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Dao form variations

PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 3:59 pm
by Marc Heyvaert
Hello all,

As this is my first post to this board I would like to introduce myself briefly.

I'm from Belgium and I have been practicing taijiquan for some time. Mostly I do modern forms, but I try to study the traditional Yang style ever since I bought a Yang Zhenduo / Yang Jun video with the 103-form on it. Unfortunately most of the teachers that pretend to do traditional Yang style over here do not offer the quality of instruction that I want, so I try to get by on my own... I also teach (try to) but only modern stuff. I have also a website with as main objective making info about taijiquan available in dutch. I is quite popular with the dutch speaking community here in Belgium and of course in the Netherlands.

Now back to my topic...

I have been studying the Dao form for the last year or so (thanks for the great articles and dsicussion about the translation of the song!!) and I wonder if this form -as it is presented today by Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun- has been simplified during the course of history, or has been embellished by others?

The reason why I ask is because I bought a VCD a while ago by a guy called Ding Shuide (supposed to be in the lineage of Niu Chunming=>Yang Chengfu) and the form he is showing is different and yet the same. Meaning that the overall structure is similar to the 'Saber Form 13 Posture Poem' but a lot of movements have been added and the other movements are very flowery.

I'm currently uploading clips of this form to my website, pls have a look. The complete clip is 14MB long, but I posted two shorter clips (beginning and end) of 4MB and 2MB respectively.

The link is :

Thanks for your opinion.



PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 6:06 pm
by Wushuer
Hi, welcome to the discussion forum.
I have no knowledge of the Yang family broadsword (dao) form history. I have seen it once or twice, but not ever studied it.
I am currently in the process of training the Gim form, or sword form, of the Yang family and am having quite enough fun with that without dragging the broadsword form into it yet.
I just wanted to say that this is a very nice video clip!
Very clear footage of the form this gentleman learned from Yang Cheng Fu (if I'm reading your lineage correctly).
I can say that there are quite a few elements in this form that are similar to the Dao form of the Wu family, which I have studied in depth.
If this is similar to the current Yang family Dao form, then I'll be pretty happy when I get to learning their form as it will be somewhat familiar to me.
Thanks for posting the link to this video. I've watched it twice already, I like the way the gentleman in the video moves, very smooth.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 6:56 pm
by JerryKarin
Yes, like you say there are a lot more moves to this form than the one taught by Yang Zhenduo or Fu Zhongwen. There is also a good deal of moving the sabre around, particularly at the end of movements, which is absent from the form the Yangs teach. It does look to me like both forms had a common ancestor. The performance was pretty nice, I think. That guy clearly has some gongfu. Yang Jun tends to show a bit more fajing in his sabre performance, and you can observe his sabre tip oscillate in a way that is very difficult to reproduce when you try it yourself!

PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 7:03 pm
by JerryKarin
Very nice website, by the way!

PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2004 7:40 pm
by Marc Heyvaert

Thanks for the compliment about the website Image

As for the performance of Ding Shuide, I have mixed feelings. I have bought several VCD's from him. The handform is very close to the form of Yang Zhenduo. The dao form is very different, but interesting.

Just an example. In 'Er Qi Jiao Lai Da Hu Shi' or 'Double legs arising come and Strike the tiger pose.' You have probably noticed that Ding Shuide performs a double kick (scissor movement of the legs) which sticks better to the formula IMHO.

It is difficult to judge form just one video, but I feel that the performance of Ding Shuide has less 'focus' and precision than the one by Yang Jun that I have here (the DVD series). I have done some external dao forms - I know it is *not* taiji Image - and the position of the blade is not always correct IMO, but as I said, difficult to judge from a video.

Nevertheless all feedback concerning knowledge about (deliberate) simplification or embellishments are very welcome.


PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 6:02 am
by Yury Snisarenko
Greetings Marc,

I visited your site sometimes in the past. I was very fascinated by Yang Zhenduo's clip that you had. Is it possible to make it accessible for a while again?

Thank you


[This message has been edited by Yury Snisarenko (edited 09-09-2004).]

