Thanks for the replies.
Audi wrote:I also understand that the index finger and little finger combine, sort of like a Yin-Yang pair to swivel the sword grip in the palm, with the thumb, middle, and ring finger helping to hold the pivot center. This action allows the contact with the palm to act like an additional joint to provide greater flexibility beyond what the wrist alone can provide.
Audi, I like your description, and this type of grip is what I mostly use in my practice.
Bob Ashmore wrote:The video zooms in on his hand and shows very clearly how he's holding the sword and he very clearly states how the fingers and thumb grasp the hilts; where on the hilt to grasp and which fingers are used both for grasping and controlling (he holds up his extended thumb, forefinger and middle finger) and which are used mostly for controlling the blade direction (the other two fingers, clearly indicating ring and pinky fingers).
He also clearly states how firmly to grasp the handle; "flexible, light and not too stiff".
Bob, thanks for taking the time to review your video materials and giving this description for us. This is not quite the same as the grip described by Audi, but all of us seem to emphasize the flexibility and changeability desired in the grip, so I have no problem with this variation since different teachers likely have slight differences in how to achieve the desired flexibility and changeability in their grips. While my grip is primarily like what Audi describes, perhaps I use the grip that you describe sometimes, like when the index finger is the Yang one in what Audi describes as the Yin-Yang pair of the index and little fingers.
I would add to Audi’s description that when the jian is held in the palm of the hand during certain techniques, that there should still be a hollowing (yin ‘suction’ away from the handle rather than being pressed firmly against the handle) of the center of the palm (see the laogong point in the following illustration):
The following is an example of Chinese sword sparring (with wooden sparring swords having reasonable historical [late Qing, early Republic] accuracy) where one participant has his jian knocked out of his grip during full speed, full contact (with protective gear) sparring:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4ad8nUAaz4
Here is a short clip showing five aspects of traditional sword training:http://www.grtc.org/resources/videos/elements-chinese-swordsmanship/
Personally, I have training in forms, basic cuts, partner drills, and have limited free sparring experience, but with no test cutting experience yet. I feel that many practitioners who use modern replicas that have a balance point close to the guard (unlike late Qing jian) which allows for very quick and easy movements for performing forms, leads to ineffective techniques when free sparring. It is difficult to explain this in words, but my experience is that the point of balance farther out on the blade facilitates the blocking and controlling on an opponent’s weapon during free sparring, especially when at full speed and power. I suspect that a close point of balance would also negatively affect cutting, although I have no personal experience with this.
In regards to balance, weight and length for jian used in Taijiquan, I feel that historically accurate balance may be the most important. Some teachers advocate that the jian used for Taijiquan be as long as can be effectively used, longer than would be typical using wushu performance standards (i.e. as held in the opening ‘reverse’ grip, the tip of the blade should reach the top of the ear; or, with the tip touching the ground, the pommel reaching the navel). I personally do not think that the length of the jian is particularly important as long as it retains a reasonable point of balance, but a longer weapon would increase the weight (in addition to whatever sparring advantages are gained with longer reach). If modern materials and manufacturing techniques produce a well balanced jian with less weight than late Qing examples, I could imagine that they would work reasonably well, but many of the available modern reproductions that are available to the average consumer are unsatisfactory, in my opinion.