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Thread: CMA blade Theory

  1. #1
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    CMA blade Theory

    Hello all -

    I've got a few questions about the way (in general - or more specific) about how CMA practitioners use Knives/Swords etc. More for my own curiousity than anything else, I want to get a little idea of their style.

    I'm a Fencer. And like a Fencer I seem to think of weapons in a strictly distanced and linear way. I understand parries, retreats, countercirles, lines of attack and all that. . . BUT
    That is all predicated on a very linear system. You can also ask me any questions about Fencing/Western based stuff if you want.

    So what is the alternative? How do you guys do it? I'm just curious, becuase I've been "feeling" weapons for such a long time one way - maybe I loose sight of the possibility that it can be done with many other methods.
    "We are not the first/
    who, with best meaning/
    have incurr'd the worst"

    King Lear

  2. #2
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    In the Chinese martial arts, the weapons often have the same personality as the empty hand sets do.

    The way in which the weapons are manipulated against opponents reflect the varying ways in which styles issue power, do footwork, utilize breath control, etc . . .

    For example, a Bak Siu Lum (Northern Shaolin) or Choy Li Fut stylist would utilize a swinging application of the Chinese broadsword, which is a curved scimitar-like weapon.

  3. #3
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    dre
    Im in no way properly qualified to answer this to the level that you appear to be asking for but im studying a lot of Chinese sword play now so ill try and give you an idea based on the internal martial arts which i study.

    For a start many things are proberly VERY similar to western bladework. After all there are only so many ways you can swing a sword. What really becomes different is in mindsets and powergeneration. Both are tricky subjects to touch on.

    I will only speak on the stuff ive personaly learned and its only my experiences i dont intend to speak for other CMA stylists.
    My blade work is based around two main blades the Dao or Chinese broadsword which is a single bladed single handed curved sword. The next blade is a gim which is single handed double bladed strait sword.

    The Broadsword.
    This weapon is used with usualy a slicing hacking mentality, the blade is kept in almost constant momentum and the force is generated by the whole body using fairly basic momentum, although you can of course become more technical.
    Due to the back of the blade being blunt you can also use the back to either generate more power using your body or also better control using your hand. This weapon is usualy the prefered blade for battle field skills. This is due to many reasons but the most obvious are the ease of learning to use it (at a basic level just swing) and also becouse the blade is curved it will slice though and not stick within the body like a strait sword will (unless your trained to cut with one). The added weight of the blade and the fact its so wide also mean its very strong and 'can' be used for attacking even light armour.

    The Straitsword.
    This is my prefered weapon, the use is VERY similar to western fencing with the only real execption being that becuse the whole blade is shapened you can also utalise light nicks and cuts. The wrists are kept totaly loose and even the grip on the sword is very light. Done well the blade appears to float in the air with the user almost looking like there simply hanging on for the ride, many intwining and spirialing stabs and pokes are utalised.
    This blade is strictly a dueling weapon and is at best poor for battlefield or armourmed attackers.
    There are many types of light circling movements and the majority of attacks are light nicks aimed at either the hands or major atterys. The mindset is very light and based on much more technicality than the broadsword. Becouse the blade is nowhere near as strong as a broadsword large scale hacks also become much less of a good idea.
    Usualy fighting with gims is based much more on stabbing and poking with the occasional glancing slash.

    Anyway im not really at a level to discuss this well but heck i had a go lol
    Last edited by jon; 10-13-2002 at 09:26 PM.
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  4. #4
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    I have been doing a bit of fencing for a few months now and the main thing I have noticed is that power generation is not a consideration - you only need to generate enough contact to trip the electronics. In fact my experience so far is that power generation can actually be a hinderance, particularly if it slows down your parry-riposte action.

    In CMA, I have only learned a bit about broadsword. Obviously this is very different to fencing (I have only ever fenced foil) as the broadsword is a slashing weapon (I guess like sabre) whereas foil (and epee) is focused on stabbing.
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  5. #5
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    Sporting interests aside, why would anyone bother to duel?

    And granting that duelling is foolish, why would anyone use a gim?
    It's just gossip really, everyone's dead... -Jon

  6. #6
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    The physical structure of the blade dictates it's optimum use.

