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Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:53 pm
by Eric Madsen
Hi folks,

Some questions have come up regarding the Yang Family Saber that I hope some of you long-time practitioners might be able to shed some light upon.

First regards the poem that describes the movements. Where did it come from, was it created by the Yang Family?

Second, when did the Yang family change saber styles? Yang Jun has said, without certainty, that it changed sometime between Yang Jian Hou's later time and Yang Cheng Fu's early time... I've seen videos of Yang Zhen Ji doing saber with a more traditional looking saber, it was nearly identical to the current form. I also wonder why they changed.

Third, its shape is unique, like a cross between a Katana and western cavalry saber with a ring at the end. What is that ring for? I thought, perhaps, one could attach a lanyard to the ring to avoid being disarmed.

Any insight into these questions would be helpful. Thanks and peace.


Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:23 am
by Audi
Hi Eric,

These are excellent questions, and I wish I knew the answers.

Third, its shape is unique, like a cross between a Katana and western cavalry saber with a ring at the end. What is that ring for? I thought, perhaps, one could attach a lanyard to the ring to avoid being disarmed.

I think your reference to the Katana may have merit. Apparently, there is evidence that after the famous general Qi Jiguang suppressed Japanese pirates (Wo Kou) during Ming times, the katana was imported into China and copied as the Wo Dao. This form than morphed into the Miao Dao during Republican times, which would have corresponded to the late Yang Jianhou and early Yang Chengfu years. These swords seem to all be two-handed, however, the shape of the edge seems similar to our saber.

As for the ring, I think it may indeed be used as you suggest; however, the only evidence I have is the shape of other sabers, such as the Nan Dao, whose ring and guard seem similar to ours.

Take care,

Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:48 pm
by DPasek
While it is possible that the Yang family style saber (also used by Wu stylists) was derived from Japanese blades, the Chinese also has a long development of their saber styles and I thought that this style blade may have been a traditional Chinese type with different fittings (pommel and guard). The following is a quote from Thomas Chen regarding a Chinese saber (fourth one shown) modeling Japanese shapes, with the corresponding web site link:

This saber appears to be one of the several Imperial sabers, commissioned by Emperor Qianlong and by other high-ranking officials, and made by the Imperial Workshops, which have the ridged cross-section and 2 fullers, one short and one long, on both sides of the blade. They were most likely modelled after one specific type of Japanese sword blade design known as "naginata naoshi katana", which in turn was modelled after the Japanese naginata polearm.

The ring pommel seems fairly common on Republic era blades as shown on the following link:

Note that, although a few of the period photos show something attached to the ring, most did not use the ring for any attachments. Thus I would be reluctant to attribute anything more that stylistic preferences of the time to the use of the ring, although it is possible that it was occasionally used for something specific (cloth ‘flag’, lanyard attachment, for hanging on a wall for storage, etc.). Notice that some of the sabers in the period photos have more traditional guards, but some also have the ‘S-shaped” guard as found on the Yang family style saber.

The following compiles edited information posted by several experts in Chinese swords (e.g. Thomas Chen, Scott Rodell, and Phillip Tom):
The YANMAODAO (Goosequill saber) has a blade which is essentially straight up until the beginning of the backedge, at which point the cutting edge begins a gentle curve to a slightly upswept tip. Of all forms of peidao, it is stylistically the most archaic because its shape is so influenced by the zhibeidao of earlier times. The blade is straight until the curve begins around the centre of percussion. The center of percussion is the point on the blade with the least vibration on hard contact, the spot on the blade that transmits the most power to the target in a hard chop. This type of sword seems to have lost its popularity by the end of the 18th century.

The yanmaodao was designed to combine the best features of both the curved saber and straight sword. The arc of the cutting edge towards the point, as well as the thickness of the blade's back, enabled a swordsman to deliver more penetrating cuts than he could with the straight, double-edged jian. Yet the lack of curve for most of its length, plus the double-edged tip afforded by the back-edge, enabled him to execute both long thrusts and short "pointing" jabs that he would not be able to perform effectively with a more curved blade.

