Saber/dao cloths

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

Saber/dao cloths

Postby LaoDan on Thu May 23, 2019 7:41 am

I was wondering when the use of cloth tied to the pommel of the saber/dao began. While ancient statues of warriors with swords/jian show the use of tassels, it does not seem like using the cloth with the saber/dao was prevalent until relatively recently. For the Qing military the dao used a wrist cord rather than the cloth, but I do not know about folk usage. Of course, modern performances typically use cloths on the sabers/dao.

Image

I think that some of the Boxers (~1900) tied cloths to their sabers/dao, and some of the Big Knife soldiers that fought the Japanese in WWII used saber/dao cloths tied to the ring pommels of their weapons (although it seems like this was not prevalent or standard). I do not know about street performers from the late Qing, or rebel troops, theater, etc.

Does anyone have information on saber/dao cloths and when they began to be used instead of the wrist cord?
Last edited by LaoDan on Thu May 23, 2019 7:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
LaoDan
Huajing
 
Posts: 333
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 11:51 am

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby D_Glenn on Fri May 24, 2019 7:59 am

One thought is that it was originally a white cloth that got soaked in blood as you’re using it to wipe blood of your hand and handle. So a blood red cloth became a significant symbol of courage. Then just a red cloth started being used. The other idea is that it can help to distract your enemy, and catch his gaze momentarily, to keep him from focusing on the tip of your sword.

.
Last edited by D_Glenn on Fri May 24, 2019 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
D_Glenn
Great Old One
 
Posts: 4835
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:04 pm

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby LaoDan on Fri May 24, 2019 10:20 am

What I was trying to get at was determining when the saber/dao cloth began being used. The Qing military did not appear to use them and most photographs that show sabers/dao from the Boxer rebellion (~ 1900) and the big knife troops from WWII (~1937-1945) do not show saber/dao cloths being used. Perhaps it was more common among other groups like street or theater performers, informal groups like rebel forces or town militias, etc., but I have not seen evidence for this.

Most of the early martial arts manuals that show saber/dao do not include saber/dao cloths, with a few exceptions, for example:

單戒刀 SINGLE DEFENSE-SABER
金一明 by Jin Yiming
[published by 新亞書店印行 New Asia Press, Oct, 1932]

ImageImageImage

內家拳太極功玄玄刀 THE TAIJI UNFATHOMABLE SABER OF THE INTERNAL SCHOOL
吳圖南著 by Wu Tunan
[published by 商務印書館 The Commercial Press, LTD, Apr, 1934]

Image

So, by the 1930s some martial artists were using saber/dao cloths, but most do not appear to have done so. My guess is that the prevalence of the use of the saber/dao cloth mainly occurred after martial arts became a performance sport. While we could come up with explanations for martial purposes for the saber/dao cloth, if they were not really used in actual combat then the speculation may be rather meaningless.
LaoDan
Huajing
 
Posts: 333
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 11:51 am

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby MaartenSFS on Fri May 24, 2019 12:29 pm

My Master told me that the cloth, Daocai, has several main functions (in no particular order):

1) It was wrapped around the hand/wrist so that if the sword fell it would not be lost to the enemy.

2) It was gripped with the rear hand to extend the length of the fulcrum for extra leverage.

3) It absorbed blood to prevent everything becoming a slippy mess.

There may be more, but I'd have to ask him. Distraction may be another one, but I don't expect that this would be particularly useful on a heavy Dadao. Worth a try, though.
User avatar
MaartenSFS
Wuji
 
Posts: 2100
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:22 pm
Location: Lansing, Michigan

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby johnwang on Fri May 24, 2019 1:28 pm

MaartenSFS wrote:1) It was wrapped around the hand/wrist so that if the sword fell it would not be lost to the enemy.

If that's the purpose then this method is better.

Image

MaartenSFS wrote: Distraction may be another one,

The tassel at the spear head can distract your opponent's eyes. The cloths at the end of your Dao can only distract your own eyes.
Last edited by johnwang on Fri May 24, 2019 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm still allergy to "push".
User avatar
johnwang
Great Old One
 
Posts: 8995
Joined: Tue May 13, 2008 5:26 pm

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby taiwandeutscher on Fri May 24, 2019 4:41 pm

According Scott Rodell, tassels on straight swords and cloth on sabres are all a rather modern thing, maybe 100 yrs.
hongdaozi
taiwandeutscher
Wuji
 
Posts: 1558
Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2008 7:48 pm
Location: Qishan, Taiwan, R. o. C.

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby MaartenSFS on Fri May 24, 2019 5:24 pm

Number two is the important one there.
User avatar
MaartenSFS
Wuji
 
Posts: 2100
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:22 pm
Location: Lansing, Michigan

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby D_Glenn on Fri May 24, 2019 5:57 pm

Found a site that was looking at old paintings and pottery to try to figure it out, but ultimately no conclusion to when the rope/ wrist cord was replaced with the tassels and cloth, or why.
Image

.
Last edited by D_Glenn on Sat May 25, 2019 5:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
D_Glenn
Great Old One
 
Posts: 4835
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:04 pm

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby johnwang on Fri May 24, 2019 6:03 pm

MaartenSFS wrote:Number two is the important one there.

