Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Postby MaartenSFS on Sun May 06, 2018 3:46 am

Today I officially graduated from my Master. His last lesson was test-cutting water bottles with a sharp blade (a Katana supplied by the Iaidoka). At first I was hesitant in fear of injuring myself and thought that it would be really hard to make a clean cut based on what many people on forums and commenters on Youtube have said. I started with a simple cut and it slid clean through the bottle like a knife through butter. I then ran through some of my favourite techniques from basic cuts to more advanced ones from different angles and then one-handed. Only on the advanced ones did I have to make multiple attempts to deliver a clean cut. Most of the bottles were very small and light too. My worst fuck-up was with an advanced one-handed technique that requires you to hold the sword with your back hand. I still cut through the bottle fine, it just wasn't pretty. I messed up two or three times when a little girl kept running up, even though her mum was right there watching!!! -evil-

Anyways, my point is that this is the first and only time that I ever used a real blade and I made perfectly acceptable cuts with it - great power and accuracy - fluid and fast. A lot of naysayers have said this or that about my technique and practise methods but the results say otherwise. I train a lot. I always pay attention to edge alignment. My training produces great, raw power, but also good technique. Unlike rote learning, it also produces the footwork, distancing, timing etc. that make one a good fighter. Edge alignment is very important, but correct training should develop that. Today I learned that I am on the right path and that I have a long way to go. I'm more that content with that. I can't wait to train all of my techniques in this way when I can afford it. I also realise that cutting through straw men is a bit more challenging, but a clean cut is a clean cut and I have trained hard enough to easily deliver cuts capable of cutting through those as well.

Just like forms, focusing too much on things like test-cutting and Tuishou, when we should really be training the more exhausting things and fencing or sparring more can lead us down a dangerous path of diminishing returns. What I care about is that my cuts are good enough to do grievous damage to the enemy (percussive or cutting damage both can get the job done), not whether every one will cleave a man in half, because things never work out perfectly in the real world. In that regard the views of Chinese and Japanese martial artists seem to differ, but striking a balance between the two may be ideal.

Anyways, I wrote this more for me and for those not in-the-know than for those naysayers whose opinions will probably never be swayed one way or the other. It is my honest account of training with a Master that has learned Chinese swordsmanship from an unbroken line (actually lines) of badarses. I put my faith in my Master and it was well-placed. Anyone that cares to disagree can come visit me for some friendly fencing once I have returned back to the West and settled in. I can't guarantee that I'll win against all of you, but I don't think that you'll leave thinking that what I've learned is worthless.. ;D
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Re: Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Postby windwalker on Sun May 06, 2018 4:09 am

MaartenSFS wrote:
Anyways, my point is that this is the first and only time that I ever used a real blade and I made perfectly acceptable cuts with it - great power and accuracy - fluid and fast. A lot of naysayers have said this or that about my technique and practise methods but the results say otherwise.

I train a lot. I always pay attention to edge alignment. My training produces great, raw power, but also good technique. Unlike rote learning, it also produces the footwork, distancing, timing etc. that make one a good fighter. Edge alignment is very important, but correct training should develop that.

Today I learned that I am on the right path and that I have a long way to go. I'm more that content with that. I can't wait to train all of my techniques in this way when I can afford it. I also realise that cutting through straw men is a bit more challenging, but a clean cut is a clean cut and I have trained hard enough to easily deliver cuts capable of cutting through those as well.



ha ;) must be psychic...you've answered this thread viewtopic.php?f=3&t=27006&start=15
would be interested to know your thoughts on their work if you can view it.
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Re: Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Postby MaartenSFS on Sun May 06, 2018 5:16 am

A most unexpected side effect of my training it is.. 8-)
Last edited by MaartenSFS on Sun May 06, 2018 5:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Postby Greg J on Sun May 06, 2018 7:25 pm

MaartenSFS wrote:
Today I officially graduated from my Master.



Congratulations. I'm sure it was a great day for both of you.

Best,
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Re: Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Postby MaartenSFS on Wed May 09, 2018 7:47 pm

Thanks, mate. Indeed, it was. :)
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Re: Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Postby Ba-men on Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:40 am

MaartenSFS wrote:Just like forms, focusing too much on things like test-cutting and Tuishou, when we should really be training the more exhausting things and fencing or sparring more can lead us down a dangerous path of diminishing returns. What I care about is that my cuts are good enough to do grievous damage to the enemy (percussive or cutting damage both can get the job done), not whether every one will cleave a man in half, because things never work out perfectly in the real world. In that regard the views of Chinese and Japanese martial artists seem to differ, but striking a balance between the two may be ideal.