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 6:03 pm
by Marc Heyvaert

Strange, I thought I had posted a reply to this msg this morning, but it's not there. So I assume I did something wrong Image

Anyway, the clips that I have from YZD are from the VCD's from the Zuhai meet a couple of years ago. They can still be bought. I got mine from Jarek's site.

I have 2 ready to post. One where YZD explains the mechanics of Brush knee twist step (8MB), the other is about turning into 'dan bian' (15MB). As I'm a bit short on space and bandwidth for the moment, I will post the first one now and the second in a week or so. This is not strictly about weapons forms, so I'll post the link on the barehand form section.


PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 10:37 pm
by Audi
Greetings Marc,

Welcome to the board! I know nothing about the evolution of the Sabre Form, but Eo Omwake sells a sabre video that shows yet another variation. His form also seems to have additional postures, but the flavor seems much closer to what Yang Jun teaches. I talked about this video some time ago, but can no longer find the reference.

Take care,

PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 10:11 am
by Marc Heyvaert

I have found a clip on the internet of a (German) guy who performs the Yang style Dao-13 form. It is on this page :

(Click the 13er Sabelform -link)

No mistake possible, it is the same form as taught by YZD and YJ! But clearly learned from someone else Image.

Although I find some of the variations interesting, IMHO it is a clear example of how a form can degenerate quickly into something that violates a lot, if not all taiji-principles and probably some other general sword principle too. But I'm curious to hear what you think of this performance.



PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2004 5:02 pm
by Audi
Hi Marc,

My skill level with the saber is rather limited, but I had a positive impression of the clip. The practitioner seems to settle his Qi quite well throughout the form and keep his body very unified, expecially in forward thrusting movements. Most of his curves seem very smooth, as well.

The sequence of the form seems very similar to what I recall of Eo Omwake’s saber video. It appears to have many of the extra cuts and changes in directions. I have difficulty, however, matching up all the movements to the precise words and rhythm of the Saber Formula. I don’t know if it is because of my lack of familiarity with this version of the form or because the Saber Formula corresponds to different version.

I again wonder about the exact lineage of this variation and what came from what. I explored the site fairly closely and could not find any descriptions of lineage and only one reference that implied that the Taijiquan presented stemmed from Yang Chengfu.

One aspect of his form that I do wonder about is the length of the pauses he uses. Perhaps he uses these to emphasize some Fajin. These pauses are not evident in his performance of the bare hand form shown on the same site. I wonder about this because I think that Yang Jun wants the Saber to show even more flowing movement than the barehand form. I do note that in the practitioner’s barehand performance, he shows some extra articulation just before planting his forward foot and when changing waist rotations in some transitions. Perhaps, these characteristics arise from the same aims.

I also wonder about the practitioner's “chopping” and “splitting” movements. I have great trouble with this and am never quite happy with how I do them. On the video, the practitioner seems to stop the saber somewhat differently from what I do. As I think about it, his weapon also seems to be the standard broadsword, rather than the special straighter and slimmer saber that Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun use. I think the special saber is something Yang Chengfu came up with. Perhaps the difference in the practitioner's movements relates to differences in the weapon itself.

Marc, what characteristics of the practitioner’s form differ from what you do or what you would advocate?

Take care,

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 2:22 pm
by Marc Heyvaert
Hello Audi,

I have already replied to your last message, or at least I thought I did but I can't see my answer here. Strange...and it is already the second time that this happens on this board.

My answer was rather long (probably way too long Image ). Basically I wanted to make the following points.

1. I think it is essentially the same form as the one taught by YZD, although their seem to be a small number of extra movements in it, or extra techniques that are shown, whereasin the YZD-version they remain perhaps hidden. On the other hand, some things make more sense in this version. Example: 'Er Qi Jiao Lai Da Hu Shi', where this version shows a double kick (scissors), so I effectively 'see' two legs arising...

2. From the website I gather that the guy demo-ing is called Daniel Roga. Having yourself put on film is courageous. To be honest I'm not sure I would do this. I have some pictures of myself on my website and I have experimented with video, but for the moment pictures is as far as I will go.. Image
Now, although some stuff is ok, I have some problems with some of his stances and some of the 'robotic' movements. I think there is still a long way to go in relaxation and 'opening' of joints, 'sitting' into a position, etc. But I admit it is only based on what I see on film.

