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#328580 - 03/14/07 04:05 AM Questions on chinese swords/swordplay
18lohans Offline
Member

Registered: 01/16/05
Posts: 321
First off, I often see straight swords refered to as either Tai Chi Swords or Long Fist swords, when shopping for straight swords. Does anyone know if there's actually a difference on these two types swords? (Not style or usage).

Second, it occured to me that I often practice with swords of different lengths and materials. Shorter swords definitely feel different from longer swords, and wooden swords are definitely balanced much differently from metal swords. It sounds stupid, but can you actually hurt your learning/training by using the wrong balance and/or length of sword?

And what are the correct lengths and balance points for broadswords (daos) and straight swords (jians)?
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"Now use head for something other than target!" Still never attacked by trees, 18lohans

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#328581 - 03/14/07 05:26 AM Re: Questions on chinese swords/swordplay [Re: 18lohans]
Tashigae Offline
Mister Bendy

Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 690
Loc: Samarobriva, Gallia
The Chinese straight sword ("jian"4, that character is pronounced "jim" in Cantonese and "ken" in Japanese - as in "kendo") comes in many different types, like the military sword (slightly broader and heavier than other models, sharp-angled point), the "civilian" sword (smoother, more rounded at the tip, the most common model), the seven-star (big dipper) sword (with seven small copper patches set in the blade and joined by a thin ondulated groove, meant to help some energy-flow processes which I'm not competent to talk about), that other famous type whose name I forgot ("dragon-something-sword", a sword with an extra-flexible blade which can be carried wrapped around the waist like a belt but whose use requires a tremendous level of mastery), there's also the slightly ondulated type, the one with a forked tip like a snake's tongue, the one with pointy, saw-like edges...

Most of these types are not style-dependant.

As for hurting your learning by using an improper sword, well... Of course the type you learn with will naturally be the type you'll be most proficient with, but I doubt you can do anything really nefarious to your technique by using a sword with an inappropriate weight or shape: although clearly not the best choice, it is not too uncommon in China to practice straight sword forms with no weapon at all - jut joining your straightened first and second finger, as your weaker hand would normally be when using the straight sword. So, I guess any straight object of approximately the right length can only be an improvement (within certain limits, of course, both in weight and balance: I'm not too sure about baseball bats and golf clubs...)
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#328582 - 03/14/07 05:54 PM Re: Questions on chinese swords/swordplay [Re: Tashigae]
18lohans Offline
Member

Registered: 01/16/05
Posts: 321
Thanks for the reply!

So looks like there really isn't a big difference between a kung fu jian and a tai chi jian, as far as the jian itself.

Would you happen to know the appropriate lengths and weight balance for a jian?
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#328583 - 03/15/07 02:32 AM Re: Questions on chinese swords/swordplay [Re: 18lohans]
Tashigae Offline
Mister Bendy

Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 690
Loc: Samarobriva, Gallia
Strange how westerners tend to oppose "gongfu" and taiji-quan... Here in China, when you tell someone you practice gongfu, or wushu, their first question is usually: "what gongfu/wushu? Taiji ?"
The original use of the word "gongfu" was approximately "constant practice", "personal workout". There is a famous proverb that goes "Zhi3 yao4 gong1fu shen1, tie3 chu3 mo2cheng2 zhen1". It means something like "only through long, dedicated work can an iron rod be filed into a needle" (thereís actually a story to this saying, itís related to Li Bai; but thatís not the topic). The word was improperly used by westerners to designate Chinese martial-arts, since a Chinese parcticing his martial arts ("wushu", or "wuyi") IS indeed doing his daily "gongfu" (which, by the way, is pronounced identically in Cantonese an Mandarin Chinese). Nowadays, the Chinese themselves have come to use the word in its western meaning . However, unlike most westerners, they donít use it solely for external Chinese MA (same goes for "wushu", "martial arts", which is used by most westerners to designate only a recent bundle of highly spectacular styles meant mainly for competition).
Therefore, according to their definition, Taiji is by far the most widely practiced gongfu/wushu style in the country.

So, theorically, there shouldnít be any specific difference between swords labeled as "taiji sword", "gongfu sword" or "wushu sword" by their manufacturers : a jian is a jian, at least as far as those terms are concerned.
However, there might be an official weight and length for the swords used in modern wushu competitions, I donít know. If so, the information should be easy to find.

