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new2bjj
11/20/2015 2:40am,
Actually, this would explain a lot about the efficacy of Chinese martial arts, but flame away if this is wrong. I got the impression that China had some sort of warrior class or culture, but that seems to be a fiction created by Wu Xia novelists, basically imitating the Japanese Samurai.

The Etiquette of Jian (Reply to Email from Andrew M. Humphries)



The question of sword etiquette has also been bothering me. I have tried to find information about sword etiquette which includes how the jian is to be carried and to be drawn. At this present moment, I can only say that there is no etiquette for jian This may be explained in four aspects.

Historical background

In the past, the civilians are not allowed to carry or even possess any weapons. If anyone had weapon, he would often be charged as rebellion. So any civilian who wanted to carry weapon would covered it up carefully. For people who had to travel around and wanted to have a jian for self-defense, he would roll his jian (usually short one) in a big piece of cloth which was then carried on his back.

For government officials who could carry swords openly, they would just hang their swords from their waistbands with strings. No special steps were to be followed when drawing their swords.

Jian Fight in China

Although martial art is so commonly practiced in China, there is no practice of duel. Through the long history in China, it is extremely unusual to have duel which was openly accepted. Wu shu contests were often on friendly basis. Of course there were killing and fighting among martial art schools or clans. What I am saying is there was no openly or officially accepted duel in which the duelist was entitled to kill his opponent. There was the practice of duel in Europe, America and Japan, but not in China. This may also be a reason why there is no etiquette for sword in China.

In a duel, the faster you draw your weapon, the better chance you can kill your opponent. Yet in a friendly wu shu contest, the main objective is find out which one is more effective in attack and defense. In a duel, the target is the life; in a wu shu contest, the target is the martial art itself.

The Class of Knight (Samural)

In Chinese culture, knowledge has long been regarded as more important than sports and martial arts. If we take a look at the social classes in China in the past thousand years, there was no such class as knight or samural. In the Western countries and Japan, a knight or a samural had special political and social status. He could carry his weapon anywhere.

There was no knight in China, instead there was a scholar class. In Tang and Song Dynasties (before 1200 A.D.), a scholar could carry a jian as most scholars at that time also practice wu shu. In Yuan and Qing Dynasties, a scholar did not carry weapon in normal case.

For those wu shu masters and practitioners, they were allowed (unofficially) to possess some weapons as wu shu teaching and practicing (not in Yuan Dynasty). Yet these weapons were supposed not to be carried around. In many wu shu training schools, the jians and daos used for practicing were not sharpened and sometimes even a substitute made of some other materials.

The Culture of Jian

In China, there is the Art of Jian and the Culture of Jian rather than that likes Kando of Japan. Chinese have never think of "upgrading" the art of jian into a discipline (a dao 道). The art of jian has merged into the Chinese culture in general life. In China, jian has been mentioned in poems and famous novels. Jian is also a symbol with significant meanings. It has multiple roles including decoration, a sign of honour, a sign of power and rank, a religious symbol of ritual purpose, ...etc.

Since there are at least 18 feats (wu yi, 武藝) in Chinese wu shu, jian, as the other feats, does not have special etiquette. In Chinese wu shu contest, a contester often draws his weapon before he salutes to his opponent. The most common salute is just holding one fist with the other hand in front of the chest (抱拳).

(Your opinion and suggestion are greatly welcomed!)



Main

Timo Nieminen
11/20/2015 7:27am,
In the past, the civilians are not allowed to carry or even possess any weapons. If anyone had weapon, he would often be charged as rebellion. So any civilian who wanted to carry weapon would covered it up carefully. For people who had to travel around and wanted to have a jian for self-defense, he would roll his jian (usually short one) in a big piece of cloth which was then carried on his back.

Not generally true in China. Maybe some times, some places, but civilians could (and did) often carry and own weapons. This includes professional weapon-users (like bodyguards), as well as "non-fighting" civilians. There are even famous examples of civilians using their weapons to help the government.

There are also examples of civilians openly wearing/carrying jian (sometimes very large jian), apparently with no trouble from the government. The jian was not always the weapon of choice. Spears, bows, guns, dao were more common.


