How to grip a jian

Discussion in 'Chinese Swords and Sword Arts' started by BlazeLeeDragon, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. BlazeLeeDragon

    BlazeLeeDragon Blue Belt

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    So I was talking with Scott Rodell, I'm sure many of you have heard of him and he was talking about jinfa I believe it's spelled and that when you grip a jian you have your thumb and middle and ring finger gripping the sword, the index and pinky lose and just kinda sitting there. This from what I gather is to help with wrist movement. I was asking my sifu a few months back and he said he never thought of explaining that way but from what I understand yes you want some play in the wrist for some of the movements. not all bound up and tight.

    thoughts?

    how do you grip your jian and for what style do you grip it this way?


    I've found it awkward to be to lose with the index and point the finger. in katana work, based upon books and the few people I talked to no formal training you grip with the pinky and ring finger the pointer and middle I've seen pointing out as they dont' grip, this deal with the pointer and pinky on a jian seems unnatural and akward though i do find that loosing my pointer and not having it as tight gives me better movement.
     
  2. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    Interesting, BLD. As you noted, that grip is very different indeed to that used in the JSA with a katana or wakizashi.

    A lot of the power in the stroke with a draw-cut blade comes from the little and ring fingers with the middle and index fingers only really coming into play at the point of contact with the target. Not having those last two actually gripping the tsuka tho, however lightly, does not sound like good form to me - styles do of course vary greatly :D.

    How tight is the grip on the jian overall? Even during the cutting stroke, a katana is not held tightly because that causes the muscles to tense which affects the cut; it is only as the blade hits the target that the grip becomes firm. Is is the same with the jian?
     
  3. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't agree with Rodell but we do not always agree and frankly he does not know me and I do not know him so I doubt he cares.

    Just hold the handle, don't over think it and almost all movement in a jian comes from the wrist if the wrist is used properly the grip is correct. As for striking with a jian, it is rather different than a katana or a dao for that matter but you still need to have the entire hand in play so I would listen to Sukerkin. Understand the straight sword was used against other straight swords, spears, straight swords, and various other weapons so you need a good grip. However the jian is not a dao (all movement in the dao comes from the elbow) the dao is for cutting and slashing and the jian is a much more delicate weapon and generally requires a little more finesse and a higher level of skill to use in a real fight since you are going for smaller targets, or for that matter going for a specified target at all, than you might with a dao or a katana
     
  4. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    In my opinion, there is also the matter of a real combat worthy jian, vs. the lightweight practice toys that most people today use. If you handle a weapon with a quality blade and quality hilt, it's a lot heavier than the wushu toys people use. Those are just sword-like performance props. A real jian, with a quality steel blade, solid pommel and guard, is more substantial. There's also the matter of a civilian's jian vs. a battlefield jian, the latter being heavier yet to withstand the rigors of the battlefield.

    With a heavier weapon, you gotta grip it pretty firmly or it will get away from you.

    Personally, I think training with the lightweight props doesn't really do anyone any favors. There's just nothing real about it and it makes it easy to cheat on your technique because it's so light and unrealistic.
     
  5. BlazeLeeDragon

    BlazeLeeDragon Blue Belt

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    Makes sense Xue Sheng, the discussion with scott was over the phone when I was looking at his Liuye Dao which I greatly want to purchase :D it's a functional live blade. well that and a miao dao/changdao, so when I had him I asked him how he grips his jian, nice guy always willing to have a good conversation...anyway I was going off the conversation I had with him and tried it and as always asked my sifu :D of course the way I understand my training with sifu is like I was saying is play in the wrist, you don't want to bind down on the sword. The way I've trained with it, is to use a combination of movement in the body with alot of waist direction like I use with our taiji. However I do see alot of wrist like your saying, we have a taiji sword for we do and there is a movement "black dragon whips it's tail" and it's a turning movement as we turn to the other side we do a flick with the wrist at the end. other movements it seems we hold a roundness to the body and turn with the waist for blocks and and suck turning the body. Once I was explained that the tip is used for small cuts and not a "hacking" weapon. I've heard other compare sword work with the Jian compared to writing asian characters.

    since there is one talking about katana and one about jian perhaps this video is relevant :D
     
  6. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't like this at all. That jian use is standard performance wushu, not real combat. It is designed specifically as a performance art, and can only be done with a very light weapon that would not survive the rigors of real combat. I've only seen that kind of jian use in performance wushu, never in real Chinese martial arts. The way my group trains jian, is nothing like that. It's way too "dancey" and I don't believe anyone would get away with that in real life.

    Suke, comments on the katana work? I'm guessing you're not impressed? I thought I caught a very brief view of the hamon, and it looked extremely regular to me, suggesting that it is faked and not a quality weapon...
     
  7. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    Aye, the sword forms for the katana had many of the correct elements there, just very badly done. Given the fellows good looks and fine build I'd guess that he trained quickly up for the piece or had some prior experience from one of the unarmed arts that try to teach a taste of blade work along the way i.e. he was chosen for looks rather than sword skill.

    The sword looked like one of the lower end Paul Chen's but it is hard to be sure with just a brief look.
     
  8. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    IMO you are better going with Zhang Yun than Rodell on how to hold a jian. He has a lot on it but I am not typing it all out he has a lot on the topic

    The Art of Chinese Swordsmanship
    Zhang Yun

    Also there is a lot of good stuff on Chinese swords and how they were used http://www.chineselongsword.com/
     
  9. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    Yup, the Jian used would not survive against a katana even a combat steel jian would likely be broken by a katana. Personally if I were going against a katana I would want one of the many Dao, or a steel sword you might find in a Chinese dynasty from Han forward...and of course the skill to use it. And if that is the case I choose a Guandao (and let say the alleged skill level of say a Guan Yu) ...I want to stay well out of range of a guy with a katana that knows how to use it.
     
