Test Cutting Rattan Shield

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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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by KyleyHarris » Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:50 pm

That is a good test. Its hard to imagine such things being good at blocking blades so well.
I wonder how difficult it would be to employ a similar test but using a Wooden dummy to hold the shield in some way that allows for movement on impact.

I would think that a shield on an arm wouldnt just sit still and would be used in a similar fashion to a parry when possible otherwise the arm is taking a lot of impact. The Soaking in oil may also harden the fibres in a way that made it better at deflection of the sword. When you bear in mind that the swords probably had very sturdy convexes so that any twist of the wrist holding the shield probably could make the blade bounce away quite well further enhancing the life of the shield.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:18 am

KyleyHarris wrote:That is a good test. Its hard to imagine such things being good at blocking blades so well.
When you consider how widely they were employed, I think we have to assume they worked quite well. Shield have several advantages over armor, they are cheaper to produce, any peasant who can make a basket can make one (so you don;t need teams of specialized craftsmen) & you don't over heat using a shield the way you do in full armor, a real plus in China's southern climates.

See the threads:
Tengpai: The Chinese Rattan Shield - viewtopic.php?f=15&t=754&hilit=Tengpai ,
Another shield done - viewtopic.php?f=15&t=956&hilit=Tengpai &
Saber and Shield - viewtopic.php?f=4&t=181&hilit=Tengpai
KyleyHarris wrote:... how difficult it would be to employ a similar test but using a Wooden dummy to hold the shield in some way that allows for movement on impact.
I'd like to use one of those free standing dummies, but they aren't cheap & there is a real chance of cutting it up. But the stand we used did shift & move some.
KyleyHarris wrote:... a shield on an arm wouldnt just sit still... a parry when possible otherwise the arm is taking a lot of impact...
That is certainly the case. I think that if the shield were being used properly, instead of just set up on a stand, it would have been damaged less.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by KyleyHarris » Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:40 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote: I'd like to use one of those free standing dummies, but they aren't cheap & there is a real chance of cutting it up. But the stand we used did shift & move some.
Thanks for the links.. Making a Tenpai seems like a mammoth undertaking, but I can see how the resiliancy of a flexible shield could work very well. Peter did an excellent job making those.


I have an idea for making a test dummy very cheaply. This idea is not an exact one, as any of the parts could easily be used for something similar or different.

It is very easy to find Cheap Broken office computer chairs. The ones that normally have 4 prongs with removable wheels and a full swivel base.
Its very easy to remove the Chair seating from the actual base, and remove the wheels to give a solid foundation. So.. first we have a cheap rotating swivel, that you can get for about $10 from a scrap dealer.

Next you buy a section of outdoor wood that its about 4x4" and cut a 5ft length. Again, not hard to bolt a 1" sheet of plywood to the base of the wood, and then bolt this to the swivel base in the same manner as the chair seat.

The next step is to bore some 1 1/4" holes through the 4x4 and different angles and heights that you can insert Bamboo or Dowels to create Arms.

If using the stand on grass you can use tent pegs through the holes where the wheels used to be to fix it down with stability. You can then Chop at the replaceable arms, and any shield or object tied to the arms.. This will give flex and movement to the cuts to help simulate it.

I've been giving this thought to build one myself :)

Any thoughts?
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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:33 am

I'd change a couple of things on that to not cut into a 4x4 hardwood pole damaging the sword.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by KyleyHarris » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:41 am

Nik wrote:I'd change a couple of things on that to not cut into a 4x4 hardwood pole damaging the sword.
Nik, Cutting into a 4x4 hardwood pole certainly should not damage the sword.. 1, as tested by Scott who impacts repeatedly on hard dead woods to make sure the blade is
structurally sound.. The purpose of the wood is to protect the blade.. This is the same reason I dont use Metal pipes for holding bamboo, but create a wood stand with a dowel to hold the bamboo.. steel on wood is fine.. steel on steel is not so fine. By the time you have hit the bamboo arms, bottle, or shield etc, a hit into the wood will not be at full power anyway.

I feel that Hardwood impacts is a valid and very good test of a sword. especially historically where shields and armour were made from boiled leather, waxed leather, wood, steel plate.. etc. etc.. Hitting wood should be par for course, and any sword that cannot handle that is not a sword.

