Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Chinese Swords & Swordsmanship: Duanjian, the Chinese Short Sword - Scott M. Rodell

Chinese Swords & Swordsmanship: Duanjian, the Chinese Short Sword

"Scott M. Rodell, noted teacher and authority on Chinese Swords and Swordsmanship, discusses Qing period Chinese Duanjian or short swords. The cousin of the long, full-length jian, these short swords are largely overlooked by practitioners today but played an important role in Qing society. Interested in study Chinese Swordsmanship? Please check out the up coming online courses and sign up for the waitlist at"

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Chinese Jian - Zǐwǔ Sword (子午劍), by Huáng Hànxūn (黃漢勛), 1958 Trans.- Scott M. Rodell

Zuìgāo yuánlǐ zé biànhuà wúqióng, hū kāi hū hé, shōu bì rúyì, zhānqiángùhòu, zuǒyòu xiāng pàn, gāo lái dī tiāo, dī lái gāo diǎn, wú zōng kě zhuī, wú jì kě xún, tiāndì guó qīn shī wǔháng bìng jì, ruò tàijí zhī bāoluó, rú liùhé zhī fàngzòng, jiàn bùguò nǎo, zìgǔ yǐrán, wú yǐ jiàn zuò dāo zhì yí fāng jiā zhī xiào, hòu zhī xuézhě qí miǎn zhī zāi.
The highest principle is limitless variation. Suddenly opening, suddenly closing, sealing closed as one likes. Attentive forward and back, left and right. (Attacked) high, (respond with) spring cut from below. (Attacked) low, (respond with) pointing cut from above. (Leave) no track that can be chased, no trace to be sought. Heaven and earth, country, family, and teacher (representing the five elements), work together, as the taiji principle embraces everything, is as the six directions are unrestrained. The jian does not pass over the head. Since ancient times, this was already so. Using the jiàn like a saber will cause learned men to laugh, students are encouraged to study properly.
Quoted from the Zǐwǔ Sword (子午劍), by Huáng Hànxūn (黃漢勛), 1958
Trans.- Scott M. Rodell
Notes and Commentary-
In the first line, biànhuà wúqióng is translated as limitless variation. A more common and literal translation might be transform or change endlessly. Given that an essential element of jiànfǎ is versatility, especially the ability to adapt effortlessly to changing conditions, applying a wide variety of techniques and strategies, limitless variation fits the context. The lines that provide responses to receiving blows from above and below, mention two basic cuts common to different systems of jiànfǎ. When receiving a high line cut, the text gives tiāo as the response, and provides diǎn as an answer to a low line attack. Given that are other possible responses to both actions from one’s duìfāng, the author likely chose these examples to stress one common strategy in jiànfǎ. That strategy is to open a door, i.e. invite an attack, then allowing the duìfāng to make his or her intention clear, intercept that action with a cut to the sword arm. Zhuāngzi describes, "The art of the jiàn is to deliberately expose a weakness, giving the enemy the impression they have the opportunity to attack. Your hand moves after the enemy, but your jiàn strikes first,” (夫為劍者,示之以虛,開之以利,後之以發,先之以至). Concerning leaving no track or trace for your duìfāng to follow, if one gives up oneself and follows others, there is no track for the duifang to find and follow.
More than one classic of jiànfǎ ends with a line mentioning that wielding the sword like a saber would cause laughter amongst the immortals or learned men. Two examples are the Tàijí Jiàn Gē (太極劍歌) and the Hòu Jiàn Jué (後劍訣). By mimicking these classics, Huáng Hànxūn, author of the Zǐwǔ Sword, is demonstrating his knowledge of these earlier works.
The name of this sword system is an interesting choice. Zǐ and wǔ refer to two of the twelve times of the day, namely midnight and noon, and imply an ebb and flow between yin and yang. This idea fits nicely with the manner in which the jiàn is wielded. Zǐwǔxiàn (子午線) also refers to the central line of the body which the swordsman looks to control with the way he or she deflects and cuts.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Li Bai learns Swordsmanship - By Bernard Kwan

"This is an interesting little article by Hu Nan written in the 1980s for Wushu magazine. I know nothing about the author's background but the article was relatively well written and provided many interesting snippets about Li Bai, the famous Tang poet and thus I am happy to share this here with my readers, particularly given my fascination with the sword. I have supplemented it with some additional information which I deemed interesting and it has somewhat evolved into my own composition.  

