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Thread: Chinese Swords and Swordmanship

  1. #1

    Chinese Swords and Swordmanship

    I've been browsing the web for accurate info on the history and use of chinese weapons, namely swords. However, there is not much information available and a lot of it is innacurate. Also, I've been searching for books on this subject, but either they are full of historic innacuracies, according to the reviews I read, or focus on a particular style or sword.
    Can anyone advise a good book on the subject and a few good places on the web (apart from this forum, of course )? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Frankly there is not much. Try a search on Scott Rodell, and Phillip Tom to see some good articles. Also they moderate another forum with some excellent discussions. There is also some good stuff at the Ethnographic Weapons forum. There is a new book in Chinese, but it is just pictures to me.

    Scott and Phillip are supposed to be coming out with a book soon though that is more than just a manual for a particular style like their last one.
    Stay tuned.
    Josh

  3. #3
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    Hi,

    Scott and Philip used to be on this forum. Search the archived Chinese swords and swordsmanship threads, start from the oldest threads and you'll spend weeks reading pleasurable and informative threads that encapsulates a huge amount of knowledge on this topic.

    I still look through those old threads and they are very valuable. I am glad SFI saved them when they switched to the new format.

  4. #4
    Yes, the old threads are invaluable sources of information. There are unfortunate cases where picture links are broken, but still there is allot of very informative discussions. Some opinions have evolved over time, but the basics are quite reliable.
    Josh

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    I think you are off to a good start, Hugo. At the risk of ruffling feathers, may I presume to ask you to "go slowly" in your research and be choosey in your selections of resources. Consider the following.

    a.) Scott Rodell and Phillip Tom are both well-read, well-informed and experienced scholars in the matters of Chinese weaponry and accoutremont. However, the same cannot be said of every author who gets his writing carried by the local bookstore chain. Knowing that the typical reader will not be able to cross-check many statements made, some authors feel pretty comfortable in professing a POV with little fear of correction.

    b.) To trace the development of weaponry through Chinese history is to waffle back and forth between fact and fiction with only the most slender divide between the two. Imagine tracing the development of axes back through American history only to wind up with the myth of "Paul Bunyan" as an accepted source. In Chinese history such things certainly can happen.

    c.) Tracing weaponry also assumes that you are willing to deal with a mixed-bag of terms for the same family of weapons and sometimes even for the same weapon itself. Patience is the order of the day in a land where one man's mallet is another man's mall, yes?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    Midwest Hapkido, Inc.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce W Sims View Post
    I think you are off to a good start, Hugo. At the risk of ruffling feathers, may I presume to ask you to "go slowly" in your research and be choosey in your selections of resources. Consider the following.

    a.) Scott Rodell and Phillip Tom are both well-read, well-informed and experienced scholars in the matters of Chinese weaponry and accoutremont. However, the same cannot be said of every author who gets his writing carried by the local bookstore chain. Knowing that the typical reader will not be able to cross-check many statements made, some authors feel pretty comfortable in professing a POV with little fear of correction.

    b.) To trace the development of weaponry through Chinese history is to waffle back and forth between fact and fiction with only the most slender divide between the two. Imagine tracing the development of axes back through American history only to wind up with the myth of "Paul Bunyan" as an accepted source. In Chinese history such things certainly can happen.

    c.) Tracing weaponry also assumes that you are willing to deal with a mixed-bag of terms for the same family of weapons and sometimes even for the same weapon itself. Patience is the order of the day in a land where one man's mallet is another man's mall, yes?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Well said. It can be very difficult to tell the difference between a confusion of terms because an author is using the wrong name for something, and a confusion of terms because two different things can legitimately be given the same name. Once you figure some things out, please feel free to share your confusion or discoveries. It is the only way to learn.
    Josh

  7. #7

    Lightbulb Both Josh and Bruce raised some very intelligent points.

    [QUOTE=Bruce W Sims;936259]
    To trace the development of weaponry through Chinese history is to waffle back and forth between fact and fiction with only the most slender divide between the two. Imagine tracing the development of axes back through American history only to wind up with the myth of "Paul Bunyan" as an accepted source. In Chinese history such things certainly can happen.

    Ain't it the truth! Chang San-Feng comes to mind. Both Josh and Bruce raised some very intelligent points. So Hugo, what is your aim in this pursuit? If you are looking for the book with ALL the answers, there isn't one. As Chinese martial arts are largely transmitted orally and cloaked in secrecy at that, you have a hell-of-a job on your hands. The surviving manuals, not confiscated by the Manchurian Qings or burned by the Red Guard, are written in Chinese and always pertain to a specific style or lineage. If you want to learn about Chinese swordsmanship, you will have to focus on a particular lineage to grasp the fundamentals of that specific style. Shaolin, Wudang, Taiji Quan, Xingyi and Baqua, all contain the essential elements of Chinese swordsmanship. There are, after all, only so many historically accurate techniques any lineage can utilize with jian and dao swords. I have known Scott Rodell for 14 years and find him to be a wealth of historical information.

