Test Cutting Video - Incorrect Technique

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 Video - Incorrect Technique

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Dec 29, 2006 9:13 am

Presented here is a short video from a sword smith in China. At 1:55 min. thru the video, the smith demonstrates cutting mats & chunks of meat with his jian. Before I comment on his technique, I wish to make clear that the cutter is a sword smith, not a trained swordsman. I am not critiquing his technique, from the perspective of historical swordsmanship, in order to criticize him, but to help everyone improve their technique. Just as I would hope a smith would point out how I could improve my technique should I attempt to hammer out a blade...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv2PjFUKkEg



Critique:

My first & biggest concern is the amount of over swing. From a safety stand point, the cutter has a good deal of poorly controlled movement & momentum after the cut. The sharp blade is repeated coming too close to his body. From a swordsmanship point of view, this indicates that the cutter only has intent up to the point of the cut. Naturally, a swordsman seeks mind intent/mindfulness, at all times during any movement - before, during & after the cut. There should be no point at which the cut is not controlled.



Following on the obersevations above, a cut should end so that the weapon is in a useful postion. That means it should end so that tip is toward the target, with the edge angle such that it is ready to cut again without futher adjustment or such that it is a postion that it would be at if one had just deflected.

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Re: Test Cutting Video - Incorrect Technique

Post by Kenneth, H. » Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:16 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:Before I comment on his technique, I wish to make clear that the cutter is a sword smith, not a trained swordsman. I am not critiquing his technique, from the perspective of historical swordsmanship, in order to criticize him, but to help everyone improve their technique. Just as I would hope a smith would point out how I could improve my technique should I attempt to hammer out a blade...
You are quite right. Mr. Zhou is not learned in swordsmanship, and his cutting is pretty much your basic hack'n slash.
This video is pretty old though, and his cutting has improved some. However, I can pretty much guarantee you that he is not paying attention to any swordsman'ish or historically correct ways of cutting.

You have made some good observations though. I'll point them out to him next time I see him. ;) hehe

PS: (jup, I cut like Mr. Zhou too. For share fun :) )

Best regards, Kenneth A.H.
Zheng Wu Knife & Sword Company.
High quality custom blades by Master sword-smith Zhou Zheng Wu of China.

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Re: Test Cutting Video - Incorrect Technique

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Sat Jun 09, 2007 8:13 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XMcbGeAyTA
Scott M. Rodell wrote: ...Critique:

My first & biggest concern is the amount of over swing....
Following on the obersevations above, a cut should end so that the weapon is in a useful postion. That means it should end so that tip is toward the target, with the edge angle such that it is ready to cut again without futher adjustment or such that it is a postion that it would be at if one had just deflected.
In fairness, the man cutting states, "I never said I knew how to use a sword... ." I'm not looking to attack him, since he has been good enough to post this video, we might as well use it for common benefit...

Clearly he does maintain proper alignment of his edge angle with the plane of his cut. However, his swing travels far to his rear where the sword would effectively be out of play. Failing to controll the swing of one's sword after the cut is the most common error of experienced beginner students who have gotten the hang of maintaining their edge angle.

Also note that the jian is not wrappped around the head to cut as is demonstrated here, if it is, it is possible to be cut by the upper blade edge. Chan (wrapping) is a dao technique.

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Test Cutting Critque

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:56 am

I am happy to see the growth in test cutting (shizhan) amongst practitioners of Chinese Swordsmanship, for it is an important part of our traditonal training. However, there is also a distrubing trend that is no doubt promoted by sites like youtube, namely, the practice of test cutting by new comers who appear to have little to no training in the use of live blades. While I applaud their errors, it is clear that if this trend continues, serious accidents will occur.

I offer this critique not to attack the man performing the cuts. I have never met him & do not know him. My only interest is to help all improve their skills & to ensure that that practice is developed in the safest manner possible.

Critque of
http://youtube.com/watch?v=pvs5V_RXefs

There are a number of safety errors that could have easily resulted in a serious injury. The first & most obvious is cutting on snow. The cutter might have thought he cleaned the area well enough, but conditions can change, the sun could have melted the snow a bit, making it more slick, a bit of snow could have stuck to the bottom of his shoe, etc. In short, this is an unnecessary risk.

The second glaring safety error was cutting into a block of wood directly toward his foot. If he lost his balance or the wood slipped even a little, the resulting cut to his foot would not have been trivial. Again this was an unnecessary risk.

Concerning his cutting technique; the cutter exhibited good edge angle/plane of cut control. This is one of the first steps to good cutting. However, he lacked almost any control of the swing past the target. Often he let the jian sail around his head to expend its momentum. This demonstrates a lack of control, all the more of concern given he is standing on snow. Over swinging in this fashion is the most common error new students make once they can cut through a target. Students of test cutting should work to control the entire cut, including the finish.

Concerning the sword test itself; some qualities of this sword were tested, but this is a far from through test & falls short of a proof of the sword's worth. I often test prototype swords for new companies off the books before they go to market. I have tested the sword used in this video & it cracked nearly into two during the structural analysis test. (This is not a condemation of the company, quite the opposite, they are working to improve their product before going to marlet & I am happy to help with this error). Almost any sharp sword can make a few good cuts thru rice straw mats, as even a sharped piece of iron can, but to properly test a sword it has to first pass a structural analysis test, then a hard target test. Anything less than this neither proves or disproves a sword's worth.