If that's the main purpose, Chinese should be smart enough to figure out a better way to do that.

Image
Last edited by johnwang on Fri May 24, 2019 6:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm still allergy to "push".
User avatar
johnwang
Great Old One
 
Posts: 8995
Joined: Tue May 13, 2008 5:26 pm

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby Bao on Fri May 24, 2019 11:36 pm

According Scott Rodell, tassels on straight swords and cloth on sabres are all a rather modern thing, maybe 100 yrs.


Straight sword tassel is a special training tool. When you play with the tassel you keep it moving, dancing in the air stretched. You practice better movement. I would suggest that the broadsword cloth was just something someone invented because straight swords looked pretty with tassels. :P
Thoughts on Tai Chi (My Tai Chi blog)
- Storms make oaks take deeper root. -George Herbert
- To affect the quality of the day, is the highest of all arts! -Walden Thoreau
Bao
Great Old One
 
Posts: 7026
Joined: Tue May 13, 2008 12:46 pm
Location: High up north

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby MaartenSFS on Sat May 25, 2019 3:20 am

johnwang wrote:
MaartenSFS wrote:Number two is the important one there.

If that's the main purpose, Chinese should be smart enough to figure out a better way to do that.

Image

That's number one.
我的意思是你用后手抓刀彩,拉直,它就变成一个杠杆。 :)
User avatar
MaartenSFS
Wuji
 
Posts: 2100
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:22 pm
Location: Lansing, Michigan

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby Subitai on Mon May 27, 2019 9:28 pm

Not really much to add for me after the all the answers already... but I figured i'd throw this vid in:

The Final Master Fight Scene - Bart Jam Do " Ally fight vs single knife and cloth "

https://youtu.be/a88A_1PSZ1s?t=130
Subitai
Huajing
 
Posts: 259
Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2014 12:25 pm
Location: Southeastern, CT USA

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby marvin8 on Tue May 28, 2019 8:53 pm

LaoDan wrote:Does anyone have information on saber/dao cloths and when they began to be used instead of the wrist cord? . . .

So, by the 1930s some martial artists were using saber/dao cloths, but most do not appear to have done so. My guess is that the prevalence of the use of the saber/dao cloth mainly occurred after martial arts became a performance sport. While we could come up with explanations for martial purposes for the saber/dao cloth, if they were not really used in actual combat then the speculation may be rather meaningless.

Regarding using saber cloths in combat, I don't know if you're specifically asking about martial artists (e.g., shaolin temple, etc.) or the general population (e.g., military).

Evidence shows most modern military (e.g., China, U.S., UK, Sweden, etc.) did not use saber cloths in actual combat. They used tassels as lanyards ("wrist cords"). 19th century sabers:

Image


Subitai wrote:Not really much to add for me after the all the answers already... but I figured i'd throw this vid in:

The Final Master Fight Scene - Bart Jam Do " Ally fight vs single knife and cloth "

https://youtu.be/a88A_1PSZ1s?t=130

"The Hidden Sword" by the same writer/director will be released on 7/19/19. This clip shows the saber cloth being used as a lanyard:

Image
Last edited by marvin8 on Wed May 29, 2019 9:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
marvin8
Wuji
 
Posts: 1689
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:30 pm

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby marvin8 on Wed May 29, 2019 4:27 am

LaoDan wrote:I was wondering when the use of cloth tied to the pommel of the saber/dao began. . . .

Does anyone have information on saber/dao cloths and when they began to be used instead of the wrist cord? . . .

My guess is that the prevalence of the use of the saber/dao cloth mainly occurred after martial arts became a performance sport.

These sources state the use of dao cloths derived from the Chinese opera.

From another website:
Brian Kennedy (author of “Chinese Martial Arts Training Manual: A Historical Survey”) on September 12, 2003 wrote:I also came to the same conclusion regarding the tassels on both straight swords and sabers; they look cool and they are a holdover from the chinese opera.

In either case there is, at least as far as I can see, no martial or bio-mechanical reason for it.

In a related but completely unrelated question; why did the Chinese in the Republican period tie a string between their (very cool) "broomhandle" Mauser pistols and their belts? Were they afraid of "forgetting" their pistol at some bar or brothel so they tied a string to it? Or to prevent local hoodlums or mean foreign devils from stealing their Mausers?

Oh, I should mention the "tie the pistol to the belt" routine is not just in the Shaw Brothers movies, I have seen "real" photos in gun magazines where they do it.

take care,
Brian the Gunslinger
C. Fritz Froehlich on September 12, 2003 wrote:Hi all,

In refference to the following:

Brian Kennedy wrote:I also came to the same conclusion regarding the tassels on both straight swords and sabers; they look cool and they are a holdover from the chinese opera.

In either case there is, at least as far as I can see, no martial or bio-mechanical reason for it.


In European saber technique even as recently as WW1 the Saber was tied to the wrist with a cord. This is to prevent the saber when droped to be compleatly lost. Having fenced saber in college I can see the need for this. When a full weighted saber is hit by another it could be dislodged. Especially if you are on a charging horse. This also can come into effect if your hand is covered in your opponents blood.