Surviving specimens and portrayals in art indicate that the yanmaodao was quite widely used in China from the Ming through the first half of the Qing. It appears to have lost popularity by the 19th cent., and is now little-known among students of martial arts. Perhaps the reason for its decline was that Chinese sword schools developed preferences for more specialized weapons, whose strong points fulfilled the needs of their particular fighting systems. In the world of swords, the design requirements for optimal cutting and thrusting efficiency are on opposite poles. A blade design that attempts to combine the attributes of sword and saber will achieve a "mid-range" versatility at the expense of the strong points at either end of the spectrum.

The willow-leaf saber or LIUYEDAO also made its debut during the Ming. It is characterized by a narrow but fairly stiff blade, tapering towards the point, and with a gentle curve which begins ahead of the forte. Generally, the blades are grooved and are provided with a backedge. The somewhat greater curve of the liuyedao makes it a better cutting weapon than the yanmaodao although it changes the balance sufficiently to make it less accurate for the thrust. It is characterized by the blade having a gentle curve throughout its length. The steepness of the curve increases as it moves towards the tip.

Liuyedao were perhaps the most widely-used sabers in Chinese history. Beginning in the Ming Dynasty, they became the sidearm of choice for military men in all branches of the service, and retained this status until the fall of the Qing in 1911. It is not difficult to understand this weapon's enduring appeal. The blade is well-suited for powerful, slashing cuts delivered either on foot or from the saddle. Its moderate arc makes it a usable thrusting implement as well.

Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:36 am
by Isaac888
Hi all,

Spoke to some of my See heng on the purpose of the rings and one logical answer was that the rings acts as a loud frightener during battle.instead of a basic swish.. It creates a very clinking noise when one swing the Dao.

On a lighter side, the rings were used to display the number if kill. One would get a key to slip into the rings when there is a hit. (kill)
Those keys will open charity belts during those times. Reward reward reward.
The lighter side of tai chi.

Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:37 pm
by DPasek
Hi Isaac,

The ring being talked about in the earlier posts is a pommel ring and is not loose, thus it does not make a sound. You can see a picture of the type of dao being referred to on the products page of the Yang family site: ... oved-saber


Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:27 am
by Isaac888
Dear Pasek,

Oh, that ring.
The simple analogy of that ring is that it is used to tie the red and green ribbon.
Why red and why green? god knows.
Maybe some clan uses these color to identify themselves and also a risk management thingi. They don't slash their own kind in battles.
As for red... it could be used for wiping blood (if the opponent's blood is red) and the green is to wipe your own sweat if you are afraid.
Need help here for the color code. It will help me and others to explain to the disciples of tai chi when we get thrown with this really difficult question of color code.

Bought the latest Dao from our school. Although it looks like stainless steel or electro-plated, it rusts at the normal area where there are contacts with the arm... sigh

Cheers and like Audi use to say.. take care.


p/s... any intention of joining the association?

Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 4:46 pm
by Bob Ashmore
This is all very interesting. I love to read the history about this kind of thing and seeing all the photos of the ancient sabers and the soldiers carrying the more recent style.
Fun stuff for the likes of us.
But for myself, and only myself, I know what I would use that HUGE, heavy brass ring on the end of my saber for beyond tying my flags to.
I would use it as a weapon against an armored opponent.
I know, when is the next time I'm going to meet an opponent in combat that is wearing armor?
For that matter, when is the next time I'm going to meet an opponent in combat while I'm armed with a saber?
Beyond that, when is the next time I'm going to be in combat at all?
None of these things are very likely. Fortunately these things just don't happen every day where I live.
I have long wondered myself what that ring was for.
My first thought: A counterweight.
So I experimented with that. I took the ring off an old saber that I bent beyond use (don't ask, it wasn't on purpose), then put the handle back on (hey, that's what gorilla glue was made for!).
Yep, it's definitely a counter weight. Just try to swing a Yang family style saber around without it.
Seriously, give it a try. The blade becomes heavy. Pretty fast too.
You have to use a lot muscle to keep that thing going.
But a smaller, solid brass knob would have done the same thing, without taking up all that real estate. I mean, you see that in the handles of other style Dao's.
So why the ring design on this one?
My second thought: Tie a lanyard to it.
That would work.
A hole drilled through the handle is a more traditional way to do that, without taking up any real estate. You don't really need the ring for that either.
After a while, I gave up with the thought of "Meh. Who cares? Time to practice."
While watching TV one day, I happened to bump into a special on Medieval Combat.
For the life of me, I cannot recall the name of it or what channel it was on. Sorry.
It was about a book written by a Medieval arming Master, that described arms, armor and the fighting techniques required for each of them.
Also about the art of siege warfare, and various other things they did back then. I really wish I knew what it was called...
Nope, it just isn't coming to me. If I remember, or find it (I've already done a quick Google search, I got nothing, well I did get a whole of bunch of links I'm now going to go read, but I digress) I'll repost with that information.
As I was enjoying the descriptions of the techniques for combat used by one who has only a sword against someone in full armor, it suddenly became crystal clear to me what that ring was most likely put on there to do.
You flip the saber over, hold it by the blade, and use the ring to bash your armored opponent into submission.
The show even had a sword Master from modern times, armed with only a sword, who took on an armored opponent using this technique.
It worked perfectly.
The pommel is a very efficient weapon to use against an armored opponent.
It acts like a mace, bashing against the armor and causing serious concussive injuries to the man in the armor.

