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Compare Training Sword Types

Which is the best for your stage and style of training?

How do you choose between the many sword types available for training in Chinese swordsmanship? This page looks at some of the more commonly used ones and discusses their main attributes.

Wooden Practise Swords by Tony Mosen.

Cane Sword Types

A Shinai
A shinai is a practise sword made of split bamboo, tied and bundled together. Shinai usually have a string line down one side to represent the back edge. Some people prefer to use the string for the front edge. The string is more likely to break quickly if it is used for the front edge.

Shinai are usually considered a fairly safe sword type for training, although, I've had an arm broken with one. They still need restraint.

In Chinese swordsmanship, a shinai is not ideal. Since it can be quite light, it does not move with realistic speed. A jian has two edges, not one, and the round shape makes it difficult to learn correct edge control. You can get shinai shaped like sabres. One of these might make a reasonable dao while waiting for a better sword type.

Shinai are very cheap and easy to get so if you needed a lot of training swords in a hurry, they might do for awhile.

Wooden Sword Types

Wooden Practise Swords by Raven Studios.
The swords to the right are a pair of wooden dao by Raven Studios. These are made to a realistic weight and balance for training in taiji dao cuts, forms and swordsmanship.

In the picture at the top of the page you can see wooden jian by an Australian craftsman, Tony Mosen. All of these swords are excellent for training in Chinese swordsmanship. They still don't have quite the feel of steel, but they are a reasonable representation and I use them a lot.

Bokken - a two handed sword type.
The bokken is a two handed style of wooden training sword, often used in Japanese sword training. In Chinese swordsmanship, it will do as a Miao Dao.

The disadvantage is that a bokken is much lighter than a miao dao and is not quite as long. It is advisable to use a lighter sword type for training when you are beginning. Also, bokken are easy to get and not too expensive. Hand made miao dao can be ordered but you will have to wait for your order to be made.

Bokken are quite sturdy and you will get plenty of use out of one.

A light wooden tai chi sword.
My daughter Kaitlyn is holding the light wooden tai chi sword I practised with at the very beginning of my training. It was an excellent weight for a beginner, although not even close to reality. Even with this sword, I strained my left elbow ligament from over-training.

I would recommend a light sword like this for beginners. It does have some fairly serious drawbacks for later though. These swords come with a sharp point on the tip. I liked that because it meant I could actually poke it into things. This becomes a problem if you want to do any sort of partner training. It is dangerous for your partner.

The other drawback is that this sword type is not very strong. It is not built for swordplay. By the time you are ready for real swordsmanship sparring with a partner, you will need a stronger and safer wooden sword.

Padded Sword Types

Padded swords for children.

We made lots of these padded swords as a solution for training children. There will be a page in this guide telling you how to make them for your children, soon. I also make them to order - $20 AUD each, plus postage. My own club kids get them at a discount.

These padded sword types are just right for the children. They hurt a little bit if you hit too hard with them, making it realistic, but they don't cause any damage. They can be made to the size of the child, and the hilt is fashioned so the child knows where jian edges are.

Steel Sword Types

A light stainless steel jian.
Kat is holding my very first steel jian. It's stainless steel and quite light, only sharp at the tip. Once again, these are common and inexpensive.

This sword has a few advantages. The stainless steel will not rust. This is good for a beginner who doesn't know how to take care of a sword yet. Also, it's light, so it's a good one to move up to from the light wooden sword, if you want it for form practise.

Now the drawbacks. The tip is sharp, so you shouldn't use it in a class. It is not very strong so you musn't hit anything with it. It is no good at all for partner training, especially not freeplay.

I enjoyed this first sword. Some would call it a "sword like object". It was a step on the way to real swords.

I've only seen a light flippy wushu sword once. I hear many people train with them. They aren't training in real swordsmanship though. Those things are not real swords.

Then there are the real steel swords, both modern reproductions and antiques. If you are training in Chinese swordsmanship, you will need a good quality steel sword for test cutting and real form training. If you can get steel blunts for swordplay, that's very good. Steel reacts differently from wood and you will eventually need to take that step up in your training.

Antiques are excellent for training in forms and solo basic cuts. This is real sword training. Don't cut things with them though. They are art to be preserved, and they may have small cracks from battle that could cause the blade to break.

An antique jian.

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