A nice Balanced Jian

Discussion in 'Chinese Swords and Sword Arts' started by bowser666, Jun 30, 2009.

  1. bowser666

    bowser666 2nd Black Belt

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    Looking for something to train with , that is nice and balanced. Not looking to spend a ton of money but I want something balanced. I have tried the Paul Chen series Jian's and they are a little blade heavy. Any recomendations would be appreciated.
     
  2. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I think maybe I need to ask: what kind of jian are you hoping to get? A light wushu piece, or a more realistic, combat quality piece?

    In my experience, it seems that the proper feel of a sword is sort of a personal thing. What one person might feel is "perfectly" balanced, just doesn't feel right to the next.

    My sifu likes the balance point right at the guard. To me, this makes the sword feel dead in my hand. I prefer a balance point at least a couple inches down the blade.

    For a jian to have a balance point right at the guard means that it usually needs to be a pretty light blade. Usually this excludes any real, or combat quality weapons. Most of the weapons with this kind of balance are very light wushu type jians.

    A weapon with a combat quality blade will be heavier, tho it should still not be clunky or unwieldy. But the heavier blade mandates a heavier pommel to give it balance. This usually means that the balance point will be a bit further down the blade because you often can't put enough weight on the pommel to get the balance at the guard, without the sword simply becoming far too heavy. So about 6-8 ounces on the pommel is realistic, a bit more if the blade is quite beefy, and that's the best you can do without turning it into a 5 pound monster. The weight of the guard also comes into play. Since the Jian typically has a more "blocky" guard when compared to a European cross-guard, if this is done properly in solid metal it will also carry several ounces of weight and has an effect on balance.

    I've got several very nice combat quality weapons of various sizes, the lightest being about 2 pounds and the heaviest being about 4 pounds. That is really pushing the limit in weight, especially if you are using it one-handed. Once you go over about 3 pounds, you are looking at something that is best used two-handed and needs to have an appropriately long grip.

    I can't really direct you to where you can find these commercially, because I custom build my own hilts. I buy high quality blades from a maker of European style swords, and I put on a hilt of my own design that makes it functional as a jian.

    I've got a photo album here on this site with some of my earlier pieces, and this thread shows a few of my more recent pieces: http://martialtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=71610&highlight=jian
     
  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Been thinking more about this topic, and decided to add some more comments and thoughts, because this is actually something for which I have a good deal of interest.

    I do not believe that a really good quality jian is commercially available. At least not anything that is manufactured in quantity, including the Paul Chen stuff, and anything coming out of China.

    The vast majority of what is available it of very poor quality material, as well as very poor quality workmanship, and I'll explain step-by-step.

    First, the blade. Most things on the market are super-light and meant for modern wushu. These are not real weapons. They are little more than a stage prop, meant to give the impression that the wushu people are using weapons. But they are not real. They are not made of quality steel, often are not made of steel at all, and would not stand up to the very first clash with a real weapon. They are often flexible in the extreme, to the point where you would turn the blade into an accordion if you tried to thrust it into virtually anything. To give credit, the very thinness of these blades can make them somewhat dangerous, as you can get cut by them, at least the ones that are made out of thin steel. Personally, I stopped playing with toy swords when I was about 12, and that is what these are.

    Some blades on the market give the impression of being a real, combat quality piece. But these are often over-heavy, unwieldy, clunky, and are again made of the wrong kind of steel, including stainless steel. A heavy, clumsy blade is also not a real weapon, altho if you train with one you might develop your strength. I would choose one of these over a light wushu piece, (altho not if it was stainless steel) if that was the only choice available to me. But understand that it is just a training piece, taking advantage of the extra weight. Any sword over 2 1/2-3 pounds for a single-hander, or about 4-4 1/2 pounds for a two-hander, is pushing the limits.

    The guard: most guards are of inferior materials. Many are actually made of a wood core, with a piece of brass sheeting covering it to appear that it is made of metal. This has no weight to it and does nothing to help balance the blade. It also has no strength, and would likely split away at the first strike from a real weapon. Some guards are actually made of metal (the Paul Chen pieces come to mind), but are of an inadequate design. The metal is insubstantial and of a thin, sort of skeletal design rather than a thick, solid piece that might actually give your hand some level of protection if the enemy's weapon struck against it.

    The pommel: many pommels share the same problems as outlined with the guards. Some are made of a wood core, with a sheet of brass covering. Again, no weight to balance the blade, no strength to survive a real strike (the pommel can be used to punch or bludgeon the enemy). Others have a fancy skeletal design, that again lack weight and strength to stand up to a solid strike. A pommel needs to be somewhat weighty, as well as solid and strong.

