Jian/Gim

Discussion in 'Weapons' started by Ben Gash CLF, Oct 31, 2017.

  1. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    Just consolidating some of my thoughts about the Chinese double edged sword.
    The Jian is a weapon that I feel is much misunderstood in Chinese martial arts, and the more I study the more I come to believe this.
    There is a belief in modern CMA that Jian were light, delicate, thrust-centric weapons used by the upper class.
    However pretty much all of these ideas are wrong in my opinion.
    The easiest one to counter is that they were light. I've handled Qing dynasty examples and they are anything but. Not that they were heavy, bit that they had typical sword heft. Weights of historical examples seem to be in the range of 1.5-2.5lbs, which is on a par with Western swords and also Chinese Dao (sabres).
    In Major Methods of the Wudang Sword Huang Yuan Xiou describes a training sword as being 1-1.5lbs. This would make it slightly heavier than an Olympic fencing sabre, but without the heavy guard (an important point when we come on to talk about usage and delicateness, European infantry sabres of the 19th century weighed a similar amount to Jian but a major contributor to their weight was the complex hilt), although some of the other measurements in the book seem a little weird, so I'm not convinced that there wasn't either a printing error in the original or a translation error in the text I have.
    Secondly is that they were delicate. If we look at the combination of weight and blade profile, they could not have been delicate. This is a pair of 19th century Jian, do they look delicate?
    [​IMG]
    Indeed what they most resemble is a pair of Oakeshott type XI-XIII medieval arming swords, something many TCMA snobs will say they should not be used like (while immediately demonstrating that they have no idea how medieval European swords were used).
    A 2lb fairly broad bladed sword is more than capable of performing a hard block against another bladed weapon, however as with H2H combat hard blocks limit your responses, so deflections should be the preferred option.
    Yes, Jian forms often contain some subtle and skillful actions, but that is because training should include subtle and skillful actions. Since I started sparring with Dao I've found that many of those action work very well with the Dao too.
    However a lot of Jian were also quite short, and very unsuited to subtle work (Bak Mei still retains the short Jian)
    Thirdly we have the idea that Jian are thrust-centric. My primary Jian systems are Choy Li Fut and Wudang (both Li Jinglin's Wudang Dan Jian and Wudang San Feng Pai), and they both have a lot of cuts in their forms! Indeed in Huang's book on Wudang sword (Huang was a student of Li) among the 13 basic techniques it lists draw, carry, lift,strike, point, collapse, chop, intercept and slice. So of 13 fundamental techniques 9 are cuts (and some of the others aren't thrusts).
    Scott Rodell is quite definite that in his research of historical Jian they were weighted for cutting, and indeed he has some cool videos of test cutting with Jian. My own limited handling of antique Jian (and I learned my first Choy Li Fut sword form entirely with Qing dynasty antiques) they are definitely cut and thrust swords. Their weight and blade design should make it obvious.
    This is a Victorian Highland officer's broadsword:
    [​IMG]
    We know from after action reports from the Indian mutiny that these swords were more than capable of taking a man's head off, and if you changed the fittings, that would be a Jian.
    However we can see how the false belief has changed practice and fostered confirmation bias. If you watch a modern performance of the Northern Shaolin form dragon shaped sword, it will look like a thrust centric routine with lots of subtle deflections and parries. However if you read Jin Yiming's 1932 book on the form the application section is full of cuts, and indeed features the following line : "so I turn my head, then turn my body and fiercely chop at him." The book also lists 11 fundamental techniques, of which again half of them are cuts
    Lastly we have the idea that the Jian was a weapon of the upper class, generals not soldiers. This may have been true in the late Ming imperial army, but not at other times and in other contexts. Yes according to Confucian and Daoist ideals a gentleman should carry a sword, and so there is a cultural image of a gentleman carrying a sword. However Confucianism also denigrates the military and China had a very two tier Civilian and Military ruling class. Therefore while people who carried Jian in day to day life most likely didn't know how to use them, those who did train and fight with them typically weren't member's of the civilian upper class. In the Qing dynasty because of the Manchu cultural heritage Dao were popular with many senior officers, and indeed the Qianlong emperor was a big fan of the dao.
    However in China the Imperial army has only ever been part of the military picture. There have always been widespread local militia and warlord armies and many of these were equipped with Jian. Indeed there is a type of simply constructed Jian from the Ming and Qing dynasties known among collectors as "Militia Jian". Indeed the two that I pictured above would fall into this category.
    When we consider the roles fulfilled by Qing dynasty martial artists it was usually in these non Imperial army roles, militia trainers, bodyguards, caravan guards, warlords. Therefore we must consider that the type of Jian used by many of our martial arts ancestors would have been anything but delicate and sophisticated.
     