    Different blade, different use.

    I personally find that hand forms do not match weapon forms and that the weapon forms and use have an entirely different approach.

    Do a weapons form without the weapon and you have a whole lot of meaningless and empty motion. Do a hand form with a weapon and it doesn't fit properly.

    Underlying principles such as stepping, sphere of influence, angles of attack, all of it changes to accomodate the use of the weapon.

    from daggers to straightswords, the techniques and use varies quite dramatically. Straightsword has techniques that are unusable to Broadsword and vice versa. butterfly knives have techs that can't map to either straightsword or broadsword. Kwan Do is again different entirely than other bladed weapons.

    Each is unique, if it weren't, then why have so many varieties?

    peace
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  7. #7
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    I've been fencing for almost a year now, and I'm also interested in this subject. One thing I would disagree slightly on is the amount of power generation in fencing---I wouldn't say it's always neglected. To be sure, with electric fencing, and with the flexible blades and the advent of "flicking", you can occasionally score points without having much power behind it. At my fencing club though, they're pretty traditional in regards to classical fencing form. For a properly executed lunge, your knees should already be bent, your sword arm extends first, and then your rear leg straightens to propel the whole weight of your body behind the lunge. At my club they're pretty critical if you use a bent-arm attack, or if you just step out with your front foot for a lunge instead of pushing off your back foot. I think with any martial art, though, the individual has to take some responsibility for his own development. I've read a few fencing books by Nick Evangelista, who's a big proponent of classical fencing, and he makes a pretty good argument that the classical form and principles are really what will sustain you in the long term, and these techniques have evolved from the wisdom of generations of masters---the problem is that sometimes it's not the easiest or most quickly effective way to learn. I know myself, it's very difficult to get in a bout, and to relax enough to try to always use classical form instead of what's worked in the past, when it's very likely you will get hit and lose. It's easy to say "invest in loss", but I find it's not always that easy in the heat of the moment.

    I tend to agree with Kung Lek that the notion of weapons being extensions of the empty-hand style should not be stressed too much. From what I've seen of Taiji sword, comparing it to Northern Shaolin sword, there's more similarites than differeneces, and I feel that this is because the physical nature of the weapon DEMANDS a similar usage-----there's only so many ways to use a weapon effectively.

    In CMA, I've mostly studied Taiji saber, and I don't find too many correlations between that and western sport fencing. As has been mentioned, one of the big differences is that the left hand has a much more active use, either the palm supporting the blunt side of the blade for more power and control (watch those fingers!--I learned that the hard way, fortunately only with wooden weapons ), or using the left hand to grab the opponent/ opponent's weapon. Also, as I was taught you really get the legs supporting the power, and you want to draw the blade along the opponents body to really slice deeply. And saber is definitely a close-in weapon--power and ferocity are emphasized. Some of these differences I'm sure are due to the fact that sport fencing has eliminated some of these type of things---I'm sure if you look into more historical European swordsmanship you'll find stuff like this.

    Although I'm speaking from limited experience with both these weapons, it seems to me that the CMA straight sword usage is very similar to western saber fencing. And I mean a well trained saber fencer, who has really learned point and blade manipulation with foil and epee first. Just from the saber fencing I've done, with the wrist cuts, disengages and small circling and combinations of cut and thrust---it seems very similar. Except, as mentioned, the linear set-up of western fencing would limit the circling of the CMA swordsman.

  8. #8
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    dre
    "For a start many things are proberly VERY similar to western bladework. After all there are only so many ways you can swing a sword. What really becomes different is in mindsets and powergeneration. Both are tricky subjects to touch on."


    Interesting, I will say that most Wstern Fencers aren't that interested (or ever were) in power generation. I will touch on this more in another post. What do you mean by "mindset" Agressivness? Passivity?

    "The Broadsword.
    This weapon is used with usualy a slicing hacking mentality, the blade is kept in almost constant momentum and the force is generated by the whole body using fairly basic momentum, although you can of course become more technical.
    Due to the back of the blade being blunt you can also use the back to either generate more power using your body or also better control using your hand. This weapon is usualy the prefered blade for battle field skills."


