Sabre Stab Positioning

sabre, sword, spear, etc

Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby Parkallen » Wed Mar 16, 2016 8:01 pm

I'm curious if anyone knows or has ideas about the particular positioning of the Sabre in the stabbing movements of the form. There are several mid-level stabbing movements in the sabre form which usually call for the blade being turned directly upwards. Turning the blade up in such a manner while stabbing outwards is not exactly easy (although arguably not difficult either). My question is, when it comes to stabbing it would seem that the angle of the blade (whether upwards or sideways) would not have much impact on the effect of the stab, and so why use an upward positioning considering the extra difficulty it presents? At the same time, the fact that such a difficult positioning has persisted in the transmission of the art leads me to think that there is an important reason for it.

Regards,
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby DPasek » Thu Mar 17, 2016 8:26 pm

I had wondered the same thing about the following application from the two person form (some schools use the normal vertical blade with the edge down for this same move) as shown in Fu Zhongwen’s book (the player in the black top). The best explanation that I got was that the edge up stab allows you to cut out of the torso while allowing for subsequent blocking. A blade edge down thrust to the abdomen would require a withdrawal of the dao back and down towards your hip which is not as good for immediate defensive positioning.

Image
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby fchai » Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:50 pm

Greeting,

I practice two solo sabre forms. I also knew a double sabre form but did not learn its entirety as my teacher moved then to another city. However, with the two sabre forms, I do not use a stabbing move with the blade edge facing upwards. The only time this happens is when I do a cut or block upwards. When I stab it is with the blade edge facing either down or sideways. However, the forms you do might be different, though I would find a stabbing action with the blade edge facing up mighty awkward.

Take care,
Frank
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby DPasek » Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:43 pm

In the two person form, the preceding move is a cut to the left (with essentially a vertical blade) to intercept the opponent’s wrist, so it would be easiest to just let the tip drop to aim at the opponent, resulting in a horizontal blade for the stab. This orientation would be ideal for a thrust to an opponent’s ribs, but the form, as I learned it, has the attack to the stomach. I initially thought that the rotation of the blade to edge up may have something to do with cutting upwards from the point of entry possibly hitting some vital organ(s). But the ribcage protects even the diaphragm pretty well, so that consideration was thought to be unlikely.

If you think about the blade being confined by the ribcage (under the sternum) and the withdrawal of the blade, then the ability to withdraw the blade into a good defensive posture makes some sense. This is the only explanation so far that makes sense to me. If you do not think about the continuation of a fight after any application in a form, then this type of consideration may not be important, but I think that the creators of Taiji dao forms may have had enough battle knowledge to take these considerations into account in the forms that they taught.
Last edited by DPasek on Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby Parkallen » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:26 pm

I appreciate these responses. I think you are on to something Dpasek. If the blade is sideways to the sternum, the ribcage might actually hinder the entry of the cut (this is all quite grisly I know, but this is in the mentality of learning), but if the blade is vertical then it's as if the blade is more narrow and can cut into smaller vertical spaces. Also as you said the blade can cut upwards onto a wrist. (Although in this last case I feel cutting upwards from below onto a wrist is quite difficult target wise, however, if we use a horizontal blade one can cut along the forearm more easily).

As you pointed out fchai, the upward facing blade on a stab is indeed quite difficult. Here is a excerpt from Jin Yiming's Single Defence Sabre as translated by Brennantranslation. I find the details in Yiming's description very instructive but he does not reveal the meaning of the blade position:

Poking Sabre.PNG
Poking Sabre.PNG (119.57 KiB) Viewed 2384 times
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby fchai » Sun Mar 20, 2016 2:14 am

Greetings,
Actually, there is a stabbing action with the blade facing upwards in one of the forms I do. In this, I transition from a horse-riding stance with a side slash and then step forward with a double handed stabbing action with the blade upward. The left hand supports the right hand from below. The follow-up move is to draw the blade upwards and then spin to the right for a blocking movement.
Cheers,
Frank
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby ChiDragon » Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:54 pm

Parkallen wrote:I'm curious if anyone knows or has ideas about the particular positioning of the Sabre in the stabbing movements of the form. There are several mid-level stabbing movements in the sabre form which usually call for the blade being turned directly upwards. Turning the blade up in such a manner while stabbing outwards is not exactly easy (although arguably not difficult either). My question is, when it comes to stabbing it would seem that the angle of the blade (whether upwards or sideways) would not have much impact on the effect of the stab, and so why use an upward positioning considering the extra difficulty it presents? At the same time, the fact that such a difficult positioning has persisted in the transmission of the art leads me to think that there is an important reason for it.

