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Showing posts from February, 2012

My jians

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Following my recent revelations about the jian, I have finally “bitten the bullet” and purchased two “real” jians.

The first of them is my lovely Hanwei cutting jian designed by noted Chinese sword authority Scott Rodell. This jian is the one I plan to use for cutting practice. Scott designed this after having handled over 3000 antique jians; it is not a plaything, nor a display piece, nor a brute “cutter”. It is finely balanced jian, that is both historically accurate and specifically designed for cutting.


A video showing me unpacking my Scott Rodell cutting jian.

I chose the Rodell cutting jian very carefully, as other “jians” are often:purely for display (ie. they are “sword-like objects”, not true swords, and should not even be swung around, never mind used for cutting); or


A video showing the dangers of swinging, never mind cutting with, sword-like objects.

designed for wushu competition (ie. they have blades of highly flexible and thin spring steel); or

intended for taiji and o…

My unlikely relationship with the jian - sword of civilian defence

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I must confess that my relationship with bladed weapons has been through some rocky periods. There have been times where I was highly enamored of them, and times when they have seemed so contrary to my philosophical leanings that they have repulsed me.

Specifically, in relation to the straight-edged Chinese sword called the “jian” I can say it was far from “love at first sight”. What started as an uneasy truce somehow developed into a kind of friendship. It has taken almost a decade for it to blossom into a full-blown infatuation. Let me explain by going back to the beginning:

As a young boy I had (as many young boys do) a fascination with blades of any kind. I was seven when my father bought me my first hunting knife. The memory of this event is probably one of my most treasured.

I was walking with my father through the old part of Belgrade on a cold winter’s morning. It was December 1973, Tito’s regime was in full swing and government borrowing had given the old Yugoslavia …

Yin and yang: vulnerability, worry and martial arts

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I’m told that there is an old Chinese saying that goes: “A storm never lasts all day.” I first heard this back in the early ’80s when I commenced training and it has stuck with me ever since.

Clearly, storms can and do last longer then 24 hours; this is meteorological fact. So what is the old proverb trying to say? Well I have always understood “day” to mean “a relatively short time”. For example, storms clearly don’t go on for weeks or months. They mostly last for much shorter periods. And these come and go. They are part of a natural cycle.

So, in times of great stress or difficulty I’ve always drawn comfort from the knowledge that, in a relatively short time, things would change. Indeed, change is the one “constant”. As my first teacher, Bob Davies, used to say: “Things have a habit of happening.” You can’t stop them.

When you apply this realization to your worries and troubles at a particular point, you will (in most cases anyway) notice that the issues underlying those p…

How the internal arts work: Part 1

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Introduction: demystifying the internal arts

I was prompted to write this (long overdue) article because I’m aware of the scarcity (if not almost complete absence) of decent material analysing the internal arts of China, namely ie. taijiquan (t’ai chi ch’uan), baguazhang (pa kua chang) and xingyiquan (hsing i quan).

What analysis exists is invariably couched in esoteric language (qi/chi, jins, meridians, etc.) that is at once inaccessible and unhelpful (except, perhaps, to those knowledgeable in traditional Chinese medicine theory, for whom it might have some contextual significance). Such accounts avoid almost entirely any Western scientific deconstruction of the mechanics of these arts.

It’s not small wonder then that the internal arts are virtually ignored by so many pragmatic martial artists today. Such analysis can only serve to feed misimpressions of the internal arts as either delusional or “old people’s dancing”.

Yet my own experience in the internal arts over the last 22 y…