Some techniques look strange to me and lack the circular, fluid motion that one finds in Yang Jun's rendering of this form. Example : 'Bai He Liang Chi Wu Xing Zhang' I miss the circular drawing back and rising of the dao. Here the dao is brought up (to parry?) in a almost vertical line, the point is going absolutely nowhere. IMHO the circular movement here is most important because it ensures that there is enough momentum to make the technique really work, i.e. enabeling you to parry a heavy blow down, or really 'rolling' under a sprear or cudgel attack. Also making large circles gives you additional protection, as you draw a 'protective circle' around the weak and vulnerable parts of your body. Al this is present in the form, but hardly shown here.



PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 8:10 pm
by DPasek
Audi wrote:
<<As I think about it, his weapon also seems to be the standard broadsword, rather than the special straighter and slimmer saber that Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun use. I think the special saber is something Yang Chengfu came up with. Perhaps the difference in the practitioner's movements relates to differences in the weapon itself.>>

These statements contain many commonly held misconceptions (some of which I used to share). The "standard broadsword" has become the dao type typically associated with Chinese martial arts, but it was never included in the Imperial lists of weapons and was thus not used by troops at least through the Qing Dynasty. This 'ox-tail' dao (niuweidao) apparently only started showing up around the mid-1800's and was possibly developed by civilians for use by relatively untrained members of the 'secret martial societies' of the period. The added mass at the tip enhances chopping, slashing and sweeping/swinging techniques which require less training to be effective so that users could use it without years of serious training.

On the other hand, the "special straighter and slimmer saber" is the standard dao blade used by Imperial troops for centuries (Ming & Qing Dynasties) and is not a "special saber" that "Yang Chengfu came up with." This 'willow-leaf' dao (liuyedao) has much better thrusting properties than the 'ox-tail' dao while still having chopping/slashing properties, making it a more versatile weapon but also one that requires a higher level of training to use properly. The hand guard and pommel, however, are not the imperial standard. The use of the big ring for the pommel seems to have become popular by at least the 'Boxer Rebellion' and the 'S-shaped' guard (possibly influenced by contact with Western military?) seems to have appeared around the same time, possibly with the symbolic meaning of defeating the Qing and bringing back the Ming.

As to usage, the two types of dao have different properties and probably should be viewed as different weapons since their properties will influence both how they move and their relative effectiveness for varying techniques. However, my observations are that most practitioners use them interchangeably, perhaps as a result of using modern replicas that are not historically accurate (a relatively light weapon being more forgiving of improper usage). After demonstrations at 'A Taste of China' where Yang Jun performed the dao form (on their first time in the US), I asked one teacher who had also demonstrated a Yang style taijidao form (I believe both used willow-leaf dao) why they touched their back with the back of the dao when it passed around their back whereas Yang Jun did not. Their reply was (to my view rather arrogantly/ignorantly?) that Yang Jun did not know the proper way to use the dao. I have always suspected that this difference was actually probably due to the different blades for the willow-leaf and ox-tail dao (and that the US teacher may have been confusing proper usage of the ox-tail dao touching the back with what is not interchangeable between the two types, and that that same technique may be incorrect with the willow-leaf version). I have never gotten a satisfactory explanation for the differences in that technique, but based on my current knowledge, the following are my speculations.

The willow-leaf dao has a thinner blade which curves back slightly at the tip. This geometry may cause the tip to endanger the lower back if the back of the blade touches the back/shoulders when passing vertically around behind the body. One teacher I asked about this speculated that the willow-leaf dao may be more likely to have a sharp back-edge, but dealers and collectors don't support that idea since a sharp back-edge does not appear to have been very common (although an unsharpened false back-edge is not unusual, perhaps for balancing the dao?). On the other hand, the ox-tail dao has a wider blade that flares wider near the tip. This keeps both the sharp edge of the blade and the tip farther away from the back during the same technique and may therefore be safer (and more desirable as the back can thus support the blade for blocks as it is traveling around the back).

As the preceding is speculation on my part, if anyone has (or can obtain) more authoritative information, I would greatly appreciate additional posts.


PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 9:48 pm
by Anderzander

thats interesting stuff Image

what do you think to this one:

Would you describe this one as a willow blade shape?


PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:04 pm
by Bamenwubu
I do believe you have the right of it in your speculation about touching the back/not touching the back with the blade and why you do or don't with each weapon.
I'm certainly no expert, but I did at one time train quite extensively in what was called "broadsword" to keep it seperate from "saber", because while they are both a type of "dao" they are quite different weapons.
Those who taught me that other form and it's applications emphasized clearly to me that there are major differences between the two types of daos and that each requires a different technique.
If Audi recalls, I attempted to show him one of the routines I learned with a broadsword at the Louisville sword seminar with Master Yang Jun, using a saber I borrowed from him, and was completely unable to to do so because of the hilts on your saber.
The way I learned to weild a broadsword was to allow the weighted end to do some of the work for you, and to do so you need to use a very small circling motion with your wrist. The hilts of the saber don't allow you to make those small circles, the hilts bang, quite painfully I discovered, into your wrists as you attempt to do so.
Still wish I would have brought my broadsword that day, because he think he'd be fascinated with the routine I tried to show him. I've been practicing it for sixteen years and I still discover something new from it each time I run it through.
Anyway, I have not had the opportunity to train Yang style Saber, but I do have Grand Master Yang Zhen Duo's "Yang-style Tai Chi Sword and Yang-style Tai Chi Falchion" DVD, Falchion being, in my personal humble opinion, incorrectly used by whoever titled the DVD to describe a "saber" but I won't go off on that tangent now, and I can tell you right now that while you could probably use a broadsword, what you call an "ox-tail dao", to do these forms, not well but you could, you could not use a saber to do the forms of the other style I studied.
Plain old could not. You would have bruises on your wrists for a month if you tried.
There were many places in the long form broadsword form that I studied where you actually used your palm to strike the wide back of the broadsword to drive it into your opponent, I don't know that I'd want to do that with the thinner saber. I might if I had to, but I somehow think that would hurt my hand, a lot.
Again, I'm not very familiar with the Yang style Saber form, only what I've seen Bill do and what I've seen from the video, which I've studied in depth for the sword portion but have only watched in passing for the saber.
Anyway, since I happen to have an intimate acquaintance with the "ox-tail" dao, I figured I'd drop in real quick and let you know that I think you're correct in your assesment. These two blades are for entirely different uses, and they are trained in what appears to be entirely different ways.
The smaller hilt, fuller back and heavier tip of the broadsword makes it an entirely different cleaving instrument than a saber.
Sabers were developed for fighting from horseback, while I could use the heavier blade from the back of a horse (something else I've spent a lot of time doing, sitting on horses, though it's been a few years) I would much prefer the lighter saber in that situation. If I have a broadsword in my hand I'd kind of like both of my feet on the ground, for the stability.
Have you ever weilded a real, full combat steel broadsword? I have, for hours on end, and those suckers are HEAVY. Until you get the feel for the blade it's not an easy weapon to swing around without having a good root under you.

As for the American instructors who were demoing their broadsword forms and spoke very rashly about something they appeared to not know anything about....?
I would say it was they who were unfamiliar with the weapon being used by the Master and speaking out of turn. Forgive them, they were likely trying to salve their egos after seeing a real Master at work. It's not uncommon, really.
Truse me, proficiency in one type of dao does not translate to proficiency in the other, at all.
I tried to do a bit of the Saber form from the DVD, following the Grand Master, but my broadsword, I don't have a saber yet but will in a few weeks, was a tad too heavy for some of what I saw there.

Anywho, that's my two cents on this slow day 'round here.


I just realised that I was responding to the wrong person. I thought Audi had typed up the above posting I replied to, until I just got back here and realised it was someone replying to Audi.
Sorry. I've edited the posting and now it might make more sense to folks.
My apologies if I offended anyone by misidentification.

[This message has been edited by Bamenwubu (edited 12-02-2004).]

PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:10 pm
by Bamenwubu
Nope, that's an "ox-tail" dao, or as stated in the ad, a "broadsword".
The "willow-tail" dao, or saber, are the ones available in the "products" section of this website.