Published by Xue Sheng in the blog Ramblings of a Nèijiā Madman.
Why the WWII Dadao was so heavy - from Chinese Long Sword
Here is something you might enjoy - this is from a novel by Alexander Kuprin called "Duel". This particular excerpt talks about an exercise young military officers undergo in learning how to use their sabers. They are working with a big, heavy, clay dummy roughly the size of a human being, but with no arms or legs.
The officers walked up to the clay dummy. Vetkin was the first one to give it a try. His kindly, somewhat simple face assuming a bestial expression, he swung broadly and awkwardly and struck the clay as hard as he could. At the same moment his throat produced an involuntary - crack! - sound common for butchers when hacking away at carcasses. The blade entered the clay about two feet deep, and Vetkin was barely able to pull it out of there.
"Badly done!" Beck-Agamalov remarked, shaking his head. "Now you, Romashov..."
Romashov pulled his saber out of the scabbard and awkwardly adjusted his spectacles. He was of average height, slender, and, while fairly strong for his build, also rather awkward from excessive shyness. He never learned to fence properly even back at the academy, and forgot this art entirely over the last year and a half. Swinging the weapon high up above his head he instinctively stuck out his left arm.
"Your arm!" Beck-Agamalov yelled.
But it was too late. The tip of the saber barely scraped the clay. Expecting more resistance, Romashov lost his balance and swayed. The blade, striking his outstretched hand, tore off a scrap of skin at the base of the index finger. There was blood.
"Eh, you see!" Beck-Agamalov exclaimed angrily, dismounting. "You might have cut off your arm. How can you treat a weapon this way? It's alright, it's just a scratch, just tie a handkerchief around it tightly. Schoolgirl. Hold my horse, you wimp. Now watch. The essence of the strike is not in the shoulder or in the elbow but here, in the wrist." He made a few swift circular movements with his right wrist, and the blade turned into a solid sparkling circle above his head. "Now watch - I put my left arm away, behind my back. When you deliver the strike, don't hit or chop the object, but cut it, as if sawing, pulling the blade back... Understand? And remember this - the plane of the blade must be always at an angle toward the plane of the strike. Make the angle sharp. Here, look."
Beck-Agamalov stepped two paces back from the clay dummy, leveled his sharp, aiming eyes at it, and suddenly, flashing the saber high in the air, delivered a swift strike, in one terrible movement imperceptible to the eye, seemingly falling forward. Romashov heard only the piercing whistling of torn air, and the top half of the dummy softly and heavily dropped to the ground. The cut was smooth, as if polished.
"Ah, damn! What a strike!" Lbov exclaimed delightedly. "Beck, my good man, please, one more time."
"Come on, Beck, one more," Vetkin asked.
But Beck-Agamalov, smiled and returned the saber into its scabbard, as if afraid to spoil the effect. He was breathing heavily, and, at that moment, with his wide-open angry eyes, aquiline nose, and bared teeth, looked like some predatory, cruel, and proud bird.
"This? This wasn't much of a cut?" he said with an exaggerated dismissiveness. "When my father at the Caucasus was sixty, he could cut a horse's neck. In half! You must practice constantly, my children. Here's what they do where I come from - they put a willow branch into a vice and cut at it, or let the water flow from above in a thin little stream and cut at it. If there's no spray, then the strike is true."
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