The sword is considered a short range weapon in wushu, easy to use and useful in close combat. The sword originated in the warring states of Wu and Yue and reached its apogee during the Tang dynasty and was termed the "Lord of the hundred weapons" 白兵之君 or the "Master of the hundred weapons" 白兵之師. In ancient times the weapon was used for war, self defense and for training the body. From the Spring Autumn period and the Warring States until the end of the Qing dynasty, swords were worn by the officer class as well as the cultured gentry. Indeed many common folk also had the interest to learn the sword and demonstrated a mastery of both literature and the marital arts. The relationship between the poets and was also a close one and there were many poems through the ages that praised the art of the sword. Amongst them, the poet Li Bai had studied the sword from his days of his youth and was skilled in the art of the sword.

Li Bai studied the sword as a child, and he woke up at the same time as the birds to practice, and trained until both his eyes shone with spirit, and his body was strong.  His first teacher was his father Li Ke, who was an unemployed literati who kept a famous Longquan sword in his house, which was a family heirloom.  Unfortunately, he was not a good teacher and did not have a refined technique, so in 724 to continue his study of the sword, he received the Longquan sword from his father left his relatives and moved to Shandong to study under the famous master General 裴斐. Under the tutelage of a famous master and due to his own hard work, his sword work showed great improvement. The sword was his constant companion and source of inspiration. :「寧知草間人,腰下有龍泉」

Li Bai had the greatest respect for knight errant swordsmen, and his poem 《俠客行》 was a poem in praise to the life of a swordsman. And in it he showed his respect for the life of a martial hero and his distaste for power and authority. He would visit friends and look for teachers everywhere and by the time he had acquired of the sobriquet of being  one of the "three ultimates" of the Tang Dynasty he was already a master swordsman will a very high level of skill, having studied under the legendary  Hermit Zhao「趙處士」. Thus he exemplified the famous line "五嶽尋仙不辭遠 一生好入名山遊"  from his famous poem 《庐山谣寄卢侍御虚舟》, "I do not find travelling the five sacred summits to look for saints to be far, my life is devoted to travelling the famous mountains." and he wrote many poems praising the beauty of his native land at this time.

He was not afraid to fight and he stated "when I was fifteen, I was fond of swordplay, and with that art I challenged a few great men". Before the age of 20 he had killed a number of men during his wild youth in Sichuan.  「少年學劍術,凌轢白猿公」. Even though he calmed down as he was older, when he visited the capital Changan when he was 30, he was once surrounded by a bunch of gamblers and he chased them off with his sword with the help of one of his friends, showing no sign of fear, demonstrating his proficiency with the sword.    

He left behind many beautiful phrases praising the sword that are still quoted today. 「安得倚天劍,跨海斬長鯨」、「願將腰下劍,直為斬樓蘭」represented his desire to obtain military honors, fighting for his country. 「彈劍作歌奏苦聲,曳裙王門不稱情」、「知音不易得,撫劍增感慨」,represented his setbacks, when he could not serve his country in face of military defeat. 「起舞拂長劍,四座皆揚眉」、「醉來脫寶劍,旅憩高堂眠」,showed his disdain for riches and power and hthe importance he placed on freedom. 「撫劍夜吟嘯,雄心日千里」、「冠劍朝鳳闕,樓船侍龍池」reflected him chasing his dreams and his romanticism. In these poems, the swords were contained within the poems and the poems were contained in the swords, reaching a plane where swordsmanship and poetry were fused together, representing Li Bai's soul, dreams and burden.「長劍一杯酒,男兒方寸心」"With a longsword and a cup of wine, only then does a man have a heart".

There is also a marital arts set called Tai Bai Jian that is still extant today that is used to commemorate Li Bai. 太白 or "Great White" was his courtesy name." 

by Bernard Kwan FOUND HERE