I have found a reference in an interesting book on Asian fencing called "Aikido and Chinese Martial Arts, Aikido and Weapons Training" to the use of the tassel. The Chinese Author Lujian Xing, gives the same reasons for the tassel. It is not a weapon or a flashy ellement of the form, but a way of keeping the sword close to your hand even if you drop it. Having tried this, with form and in simulated combat a simple strip of cloth is easier to use than the bulky tassel.

This book is worth a look. I am not fully conversant with the Japanese weapons, but I am skeptical on their functionallity. How ever the Chinese straight sword material is very similar to the western fencing books being translated and distributed by the ARMA people.

I am curious as to the functionallity of the forms we have learned. Do they teach dance or combative combinations. At least they teach how to move with a weapon in your hands.

On a further note the same rational is used for the Pistol tied to the wrist or the waist. It was standard practice in the late 19th century and early 20th century British army to tie the pistol to a lanyard that hung from the waist or from around the neck.

There is my two cents worth,
Fritz


From another website:
AidanO on Sep 20, 2010 wrote:Historically, tassels did exist, in the same design for both Jian and Dao, which is strange that what is currently passed on between the two is very different between them. However, the historical tassel bears little resemblance to what is currently sold/displayed on swords today.

It was also a useful addition to a blade. Here's a picture of what I mean: http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com/

The use of the Chinese tassel was that same as that of European cavalry sabers. It looped around the wrist in battle, so if your blade was knocked out of your hand for whatever reason, you didn't lose your sword. It dropped and dangled until you could recover it. I'm sure that people would have trained skills to flick it back into their hand, but it wouldn't have been regimented.

The big tassels that are so very common these days on Jian and the brightly coloured cloth on Dao are from the Chinese Opera and gradually took over.

In modern practice is there a need for a tassel of this type? Probably not unless physics suddenly breaks down and guns stop working, because even if you are interested in restoring Chinese swordsmanship and sparring with real weight weapons, it's unlikely that you are going to be charging around on horseback with a live blade shopping at people and risk dropping your blade.

Although I have seen clips on youtube that are remarkably similar.
josh stout on 05-30-2007 wrote:I think you have a good hypothesis for the general flow of history regarding the tassel. However, it would only be useful as a general description because many specific exceptions could be found given the size of China and the length of its history. Remember that Wushu came from Chinese Opera with a long tradition of flashy weapons. Also, in the Yuan dynasty there are many examples of regulation military dao with somewhat short double tassels that look very similar to the slightly longer ones available today. Ming jian seem to be better designed for tassel use than most Qing jian. So if you think the tassel is a pain and you don't want to use it, you would be with what appears to be the majority position of the last 500 years or so of sword use. On the other hand, if you like the tassel you would be part of a continuous tradition of use going back at least a millennium.

Josh


Excerpt from "Guan dao:"
Mykickboxing.com wrote:Combat Uses

The guan dao is used quite frequently in the part of contemporary Wushu that is deemed to have derived from "Shaolin" form of martial arts in modern times and in popular fictional depictions. According to contemporary Wushu practice, its purpose is more to disarm an opponent and deflect his strikes rather than to attack. To that end, a large veil cloth is attached to the end to dissuade and confuse opponents. However, there is no evidence of this being an authentic aspect of the weapon's usage. Tassles and cloths are attached to numerous weapons such as jian, dao, and guan dao used in Chinese opera, one of the sources of movements found in contemporary wushu. In addition, we do not see these tassles and cloths attached to weaponry in other cultures, so we can assume this feature would have been of little consequence - if confusion was a great element surely they would be found in later European dueling-type swords and we would perhaps see it filtered into modern day fencing. There is a notch located on the back side of the blade used to grasp opposing weapons. Moreover, the long range of the guan dao allows the wielder to keep his distance. In modern training, the proper wielding of a guan dao resembles an intricate dance. It however shares design similarities with some european polearms - as both a heavy and a long weapon it is doubtful that theatrical techniques could have been practically employed. Forms utilizing the weapon in styles such as Hung Ga Kuen, emphasize strong slashing movements and momentum to keep the heavy blade moving through a series of spinning cuts. The considerable weight of the weapon also makes guan dao forms good for training the overall strength of the body.
User avatar
marvin8
Wuji
 
Posts: 1689
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 8:30 pm

Re: Saber/dao cloths

Postby LaoDan on Wed May 29, 2019 12:15 pm

Thanks for that research Marvin. D_Glenn’s illustration from old paintings and pottery is also interesting since it may indicate the use of the cloth (on a straight-backed ring-pommel dao?) earlier than I had thought.

The following film clip from 1924-1927 shows a martial artist on Miao Feng Shan (Marvellous Peak Mountain), the site of a Daoist temple that was located on a hill about 25 miles northwest of Beijing, using the saber/dao cloth [from about 0:50-1:25], although the paired forms that follow do not use the saber/dao cloth:

LaoDan
Huajing
 
Posts: 333
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 11:51 am

Next

Return to Xingyiquan - Baguazhang - Taijiquan

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest