Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

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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Scott M. Rodell
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Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:52 pm

Next weekend I'm teaching out in Bozeman, MT, including Test Cutting, & a new Yin Long Jian just arrived from Zhengwu, so I thought, might as well get in some warm up practice...

I'll do a through Product Review of the Yin Long Jian when I return, but in brief, it handles nicely with a very lively feel in the hand, & cuts well. I went thru dry 2" diameter bamboo with no trouble leaving hardly a mark on the blade.

In reference to Chinese Historical Swordsmanship, what I found that was interesting, was how what might seem like a small amount of weight, made a significant difference in my cutting effectiveness. I started off cutting various thickness bamboo stalks with the Yin Long Jian, using pi, liao & duo cuts. These gave me no trouble & this jian performed well. When I moved on to cutting mats with a bamboo core (caoren) with liao cuts, I was finding that I wasn't quite getting all the way thru.

Wondering whether it was my technique or something different about the jian compared to others I was use to, I took out my Huanuo Royal Peony Jian. With that jian I went thru the caoren with room to spare.

The Yin Long Jian weighs in at 1 lb. 15 oz. (878 g.) & my Huanuo Royal Peony Jian weighs 2 lbs. 3 oz (999 g.). That's only 4 oz. (121 g.) difference.

What this tells me is not whether a certain weight is better than another, but how use to a certain weight one becomes. Since the Yin Long Jian is much closer to the historical average weight for jian, I feel certain that it could cut the caoren every bit as well as the heavier Huanuo jian. But training has taught me just how fast I need to move the Huanuo jian to cut a heavier target & still maintain control. When I moved to the slightly lighter Yin Long Jian, I was not moving it fast enough to cut all the way thru the thicker target. I expect those going the other way, from a using a lighter weight jian to a heavier one would encounter different corrections they would need to make, particularlly watching that they do not over swing or pull a ligament.

Those interested in this topic might also like to read the thread:
Test Cutting Assumptions

viewtopic.php?t=170&sid=0f39d30fe889b2d ... f1e9277ec3

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other variables

Post by Philip Tom » Tue Aug 21, 2007 12:46 am

Besides the gross weight, how do the (1) blade length and (2) point of balance compare on the two swords? I would imagine that a weapon that's balanced further out towards the tip is going to be a more aggressive cutter, over and beyond the issue of weight alone.
Phil

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Re: other variables

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:46 am

Philip Tom wrote:... how do the (1) blade length and (2) point of balance compare on the two swords?...
Here are some specs for the two jian mentioned above -

Zhengwu Yin Long Jian
879 g. total weight
Blade Length: 76.5 cm. (30.25")
Thickness at forte: 7 mm.
Thickness at mid-blade: 5 mm.
Thickness at 8 cm. from tip: 3 mm.

HCR of spine at bend: between 40-45

Huanuo Royal Peony
999 g. total weight
Blade Length: 76.5 cm. (30.25")
Thickness at forte: 7 mm.
Thickness at mid-blade: 6.75 mm.
Thickness at 8 cm. from tip: 5.7 mm.

As you can see, the weight is the only real difference between these two jian. And as I suspected after the cutting practice session discussed above, all I need to do was adjust the speed of my cuts to cut as well with the Yin Long Jian as I do with the Royal Peony Jian. I did this cutting last week & cut with the same proficiency with both swords.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by edzz » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:23 pm

I have a problem, my sword is very heavy , it's hard for me to carry.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Nik » Sat Feb 13, 2010 7:01 am

Actually, I have a lot of ??? going on in my mind seeing the inflation of weight to the 1000g mark on onehanded jian, when I remember the numbers for historical jian on the old sword forum end of the 90s, with an average at the 760g mark (I remember something like a span of 660-880g, with the 880g being exceptionally heavy and rare).

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by B.Ko » Sat Feb 13, 2010 12:27 pm

Garrett Chan of Jin Shi Swords has commented that many of the modern fittings seem thicker and heavier than the ones on at least the antiques I own.

Could be chicken/egg effect, either initially modern blades too heavy...heavier fittings to balance or now since fittings heavy, need heavier blade to balance.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Nik » Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:52 pm

This is exactly one of my ideas. The other is, thicker blade = more "flesh" to correct problems after hardening.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Linda Heenan » Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:49 pm

Nik, I have only one antique jian. It's a really beautiful piece and has antique fittings. It weighs just over a kilo, so they really did exist at the heavier weight. There is a good picture of the blade here http://www.chinese-swords-guide.com/anc ... inese.html
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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Nik » Sat Feb 13, 2010 5:05 pm

I remember you saying that, but what troubles me is that the average doesn't seem to bother the producers, so the heavier the better. I don't have anything against other makers producing swords of 1100, 1200, 1300 grams, as long as the combined voices of those don't create the impression that this is the norm. But this is exactly what is happening.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:25 am

Nik wrote:... I don't have anything against other makers producing swords of 1100, 1200, 1300 grams, as long as the combined voices of those don't create the impression that this is the norm. But this is exactly what is happening.
Well said, we are still suffering from "dojo lore" in the Chinese martial arts. I can't tell you the number of times I've had a client call looking for a type of Chinese sword than doesn't exist. When I tell them that, the typical response is something like, "But that's the official sword of our style." To which I respond with the queries, "Does you teacher have one like that?', answer no; "Have you ever seen a period photo of one?', answer no; "Do you, your teacher or anyone you know in you school own or ever handled an Antique Chinese sword?", answer no. Yet they called certain of the history & form of Chinese swords. Once I explain that I've handled over 3000, they usually start listening... All we can do is be patient & keep doing what we can to get the word out here & there.