Other than that.. What exactly would you change? that is the point of raising the idea to investigate improvement and thoughts.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:43 am

Not everyone is a master at hitting, so some people might go for hard whacks on the melon and accidentally hit the wood in not so nice an angle. If it is non-commercial, why not use some funny thing like a plastic bottle in a tight hole in that wooden pole, so if people miss, they just cut the bottle. You can also take that bottle for a neck. :)

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by KyleyHarris » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:01 am

Nik wrote:Not everyone is a master at hitting, so some people might go for hard whacks on the melon and accidentally hit the wood in not so nice an angle. If it is non-commercial, why not use some funny thing like a plastic bottle in a tight hole in that wooden pole, so if people miss, they just cut the bottle. You can also take that bottle for a neck. :)

Haha.. my friend.. I think you have taken that picture a little too literally.. I would NEVER waste a watermelon.. so expensive. hehe..

4x4 is actually very small.. the picture is oversized for ease of viewing.. the average 1.5 litre coca-cola bottle is about 4" wide.. I think.. anyone making this idea, can make it to suit their needs and skill..

I was thinking more of attaching targets on the head, arms etc.. even Chopping off the bamboo arms.. You could put ricemats and bamboo arms at more realistic angles.. not just up and down.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:34 am

I think 4x4 means in inches, so it would be 10cm x 10cm, right ? That should be pretty solid, if hardwood.

A friend of mine has made such a dummy for the Kendo practice of another friend. It had a mechanical arm that could hold a Shinai in a proper angle. We are also thinking about a suspension, like a strong spring.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:57 am

Nik wrote:Not everyone is a master at hitting...
Actually you bring up an important point Nik. This kind of test cutting described above should not be undertaken by novice practitioners. As I have said before, I am greatly encouraged by the resurgent interest in test cutting, especially within the Chinese Martial Arts World, but the way people are going at it, it is just a matter of time before there is a serious injury (that's one reason why I wrote my How-To book on Test Cutting). Before anyone begins cutting into targets that simulate a real person, in or out of armor, that moves, he or she should have many hours in polishing all the basic cuts to stable soft, then hard targets. And everyone, regardless of skill level & experience should always be mindful of the dangers involved & place safety first.

In regards to the Kyley's proposed design, I think the wheel would make it move a little too easiest & without a wide enough base, it might just fall over. Hanging the rig, like a punching bag, might work?

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:13 am

WIth enough mass, probably. Better make the foot a large enough X, and have enough mass on the foot (with a simple bag of sand) so it's not top heavy. If the center of weight is low enough, and the foot wide enough, it should not fall.

BTW, people should also not overestimate the strength of their wrists. With my elbow damage, the architecture doesn't work as "designed" anymore, "simulating" for me the effect of weak hands and wrists. Although I was once very strong, I cannot hold the sword properly anymore, especially on outward movements. So, beginners HAVE to expect that they will lose the sword out of their hands on bad hits with an angle that puts too much load on their wrists. This means, you NEED to wear protective gear that prevents a sword rotating through the air after you lose it from cutting into your biceps or throat (arteries there = potentially lethal).

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by KyleyHarris » Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:30 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote:
Nik wrote:Not everyone is a master at hitting...
Actually you bring up an important point Nik. This kind of test cutting described above should not be undertaken by novice practitioners. As I have said before, I am greatly encouraged by the resurgent interest in test cutting, especially within the Chinese Martial Arts World, but the way people are going at it, it is just a matter of time before there is a serious injury (that's one reason why I wrote my How-To book on Test Cutting). Before anyone begins cutting into targets that simulate a real person, in or out of armor, that moves, he or she should have many hours in polishing all the basic cuts to stable soft, then hard targets. And everyone, regardless of skill level & experience should always be mindful of the dangers involved & place safety first.

In regards to the Kyley's proposed design, I think the wheel would make it move a little too easiest & without a wide enough base, it might just fall over. Hanging the rig, like a punching bag, might work?
As to the wheels.. completely unstable.. i just didn't want to edit too much.. So I recommended, removing the wheels and using tentpegs or some other fixture.

I agree about safety, but too much concern with safety is also a detriment to learning a skill. You must exhibit a level of confidence in yourself to train well. Trepidation creates wavering hands. There must be a good balance between simulation, and realism. In real-life, the average soldier in War, be it WW1 WW2, or historic wars, had often next to no experience or training due to conscription. They were handed their weapon.. told to swing it at the enemy, and then pushed to the front. This is a reality of history that on a personal level I am sure no one wants to repeat. Safety is important. No one wants to get hurt... but getting hurt is a reality that one should accept when taking on the study of swordsmanship. The actual knowledge and fear of the edged weapon plays an important part in how the forms are created, and how we respond to attack (from the opponent or our own blade) Being mindful of the blade, and obvious concerns is a great idea, but you cannot protect yourself from everything and actually be training in swordsmanship.