    Do you do any stabbing with that, or does it remain constantly sort of "swinging"? Usually western Sabres are relitively light and only slightly curved. Sport sabers are. . .too light

    "The Straitsword.
    This is my prefered weapon, the use is VERY similar to western fencing with the only real execption being that becuse the whole blade is shapened you can also utalise light nicks and cuts."


    This is no exeption at all. This is what you aim to do in Epee and even in foil (as far as form goes). This is a similarity. This is also another reason why power generation isn't so much an issue , in fencing you are fighting more with Jabs than with right crosses.

    "he wrists are kept totaly loose and even the grip on the sword is very light. Done well the blade appears to float in the air with the user almost looking like there simply hanging on for the ride, many intwining and spirialing stabs and pokes are utalised.
    This blade is strictly a dueling weapon and is at best poor for battlefield or armourmed attackers."


    That sounds like somthing I'd be interested in.

    "There are many types of light circling movements and the majority of attacks are light nicks aimed at either the hands or major atterys. The mindset is very light and based on much more technicality than the broadsword. Becouse the blade is nowhere near as strong as a broadsword large scale hacks also become much less of a good idea.
    Usualy fighting with gims is based much more on stabbing and poking with the occasional glancing slash."


    Sounds very similar again.

    "Anyway im not really at a level to discuss this well but heck i had a go lol"

    I thought you did pretty good
    Last edited by dre; 10-14-2002 at 08:38 AM.
    "We are not the first/
    who, with best meaning/
    have incurr'd the worst"

    King Lear

  9. #9
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    Originally posted by joedoe
    I have been doing a bit of fencing for a few months now and the main thing I have noticed is that power generation is not a consideration - you only need to generate enough contact to trip the electronics. In fact my experience so far is that power generation can actually be a hinderance, particularly if it slows down your parry-riposte action.

    You are correct. Power generation is of little concern (exept for lunges , but that is a different topic). What you need to realize is the distance from which Fencing should be played (this connects to power generation - stay with me here).

    Fencing should be play at this distance : Ether you or your opponent must step forward and lunge to have a possibility of hitting the other opponent. This range is ****her out than TKD does in the non-ma world. In other words, you are too far away from the other guy to use much of the twisting body motions that KF uses to generate energy to effectivlely hit.

    What hits that DO get in from this range, will be to the wrist, hands, and forearm. If you are in foil right now, then you are just learning baisics, so simmer down

    Strength does not slow speed, tense muscles do. When you are fencing , keep loose these three areas (on your gaurd's side) : Shoulder, elbow joint and wrist. The wrist is the most important of those three.
    [/B]
    "We are not the first/
    who, with best meaning/
    have incurr'd the worst"

    King Lear

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by dedalus
    Sporting interests aside, why would anyone bother to duel?

    And granting that duelling is foolish, why would anyone use a gim?
    Cuz it's faster than that Karotty that you guys seem to do
    "We are not the first/
    who, with best meaning/
    have incurr'd the worst"

    King Lear

  11. #11
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    Kung Lek

    I personally find that hand forms do not match weapon forms and that the weapon forms and use have an entirely different approach.


    I agree - they should have a differnet approach, there is a higher cost of getting hit witha stray stab than a stray punch.

    Underlying principles such as stepping, sphere of influence, angles of attack, all of it changes to accomodate the use of the weapon.

    Still agreeing.

    Each is unique, if it weren't, then why have so many varieties?

    Well, the human body is pretty invariable, but there are thousands of martial arts styles - people want to innovate, which brings change and variables.
    "We are not the first/
    who, with best meaning/
    have incurr'd the worst"

    King Lear

  12. #12
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    Ki-fi,
    "I've been fencing for almost a year now, and I'm also interested in this subject. One thing I would disagree slightly on is the amount of power generation in fencing---I wouldn't say it's always neglected."

    No it isn't, but it does not hold the importance that power generation does in CMA. Lunges are your tool for power in Fencing, and the "attack" in saber.