Seeing that was all I needed. I said, "Oooooohhhhhhhhh. So that's it."

If I can remember what the heck that show was, I'll definitely repost and let y'all know.
Or if someone else knows, please let us know.
That's going to bug the heck out of me...

Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 1:56 pm
by DPasek
Isaac888 wrote:p/s... any intention of joining the association?


I suppose that you remembered from another thread (push-hands) that I mentioned that I was not an Association member. I am somewhat surprised that you asked but, no, I have no plans to join. I had taken some worthwhile seminars quite a long time ago from Yang Zhenduo (with Yang Jun) on both jian and dao, but I have never even learned their version of the bare hand form (or their push-hands, etc.). I am probably too outside of the box for membership to be appropriate. You can think of me as comparable to a Daoist recluse who lives somewhat outside of society by himself in the woods (not far from being an accurate description, despite modern life). I have been studying this art since 1979, before the Association even existed, and have many experiences outside of the conventions of any one school.

I am more interested in discovering the underlying principles of the art that unify all styles rather than focusing on one version of the art (although I do have personal preferences). While some could point out, correctly, that learning in depth with one version of the art (as Association membership may promote) allows followers to perhaps get a more complete understanding (learning an entire system) than someone who gets instruction in pieces from numerous varied sources, I also think that learning numerous versions of the principles also has valuable benefits. It may be a matter of circumstances or personality, but membership in the Association holds little interest for me.

While I had no intention of seriously studying any art other than Taijiquan, circumstances have allowed me to learn from Sifu Sam Chin and his art of ILiqChuan. Due to Sam’s ridiculously high abilities (which continue to improve!), and his amazing ability to put his knowledge (principles, philosophy, concepts, abilities) into an organized system that allows transmitting that knowledge to his students, I am a lifetime member of his organization. A plus is that ILiqChuan is essentially compatible with Taijiquan philosophy and principles!


Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:21 pm
by Isaac888
Hei Pasek,

I like your style. The Herman hermit of tai chi, the unsung supreme ultimate. In very fact joining the association is
Something like a rank and file society. Never in the history of tai chi does one encounter the ranking system unlike those
Hard form like tae kwon do with it's ITF and the WTF. Karate, etc.! Except recently.

I often wonder if the tai chi school too will someday split and becomes a few recognised bodies or societies. Like the ITF and the WTF. Every one would now want a huge chunck of the cake, and one might see two or three schools with the same
Chinese sir name along with given name. All claiment will stake it originality, it's superiority, it's capabilities, it,s authenticity and what not.

I am new in this teaching, spent the years in life putting bread on the table and making sure the kids gets the best of education. Then after 3 stents on three major arteries ( all three of them ) , it's time to slow down. Its time for tai chi.. Time to kick arse and forget about materialistic things.

But I like your style, wish I could spent more time for this thirst of a healthy living. I believe you would have discovered something from your long practice of mixed tai chi, taking the best and forgoing the superficial moves. Even as a hermit in this concrete jungle, will you part with what you have discovered to people who have interest in the teaching of this art and lead them to perfection. Not just practice practice practice blindly, but practice with the end in mind. What is the end?
What is the centre of the middle or the middle of the centre?

