Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Katana, Saber, and "Jian"

Katana, Saber (Dao), and Jian (straight sword)


So now that we are learning a two-person sword sparring set from our instructor Michael Gilman, I am getting to know the straight sword again. Years ago, I took fencing in college. It was taught by a French guy that had coached an Olympic team. It was a great workout and I loved it. But we were using the Foil mostly, and a little Epe' which was a little thicker and had an edge. I was just getting into Karate and wondered how the Foil would stand up to a Katana in combat.
Stylistically they are so different, it would be comparing apples to oranges. Let's face it; the Katana is probably the most bad-ass killing blade on the planet.
While it can be used for straight thrusts, the Katana is most powerful in arcing cuts.



The Saber just may be my favorite however. We learned Saber (Dao) use while Gilman trained us in a complex Wudang Saber form which included some Bagua-type circle-walking, straight thrusts and wide, sweeping arcs. Note the ring pommel which is very useful for flipping and inverting the Saber. While the Saber is mostly one-handed, many of the cuts use both hands or use the empty hand to assist and press against the wrist of the weapon hand. The Saber is lighter than the Katana, This one is hand forged in China and I got it through Wing Lam for around $130.

My new "Jian"


The Jian (straight sword) I bought is made by Hanwei, and was sold as a practical, durable no-frills sword. The scabbard is plastic as is the handle. But the construction is good and the blade is good spring steel. This sword could easily go on a rainy camping trip with no fear of causing it damage. The blade has flexibility in the last 1/3 and while the edge is unsharpened it would not take much to dress it.
As we were told, the Saber is the combat weapon for the soldier, and it comes in many forms; thick, blunt or long as mine is. The Jian however, was used more by nobles and women. While the Katana and Saber primarily cut in arcs, the Jian is more like a surgical tool for precise cuts and thrusts. It also is double-edged which opens up a wide variety of techniques.

I love the Katana and always will. It's power and durability are legendary. Most of what I know about the Katana was from the time I spent in Aikido, and I'm sure the techniques I learned reflected the nature of Aikido.
But I love the "poetry" of the Chinese sword. The movements mimic animal and natural forms and the Jian uses sticking energy close in.
All these weapons were affordable, durable and a lot of fun to learn and experiment with.
Let me know if you also have a favorite...

45 comments:

hermann said...

DJ, I really love to read your blog, and mostly find it very interesting, if not in my line of thinking martialy-wise alltogehter.

But your choise of Chinese weapons, I don't like, sorry. The sabre is a 20th century, western influenced "Yang sabre", not very historical, and I wonder about the quality of the blade, and the Adam Xu swords, I don't like either. Wrong balance, unhistoric guard, bad materials, and the wobbly blade would make a real dangerous cutter, if sharpended.
You mentioned the prices, well they are very affordable, a good thing, and maybe useable for forms training. But if you really get into Chinese blades and maybe a bit of cutting, you should check Scott Rodell and his 7* trading company.

Zacky Chan said...

Dude, so jealous you guys are working with Gilman on the jian. Still go through the sabre form every once in a while to make sure I can still recall it. The katana? Aikido's weird with this, at least how our dojo does it, because of course we're never using a real katana blade, and a bokken wooden sword instead. There's always arguments between iaido and aikido as to which is "better" or more "authentic". These terms can mean a lot of different things. In the end, you yourself define the relevance of your weapons training and empty handed time as well. I love working with the bokken. I find solo drills and techniques are incredibely simple, but putting basics together and working with partners is where the real fun comes in. I'd love to do some sticking drills with the sabre and jian.

Dojo Rat said...

Jeez Hermann, give a guy a break!
I am not ready to chuck down $500 on a combat-ready sword yet.
Do you have a link for Rodell's website?

Zacky: Did you get your Saber through customs into Japan?

hermann said...

Break given, lol, as the 500 $ might not be enough. It's just that I started off myself with some bad blades, hide them somewhere now, too embarressed to show. Sonner or later, one has to get something decent, they will last a lifetime, if treated well!

http://sevenstarstrading.com/site/

Dojo Rat said...

Thanks Hermann; I see there is a nice cutting Jian for about $195, but holy shit, some of those swords are almost $3000.00!

Fou-mar said...

bob here,saber or sabre, very good article in recent Black Belt magazine on swords. $150 to $300 ok for day to day usage. had to log-in to goggle to see comments.

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