A) Always keep what you wrote in mind.. 30+ years of Western heavy fencing. (under me) And as you probably know Fencing is no different than fighting. To get good at fencing (no matter what form) you have to Fence, not do forms or practice cut tests.. those never will make a quality fencer (of any style)

B) On Blade alignment... (The Two schools I. Cut & thrust..... and II. Thrust. I'm only going to talk about "Cut and Thrust" school.)

30+ years of Fencing with a blade (or rattan waster etc),, This might be a shocker to some.. IMHO Blade alignment isn't paramount "Effective delivery of the strike should trump all else." if it's correct in edge alignment BONUS!

Why do I think this?
A) Your going to have edge on edge contact, it's a reality, it will always happen. (some bad sword arts really go out their way to teach to avoid this... which means they are not based in reality)

B) Most weapons were actually designed to have edge on edge contact or "Other" non-edge surface contact.

Since this is a Chinese MA forum. I'll cite the incredible design of the common Nian Dao! (Oxtail Saber) As far as Sabers are... this design really is actually par-excellence!

The Debole of the Nian Dao (The upper third of the blade, ending in the point) is normally the weakest part of a sword. In this design, it is not! The Debole is clearly designed for edge on edge contact. The added material enhances the fulcrum of the techniques & is strong enough to survive direct contact with other hard materials. If the Debole of a Nian Dao chips, cracks, splinters etc.. in many ways this just adds to the overall effectiveness of the weapon. With a Nian Dao one could "Shot Block" or "Check-swing" .. i.e. cut with any angle alignment, if it meant edge on edge .. So what... (yes this wasn't preferred.. but when your life is on the line.. does one care about edge alignment? )

The other highlight I'll point to: So often a study group (MA school etc) will focus on the cut, or focus on Fencing, maybe both.. yet ignore the weapons design attributes and it's chief merits and miss the actual strength of the weapon's design. Again I'll cite the Nian Dao. If there ever was a "down & dirty" weapon this is it. The Nian Daio is excellent at close quarters fighting (corps et corps) too many techniques to list.. many grappling in nature, many two handed where one hand is grasping the blade, many using the Ricasso (Unsharpened length of the blade or the back spine An example: an overhand cut known as a "wrap" in the West i.e. & very popular in "True" Polish Saber Fencing.. the point becomes a chisel, used to slash, puncture, gash etc.

one just doesn't see those kind of techniques being studied.

Functionality wise: It's clear that the Nian Dao wasn't a step back in saber design but in fact a lateral.

Anyways just some thoughts... all the best & keep up the cool, intresting exploration/studies.. look forward to your next post.
Last edited by Ba-men on Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:42 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Edge Alignment in Swordsmanship..

Postby MaartenSFS on Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:37 pm

Ja, every time my Master and I started to work on a form it just wasn't realistic enough for me because a real person probably would have died and because in fencing we often move in and out and break up the rhythm, which doesn't look as nice. When we fence and it looks good it is because both people are reacting using the fencing instincts that they have developed. When there is a long exchange and it gets wilder the longer it goes on it is really a thing of beauty. :D

I agree with you that edge alignment is a bonus, though I feel like it comes naturally after proper training - even if it isn't perfect every time. Like you say, if a strike cannot be delivered to its target, it doesn't matter how perfectly the edge was aligned or not. I absolutely concur that edge-on-edge contact is unavoidable. That's also why I prefer the Dao over the Jian - they are more durable. I suspect that that is a major reason why they were adopted by most soldiers.

I think that the weapon that you are referring to is the Niuweidao. It's a good chopping blade for sure, but I wouldn't take a thrust from it either! I prefer something a bit longer, though, but not too heavy, that can be used both one and two-handed, but then I'm a bit picky.. :P

I believe that test cutting is a good way to get to know your weapon's properties and this should affect the way that you fence, if people care about realism. We use a lot of the close quarters techniques you are eluding to, mostly from the bind. My Master doesn't approve of wrestling and striking when you and/or your opponent have a sword in hand. There are many other ways to use a sword that are not featured in films. 8)

European swords didn't take a step back either. They evolved with the times and were later mass-produced, like their Chinese counterparts. Certain properties of these swords took a hit in quality, but overall it was a lateral step. The European military sabres and Chinese Dao were similar in many ways. We seem to have all arrived at similar conclusions. It's quite interesting.

Thanks for the interesting reply. I'm sorry that I'm not able to respond so well, as I'm having a busy day.. May I ask what kind of weapons system you have studied?
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