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Weapons, the Brennan Translations and History...

PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 11:48 pm
by global village idiot
Mr. Brennan's translations are a gold mine for the student of tai chi chuan. Like a gold mine, they contain a lot of idle ore and a profitable bit of gold and not a darned thing else.

In reading the texts, I begin to note a few themes which seem to run through most if not all of them, and these themes are closely tied to China's history in the early- and mid-20th Centuries.

Simply put, a fair proportion of the texts were written while China was busy fighting the Japanese, or their own revolution; all of them were written after China had been beaten and ground down by the millstone of foreign occupation (after which it was Japan's turn), and EVERY LAST ONE of them desperately yearn for tai chi to restore China's vitality and "spirit."

In short, none of the authors are crowing about how great China is right-then-and-there, but all of them are hopeful that China might one day return to its former glory. Looking at China's history at that period, it's easy to see why they wrote like they did.

In going through the texts on weapons, most of them give the impression of military drill manuals; something an officer or senior NCO might use to train his soldiers. The saber texts in particular have this characteristic, as they all seem to stress the simplicity and ease of learning the use of the weapon, in addition to its economy versus firearms. Looking at the dao, especially photos of 20th Century Chinese soldiers and their sabers, they seem to be a rather humbler and less highly-regarded weapon than the jian; and I get the impression that it was about the best they could come up with when they needed to give their soldiers something - ANYTHING - to kill the Japanese with.

They do NOT leave the reader with the impression that the author feels as though he is communicating to an individual student. It's a hard thing to put one's finger on; but if you've read enough military manuals (or even Boy Scout Merit Badge books) you know it when you see it.

The authors writing from 1935 onward never bothered hiding their contempt for the Japanese as a culture, a nation and a race; then again, who could blame them?

There's something sad and tragic about reading these texts, and I get a sense of the vain hope that must have buoyed up their authors as they wrote about training a method of warfare which was far in the past. Through the benefit of hindsight, we know quite well how the Chinese did against the Imperial Japanese Army when it came to swords facing modern weapons. Mao Tse Tung and Chiang Kai Shek were able to prevail to the degree they did only with an infusion of foreign weapons and ordnance, in addition to that captured from the Japanese; even then, the Japanese still bled China white.

I have no deeper understanding than the dry historical record, so there is much I'm likely missing. I'm merely making these observations "cold," as it were. I'd be grateful if the more learned members of the board could help color in the white space on the canvas for me, in terms of things I'm missing that might inform how I go about reading these extremely illuminating and worthy texts, and do the authors the honor they merit by getting out of the texts all they had hoped to share.

gvi

Re: Weapons, the Brennan Translations and History...

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 1:29 am
by ChiDragon
global village idiot wrote:In going through the texts on weapons, most of them give the impression of military drill manuals; something an officer or senior NCO might use to train his soldiers. The saber texts in particular have this characteristic, as they all seem to stress the simplicity and ease of learning the use of the weapon, in addition to its economy versus firearms. Looking at the dao, especially photos of 20th Century Chinese soldiers and their sabers, they seem to be a rather humbler and less highly-regarded weapon than the jian; and I get the impression that it was about the best they could come up with when they needed to give their soldiers something - ANYTHING - to kill the Japanese with.


gvi


In regard to the choice of the saber over the jian to be used in the battle field. The saber is more superior to be used in the battlefield while the Jain is not. It is because the saber is more aggressive to fight against a rifle with a bayonet attached. The Jain is more of a design for shows. It is not as aggressive as the saber.

Re: Weapons, the Brennan Translations and History...

PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2016 1:55 pm
by DPasek
There is actually a book (1928) written for the Chinese army based on Xingyi that included dao (saber):
https://www.amazon.com/Xingyi-Quan-Chinese-Army-Instruction/dp/1583942572

My understanding is that the dao was commonly used in the Qing military even prior to the late 1800s to early 1900s when China was facing outside pressures (unequal treaties with Western powers, Japanese militarism, WWII, etc.). The jian (double edged sword) was already regarded as being more intellectual and symbolic than the dao.

The dao is considered more aggressive (like an enraged tiger charging down a mountain) than the jian (circular movements like a flying phoenix or swimming dragon). The usage of the dao is considered more basic than using the jian (which requires more intellect and skill).

In general in the early 1900s, the Chinese were viewed as being weak, and many of the martial arts manuals of the period reflect the desire to regain the strength of the nation and its people.

Re: Weapons, the Brennan Translations and History...

PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2016 7:32 am
by fchai
Greetings,
All too true. Unfortunately the latter part of the Ching Dynasty Period saw a largely corrupt and decaying imperial government unable to accept that China was no longer the pre-eminent global power (after being the Alpha for the better part of 2 millenia) and they had been superceded by the technological advancements of the West. Many others in China saw this but they were but a small voice that was not heard. Interestingly, I seem to recall reading somewhere that Yang Luchan made a point of making the learning of Taijiquan (Yang Family of course) accessible to a wider demographic rather than just within family, so as to restore the strength and vitality of the Chinese people, as DPasek so correctly observes.
Take care,
Frank

Re: Weapons, the Brennan Translations and History...

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 5:43 pm
by global village idiot
...the saber is more aggressive to fight against a rifle with a bayonet attached. The Jain is more of a design for shows. It is not as aggressive as the saber.


Would you say this is similar to the Western concept of their own versions of sabers versus, say, the rapier?

In other words, the dao is a soldier's weapon where a jian is a gentleman's weapon.

gvi

Re: Weapons, the Brennan Translations and History...

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:16 pm
by ChiDragon
Yes, that is exactly the case.