Boxers train to take blows because if they didn't, then no matter how good they get the first real blow would take them down.

This is where wooden swords come heavily into play in my opinion. In my younger days I used a bokken often for endurance and sparring. using a wooden bokken, or Jian (of quality hardwood) and practicing hard cuts at a wooden object is essential to building up arm endurance and shock training. I feel its very important in the same way a wooden dummy is used in chinese arts for training endurance of arm and feet, a similar scenerio is important for impact training of a sword. One should practice their forms against immutable targets and analyse their form. What happens when you cannot Flow cleanly from one form to another? How do you react? what form can you change to?

Nik is speaking about loosing the sword, or slipping etc.. These are all accidents that often happen because people are too comfortable cutting through 1" sticks, and waterbottles. when they attack an immutable object and suffer sudden shock.. the wrist, the fingers, and the forearms have not learnt to accept this shock and hold a sword. Strength conditioning of the arms, wrists and fingers is very important. Attacking hard objects with increasing force is very good for this. its also a very good method of testing technique. if you hit a hard block of wood with your wooden sword and you are hurting your wrists and fingers then you are holding the blade incorrectly.. or the angle of the strike is not correct. it could be that because you are not striking with the COP then too much shock is travelling through the body.

So actually, I have to agree that using a live blade on targets like this is not a good idea for a first timer.. but neither is a live blade on lite objects.. the first step I feel to cutting practise is to create a level of impact and strike endurance and handling deflection at power with a wood blade so that you instinctively protect your core and extremeties from accidents.. these are all things real sword users had to train for.

My opinion is that if you are serious about historic and accurate swordsmanship then you do need to become quite adjusted to the fact that your cuts may well just hit something rock hard.. it happens in real life.. you miss a target, or you are parried, and you hit a wall or a tree... if you cannot take these impacts and shocks and continue your form then you will be cut down. The other great advantage to using a wooden sword to train hard impact blows (Wearing safety glasses is a very good idea) is that you become very adjusted to the feeling of a deflected cut, and you can train your responses to safely recover. This is my biggest problem with training on fixed targets. They do test the sword, and they do test the cutter and your angles.. but this is not going to happen often in real life.. you cannot stand still and focus and cut at someone.

Well.. Thats my thoughts for now.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by KyleyHarris » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:39 pm

Nik wrote:WIth enough mass, probably. Better make the foot a large enough X, and have enough mass on the foot (with a simple bag of sand) so it's not top heavy. If the center of weight is low enough, and the foot wide enough, it should not fall.
I agree a low centre of mass is an excellent idea. You can get chair stands that are only a few inches off the ground. this photo was just 1 example. you can also weight it as you said, but you do not want long support beams that you trip on.
Nik wrote: BTW, people should also not overestimate the strength of their wrists.
True, as I just posted. people should actually develop that strength.. you dont run a marathon without building up.. neither should you hit objects with a long item without first building up impact strength by doing hitting
Nik wrote: So, beginners HAVE to expect that they will lose the sword out of their hands on bad hits with an angle that puts too much load on their wrists. This means, you NEED to wear protective gear that prevents a sword rotating through the air after you lose it from cutting into your biceps or throat (arteries there = potentially lethal).
I absolutely disagree. The Japanese, and Westerners, Today and Past have been practising tamashigiri without any form of armor or protection. There is very little if EVER any injuries. This is because they are taught to respect the sword, and respect the target. The issue is one of intelligence rather than safety here. When a sword snaps the projectile flies away from the body. the risk is to observers.. Splinters may fly at you, so Eyewear is useful. As to loosing the sword from your hand.. Unlikely at best unless you really have no practical experience ever.. Most people could be given a baseball bat and be told to swing hard at a concrete wall.. They will not drop or loose their grip on the bat UNLESS they suffer surprise or shock from the impact force.. this is Startlement.. The only other consideration to cutting is making sure the handle is not too large.. if its too large then you use too much finger strength to hold it. even with my large hands, I feel my Hanwei Jian with wrapping is has too much volume at the centre for a secure grip which makes the leather wrap more necessary. Again.. Impact Testing with hard wood, and Wooden swords will test, and strengthen and inure the body to the rigors of cutting.. it will also make the actual act of cutting hard objects a lot easier. The biggest issue with cutters of Bamboo who have been doing soft targets is that they are not secure in the form and grip because you dont need to be for cutting a bottle.. When you learn to hold your pose, and grip with an impact to a tree such as Scott does with his Sword test, then performing the same action against bamboo is like going through a bottle.. its all a matter of practise, and degree.

