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Thread: Bagua Historical Swordsmanship Project

  1. #1

    Bagua Historical Swordsmanship Project

    Bagua Historical Swordsmanship Project

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JlNzt9pnlM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywcuD3qHwV4

    In recent years, thousands of dedicated researchers and practitioners have devoted themselves to reconstructing the Historical European Martial Arts from period treatises. Others have revitalized their living traditions of Chinese swordsmanship by applying the same principles to the forms of their traditions- treating the forms, in effect, as treatises to be interpreted.

    I am an instructor of a Western sword art (see www.cateransociety.com) who cross-trains in Chinese swordplay and Yin Fu Baguazhang of the Yin Yuzhang branch. One thing Iíve noticed since I began to study Baguazhang is that there seems to be a lot of public skepticism in the martial arts community about the ability of internal martial arts practitioners to apply their training in actual conflicts.

    In the early days of Baguazhang- when the art first earned its combat reputation- it could not have been primarily a boxing art, as empty-hand skills would have been of secondary importance at most to the bodyguards and caravan guards who practiced it.

    To me, as a historical fencer, this begs the question- ďcan Bagua still be used as an effective style of swordsmanship?Ē It seems to me that this line of inquiry will be a lot more fruitful than trying to apply Bagua in an MMA context. Bagua didnít earn its original reputation in an MMA context, but in battles with cold weapons. If this art was effective for keeping bodyguards and caravan guards alive in fights with bandits and assassins, it should still be just as effective in freestyle fencing with the same weapons.

    The Bagua Historical Swordsmanship Project is my attempt to address these questions, through applying my own training in Yin Fu Bagua to bouts against skilled opponents from my own school of Western swordsmanship as well as other training partners. Please bear the following points in mind:

    1- Some practitioners reject any kind of sword work on the grounds that itís not practical in the modern world. You will sometimes hear the argument that warriors of the past were strictly pragmatic, abandoning obsolete weapons as soon as they were no longer needed. From our research into European sword history, we know this just isnít true. The Belgian fencing guilds, for instance, continued to practice longsword fencing for centuries after it no longer had any battlefield utility, and they would probably still be doing so if the practice hadnít been banned during the French Revolution. Fencing with historical weapons is a fascinating activity in its own right, and thereís no reason not to attempt it with Chinese weapons.

    2- While I am an experienced instructor and competitor in Highland Broadsword, I am just a beginning student of Yin Fu Baguazhang and have only limited experience of Chinese swordplay. I am not presenting myself as an expert representative of Yin Style Bagua, merely as a skilled historical fencer who enjoys practicing Bagua on the side. Nevertheless, I hope to show that the fighting tactics of Bagua can be applied effectively against a resisting opponent.

    3- Most online videos of Chinese martial arts show demonstrations of the forms. This has always seemed a little odd to me, because the forms are, after all, primarily training drills. The goal of a martial art should not be high-level skill at performing the training drills, but at applying them against real opponents. This project will include a limited number of applications videos, but will be focused on freestyle bouts with historical weapons.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Sounds like fun! Where are you located?
    My schools have always done weapons sparring. So we would enjoy that.
    Richard A. Tolson
    https://www.patreon.com/mantismastersacademy

    There are two types of Chinese martial artists. Those who can fight and those who should be teaching dance or yoga!

    53 years of training, 43 years of teaching and still aiming for perfection!

    Recovering Forms Junkie! Even my twelve step program has four roads!

  3. #3
    We're in Maine, where are you?

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Check out our league if you get a chance, as it sounds like what you're interested in is very similar to what we're doing:

    http://www.swordleague.com/

    This is what a bout looks like:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENLp4YoDsak

    Along with Chinese swordmanship, I also have an epee fencing background. Several competitors in our last tournament had backgrounds in historical European swordsmanship, and some had experience in Japanese swordsmanship. We're always open to new folks who want to test their skills in a friendly, yet competitive environment.
    "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd; without innovation it is a corpse." --Sir Winston Churchill

  5. #5
    Thanks for your interest! I actually train in Scott Rodell's method of Jianfa already, although I haven't competed in any TCSL tournaments yet. Elmo Mackay teaches me Jianfa, and I teach him Scottish broadsword.

  6. #6
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    Oh, okay---I've met Elmo a couple times when we were both at one of Scott Rodell's Brattelboro, VT workshops. Real nice guy---tell him Kyle said "hi"!

    I haven't heard yet where the TCSL national tournament is going to be this year. This past fall it was in Washington DC, in 2009 it was in Brattleboro, and 2008 was Bozeman, MT. I think Scott has considered the idea of having some smaller regional TCSL tournaments---it would be nice if we could have a New England one. We had a few Vermont folks and myself at the DC tournament, and I would definitely enjoy competing in more events that didn't require a lot of travel and expense. I think it was discussed that for the smaller tournaments, we would just forgo the raised lei tai platform, and instead just mark out the ring on the floor. I would think one could be organized without too much trouble.
    "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd; without innovation it is a corpse." --Sir Winston Churchill

  7. #7
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    Oh, also, we tend to get a bunch of us together once or twice a year at the Brattleboro dojo to do some test cutting. Last spring, one of the Vermont guys took orders ahead of time for how many half and full mats we wanted, and then we set up the cutting stands in the parking lot. We had a mix of Western, Japanese and Chinese stylists and swords, and it was a lot of fun----I found that test cutting with real blades really gives you a new perspective on things like blade angle, power and body mechanics. Also, I have concluded that I would not want to face a real-life opponent wielding a da dao, or the "denogginizer", as I call it!

    I'll post here the next time we have one planned.
    "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd; without innovation it is a corpse." --Sir Winston Churchill

  8. #8
    The denogginizer- I love it!

    This is our attempt to do a bout using the TCSL ruleset:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me46U8y8rcs

    I'd probably go to a local TCSL tournament if I could make it. What I would really enjoy is a Maine/Brattleboro meetup, where we could all play around with any Western or Eastern arts we practice. That kind of thing is pure fun.

  9. #9
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    Cool vid--you guys are very patient. It's funny, with the TCSL bouts, compared to my fencing competitions---you never know what you're going get when facing a new opponent. Because there's not that many people doing free sparring with realistic weapons in the Chinese styles, the competition is kind of in its infancy, with people experimenting wildly with what techniques and strategies work best! Also, compared to the first two tournaments, there was quite a bit more grappling involved in the DC tournament--that definitely adds an interesting element!

    I hope the TCSL continues to grow, because I think the rules/weapons they came up with for the competition really works well---realistic weight weapons, and you can apply pretty much any technique or combo from your Chinese sword forms at full speed.
    "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd; without innovation it is a corpse." --Sir Winston Churchill

  10. #10
    Is the latest tournament going to be on video?

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    I don't believe there's any plans to release that. With the clip I posted above, from the 2008 Montana tournament, we had it professionally filmed (a few different cameras) and edited---for the DC one, I believe one of the guys had a video camera set up to record the whole thing for reference, but it was just one stationary camera, and I don't believe it was done with the intention of producing a dvd for distribution.
    "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd; without innovation it is a corpse." --Sir Winston Churchill

  12. #12
    I own the Montana one, but I can only watch it so many times. I need more.

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