    "To be sure, with electric fencing, and with the flexible blades and the advent of "flicking", you can occasionally score points without having much power behind it."

    Flicking is a dirty trick used to score points. In my experience though (and from what I've heard other say) flicking can only work against an opponent of lower experience/ability than yourself. For a flick to score a number of things have to remain constant from the time the flick is initiated, to the time it lands. For the flick to sound , those things cannot change at all - and if they do, the point will not sound.


    "At my fencing club though, they're pretty traditional in regards to classical fencing form. "

    I made the mistake of assuming that they were all like that.

    "For a properly executed lunge, your knees should already be bent, your sword arm extends first, and then your rear leg straightens to propel the whole weight of your body behind the lunge"

    Correct.

    At my club they're pretty critical if you use a bent-arm attack, or if you just step out with your front foot for a lunge instead of pushing off your back foot.

    There are reaons for that too - a lunge with a bent arm does not give you the full range of the weapon - and limits your hits to targets closer to you.

    "In CMA, I've mostly studied Taiji saber, and I don't find too many correlations between that and western sport fencing. As has been mentioned, one of the big differences is that the left hand has a much more active use, either the palm supporting the blunt side of the blade for more power and control (watch those fingers!--I learned that the hard way, fortunately only with wooden weapons ), or using the left hand to grab the opponent/ opponent's weapon. Also, as I was taught you really get the legs supporting the power, and you want to draw the blade along the opponents body to really slice deeply. And saber is definitely a close-in weapon--power and ferocity are emphasized. Some of these differences I'm sure are due to the fact that sport fencing has eliminated some of these type of things---I'm sure if you look into more historical European swordsmanship you'll find stuff like this."

    Interesting. Another little note - Saber fencers are know for being a little more rough that their other counterparts.

    "Although I'm speaking from limited experience with both these weapons, it seems to me that the CMA straight sword usage is very similar to western saber fencing. And I mean a well trained saber fencer, who has really learned point and blade manipulation with foil and epee first. Just from the saber fencing I've done, with the wrist cuts, disengages and small circling and combinations of cut and thrust---it seems very similar. Except, as mentioned, the linear set-up of western fencing would limit the circling of the CMA swordsman."

    Very nice. Is the cicining constant in CMA. Like the up and down of the strip Fencing?

    [/B]
    "We are not the first/
    who, with best meaning/
    have incurr'd the worst"

    King Lear

  13. #13
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    Dre,

    I haven't done much free sparring with weapons in CMA, so somebody with more experience would have to answer as to exactly how much circling is done. I do know we practiced one 2-person drill a lot with Taiji saber---I think they call the move a "moulinet" in western saber(?), where you have a cut coming in to your left side, you parry in prime, and then windmill around to cut to your opponent's left (non sword arm)side (or head)---that's a very common technique in CMA saber/broadsword. When we did that, right after the parry we would step out to the right, kind of circling a bit, before making the cut. But I don't have enough experience to comment on exactly how much circling you would do in actual free fighting.

    Oh, and a couple other similarities I found noteable---in both Taiji saber and western fencing, my teachers both stressed keeping the knees bent and maintaining that so you don't bounce up and down, and they both stressed that the weapon should be mostly manipulated by the thumb, forefinger and middle finger.
    Last edited by Ky-Fi; 10-14-2002 at 09:14 AM.

  14. #14
    I've sparred using taiji sword, but I have never fenced so I can't really make a comparison. But the taiji sword has 3 methods of attack: pointing, stabbing, and cutting/slicing. The main objective that I found out is to be inside while the opponent is outside. This means that to be inside, you only need one movement to hit your opponent. To be outside, you need usually 2 movments to hit (since the opponent's sword is in the way). To be inside, you need to stick to the other guy's sword. If you stick with good neijia, you'll automatically be inside. Funny thing is that if you get two people with the same skill, they'll start sticking and parrying to get to a better position, it looks like they're pushing hands with sword. Anyway, in the sword form, you see a lot of circling with the sword and stuff. That's simulating sticking, parrying, and slicing.

  15. #15
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    Power generation not a consideration?

    Hasn't anybody here actually CUT anything with a knife???

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