I do believe you have the right of it in your speculation about touching the back/not touching the back with the blade and why you do or don't with each weapon.
I'm certainly no expert, but I did at one time train quite extensively in what was called "broadsword" to keep it seperate from "saber", because while they are both a type of "dao" they are quite different weapons.
Those who taught me that other form and it's applications emphasized clearly to me that there are major differences between the two types of daos and that each requires a different technique.
If Audi recalls, I attempted to show him one of the routines I learned with a broadsword at the Louisville sword seminar with Master Yang Jun, using a saber I borrowed from him, and was completely unable to to do so because of the hilts on your saber.
The way I learned to weild a broadsword was to allow the weighted end to do some of the work for you, and to do so you need to use a very small circling motion with your wrist. The hilts of the saber don't allow you to make those small circles, the hilts bang, quite painfully I discovered, into your wrists as you attempt to do so.
Still wish I would have brought my broadsword that day, because he think he'd be fascinated with the routine I tried to show him. I've been practicing it for sixteen years and I still discover something new from it each time I run it through.
Anyway, I have not had the opportunity to train Yang style Saber, but I do have Grand Master Yang Zhen Duo's "Yang-style Tai Chi Sword and Yang-style Tai Chi Falchion" DVD, Falchion being, in my personal humble opinion, incorrectly used by whoever titled the DVD to describe a "saber" but I won't go off on that tangent now, and I can tell you right now that while you could probably use a broadsword, what you call an "ox-tail dao", to do these forms, not well but you could, you could not use a saber to do the forms of the other style I studied.
Plain old could not. You would have bruises on your wrists for a month if you tried.
There were many places in the long form broadsword form that I studied where you actually used your palm to strike the wide back of the broadsword to drive it into your opponent, I don't know that I'd want to do that with the thinner saber. I might if I had to, but I somehow think that would hurt my hand, a lot.
Again, I'm not very familiar with the Yang style Saber form, only what I've seen Bill do and what I've seen from the video, which I've studied in depth for the sword portion but have only watched in passing for the saber.
Anyway, since I happen to have an intimate acquaintance with the "ox-tail" dao, I figured I'd drop in real quick and let you know that I think you're correct in your assesment. These two blades are for entirely different uses, and they are trained in what appears to be entirely different ways.
The smaller hilt, fuller back and heavier tip of the broadsword makes it an entirely different cleaving instrument than a saber.
Sabers were developed for fighting from horseback, while I could use the heavier blade from the back of a horse (something else I've spent a lot of time doing, sitting on horses, though it's been a few years) I would much prefer the lighter saber in that situation. If I have a broadsword in my hand I'd kind of like both of my feet on the ground, for the stability.
Have you ever weilded a real, full combat steel broadsword? I have, for hours on end, and those suckers are HEAVY. Until you get the feel for the blade it's not an easy weapon to swing around without having a good root under you.
As for the American instructors who were demoing their broadsword forms and spoke very rashly about something they appeared to not know anything about....?
I would say it was they who were unfamiliar with the weapon being used by the Master and speaking out of turn. Forgive them, they were likely trying to salve their egos after seeing a real Master at work. It's not uncommon, really.
Truse me, proficiency in one type of dao does not translate to proficiency in the other, at all.
I tried to do a bit of the Saber form from the DVD, following the Grand Master, but my broadsword, I don't have a saber yet but will in a few weeks, was a tad too heavy for some of what I saw there.
Anywho, that's my two cents on this slow day 'round here.
I just realised that I was responding to the wrong person. I thought Audi had typed up the above posting I replied to, until I just got back here and realised it was someone replying to Audi.
Sorry. I've edited the posting and now it might make more sense to folks.
My apologies if I offended anyone by misidentification.
[This message has been edited by Bamenwubu (edited 12-02-2004).]