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Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:58 pm
by Bob Ashmore
When I first started learning to use an Association saber I just couldn't reconcile the blade to the movements.
I'd trained with very similar sabers so my hands kept wanting to do the more familiar movements with it.
I hope that makes sense...?
I guess you could say "muscle memory" kicked in due to the similarities in the blades. That stopped me from being able to perform the Yang family saber form very well for a while.
So when the opportunity to do so finally came, I jumped all over going to a seminar with Yang Jun to help me figure out how to use it correctly. Or, to be honest, at least more correctly.
Fortunately it worked. After the seminar I was much better able to use the Association saber.
Yang Jun is an excellent teacher.
Audi was there at the first seminar I took with Yang Jun in Louisville for saber. He should remember how clumsy I was with it back then.
I recall I tried to show Audi "The Nine Cuts", a warm up exercise from Wu style saber, but all I had to use was my Association saber. The results were less than satisfactory, to say the least.
The next day I showed up with a wooden ox tail dao and I was able to show him "The Nine Cuts" credibly.
I can do The Nine Cuts using an Association saber now, I've had about a decade to figure it out, but the first time I tried it was a pretty big failure.
I guess all that is my way of saying that the two weapons may be similar but they certainly have their differences as well.
That said, it's clearly acceptable to perform the Traditional Yang Family Saber Form using an ox-tail saber.
And I say that because here's a Yang family member clearly doing so:
That's a link to a video of Yang Zhen Ji, Yang Zhen Duo's older brother, doing just that.

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:11 pm
by DPasek

Thanks for posting the video of Yang Zhen Ji using an ox-tail dao. While I knew that it was not uncommon for Yang stylists to practice the form with either the ‘Taiji’ dao or an ox-tail dao, I did not know that Yang family members also did so. It is not entirely certain that the dao used was by choice rather than being due to limited availability or access to a ‘Taiji’ dao (or goose-quill dao, or an Italian infantry saber), but it is still nice to see.

I had been curious about a seeming discrepancy in how certain movements were done in various versions of Yang style Taijiquan. One specific example is whether or not the dao would touch the back when circling around the body behind the head. Many schools (including many non-Taijiquan styles) teach that the dao is supposed to touch the body, but the Yang family clearly does not. I wondered if this might be due to use of the narrower bladed ‘Taiji’ dao (or the similar goose-quill dao) rather than the wider bladed ox-tail dao. But here he clearly does not touch his back when using the ox-tail dao.

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 4:19 pm
by Bob Ashmore
Not in the Traditional Yang Family saber form.
In the Wu Chien Chuan form I was taught there are several places where the back of the dao is "swept" across the back and you make contact, light and quick but it's there.
Which is awesome when you have an itch you just can't quite reach...
Sorry, old school joke. Couldn't help myself.

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:45 pm
by Bob Ashmore
I thought I'd seen another, clearer video of Yang Zhen Ji using an ox tail saber.
I actually went searching until found the link I posted previously, which I've also seen before...
But it kept niggling at the back of my head that the video I linked to earlier wasn't the same one I was thinking of.
So I went digging through old posts in the "book and video recommendation" thread and I found it. It was actually pretty easy to find since it was titled, "Yang Zhen Ji Video".
Louis posted the link previously and I watched it quite a bit a while back due to his use of the ox tail dao and my liking of that weapon.
The relevant bit is at the very end of the video:

From this video, which also shows Yang Zhen Ji using an ox tail dao, I think we can surmise it was his saber of choice.
I like watching YZJ on this video as his playing of the forms seems to me to be less formal than most people who know they're being filmed. He seems like he was having fun and if they wanted to film him while he did that, it was OK by him.

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:41 pm
by Audi
Hi Dan and Bob,

Do you happen to know what the intent is of having the Dao touch the back in the styles that do so?

Take care,

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:58 pm
by DPasek
Audi wrote:Hi Dan and Bob,

Do you happen to know what the intent is of having the Dao touch the back in the styles that do so?