Anyone like you, who suffers from an injury or other issue should have been doing impact endurance and strengthening well before ever handling a steel weapon. You cannot protect people from a Darwin Award, but you can enlighten them to the correct process to build up skills. I would also say, that if there is EVEN A REMOTE risk that you think you will drop your sword then targeting a hard object is much safer.. FAR HIGHER damage is caused from people on the return swing after a cut where they lop their own knees off. from releasing a blade into their own body.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Nik » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:40 am

BTW, that's a reason why I made heavy-contact ready blunt swords - I was trained hitting leather-wrapped heavy chains with just the front inch of an unsharpened sword. That develops an ultimate sense for distance, said shock you described, and you feel bad hits from the way the sword bends. However, back then I was hitting away 3-pointers just from my fingers, and now I am glad when one out of 4 somehow falls in from close shots. The stability and precision in my right hand is completely gone.

Oh, I see, you mean you cannot lose the sword on cutting practice, since you penetrate the target anyways. You're right, I was thinking of heavy hitting with blunts on practice targets that won't give way. It's btw a good idea to think of protecting your legs against contact to them on the swing-out. A cutting-resistant woodwork trouser is $70 or so, and it can prevent the most ugly scenarios.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by KyleyHarris » Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:53 am

Nik wrote:BTW, that's a reason why I made heavy-contact ready blunt swords - I was trained hitting leather-wrapped heavy chains with just the front inch of an unsharpened sword. That develops an ultimate sense for distance, said shock you described, and you feel bad hits from the way the sword bends. However, back then I was hitting away 3-pointers just from my fingers, and now I am glad when one out of 4 somehow falls in from close shots. The stability and precision in my right hand is completely gone.

Oh, I see, you mean you cannot lose the sword on cutting practice, since you penetrate the target anyways. You're right, I was thinking of heavy hitting with blunts on practice targets that won't give way. It's btw a good idea to think of protecting your legs against contact to them on the swing-out. A cutting-resistant woodwork trouser is $70 or so, and it can prevent the most ugly scenarios.
Contact blunt swords are a good idea. a bokken or other one for about $50 is just a good way to build arm strength and shock training without cost or a loss of money. The style of blade is less important as this is more a physical training exercise.. The Cold Steel bokken makde of poly-something.... could be good. less likely to crack or splinter.

I am sorry to hear about the injury to your hand.. I myself have been combating Shoulder injury when a car drove infront of my motorcycle. I broke my right femur and my right shoulder impacted the road very hard. So rotational work is quite difficult.. sometimes things are good.. sometimes I get a flinching pain that I just have to suffer through on some cuts...

Yes.. sorry.. I did mean that you wont loose the sword from cutting.. on blunts with impact training you can certainly numb your hand to the point of a drop if you lack experience and impact too hard.. but this is where attacking with the centre of percussion is important so that you are not reverberating through your hand.. Also why I prefer wood for this rather than steel, as this is purely resistance training to me.

Kevlar lined pants are also very very good.. Motorcycle stores often have double lined jeans with Kevlar liners that can slow stuff down.. although kevlar is more abrasion resistant than cut resistant.

Hitting your knee, or foot, is also to me an issue with standing straight and cutting at a target. In real life you simply dont do this. you move in and out of defense and attack. When striking from the right to left you normally result in the left leg to the rear, and no matter how you sweep the blade it shouldn't impact your own body.

I have personally no particular Tai Chi skill.. but I love chinese arts, and swords. my experience is more in Aikido and western sword practise that I blend together. But in all Tai Chi sword demonstrations I watch you can see clear direction and unity between the sword, the hand, and the feet. The blade is at one with the body mechanics.. This is vastly different from standing still and attacking and immobile target... Moving to the target as though its a real person is Much HARDER.. but also safer because the form protects your own body.

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Re: Test Cutting Rattan Shield

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:09 pm

Nik wrote:BTW, that's a reason why I made heavy-contact ready blunt swords - I was trained hitting leather-wrapped heavy chains with just the front inch of an unsharpened sword...
Another way one can train striking with a weapon & get use the associated shock is by strike a spare car that is either hung from a rope or mounted on a stand. Any old wooden dowel will be fine for such conditioning training if one doesn't want to mar the surface of nice wooden practice sword.

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