Although martial art is so commonly practiced in China, there is no practice of duel. Through the long history in China, it is extremely unusual to have duel which was openly accepted. Wu shu contests were often on friendly basis. Of course there were killing and fighting among martial art schools or clans. What I am saying is there was no openly or officially accepted duel in which the duelist was entitled to kill his opponent. There was the practice of duel in Europe, America and Japan, but not in China. This may also be a reason why there is no etiquette for sword in China.

I don't know of any reliable historical accounts of civilian Chinese duels with weapons. However, they certainly appear in Medieval (and later) Chinese fiction. There are recorded pre-unification (pre-Qin) duels among the nobility (perhaps more warriors than civilians), and later "duels" (single combats between enemy commanders/officers) in later times. There's also an old (like at least 1000 years old) of unarmed duels,.


In a duel, the faster you draw your weapon, the better chance you can kill your opponent.

Depends on the rules. Usually, fast-draw has no effect on a duel, since the rules say you have to wait until your opponent is ready. A duel is not an ambush, not a surprise assassination attempt.


Yet in a friendly wu shu contest, the main objective is find out which one is more effective in attack and defense. In a duel, the target is the life; in a wu shu contest, the target is the martial art itself.

Often, in duels, the aim is not to kill the opponent, but to force you opponent to admit the error of their accusation against your character, to defend your honour, to show your courage, to demonstrate the superiority of your martial art. Many European and Japanese (and other, but the European and Japanese examples are easier to find) examples of these.


In Chinese culture, knowledge has long been regarded as more important than sports and martial arts. If we take a look at the social classes in China in the past thousand years, there was no such class as knight or samural. In the Western countries and Japan, a knight or a samural had special political and social status. He could carry his weapon anywhere.

There was no knight in China, instead there was a scholar class. In Tang and Song Dynasties (before 1200 A.D.), a scholar could carry a jian as most scholars at that time also practice wu shu. In Yuan and Qing Dynasties, a scholar did not carry weapon in normal case.

There was a Chinese knightly class, notably pre-Qin. Read what Confucius wrote about archery and charioteering. From Qin/Han onwards, warfare became much more of a mass enterprise, proletarianised and taken out of the hands of knights, for the most part. (But note the persistence of a distinct officer class, though with examination-based entry available to outsiders, like the civil service.) Somewhat of a restoration of the ideal of military virtue with the Qing conquest.

Yuan and Qing were foreign conquerors. With a vested interest in suppressing revolt. (Though the tales of Qing oppression of martial artists are exaggerated.)

Even when there was no "knightly" class, there was a (proletarian) military class. Outside this, there were plenty of armed and trained civilians; wuxia didn't come out of nowhere.

As for the question of jian etiquette: you either wear the scabbard on your belt, or you carry the scabbard in your hand, or you carry it in some other way. You draw it by taking it out of the scabbard. I'm not aware of any Chinese martial art focussing on sword-drawing, but I can say the same of European martial arts (where there was a knightly class, and duels).

new2bjj
12/06/2015 11:17pm,
Wow, not a single remark, negative or positive? Oh well.

Timo Nieminen
12/08/2015 8:10pm,
The short version is:

(a) There was a high-status elite warrior class throughout the Bronze Age. They duelled. With the proletarianisation of warfare as armies grew in size in the 1st millennium BC, they became less important. By Song at the latest, the noble warrior class had been replaced by a professional warrior class, with examination based entry similar to the civil service (but lower status).

(b) Civilians could and did legally own weapons. Sometimes, they were strongly encouraged to own weapons, and train in their use, as a militia.

(c) Legality of duels doesn't determine whether there are duels or not. Many Western duels took place when the practice was illegal. Opponents were killed when the state considered it murder.

(d) Fast-draw techniques aren't useful in duels. A duel is pre-arranged, and you have time to draw at leisure. Fast-draw techniques are useful for ambush and surprise attack.

(e) There were plenty of weapons other than jian. From Han until it had somewhat of a revival in the mid 19th century, the jian was an unimportant weapon.

new2bjj
12/22/2015 8:20pm,
Thanks, the remarks were from another article, not mine, btw.

Timo Nieminen
12/29/2015 6:11pm,
That's OK. I'm willing to point out some of the errors, half-truths, etc. even if the words aren't yours. That article wasn't based on a good understanding of Chinese history. Common enough in what passes as pop articles on Chinese martial arts history.