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  2. Rataca100

    Rataca100 Banned Banned

    In terms of this, granted i may have missed the point fine if i did. But dont you have to take into account metal quality diffrences?

    Apart from that question, its a good read.
     
  3. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    Metal quality effects durability mostly, if it can't take a reasonable edge it's not good enough to make any kind of sword from. Again though, if the steel was poor quality it destroys the delicate, subtle weapon idea, and if it's not could enough to cut decently it's not going to be stiff enough to thrust effectively.
     
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  4. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    I can only speak from the point of view of a guy who experienced Chen style Taijiquan. I didn't do any of the sword forms but saw enough of them on a regular basis, enough to make some comparison to Olympic fencing and HEMA. My impression was that while it certainly wasn't a dainty dueling weapon I still got the feeling that it was an officer's/official's weapon. Much like European infantry officers had swords who s primary purposes was to direct troops but if forced to fight had to do so within or against formations of people wielding polearms/firearms with bayonettes, the sword was a last resort sidearm extracted when things really got bad.

    Regarding the Jian, my impression, and I must state it is only a impression, that unlike the dao demonstrations I have seen, its cuts reminded me less of a weapon in the hands of an individual assaulting a position, than that of a position being assaulted and having to draw the blade in close quarters in a rapidly deteriorating situation.

    In fencing at the end of term as a treat ( if they have been good) we give the junior section a little game called assassins and musketeers where 'a king' escorted by his bodyguards has to cross a hall without being hit (assassinated) I won't go through the all the silly rules (assassins can only attack, musketeers can only parry-riposte, king can do anything he likes, and a plethora of other safety rules we have had to introduce - kids have a unnerving ability of trying to beat the rule system in the most dangerous ways possible)

    Well when they musketeers are 'cornered' and are surrounded and the king has to get stuck in....thats the dynamic of what the jian reminded me of (well the better trained kid/king at least) Close quarter cuts and stabs, rapidly moving from one threat to another, while at the same time having to defend a fixed positon.

    Again its just an impression. The cultural and martial variables are probably huge.
     
  5. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Slightly off topic, can anyone point me in the direction of resources on the dao, I've always liked the look of them, and I'd be interested in knowing a bit more about them.

    Cheers!
     
  6. Rataca100

    Rataca100 Banned Banned

    Lau Gar Kung fu classes/teachers? Weapons of Lau Gar Kung Fu According to that, its one of the weapons they teach. As for manuals etc no idea. I also dont know if that was helpful or not.
     
  7. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    I wasnt thinking more historical sources etc. But thanks anyway.
     
  8. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    SINGLE DEFENSE-SABER (DAN JIE DAO)
     
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  9. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

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  10. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    It's been a while since I've seen Chen sword. I had a look and the thing that grabbed me was how aggressive it is!
     
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  11. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    Yeah thats the one. Though i think i only ever got to see about half of the form that Chen Xiaowang displays here. Im not familiar with other styles. Is this aggressive in comparison to say Yang?
     
  12. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    LOL, compared to the Yang certainly :D
    However compared to most Chinese systems it's pretty aggressive



     
  13. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

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  14. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    I disagree. It's nearly the same form but with variations-Chen historically did not have one and added this to their curriculum to "keep up with the Joneses" or whatever-only Chen is moving at speed. Something most Yang practitioners have lost,that this is the proper way their weaponry is to be practiced.

    I don't see this execution of Chen form looking/being especially any more "aggressive" than when Yang is performed thus. We practiced it that way.
     
  15. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    True, it's hard to see past the slow movement of a lot of Yang performances tbh. I think it's the way Chen seems to be chasing his strikes which makes it look aggressive.
     
  16. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    I always figured a jian would work just fine with a viking round shield. They don't appear to be that different, with the exception of a ridge vs. a fuller. Put a bigger cross on those pictured, and it is an arming sword.
     
  17. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    Funnily enough while the Chinese used large round shields up until the 20th century they seem to always have been used with forms of dao for some reason
     
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