Take care,

Hi Audi,

I have heard several explanations, so I don’t know how accurate they are, or if they are just rationalizations/speculations.

1. Touching the body means that the blade would be less likely to knock into something behind you and its motion would thus not be disrupted. This point would not be very important for solo form in an open field, but could come into play on a battleground or in a wooded area, for example.
2. It is similar to when the hand or forearm touch the back edge during other applications. It gives support to the sword. This could come into play if the dao is struck while passing behind your back.
3. Perhaps the most likely, at least from my perspective, is that it enhances the control and power of the technique. The way that I was taught is to contact the left arm first and to continue touching arm and then the back when moving from behind the left arm to the right across the back, allowing the turn of the waist at the end to ‘whip’ the dao off of the right side of the body. Going the other direction around the back, the dao would first touch the back and then go around to the left arm until the forearm can be used as a pivot to ‘whip’ the dao at the end of the movement.

I would be interested in hearing any other explanations that other forum members have been taught.


Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:19 pm
by Bob Ashmore
The way it was explained to me is very similar to how Dan explains it in terms of "supporting the blade" by pressing it against the back.
Which isn't something I'd actually choose to do with an Association saber, by the way.
The wider back ridge of the ox-tail dao lends itself to this use as a strike to the blade while pressed against your back wouldn't really hurt your back very much. I mean... a very strong strike would obviously hurt a bit but nothing at all like getting hit with another persons weapon directly would.
The much thinner back of the Association blade (willow tail dao) being struck with force while up against the back would more than likely hurt quite a bit more though.
I'd do it if I had to, obviously it would be less damaging than the sharp side of a sword or a saber, but it would not be on my list of things that I would consider "optimal".
Which leads me to another bit of "different usage" trivia...
That same wider ridge of the ox-tail dao...
I was taught that one method of doing damage with that type of blade is to press the sharp side against an opponent, either with a slice or an actual Press energy, and then...
Smack the back of the blade with my palm to drive it deep into the opponent.
But it's not a knitting needle...

And don't forget, an ox-tail dao makes an awesome back scratcher!
Sorry again, we told that joke over and over again at the Wu school.
For some reason we all found it hilarious.
I'll stop now.


Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 6:13 am
by Sugelanren
Hi guys.

We have a move like this in our Dao form, and i will try to add my small bit of knowledge in the hope that it furthers the conversation a little.
I was told that the Dao is a soldier's weapon, and that the Jian is a scholar's weapon. A scholar who has time to practice the finer points of the Jian form, whereas the soldier uses the easier hack and slash of the Dao and would sooner be called upon to use it. When the soldier first went into battle he would be placed in the front line, if he survived he would enter the next battle in the second line of battle so his job was to survive.
As for the moves we have where the sword touches the back. The move is indeed very compact. the sword is used to block in a way that gives you hilt to tip protection as you draw your opponent close to your left hand for the grab. As your sword rests on your arm (just below your right shoulder)your right foot slides up to meet your left, gathering up your body in a compact position, where you then release with a chop/slash in a diagonal that brings it down on the neck of the opponent, or the next opponent in a battle situation. The initial block necessitates the touching of the back, as if the sword is at an angle the sword loses an amount of coverage, where as the full length of the sword is used to parry the initial attack around the body. The move gives optimal coverage, compact movement, and an effective and potentially explosive counter.

This is what little i've learned so far, i hope this helps.


Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:07 am
by Subitai
Hi guys,

Please excuse my I was kind of invited to participate in this thread by DPasek :)

I 1st decided that I have to read through the thread and about half way along... a thought occurred to me about the discussion of the Broadsword misnomer.

I was going to type it up myself but then (as usual history repeats itself) I remembered a discussion from another forum. This pretty much sums up what I was going to say: ... ostcount=6

GeneChing wrote:

The broadsword translation is one of my major Kung Fu pet peeves
Originally Posted by RenDaHai View Post
The western names are confused. Really the Jian is the broadsword (it is double sided and traditionally often wide) The Dao is a curved sword with a single edge and so is a Sabre.