As for the question about sword weight & cutting efficiency, it is mass X velocity that we are after. A really, really, fast, very light sword (think car antenna) won't cut well As neither will an extremely heavy & slow one, which would also be slow in response to a duifang's attacks. The optimum range for a single handed cutting sword's weight is 750 to 850 grams. This is assuming we are speaking of unarmored combat. Keep in mind, that even if one is strong enough to swing a heavier sword, one still has to be able to control the edge angle. Striking a hard target without the proper edge angle will result in the sword bouncing off the target regardless of the weapon's weight.

From an historically swordplay point of view, one would also be employing a sword that was not only heavy enough to do the job, but also light enough to fight with for more than a few cuts. It would obviously be better to use a lighter sword that didn't cut as deep but didn't wear you out, than a heavy weapon that delivered devastating cuts but one could not wield long enough or fast enough to deal with all the attackers one faced.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Nik » Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:16 am

That basically sums up my position. Speed is a determining factor, the weight only has to be enough to make the blade sturdy enough to not fold or break easily, and build enough momentum to cut through the desired target. It would be impossible to penetrate a heavy steel plate armor, so you wouldn't even try to attack such a fighter with a one handed cutting sword. But it's possible to penetrate leather armor and to a certain degree wood, so that would be within the purpose of such a weapon.

One of the deciding factors in cutting is also the balance. A couple of millimeters forth or back around the 6" mark make a huge difference. You get a faster sword with a bit more forward accent, heavier on cuts, but it also generates more torque to withstand on misses and on directing. But in the end, the art of handling the one handed sword is exactly in that, use your body to move the sword swiftly but with power.

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by J HepworthYoung » Fri Apr 16, 2010 8:46 am

I wonder how this information would relate to the average weight and cutting aspects of smaller, shorter jian?

Laoshi, have you done such test cutting with shorter swords as well?

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:14 pm

J HepworthYoung wrote:... how this info... relate to the average weight and cutting aspects of smaller shorter jian?

... done... test cutting with shorter swords...l?
Paul Champagne made a duan jian for my son with a blade about 24" long by cutting down & reshaping a bit a Zheng Wu Jian. I've cut with it a bit & used it for form work, as a change of pace. Naturally, it is easier to control than a longer blade & you can accellerate a lighter blade like this more quickly into the cut. For lighter target materials, such as bamboo less than 2" in daiamter, I didn't find it difficult to cut with. I haven't tried it on a single mat or thicker bamboo as of yet, but I'm tempted to think that I might be able to make up for the lesser weight by the increases speed I can get out of this jian. I would note that many QIng duan jian I've owned were close to 2 pounds, so it appeared that the owner went for adding weight given that the short length made that weight easier to handle.

Regardless, overall I would say it is an interesting practice to use duan jian for cutting & form work at least some of the time, as they were widely carried for personal protection durng the mid- to late Qing (as is evidenced by the large number of antique examples we encounter from this period).

Okay, off to the Sword Festival this weekend in Sydney, finished my seminars here in the Blue Mountains...

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by Nik » Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:51 am

Have a nice journey, I hope my prototypes arrive in time, and you enjoy them. :)

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Re: Sword Weight & Cutting Efficiency

Post by KyleyHarris » Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:53 pm

Dear Scott,

The Weight of my Hanwei Jian is about 980Grams +/-

I am interested in how the weights of the fittings were determined from your analysis of historical blades and fittings.

The Casting for the guard seems quite heavy relative to the pommel casting weight.

My Question is based on the following thoughts.

Given a required POB of (x) inches infront of the hand position we need to use the weights of the pommel and guard, and the tang and handle itself to set the POB against the length and weight of the sword. The closer we set the shifting mass (Guard /pommel) to the desired POB the greater the weight must be for the desired POB to stay in the same position.

So.. I guess my point is for Every 1gram of weight reduction from the Guard Casting, we need to add less than 1gram to the Pommel casting to maintain the same POB on the blade. It can be quite a dramatic change, say 80-100grams.

The adjustment of the weight from Forward of hand to rear of the hand lightens the blade and changes the handling properties. From this perspective, taking my same Jian, and casting a pommel from a heavier material, or more solid material, and a guard from a lighter one could drop the overall weight to around 900grams and maintain all the same/similar handling characteristics.. the main difference I think is that you get less momentum from the lighter weight behind the cut.

I'm wondering if any investigation of this has been done across the wide range of blades you have handled and would love to hear your thoughts on this.

regards
Kyley

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