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Post by gchan » Mon Jan 28, 2008 10:03 pm

Good to see my video made it here. The Chinese sword community is pretty small... Thank you Mr. Rodell for pointing out some things I obviously overlooked.

I'll happily take the comments on the cutting. It was only my second time cutting mats and I overestimated the power needed...

My main goal was to check if the sword was tough enough to use. Evidently if you got a bad one the company has to work on QC but mine has held up fine after some more intensive tests.

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:31 am

gchan wrote:... some things... obviously overlooked... It was only my second time cutting mats and I overestimated the power needed...
Happy to be of whatever help I can, welcome to the Forum. We are a small community & we should all do what we can to aid each other.

Over estimating the power needed for any cut is common at the beginning of one's cutting practice. You have no problem with you edge control during the cuts, so you can move on to adjusting the control & power of your cuts. Think about where you want the cut to finish. This should be a point where you could easily cut again or deflect from. Then put as much intent into that part of your cut as you do the beginning & cutting portions of your movement.

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Post by taiwandeutscher » Thu Jan 31, 2008 3:47 am

After pondering a few days, I still want and need to give my 2 cents on the topic.

First, I 100% agree with Scott's safety concerns.
Then I really wonder how a sword adept would touch his blade with his fingers.
And the displayed techniques were not much to my liking, especially the hacking into the wood, in direction of the foot. I wouldn't do it with my 1-handed Dao, neither with my 2-handed Miaodao, 'cause never learned hacking with any of those weapons. How about a good old Canadian ax?

But another question pops up in my mind: a decent training in swordmenship. Here I have to disagree with Scott a bit, 'cause I feel too many unready people start test cutting. It is necessary at an adequate level, but before that, there would be lots of other practice. In CMA, I never met a western approach, where you try every technique, before you even understand and controll it.

Here in Taiwan (not Michuan tradition, but Yang style 54 like Chen Weiming), we started with weeks of preliminary exercises, like thrusting, slashing, cutting, with both hands, then we persued some time in liao-methods, in both directions (shun, ni) to learn many other hidden techniques. It took an additional year (6days a week) to learn the 54 postures, and another one to get the feeling of body/sword connetion, before our teacher taught us a partner form, doing A-B-A or B-A-B parts and changing, with stiky swords like known from ZMQ, but strictly choreographed. We started only in the 4th or 5th year with some applications of the form postures, not as good as Scott's examples, I fear, never finishing all, too many possibilities. And some years ago, after over 10 years, I got myself some nice live blade.

Where I live, we have abundant bamboo, all year long, green and dry, but only 2, 3 times a year, do I go out, checking my training results in test cutting, polishing my blade afterwords thoroughly and respecting it very much. Maybe I'm a bit too traditional or too old (twice the age of the snowman), but I feel too many people hurry for nothing, creating risks to themselfts and to others.

In my hometown in Germany the owner of a fitness center was killed with a katana (some Japanese arts students also trained in his place), his killer not found yet, in Britain, we have new laws (there is this other thread on the board), and frankly, even I practice all the stuff myself, I wouldn't like to have anybody a live blade, just for the fun of it. Do we need some licence to possess such blades?

And as we cannot train those weapons for selfdefense (my Paris friends rides the sub with 2 Chinese daggers to defend agains Arabic youth gangs from Bercy to downtown, I wonder how he will end, when he encounters the first gun), we need to define the purpose of such training. Doing so, for me, test cutting is not the main objective, at least cannot be so not for beginners.

So, I really hope, practitioners get a real training before they get a real blade and not before knowing anything of the way of the sword.

Please, be careful, I saw some really nasty cuts, practitioners did to themselfs, and my master swordsmaker doesn't like to make the Hali-sharpening for every other customer for such reasons.
hongdaozi

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Post by gchan » Sun Feb 03, 2008 12:22 am

I understand I overlooked the safety part big time and I take the criticism happily, but I think you are misunderstanding the whole point of the video. It was a test of the sword's durability not of my abilities to chop a sword into a block of wood...if you want to criticize my technique please critique my (poorly done) mat cutting not the wood chopping...

I also fail to see the need to bring up my nationality in this topic. Canadian axe? Snowman? Maybe I'm a bit young to say, but I didn't find that necessary at all.

I intend to continue to do test cutting videos and I would be extremely happy if someone like Mr. Rodell can pick me apart so I and others can continue to benefit. There aren't that many videos for him to critique. Unless of course the entire community is against this in which case I will make the videos and all future ones private.

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Post by taiwandeutscher » Sun Feb 03, 2008 2:40 am

I'm really sorry, if I offended you or anybody else. It was a guess anyway, the axe argument, with no bad intend, really. Maybe English as a foreign language made me use too strong worded phrases, sorry again.
Sure, go ahead and do what you like, who would care about my personal opinion anyway.
One point though, I wonder: How come, Scott came to a different conclusion testing the same sword? Do you thing they produce one good and another one baldy?
Did you think about the possibility that one might need certain abilities to really test and comment on a weapon?
Again, no bad intention, what so ever!
Happy Chinese New Year of the rat from Taiwan!
hongdaozi

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