Regards,


Greetings, Parkallen

May I point out to the fact that the final position of the movement was not very accurate or clear in the picture shown.

Have you ever tried this movement? Based on my analysis, the significance of the move is on "at the same time(simultaneously), your left foot reaches out behind your right foot to the right rear, ....."

Before you get to this position, the saber may be around your chest or higher. However, if the saber was followed the circular motion, by the time the left foot reaches behind the right foot, the saber would be lowered downward and moved upward toward the abdomen of the opponent. At the end of this one smooth motion, the saber would have been thrust into the abdomen of the opponent and cutting upward.

The idea of moving the left foot behind the right foot, simultaneously, with the stabbing saber which will give it the maximum power of thrust.
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby fchai » Sun Mar 20, 2016 11:26 pm

Greetings,

I find it interesting how there are so many variations to effect the same outcomes. In one of the sabre forms I do, I end up in a similar position to that shown in the diagram but the execution is somewhat different. From a bow stance with a fan through the back action, the blade blocking above, I then do a twisting/turning action to the right ending in the identical feet position as shown in the diagram. However, my sabre arcs over and then as I straighten up, thrusts out with the blade edge facing down. My left hand is by now next to my right shoulder. Key to all these gyrations is that they feel natural and the movements flow with fluidity and grace. If they feel awkward, I tend to reassess whether it is my ineptitude, an incorrect interpretation or a physical awkwardness or incapacity. This however also highlights the need to learn from a competent teacher rather than from just a manual with pictures and diagrams. We may speculate on purpose and function but in the final analysis, we are often in the dark as to how the warriors in the past executed these moves when their lives were on the line.

However, it is always of value to discuss on these matters as it provides us with improved clarity and understanding.

Take care.
Frank
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby ChiDragon » Tue Mar 22, 2016 12:13 am

fchai wrote:Greetings,

If they feel awkward, I tend to reassess whether it is my ineptitude, an incorrect interpretation or a physical awkwardness or incapacity. This however also highlights the need to learn from a competent teacher rather than from just a manual with pictures and diagrams.

However, it is always of value to discuss on these matters as it provides us with improved clarity and understanding.

Take care.
Frank


Good point!
I would like to add:
At this position: ".....making a twisted stance in a posture of your thighs overlapping like scissors, your left toes pointing the middle of the outside of yours right foot...."

I had discovered that the saber lined up with the chest is very awkward and very discomfort on the spine. My spine felt much more comfortable by lowering arms to have the saber lined up with the abdomen. BTW With the thighs overlapping like scissors, the upper torso is automatically lowered which make the spine to form its arc naturally. Thus the spine is in its strongest position. However, in the picture, the back position shown is too straight which will cause a little pain in the spine.

If no competent teacher available, then, try it yourself for verification. Your body will tell if you are doing it correctly or not. The correctness is by the physical feeling and the level of efficiency in strength during the execution of the form.
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby ChiDragon » Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:28 pm

This is just a point of interest. Even though the form is called the 扦刀, the sabre is at a poking position. It only describes the position of the sabre when performing this particular form. However, it is not necessary means it is good for stabbing at this position. I think we all knew that this kind of sabre is not a good design for stabbing. Unless, the blade is facing down and thrust upward toward the most vulnerable part of a body.

This kind of sabre was designed good for striking and blocking the incoming weapons. As oppose to a sword, the sword is much more effective in stabbing.
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby global village idiot » Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:56 pm

One of the best reasons to turn the wrist "upside down" with respect to a stab (that is, holding the saber or sword opposite the way we hold steak or carving knives) is "what happens if I'm successful?"

If you successfully stab someone with either a sword or a saber, what's he going to do? He's very likely going to drop, and he's still going to be attached to your weapon unless you pull it out very forcefully.

So if that happens, holding your weapon "like a steak knife" will wrench your wrist down, perhaps enough to sprain or break it. Holding the weapon "opposite" the steak knife hold allows your wrist to flex naturally as your man falls.

Some of the high thrusts in sword and saber are "steak knife" holds, but they're also at the limit of reach, where as your opponent falls your whole arm will lower as a unit or, likelier (since you're stabbing at throat or face), his fall will automatically wrench the blade through 180 degrees where it will draw out of its own accord.

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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby Audi » Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:48 pm

Greetings,

In the Association's form, we assume the same stance as shown in the picture, but with left palm against the butt of the saber. We then stand up on the right leg while thrusting out with a twisting motion of the saber so that it ends up with the blade down. You also use a pushing motion with the left palm to add force to thrust if necessary.

We do have a forward stab/poke elsewhere in the form with the blade up. This comes shortly after the part described as Fair Lady Working the Shuttles. From facing southeast in a left empty stance, you first use the left foot to step back and to the left into a bow stance facing northeast, while doing a sweeping parry/block/redirection from right to left in an up-down arc with the saber ending with the blade facing up. You end up with the left palm on the butt of the saber, chambered almost in front of the left shoulder. In the other posture, I position the right fist almost in front of my right shoulder. Your gaze and the point of the saber face due east.

Then, you do three things differently from the other posture. You stand up on (1) the left leg, thrust the saber to the east with the blade (2) up, rather than twisting it as before, and thrust the left arm (3) backward to the northwest to separate the arms in an opposing motion.

Why the difference in the final positioning of the blade?

I don't know, but I always assumed it had to do with the distance.

In the first posture, which occurs right after we do the Five Element Palm with the left hand (kind of like Fan Through the Back), I envision that my opponent has forcefully deflected my saber cut to my left or my left arm to my right. I then borrow the force by twisting down to my right into a "crab stance" and let the saber swing over my head further to the left, blade safely up. The point of the saber is pointed toward the opponent, and my torso is angled away from him or her. As I then stand up on my right leg, my body is moving slightly away from the striking point and opening up the distance. I need to cover the maximum distance and so extend my right arm fully while twisting the blade downward and using the twisting energy in my body. My body twist also makes a rightward thrusting motion of my left palm quite easy and natural.

In the second posture, I envision that I use a carrying energy (带 dai), to deflect my opponent's attack to my left and rear. This brings them in close. When I then stand on my left leg and thrust outward, there is no room to extend my arm and twist the blade down and no twisting energy coming from my body. Instead, I use the rising energy in my legs and an opening energy in my arms as they fly apart and strike toward my opponent's throat with the blade upward. My right arm cannot fully extend because of the close distance.

These are my speculations.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby Parkallen » Sat Mar 25, 2017 1:54 am

global village idiot wrote:
If you successfully stab someone with either a sword or a saber, what's he going to do? He's very likely going to drop, and he's still going to be attached to your weapon unless you pull it out very forcefully.

So if that happens, holding your weapon "like a steak knife" will wrench your wrist down, perhaps enough to sprain or break it. Holding the weapon "opposite" the steak knife hold allows your wrist to flex naturally as your man falls.

gvi


This is an intriguing response; I'm wondering what the source of the idea is?
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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby global village idiot » Wed Apr 26, 2017 6:46 pm

Any of several cavalry and infantry fencing manuals from the age of Frederick the Great on up to George Patton's 1913 manual show high "lunges" or full-length stabs to throat/face with the saber blade up. The cavalry made a specific point of it (pardon the pun) since from their moving and mounted position, a stab with the blade down WILL break the cavalryman's wrist as he strikes his man and his horse gallops past. A dismounted high stab with blade down will sprain or wrench it violently, especially if the blade is stuck in or between bones.

The only time the blade up stab makes sense for horsemen is in a melee (say, from seconde, tierce or quarte) when the horses are not galloping, or a stab below the ribs. Dismounted sabermen have much the same problems. Prime, quinte and sixte put your hand in a blade up position naturally.

Now of course this is all explained from the point of view of Western saber fencing, mounted and dismounted. But Asian men and horses are physiologically identical to Western ones; and since the saber in both cultures was meant to address the same problem in the same way, it tends to follow that similarities in form exist for similar reasons.

That is to say, you cut with a dao for the same reason you cut with a Western saber, a stab with a dao is the same as a stab with a Western saber, a guard is for the same reason whether Asian or Western, and so on.

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Re: Sabre Stab Positioning

Postby DPasek » Fri May 26, 2017 3:15 pm

gvi,

Thanks for the information. It makes sense that the weapon should be able to cut free rather than being carried down as the opponent falls. With a dao this would mean that the cutting edge should be up and the dull back of the blade down.

Less clear is why the wrist is less vulnerable to injury when used this way. Thankfully there are sources in Western manuals that explain this – I have not seen similar explanations in Chinese literature. A follow-up question would be whether the capability of cutting out as the opponent falls is what protects the wrist, or if the rotated wrist is stronger as well. Since a straight sword has both edges sharp, do European sword manuals also rotate the wrist to the same orientation as is done with single edge sabers for comparable stabs?
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