Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: The Complete Taiji Dao

Now here is a book that arrived on my desk at exactly the right time!
"The Complete Taiji Dao - The Art of the Chinese Saber" by Zhang Yun is the most complete book on swordsmanship that I have seen yet. At a hefty 429 pages, this comprehensive study of the Chinese Saber is my new study material as I prepare to go to a weekend-long Wudang saber seminar with our Taiji instructor Michael Gilman.
While I have had training in the Japanese sword in Aikido, the Chinese sword is still new to me. Unlike the "Jian", the more delicate double-edged sword most often seen in Taiji practice, the Dao or saber is a large single-edged blade handled with powerful slashing motions.
In "The Complete Dao", Zhang Yun provides us with his background, and then procedes to explore the history of this weapon from crude jade and bronze models to the beautiful "Yao Dao", or slender waistcoat swords of the Royalty. As implied, there are many types of Dao, from heavy chopping cleavers to longer and narrower Dao's such as the ones used in Taiji practice. Zhang Yun explains this type allows him to more readily project his Chi to the end of the sabre, and is more nimble. Most Dao's are used single-handed, but Yun also demonstrates with a beautiful double-handed model with a ring pommel. (I want one!)
Zhang Yun provides very clear photos of all form work in the book, something that is usually difficult to read and put into practice. As the saber and spear were both the soldier's battlefield weapons, the applications from the form are against an opponent with a spear. Further in the book, the application work against both a heavier chopping broadsword and the slender "Jian" sword are demonstrated.
For me, this book arrived at a time when my interest in learning the Chinese sword is really growing. The book explains in great detail how Taiji principles are extended to weapon use as well as how the Taiji Dao is unique and different than conventional broadsword use. This book will stay with my collection forever.

You can read more about "The Complete Dao" at this link for Blue Snake Books, along with hundreds of other martial arts titles, please check it out!


Rick said...

You may find this of interest:

Best Regards,


Sensei Strange said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sensei Strange said...

I like Chinese swords, but Chinese swordsmanship bores me.

A sword system to be effective has to have....

solitary practice
cutting practice
2 man kata/technique practice

Chinese sword work (that I have seen) tends to be forms alone with toy foil swords. I would avoid that, and take the best of every sword discipline to create a training regime that incorporates artistry and effectiveness. Have everything based off your tai chi work, and let the sword extend what you already know.

walk in peace

Sensei Strange said...

Where can I get one of those cool video bars?

Dojo Rat said...

You are right about some puny wobbly foil Chinese swords, mostly for tournament flash etc.
My instructor has some very strong Chinese swords, I hope to get one in the $300 price range somewhere. They are far more rare than Japanese swords, as are the Chinese arts in general.
Now, I agree about the Japanese sword systems, which I was always attracted to. They are direct and powerful. I am familiar with the Bokken and Jo.
However, I am excited about the Chinese systems now, so I'm gonna give it a try. Lots more circular movement.
But Damn, I do love the Aikido sword...

Dojo Rat said...

The video bar option should be available if you scroll through "Layout" on your blogspot tools.
If you can't find it let me know, I'll look again.

JoseFreitas said...

Chinese sword has all of what you have mentioned, Strange, but few people train it or teach it. Your criticisms of the sword are the same we can use against most Taiji barehand methods. But classical systems of Chinese sword have all the elements you've mentioned (except possibly for sword cutting): My teacher's northern style of sword (Jing Wu derived) has three forms of increasing complexity, a Qigong method geared towards the sword, some "power practices" to increase usage of the sword, numerous two person drills (at least a dozen or more "formal" ones) and one long two-person form. Generally, you will see this sort of training more on the external schools, simply because most Taiji practitioners practice the sword as a non-fighting art, for performance, beauty and health (which is OK, I guess).

But my karate teacher, Shinji Iwaoka, also holds a 3rd Dan in Iaido and has become VERY convinced of my teacher's ability with the sword. He doesn't think of it as less developed than the Japanese systems.

D.R. I would recommend that you take a look at Yang Jwing Ming's books, Northern Chinese Sword, and at least the old version of Yang Style Taijiquan, they have numerous two person sword drills and "sticking" exercises. His videos are also pretty cool, and the San Cai Jian (a famous northern style two person set which was later adapted by Sun Lu Tang as an internal set) is quite "learnable" from video. Maybe I'll make some copies of stuff I have here for you, if you're enjoying Chinese swordwork so much.

The Dao is a good weapon to train "basic gong-fu" because unlike the Jian - which uses more sophisticated body motion - it is a more "kinetic" weapon, and will train power and the waist in a very effective way. Plus, the form is super-cool (I do the Yang version, which is very close to the one in the book).

JoseFreitas said...

D.R. you should check out Scott Roddell's videos, which inlucde sword cutting and more stuff. I have both his book and DVD, and find them very good. He's the only guy I know who does cutting with chinese swords.