Sword Tassles and Sabre Scarfs

sabre, sword, spear, etc

Sword Tassles and Sabre Scarfs

Postby Audi » Sat Mar 10, 2001 10:34 pm

Does anyone know whether sword tassles or sabre scarfs were ever used as weapons?

I have had many people tell me that a tassle can be used as a weapon or as a distraction, and do not dispute this. If, after all, fans, chop sticks, and rice flails can be used as weapons, why not tassels? I am just curious if tassels were ever in general use, or if this is an innovation of relatively recent date.

By the way, I also do not dispute the utility of practicing with tassels and scarves, since I have found them to be invaluable indicators of defects in my sword handling.

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Postby tai1chi » Sun Mar 11, 2001 2:54 am

Hi Audi,

wow, another fascinating question. Well, from what I've heard, the "hairs" on the end of spears was thought to keep the blood from sliding down the shaft. It was, though, also thought to be confusing to the enemy. As far as the saber, the scarf that we see now has mostly an aesthetic function. In practice, i.e., practical usage, saber technique could make the scarf a distraction to the user, though it wouldn't affect his technique --for forms competition. You know, the saber wraps around the head --unlike the jian (technically). The sword tassels of today, especially the long ones. (For example, it is often said that the tassel should almost touch the ground and the tip of the sword should reach the earlobe. That's a good way to practice, I think, the taiji sword because --as you said-- it really forces your technique to be correct --otherwise the tassel ends up wrapped around your wrist. Oops. The tassel also indicates the roundness of your movements. You can actually see it. However, I don'tthink that someone would want to take that chance in a battle. Most of the people I know who just practice two-man sword sets take the tassels off. But, t the same time, the jian tassel Can be used as a weapon, much like any of the "soft" weapons --rope dart, chain whip, etc. Still, I'm not convinced that this would be intentional. More or less, the tassell follows the path of the blade, on a shorter arc, of course. When using the sword, I believe especially in Yang style, the "yi" (as "attention" is logically on the blade. Correct movement of the blade, therefore, also determines correct movement of the tassel.

Just one guy's opinion,
Steve James
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Postby Steve » Sun Mar 11, 2001 11:05 pm

Stuart Olson (T'ai Chi Thirteen Sword) says that the tassel used to be used as a weapon, and that it was one of the highest skills of the swordsman. He also claims that it used to be used for distraction (tassel goes one way, the sword goes the other), and was sometimes made from thin wires or embedded with glass or metal to create the effect of many tiny paper-cuts on the opponent's skin or eyes.

I believe the hair on the spear is a carry-over from the days when spears used to be thrown. The hair helps the spear travel in a straighter trajectory, like the feathers on an arrow...I could be wrong.

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