    We see the same parallel with European rapier and long sword. The facts are often mixed with fantasy and speculation. No easy nut to crack!

    Hey Bruce, I have found it even more so in regards to authentic Korean swordsmanship. I hear so much about the wrinkle caused by the Hae-dong Kumdo folks. Just how "real" is their Korean swordsmanship? We can all feel the essence of the original Korean swordsmanship, hidden beneath the dominant influences of Chinese and Japanese traditions. Where do we search to dig up the genuine, authenticl style?

    Yours in Martial Spirit, Jon Palombi

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    Aahhhh.......
    and therein lies the rub, Jon. The development of swordwork in Korea did not follow the institutionalized sort of "style" approach of the Japanese Ryu-Ha system. And when most people see that, the conclusion is that there was no Korean sword.

    Koreans did not break their weapons traditions down into lineages as did the Japanese. Certainly they produced some excellent swordsmen but not because a swordsman followed a particular kwan or teacher.

    Most people who learned sword in Korea traditionally learned from a teacher if they had the money, or learned as part of their monthly or quarterly training as a corvee troop.

    If you would like a parallel, think about learning to shoot a rifle here in the States.

    Most kids learn to shoot from a family member, and then maybe from events in the Scouts or through shooting clubs. Later, if they go into the military, they can use the skills they have learned to advance their abilities there, right?
    Same thing with sword in Korea. A person might start by learning from a family member and then pick-up additional skills fron a variety of places. If that student ever wanted to put those skills to work, then he could join the military and prove his mettle in action.

    The problem I have is that there are a number of folks who train in Japanese traditions who like to discount such non-institutionalized training as somehow inferior to the institutionalized approach of the Japanese Ryu. Thats where I feel compelled to step-in and say something. Thoughts?

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    Midwest Hapkido, Inc.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugo Lopes View Post
    I've been browsing the web for accurate info on the history and use of chinese weapons, namely swords. However, there is not much information available and a lot of it is innacurate. Also, I've been searching for books on this subject, but either they are full of historic innacuracies, according to the reviews I read, or focus on a particular style or sword.
    Can anyone advise a good book on the subject and a few good places on the web (apart from this forum, of course )? Thanks.
    In addition to the advice left by the others, I'd recommend hunting down a copy of "Weapons in Ancient China" by Yang Hong. It's out of print, but copies can be found in the $80-100 range, generally. It's an excellent resource that covers ancient Chinese history (not as much of the more familiar material from the Ming dynasty and beyond), with many photographs and a number of color plates. I am not very knowledgeable about Chinese history and weaponry, but the author bases much of his material on documented history and archaeological evidence, rather than speculation and mythology. My only complaint is that it does not contain an index, so it helps to take notes as you go through it to make finding specific information easier in the future.
    Praemonitus, praemunitus.

  10. #10
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    Thanks, Justin:

    You have motivated me to mention that I recently acquired a copy of Werners' "CHINESE WEAPONS" (See: ISBN 974-87426-7-9)---- and NO its not the original 1932 work. CRAFTSMAN PRESS out of Bangkok, Thailand republished the book in 1986 and still has some copies if folks are interested.

    I mention Werner's work because unlike some of the more "romantic" source available, Werner tended to focus on items that were known to have actually been in use. I find this a very important distinction when faced with the broad array of items that various MA resources represent as "authentic Chinese weapons". FWIW.

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce
    Bruce W Sims
    Midwest Hapkido, Inc.

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    I second the nomination for ETC Werner's book, "Chinese Weapons", the Ohara press version from the early 70s can be had used at places like Abebooks.com for less than 10 bucks. It is not comprehensive but its a good starting place. tr

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    I just picked up a book called The Art of Chinese Swordsmanship by Zhang Yun. I'm certainly not an expert but so far it seems very informative and authoritative. It is a manual of Taiji Jian and also gives some history and concepts of chinese swordsmanship in general.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce W Sims View Post
    ... Scott Rodell and Phillip Tom are both well-read, well-informed and experienced scholars in the matters of Chinese weaponry and accoutremont...
    Found a Bio for Scott M. Rodell at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_M._Rodell

    & his book on Chinese Swordsmanship:
    http://www.sevenstarstrading.com/boo...swordsmanship/

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