Hope it helps.
Good luck finding your perfect sword!
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#328584 - 03/15/07 05:20 PM Re: Questions on chinese swords/swordplay [Re: Tashigae]
18lohans Offline
Member

Registered: 01/16/05
Posts: 321
yeah, I agree with the words/terms usage. I try to keep it in the western standard because it saves a lot of trouble. A lot does get confused and/or lost in translation. And I guess that is understandable, since the languages and culture are very different.

So, wushu has become known as the modern competition type with flashy acrobatics (nandu). Kung Fu seems to be the term for traditional chinese styles (external), and tai chi is a health exercise (and once in a while, fantasy martial arts). and then it goes even farther when some wise guys try to show off with lines like "but... is it really tai CHI or taiJI? and we will never know, because it's been lost in history"

but anyway, I guess with that definition... I at least distinguised taiji sword from wushu sword (with one being much lighter and flimsy than the other). And I guess swords made for them external styles probably aren't too different from taiji swords, like you said. No luck actually finding information on their standard weights though.
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#328585 - 03/17/07 12:36 PM Re: Questions on chinese swords/swordplay [Re: 18lohans]
Tashigae Offline
Mister Bendy

Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 690
Loc: Samarobriva, Gallia
Quote:

And then it goes even farther when some wise guys try to show off with lines like "But... is it really tai CHI or taiJI? And we will never know, because it's been lost in history."






Wow! Never heard that one before, but it definitely takes stupidity and ignorance to a whole new level!

Just to add a little extra info on that issue, there are three main translitteration systems out there, used to convey the pronunciation of Chinese characters (and that's just for the standard, Mandarin Chinese pronounciation. I hear there's another five for the Cantonese dialect alone...):

- The Wade-Giles. Formerly used by English-speaking countries. ("tai chi chuan")

- The E.F.E.O.(ťcole franÁaise d'extrÍme orient). Formerly used by French-speaking countries. ("tai-tchi t'chuan")

- The pinyin. Now the official one, adopted by the PRC somewhere in the sixties if I remember right, supposedly the only one that should be used now even though the other two prove really die-hard. ("taiji quan")

And naturally, the Latin translitteration chosen to represent those three Chinese characters doesn't affect their pronounciation more than the colour chosen to represent mountains on a map does affect those mountains' real colour.

What does affect it, however, is the Chinese dialect used (a few examples with Mandarin/Cantonese: taiji/taiki, yongchun/wing-chun, hongjia/hung-gar, shaolin/siu-lam, cailifo/choy-li-fut...).

Both the Wade-Giles and the E.F.E.O. are correct enough as to the pronounciation of "taiji quan" in standard Chinese (putong hua). The pinyin is a bit trickier at first because some of its letters don't have the same phonetic value as in English (like Q = "tch", C = "ts"...), but it's more simple and accurate once you're familiar with it.

The Cantonese pronounciation is "taiki" (pretty much the same in Japanese, and "tae-geuk" in Korean).

By the way, next time you hear this [refrains from using extremely rude language] line , would you be so good as to slap the intelligence-offender for me? A devastating taiji internal slap, please. Preferably in the 'nads. If you're more into swordsplay, a clean beheading will do.
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#328586 - 04/30/07 09:40 AM Re: Questions on chinese swords/swordplay [Re: 18lohans]
northstar Offline
Member

Registered: 04/30/07
Posts: 40
A straight sword is a straight sword. There are a few distinctions, but they are more to do with the handguard style (which does have practical usage).

Primarily being a one handed weapon, jian shouldn't be too heavy, though a heavy one is good for training and developing power.

It is important to use a well balanced weapon for practise otherwise it is difficult to execute they way you are supposed to -- therefore making it difficult to understand what you are doing.

Another practical point of view, is that the longer the sword you are able to employ comfortably (on top of having long arms if you have that) the better, as you want to keep the distance between yourself and your enemy with your weapon.

Generally people would take a reverse grip on the sword and hold it pointing up and if it reached your ear then it was the appropriate length.

It is probably not a bad idea to handle different swords, but from a practical point of view, practise with your one the most.

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