You're spot on with this, but you cannot change language. As a translator of Kung Fu as well as a product of Western fencing, I wish I could kick the arse of the first person who called a dao a broadsword. It was a complete mistranslation and it stuck. The term 'broadsword' arose to distinguish them from the more advanced thinner blades from the earlier thicker (or broader) ones. It was used primarily for straight blades.

The distinction between dao and jian by infantry and officer, as well as by level of sophistication in technique and effectiveness in battle, is really simple. But I think we've grown so detached from the realities of swordsmanship that people make up all sorts of ****amamie tales based on marginal observations. To keep it simple, it's much easier to handle a single-edged sword over a double-edged sword. This is true on every level. You need only to work with a live blade to see. What's more, it's far more difficult to make double-edged sword. Remember, real swords were made by hand, so to achieve symmetry and uniformity in a double-edged sword took far more skill. So with a jian, you had a more expensive weapon that required far more training to master. This made the jian more the property of the gentry who could afford to purchase such a weapon and pay for a teacher.

Like so many things, it's really all about the financials. Jian are considered more 'upper class' because for the most part, only the upper class could afford them.
Gene Ching
Associate Publisher
Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine &
Author of Shaolin Trips


Best to you, "O" (still reading)

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:53 am
by Subitai
Ok done reading...

1st i'm a NON Yang Family assoc. practitioner so you can ignore worries. DPasek had asked me to comment is all. :)

You guys pretty much said most of the things I was going to say, great show! Sean spoke about it being a soldier's on. But more over the arrow or cannon fodder front line conscription troops had to use "Single E. Knives" if they survived initial onslaught then hope for spear men to come from behind in aid.

Single E. knives (aka in this thread as Broadswords :) ) were more of a northern kung fu weapon that immigrated to the south.

Most people that learn this knife sword skill in Chinese styles that i've seen or studied all have to learn the basic "wrap" of some sort. The 1st set I learned was called "Pek Gwa Darn Do".... it's a Bak Sil Lum set that translates Loosely to " Neck Chop - hanging cut (or disembowel) single edged knife"

Also, that the Chop is THE primary mode of attack and the stabbs if any are least with the thicker bodied blades. There is also a distinction between chopping and cutting. If you are far away and have room to be it. If you are closer then that is why you may need your free hand on back of knife to aid in cutting pressure. The knife may get to close position but with one hand only you might not have to strength to produce a good cut or slice...hence wu sao (martial hand) helping. For example, sword is low and already close to the inside of the thigh. BTW, not having fingers in front of the blade is very astute but also a kung fu basic fundamental.

Most schools have some form of this basic fundamental and they vary some. Some tighter to the body, some more loose.

One basic some people don't realize is the sound of there blade or NO sound. Depends on the cut or deceleration. When you are chopping you should not hear the Whoosh (flat side of the blade)...maybe only a thin wire like sound. That means you truly lead with the cutting edge. The only time you hear the blade FAN during the wrap fundamental is to get the blade to decelerate, during the "Wrap" it's usually to laterally to the sides....eventually to wrap around the body and return to origin point.

About the closeness of the blade... again I think " DPasek ", you said most of what I'd say. In our tradition we learned to not fear the blade ( respect it of course) but keep it close in to show control and other reasons most said already. Lastly when you stand right next to someone how do you keep chopping without hitting them?

For example, your buddy is on your left side close to you fighting. With your right handed single knife you don't want to chop your friend do you? If you understand the can be in close proximity and be constantly attacking without hitting your friend. Works on either side...left or right btw. :)

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2014 11:41 am
by orihara
Wew its really hard using axe as a broadsword because of its weight. Well if someone uses axe for practice will someone get better at using broadsword?

Re: Pick axe handle as a broadsword for practice.

PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 5:19 pm
by Bob Ashmore
No one that I saw was advocating using an entire axe as a substitute for a saber, only the handle.