25 years ago, I had a teacher or situ who teaches the WU style tai chi, I went under his teaching for 5 years. Then the situ retired from the government service and bought a school with is pension and saving. However , this school was far from my home and that was the time I got married. Thus, the focus changed. No regrets,but if I had continued the practice for 25 years plus 5 years, I be I could push Audi with just a touch of my finger tip. Don't need to use the middle finger.

Can you part something with me if I beg of you to.



Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:44 am
by Isaac888
Oops.. After some soul searching and hard research , I found out that Iliq chuan has in place the ranking system. The highest rank will be the no. 10 and one will only achieve this "Elite" status by invitation only.
My friend are you the elusive or exclusive "Elite".

I called the centre in Malaysia when I found out that they have classes near my house. In fact , the school published in the net was just 2 par 5 from my house. If you are not a golfer, one par 5 is approx 600 yards.
Spoke to the grandson of the founder and his name is Andy. Grand sons seems to rule the world nowadays.
to cut the story short, the school near my house in Kota damansara never took off and I was told to wait for another opening soon.

Thank you Pasad for introducing the Iliq chua. Looking at the you tube, the art is kinda hard and soft. The pushing hand techniques looks and feels solid and fluid and powerful. I even notice a sword hanging in the back ground of one of the push hand session. Notice a guy with a pig tail name Jerry or something like that.
Wanted to give it a try. If Pasad swear by it, I must give it a try.

Thank you.


Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:46 pm
by DPasek
Hi Isaac,

I am unfamiliar with the founder’s grandson Andy, but you are fortunate to live so close to where you may be able to study the art of ILiqChuan. In Sifu Sam’s ranking system, there is only one person that has completed the system, and that person is the chief instructor of the Russian schools (Alex). I have not tested in Sam’s ranking system, but I am likely to be only a middling level practitioner (if I roughly compare myself to those in our school who have tested in the ranking system with Sam). We only get two visits from Sam each year although he also has several intensives at his home that people can also attend (some in our school have, as well as some having made a trip to Malaysia to get experience from the founder of the art), as well as workshops in other states and countries.

Both Taijiquan and ILiqChuan rely on understanding Taiji, the interaction between Yin and Yang, and both rely on the mental aspects (attention & awareness; listening & understanding). I wish you the best in your study of these two wonderful arts!

At present I do not think that there are any approved weapons training in ILiqChuan, although some individuals have been working with the possibilities of incorporating butterfly knives (and also possibly staff) into the system.


Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 4:36 pm
by Bob Ashmore
I found it!
The name of the show is, "Medieval Fight Book" and it was on NatGeo.
The man who wrote the book is named: "Talhoffer"
If you google that, you will find links to the show.
It's pretty awesome.

Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 2:30 pm
by Isaac888
Thanks Bob. Really enjoyed it.
This telhoffer guy is really good, bet he made a lot of money then. Provided, he has don king as his manager.

Cheers bro.

As Audinalwaysvsay.... Take care.


Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 12:15 pm
by Isaac888
Just came back from a business trip of 2,000 km. Still need to put bread on the table, what with the inflation rate and the children education. Guess another few stents insertion will take place before I retire.
Having the opportunity to zero into a you tube recommendation ( thank you so much) on the subject of the Dao pommel or ring, and it's uses, I feel that agility is more important than the heavy weight of the ring for bashing or sending the opponent to space with it. Looking at the 3 part you tube ( which was extremely interesting) for the Telhoffer guy and his numerous ideas like the tank driven by horses, the mechanical sentry (really cute) and the scuba gear, I feel that Telhoffer is just a great sales person. Holding the Dao on the cutting edge and hitting the armoured opponent with the trailing edge is just a weird idea when all one need to do with heavily armoured personel is sent him to all fours or flat on his back. Agility is the main offensive move here. Then you will need the mighty Thor! The god of thunder , his hammer to create the final blow.
Thus, a heavy edge Dao, will do the job without the need for the ring.

In the movie of Kuan Kong, (Chinese warrior and general of the army) his battle sword is said to be around 100 kattie.
Got to translate it to kilo gram or pounds. I guess it's around around 50 kg.
One slash, even the fragmented armoured will be fragmented even more with the torso of the opponent .

