Short Weapons of Northern Shaolin
The Saber and the Sword are the primary short weapons. There are other short weapons such as the fan, daggers, and cane, but these are really a distant second in importance. So lets dive into the nature of the Sword, of Jian, and Saber, or Dao.
Kung Fu Saber has the Spirit of a Tiger
The saber is a fierce weapon that heightens the spirit and emotional intensity of its practitioners with its fast sweeping and slashing movements. The Saber is said to have the spirit of a Tiger! Traditional sabers ranged in weight from 1 1/2 to 3 pounds for a normal weapon to as heavy as 8 pounds for a very heavy weapon. The very heavy weapons may have been used more frequently for strength development than actual fighting. The heavier sabers were practical for fighting opponents wearing armor.
The saber is broad bladed and sharp on one side and at the tip. The particular shape and style used in Northern Shaolin is called a Willow Leaf Saber.
The saber is an excellent close fighting weapon because its dull edge can be pressed either against the free hand or against the body to develop power in a confined area.
Sabers were also used from horseback because there was less danger of cutting your own horse than with a straight sword. Sabers are often used with a piece of cloth attached to the pommel. Now this cloth mainly serves a decorative function, although it could be used to distract the opponent or wipe up blood. Most people think it looks great, and makes a pleasing sound whipping and cracking through the air. Originally this cloth was actually a leather strap or strong cord that looped around the wrist. This cord was especially useful if the saber were knocked from a mounted warriors grasp. Then he, or she, could simply grab it again, instead of riding back on their horse to where they lost the weapon, and dismounting to retrieve it.
The saber is a great weapon for loosening up the wrists. It also helps to develop a clear connection between the steps of the feet and the movements of the wrists, hands and swords. Saber training is also practical for modern street self-defense because its swinging movements can easily be used with improvised clubs, rods or sticks. The saber is a great weapon for beginners.
The Sword builds Spirit
The straight sword is long narrow and sharp on both sides. The first third of the blade was really razor sharp, while the second third, although sharp, was not as sharp. The last third was much thicker and not sharp at all. This portion of the blade could be used for blocking the opponents’ weapons. Straight swords are somewhat lighter than sabers and are considered to be the real swords in China. The saber is literally called a knife in Chinese.
The straight sword strategy is characterized by a skillful use of the tip to cut vulnerable areas of the opponents’ body, such as the tendons and arteries at the wrists, throat, knees, and ankles. The straight sword can also be used for a straight thrust. It was generally not used for cutting through armor like a saber.
The straight sword uses many spiraling techniques and helps to direct and refine the internal spirals within the practitioners’ body. It is excellent for developing the extension of Qi outside the body all the way to the tip of the blade. Straight sword also develops good balance by using a variety of movements on one leg. Many of the potential combinations of the Cat Stances are also explored in sword training. The straight sword was weapon of choice used by scholars, generals, and women because it requires cleverness, speed, skill, and strategy to win, rather than raw power.
The straight sword is considered to be a very difficult weapon to truly master. It lacks the length of the spear, staff, Kwan Dao or other pole arms and is not nearly as sturdy as a saber. The sword is really no good for cutting thru armor and is too weak to even really block well without damaging the blade. Therefore the sword person is often on the defensive. In most authentic traditional Chinese martial arts sword forms there 4 or 5 or more defensive moves required to set up a single attacking technique. This is very realistic especially when facing a spear. Many of the techniques in any of the older forms are about bridging the distance to the opponent and getting close enough to injure them without being speared on the way in…
It is said the staff takes 100 days, the spear 1,000, and the sword 10,000! That is a lot of practice! None the less the sword is very classy and cool and signified a certain level of refinement and development. When you are facing a very calm and relaxed looking swordsman be very careful. That calmness can only be based actual skill and experience.