  10. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    :chuckles: Perhaps I should have a small poster put up at our front door with your last sentiment on it, Xue - might deter a would-be burglar from nefarious intent :lol:.
     
  11. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Warning: intruders will be chopped in half.
     
  12. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    Truth be known, challenge me to a fight with a katana and I'm not bringing a guandao...I'm bringing a shotgun :D
     
  13. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    :grins: The thought did occur to me when I posted above that all such a sign would do is ensure anyone seeking to break in and do harm would bring a gun :D. Mind you at close quarters a decent swordsman probably still has a good chance ... not something I'd like to bet money (or body parts :D) on tho' :lol:.
     
  14. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I dunno about this. Modern steels are very high quality and some of the stuff being used to make sword blades is really good stuff. Keep in mind, the folding of the steel was developed because the quality of steel available at the time wasn't all that good. So folding several different grades of steel made the final product better than any of the individual components could be. I honestly believe that with the quality control in today's smelting, resulting in high quality steels, the folding techniques are no longer necessary and a modern blade made from the right kind of steel can stand up to the best of the folded katanas.

    not to mention that clashing the blades together is not how one would approach a sword fight. blocking and parrying, yes, but I think it can be done in a way to dissipate most of the force of the blow and not just absorb all the power and get your blade broken.
     
  15. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    There is a surprising amount of 'mythology' that surrounds blocking and parrying with the Asian swords; I'm not quite sure where it has arisen from, tho' I do believe there is a JSA style that 'rolls' the blade into a block (that may be part of the mythology I shall have to research it).

    What I can tell you that in muso jikiden eishin ryu, we are taught to block should the need arise, indeed some of our blocks are quite aggressive and are tantamount to attacks on the opponents sword - certainly a challenge to his skill. Part of the effectiveness of the block does depend on the other swordsman not being a total numpty of course i.e. the technique expects the attacker to pull or stop his blow rather than risk the inherent dangers of a clash of blades. I often jokingly exaggerate this when instructing by saying something along the lines of "If the attacker does not recognise the situation then you have become the co-inventor of the worlds worst designed pair of scissors!".
     
  16. BlazeLeeDragon

    BlazeLeeDragon Blue Belt

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    I'm of a mind to agree, I mean lets think about what makes a good combat sword?

    in my opinion
    it's about balancing hardness with flexibility. the best swords will have flex but still be able to hold an edge. Granted in old school thought, they tried to get the metal as slag free as possible and many today try to go pure steal of 10 and I think a good hardness of about 55-80 should be good. Today of course with proper heating they can get pure steal unlike the old days. However the flex and tempering the blade is an important factor as well.

    We are starting to see some alloys used now, I know you guys have talked about it on the form like chen's 92 or even the j12. I think that a decently constructed Jian could hold up fine against a katana. The two methods are vastly different. then again I guess the Jian has MANY aways of using it as well.

    I think a Katana vs a Miao Dao would be nice, though like Xue as saying reach would be better, (firearm of course is idea, like in Indiana jones the guy spins the sword bang and walk away lol) I am partial to the Qiang myself.
     
  17. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    The modern version of the jian was not really made for block and parry (but it does it and avoids clashing of blades if possible) since the blade tends to be thin, that is why I said a sword from the Han dynasty forward. But not know much about the modern steel and how it compares to a katana I cannot really say much more. But I was of the belief that the back (Mune) of the katana was thicker than the Blade spine (jianri) of a jian, but then I could be wrong

    I am not a fan of the jian although I have one and do a form or two. The dao on the other hand I am rather fond of and there is a fair share of blocking with a dao, however you have to take into account that they were also fighting spears. Many of the blocks with a dao are to block, move in and strike. The Chinese battle field had its fair share of long weapons. The current version of the jian (in the video) did not see the battle field. However the forms I know have blocks but not as many as you find in a dao form. You find a lot more targeted strikes and thusts than the dao, which has more slashing the jian. Some blocks with the jian are forward and up others use the side of the blade or the edge of the blade not used for striking.
     
  18. oaktree

    oaktree Master of Arts

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    In chen taiji jian we angle the blade to allow it to glide off
    If I recall in one of the steps and the point is delivered
    To the leg area (my teacher said aim lower your sword is
    At his groin!) As for grip not to much emphasis but the wrist work
    Is more then enough.
     
  19. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I believe the spine of the katana probably in general is thicker than a jian, but I think any blocking and parrying techniques would not be done to directly absorb the power of the blow. A well-made blade can deflect an attack from a heavier weapon and still survive it.

    As far as how thin a blade is, I am of the personal opinion that there was never really a standard, beyond some basic design elements. A weapon is a personal item and it's specific dimensions would vary from person to person. A weapon meant to be used for real, and not as a decoration or ceremonial piece, would probably be as robust as the individual felt he could effectively wield, depending on the type of technique employed. That's what I think it is, anyway.
     
  20. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    I'm sitting here trying to remember the form and the blocks are deflections not clashes and there is a fare share of avoidance for thursts too things like wrists and knees.

    I believe there was actually a rather high degree of standardization of the weapons made in China for the military throughout its history but there was also a high degree of experimentation too, that is why they had so many different swords and weapons
     

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