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...