not 'show off'

be able to stop the blade as if the target were to disappear in mid swing. this will keep you sharp and aware and build your control and strength. you can always swing harder than you can stop - be aware of this.

do not strike the ground- this shows poor form, lack of stopping control and can damage the blade

leave your ego out side of the cutting area.


This part is left out by so many people but is VERY important

use a test cutting session to learn something not prove something.

take the time to analyze the cut, examine the target and see what it tells you. listen to feedback, dont just hack away until the target material is gone.

write down what cuts you will do and in what order. this will force you to do the cuts you don't feel as comfortable with. it also lets any observers know what you intend to do. this will make them more aware so they can give you feedback and it gives them an idea of where your sword will be swinging.

try marking the target, putting masking tape on it etc and aim for a specific impact point. This kind of practice is incredibly important when practicing with a sword like a Jian where it is not necessarily massive huge cuts that will defeat your opponent.

Practice cutting with the type and scope of an actual technique. use this time to see what a realistic cut in your style can do and how accurate you can be with it.


Hard cutting - tests the blade and cutter. best left to very advanced practitioners and known blades. Let the maker prove that they make strong swords - why break your blade.The maker should be proven to make reliable blades and show that he continually tests his current skill and techniques. They cant rely on spec sheets and metallurgical theory. they MUST be tested.

even the strongest sword can be ruined by a bad strike.

soft cutting - tests the cutter. leaves a physical record of the sword blade path through the material. examination of this path is vital to learn what you are doing during target penetration.

some thoughts:

are you trying to see what a full wind up - full power blow will do -or do you want to test what an actual cut in your style will do and how well you can do it? most will do some of both, but I think that once people get the 'big cut' syndrome out of the way the real path to advanced swordsmanship will come from doing the actual cuts and thrusts that could happen in a confrontation/ battle.

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