    The workmanship: Many swords on the market, particularly those coming out of China and priced very low: $30-$100, have awful workmanship in assembly. The guard, grip, and pommel fit poorly onto the blade, and are inadequately secured with a small hex nut behind the pommel. The pieces do not match cleanly, and have the appearance that they were just haphazardly jammed onto the blade. It's really shameful.

    The scabbard: many scabbards have ugly brass sheeting as design and to hold the wood slats together. These have a way of coming loose and even sliding off. I examined one scabbard where the end piece came off, and I could see that underneath it the wood slats did not even fully meet and seal the encasement.

    What makes a good sword: Start with a blade made of quality steel (in most cases, this excludes stainless steel, altho I've read that if a swordsmith knows what he is doing, a good blade can be made from the right kind of stainless). At any rate, this should be a high quality carbon steel, preferably with some amount of flex, but not too floppy. A really good quality modern alloy steel is 5160, which is used to make flat springs for truck suspensions. It's a very tough steel, takes a good edge, and has a stiff springiness to it.

    The blade should be beefy enough to be strong, but not over heavy. A heavy clunker just doesn't handle well.

    The guard and pommel need to be made of solid metal, such as steel or bronze. A silver alloy can be used, I've made a couple that way, but it is definitely expensive. If done properly, the silver alloy can have a similar strength to bronze, but it's heavier. You will get more weight, maybe 15%-20% more, out of a pommel or guard of the same size. These pieces must be solid and beefy enough to take a beating, and also balance the blade.

    The grip needs to be shaped into a comfortable size and shape. I tend to leave them bare, finishing them with an oil finish, but some people like to cover them in wraps or leather. This can give a better grip, but I like the look of the wood.

    All these pieces need to be fitted well together, so that where they meet is clean and smooth. They need to be firmly attached, with a hefty hex nut or something similar, behind the pommel, or it can be peened on to make it permanent. Also, I sometimes will cover the tang with epoxy so that the entire hilt is permanently fixed onto the blade. This is in addition to the nut behind the pommel. I wouldn't trust epoxy all by itself. If it failed, the blade could fly out of the handle in use.

    At any rate, these are the things to keep in mind with a good jian, and to find all the elements together in one piece is a rarity, unless it's been custom built. In my opinion, the only way to get a good jian is to have it custom built. Anything being done in high quantity is likely to be disappointing in some way or other. Some things really ought to be done one at a time, and not mass-produced.
     
  4. bowser666

    bowser666 2nd Black Belt

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    Thank you so much for the input! I know it is a tough story for me. If you want quality it seems its gonna cost ya $$$$$ I personally want something that is combat steel but unsharpened , and weighing between 1.5-2 pounds. Things get alittle more complicated since I discovered that I have tendonitis in my right thumb. Too much broadsword work I suppose :( I do want to get into actual cutting since you cant know a weapon until you know how it cuts. I guess my search will continue. It is so damn frustrating because you cant try them out first to feel the balance and the weight etc........


    I was looking at the Qi Jian from Hanwei as a possibility for a cutting weapon.

    For training purposes i dont want a wushu blade. At the same time though I also study Yang Family Tai Chi , and i dont want to be swinging around a 3 lbs combat sword :p I guess i need to make up my mind as to what i want , and buy something :p

    P.S I really appreciate the input crane.
     
  5. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    Sorry to hear about the tendonitis but as a note the dao should be using the elbow more than the wrist. The Jian uses the wrist more than the elbow.

    Why not?

    Tian Zhaolin (1891 - 1960) who started as a student of Yang Jainhou, Yang Shaohou and ended up a student of Yang Chengfu loved a heavy Jian and a heavy Dao (4lbs [So did Chen fake by the way but that is Chen Taiji]). I only train with combat steel (jain and dao) and I train Yang Taiji and have for years. These is a rather good company out of China but I can never remember the name, I will have to ask my sifu I think he knows who they are.

    EDIT:

    I do not use sharpened combat steel weapons the nature of training a jain and a dao makes that rather dangerous due to the proximity of the blade to the body at times. Over the years with an unsharpened combat steel dao I have by accident I have cut pipe in my basement, cut notches out of a concrete floor and of course linoleum doesn't stand a chance. And there have been some rather nasty bruises that if the blade were sharp would have likely required a visit to the emergency room
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2009
  6. clfsean

    clfsean Senior Master

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    Exactly... remember the literally translation for Dao is Knife. It's meant (in the MA world anyway) to hack, slash, chop, etc... It's not a precision weapon like a gim (jian). Look at the shape of the blade & weighting towards the front of the blade on the dao. It's a clumsy everyman weapon.