My apologie, if I have not contributed much to this forum. Always taking without giving. For I am not that learned to give.

But we are not Guan Kong, or the mighty Thor, we are David verses Golliath or Chen Man Ching verses some sumo wrestlers.
Anyway, I thank you for the kind input and the wonderful introduction of the Telhoffer video.

Like I say, I am a sibling (not trying to be humble because it's true) in this tai chi practice and had a sudden interest in the who, where, how of it.

Warmest regards. If you come to Malaysia, do let me know.


Re: Yang Family Dao Questions

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 5:06 pm
by Bob Ashmore
I know the feeling. I put in 40+ hours every week to put the beans and rice on the family table.
Then I teach Tai Chi Chuan in my spare time.
I don't think too may people have gotten rich off of teaching Tai Chi Chuan, unfortunately.
We're lucky if our little school breaks even. But I wouldn't give it up for the world.

This is only a theory, I think a good one, but it may not be the definitive answer. I freely admit that.
Still, I see no reason why the willow tail sabers ringed pommel could not be used this way, and quite effectively, using Tai Chi Chuan techniques.
Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan, at least, is clearly stated to be 50/50 yin and yang, not just all yin, so I can think of no reason not to use this technique.
Bashing someone with the business end of a staff is very similar to this technique, as are any number of vigorous strikes from both the sword and saber form, all we're doing is using the blunt end instead of the sharp, so it's hardly forbidden to our style to swing with some gusto.
But the blade end of the Yang family willow tail saber simply isn't heavy enough to be an effective weapon against armor plate, in fact I would submit that the slashing edge wouldn't do very much damage even against chain mail. It would bounce off all but the thinnest steel, without causing any damage to either the armor or the opponent inside. Unless you were lucky enough to drive the tip straight into a weak spot with enough force to pierce through, the blade end really wouldn't do you much good against armor. This bashing technique clearly gives you a usable weapon against your opponent in this scenario.
This weekend I wanted to test this out to see how it would work. So I swung my sabers ring end pommel against a mattress (I use an old mattress fastened to plywood for bashing on, it works better for me than a heavy bag because it doesn't just bounce out of the way and it gives you instant feedback) a few times, with very good results.
It has the flattened back edge on the blade, so there is plenty of space to grasp it firmly without risking injury to your fingers, and the resulting hit from the pommel delivers a crushing blow in the same fashion as if I was using a staff, but with a lot more "oomph" at the business end due to the weighting of the weapon. It's like swinging a long handled mace, the end is heavier than the handle, so the force is multiplied quite a bit at the end of the swing. If you issue using fajin the force is multiplied even further.
I was quite pleased, overall, with the results.
Admittedly, I don't have any armor to try this against so my results can't be exactly extrapolated to how this would work against steel. But I feel that this would work quite well from the little bit of testing I can do.

On the other hand, an ox tailed saber is designed specifically for the blade end to be effective against armor. Compare the two weapons and you will see that the heavier, thicker blade of the ox tail saber would cleave through all but the heaviest armor very effectively. This weapon would not need the larger ring on the end to be effective against an armored opponent.
Still, the method works. I happen to have an ox tailed saber, I also practice the Wu Chien Chuan style saber form, so I tried this technique with it.
It works fairly well.
The only problem is that the pommel presents a smaller striking edge, making the area of delivery much smaller, meaning you really have to aim well to hit your target. Also the blade is not as long and is nearly as heavy as the handle and pommel, so while the blow is still crushing it didn't give me the same intense feeling of "oomph" at the end.
I do believe that it would still do the job though, if necessary.
At the least it would stun the opponent long enough to turn the blade around and chop into a weaker area of his armor.
It wouldn't be my first choice of action with an ox tail saber against an armored opponent, but I would use the technique if I felt it was necessary.

All that said, I fully admit this may not be the original reason for the ringed pommel.
That pommel may have a use that I simply do not see or understand at this time.
I don't close my eyes to any useful technique that I find. I add it to my arsenal for use if the situation ever warrants it.

If anyone knows the real reason, or at least has a theory, for the ringed pommel please chime in.
I, at least, would love to hear it.
And if anyone has some armor plate to try this method against, let me know how that works for you too.