    I have a Hanwei Practical & a couple of lighter spring steel ones. The Hanwei gives a nice weight without being too much & once it's in motion lends itself to staying in motion nicely.
     
  7. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

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    Has anyone had experience with the Kris Cutlery chinese weapons? Several years ago KC was known for supplying relatively inexpensive, plain, but functional weapons. It looks like their Chinese products have a mix of the old plane-jane PI production numbers and some that have a much fancier accessories on them, I believe the fancier ones are produced in China.

    http://kriscutlery.com/documents/chinese.html

    Edit: And the original poster might want to look in their sale section, a couple of items in the scratch and dent pile might meet his criteria.
     
  8. clfsean

    clfsean Senior Master

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    No I haven't yet. They are the only mfg's I've seen that make the butterfly swords with the correct blade shape, but at their prices, it'll be a minute before I buy them.
     
  9. jonpalombi

    jonpalombi Yellow Belt

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    Greetings Mr. or Ms. bowser666,

    In regards to the Hanwei Qi jian, don't use it for a cutting sword. I am a student of Sifu Scott Rodell and he has been testing Chinese cutting swords for several years now. In fact, he is an authorized dealer of both Huanuo and Hanwei production swords. Hanwei themselves, advised against any cutting tests with this model. If you really like this one, Mantis has them on sale for $359.95: http://www.mantisswords.com/qi_jian.htm For forms practice, you might like this one? The Hanwei Tang Tai chi Sword for $319.95 (I know, it's a late Qing design and taijiquan wasn't around in the Tang era, anyways...) http://www.swordsoftheeast.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=590 Now, the blade looks suspiciously like that of the much cheaper Green Destiny: http://www.swordsoftheeast.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=620 Just don't cut anything tougher than plastic or cardboard milk cartons with either swords. Are they worth the $$$? Not in my opinion... Frankly, only a few companies, like Huanuo and Zheng Wutang offer Chinese cutting swords of quality. However, be prepared to pay mucho denaro for Zheng Wu jians. Cold Steel has the Gim (Huanuo Golden Carp) model for sale. I like their latest addition much better: http://www.kultofathena.com/product~item~CS88RLG~name~Cold+Steel+Jade+Lion+Gim.htm That being said, one must realize that Cold Steel is merely a Western distributor who purchases their products from Huanuo Sword Arts, so their mono-steel Chinese swords are fine for cutting tatami mats & bamboo. Sifu has designed both a cutting jian and dao for Hanwei and they will be available soon, in the retail market. Expect these to be the most historically-authentic Chinese swords, yet introduced to the 21st century marketplace.

    If you need an un-sharpened jian for forms and/or the practice basic cuts, you might consider something less expenssive. One could certainly buy a Cold Steel jian and file the edges dull. You can pick one of these up for $249.50 on one of several websites, these days. Kult of Athena has them: http://www.kultofathena.com/product~item~CS88G~name~Cold+Steel+Gim+Sword.htm Weighing just under 2 lbs. they are of a realist weight. I have tried a bunch of practice jians and have yet to find one I really like as much as an genuine antique example. The Hanwei Adam Hsu model is OK, I guess. I use mine for outdoors practice sessions. Don't pay more than $150.00 for one, as they are not quite right (in terms of design) and not worth any more $$$ than that. Kult of Athena has them for $129.95 This is the link: http://www.kultofathena.com/product...i+Adam+Hsu+Jian+Tai+Chi+Sword+-+Wood+Grip.htm A Long Quan combat steel jian would serve as well. This is a link to Wing Lam's website, if you want to keep it under $100.00: http://www.wle.com/products/WGL181.html Just pick something that weighs between 1.75 - 2 lbs. Most authentic, historical examples weigh within this range. The Huanuo Royal Peony is great for cutting but feels a bit heavy for forms and such. The Golden Carp is slightly lighter and would also suit your needs. If you want a lighter weapon, the Adam Hsu would be acceptable, too. Unfortunately, in this down economy, having extra bucks for practice swords is tougher. For a good looking cheapie, at $36.95, check this one out: http://www.kultofathena.com/product~item~BK1383~name~Pirate+King+Jian+Sword.htm I'm sure it's dull and with stainless steel, you can bet it has a stiff blade. Good luck with your quest!

    Be well and practice often, Jon Palombi
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
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