The Magnificent Chu Jian is one of the most beautiful swords I have seen, both in and out of the scabbard. With a sleek black adorning the cord wrapping of the handle and lacquer of the scabbard, bursts of vermillion and yellow with the Chu dynasty phoenix motif, and beautiful brass fittings that bear inscriptions of anamorphic designs and even bird-worm seal script bearing the word ‘shi’ or scholar warrior. The pommel may seem simple at first glance, a disc shape with several concentric rings. However, the rings were of the most difficult design to forge by hand and it is still a mystery how some swords had perfect such circles upon their pommels. The amount of rings were indicative to the sword bearer’s status or wealth and a sword with as many rings as the Magnificent Chu Jian would be in only the most esteemed hands.
It is a truly beautiful sight to behold. Once the blade is revealed, another level of beauty presents itself in blade shape and geometry. The blade profile is reminiscent of the bronze age swords of the preceding dynasties, a commanding width as it emerges from the guard, tapering only slightly for the first two thirds of the blade, then an elegant sweeping curve inward for the final third until it meets at an aggressively direct point at the tip of the sword. The blade is considered an 8 sided blade with 2 major scalloping grooves running side by side for the length of the blade, with a separate bevel for the edge of the sword. A beautiful sight, with a design that couples form and function, the grooves reduce weight to allow the sword to be agile and nimble, yet with a crest on either side of the groove that gives a robustness and thickness to the blade, providing structure where it counts. Like large waves carrying ripples in the tide, the blade is a forged pattern weld, with a beautiful damascus-like appearance.
I could stand to write more lofty prose about the beauty of this blade, but sword appreciation like this is nothing new, and instead of digital blog posts or video reviews, swords were often topics of poetry. There is one such poem, a Chinese classic, where the author gets drunk and admires his sword in candlelight, reminiscing of days in battle and how the years have past since those days with sword in hand. I felt as if I could relate to the sword appreciation, and although there are more days ahead of me than behind (I hope), as we roll into our 3rd year of the Pandemic, it is easy to look back on those pre-covid days as a different era. So here is my video of the sword, with the musical version of the poem “In the dim of the candlelight, I admire my sword…”
The sword moves really well, and you can really feel it’s urge to thrust once you put it into motion. It does have some moving weight that might feel a bit heavy to some people upon their first time using it. However, I feel that it is a common part of moving from the superlight swords that are widely available from martial arts suppliers. Once you can get used to the moving weight, the Magnificent Chu Jian really takes flight. Here’s a video I made with more history, and what to expect with the sword.
Finally, I have had a chance to do some cutting with the sword, and this is where I found my only challenge with the blade. Now I have to make a quick disclaimer here: I am not a professional or an authority when it comes to cutting. I don’t even have tatami rolls. So take it as you want, but what I found to be interesting with this blade was I had to change my technique and snap the wrist just before contact to ensure successful cutting. If I did not add the last second snap, it was highly probable that I would just bounce the water bottle away which leads me to believe it had to do with the thicker edge bevel requiring more speed upon impact to initiate the cut.
Once I made the change, I found instant success and every cut after snapped right through.
You can also see how effortlessly this sword pierces when thrust forward. It really has a knack for that, and I would expect the robustness of the thick crests and deep grooves to allow it to really sink into one’s enemy on the battlefield.
In the end, I find this sword to earn its name, it is truly a magnificent jian and the fact that we can hold such a sword in our own hands after more than two thousand years is a testament to the amazing engineering and forging of days long gone, and the incredible amount of researching, testing, forging, refining and re-forging that LK Chen and team went through to make it available to us.
#lkchen #sifukuttel #hanjian #chujian #magnificentchu #chineseswords #swordhistory #swordcutting #martialarts #kungfu #wudang #choylifut #taichichuan #taichi #swordreview
LK Chen really put in the work, studying and handling actual artifacts from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) and considers the Flying Phoenix to be his "masterpiece." I wholeheartedly agree on this one, the sword is marvelous, the grip, the balance, the cutting edge all beautifully crafted and engineered. I think what truly makes the difference between LK Chen's swords and other big knife and sword companies making recreations is that LK was able to personally handle historical artifacts, on top of that he's an accomplished martial artist so he knows how the sword functions in motion. It seems to me that most other "historical recreations" are just the sword maker's impression after looking at some old pictures, often turning out awkwardly weighted, redesigned and over engineered to be historically inaccurate after all. The only substantial modification LK Chen did was in using modern materials and forging, but in that we have the ability to grasp a piece of history and know that the quality of each blade will be consistent.
Sword Stats (from the LK Chen website)
Flying Phoenix has a 20 cm (7.8") handle and is primarily a single handed sword with the option of using 2 hands in certain techniques.The hilt has an oval cross section profile for accurate edge alignment.
Blade only weight: 610 g (1 lb. 6.5 oz)
Sword only weight: approx. 795 g (1 lb. 12 oz)
Blade length: 86 cm (34"),
Handle length: 20 cm (7.8"),
Total length: 106 cm (41.8"),
Slightly pronounced tapering
Width at hand guard: 32 mm, Width at tip: 15 mm
Thickness: 7.2 mm - 2.5 mm at the tip
POB: approx.13 cm (5.1") from hand guard
Blade Profile: diamond 4 surfaces
Superior heat treatment:
Hardness 54-55 HRC.
Blade rebounds to true after bending,
Youxia (knight-errants) Grade
Folded pattern steel: 1065 carbon steel + T8 tungsten-cobalt-vanadium high-speed tool steel. Sleek jet black scabbard.
The Celebrity Grade
Folded pattern steel: 1065 carbon steel + T9 tungsten-cobalt-vanadium high-speed tool steel. Han dynasty swirling clouds motif scabbard.
Industrial grade precision case brass fittings. The hand guard is in the shape of spreading wing of a swift flying bird.
Fit and finish
We perfected the fit and finish of our swords and the final assembly is meticulously performed by our senior craft masters. It takes a skill craftsman one whole working day to assemble our sword to a precision fit.
My thoughts: Before and After
If you have seen any of my recent videos or posts on social media you probably already know my feelings about this sword... I love it. It's functional, maneuverable, agile, and beautiful. It sings with each cut and the point of balance helps the sword practically drive itself. The subtle curves of the blade profile, the geometrical angles of the guard, the curves and flaring of the grip, and the beautifully engraved pommel are just gorgeous to look at. I have the Youxia (knight errant) model and I actually prefer the sleek glossy black scabbard, to me it's beauty is in it's simplicity.
However, I didn't always feel this way about it....
Before we get into my initial reactions, it's important to note that Choy Li Fut, Yang Tai Chi Chuan, and the Wudang Sword style that I have learned have all originated out of the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1912 AD) which puts my training and the sword about 1600 years apart, so there was bound to be some differences.
It's too long... there's no guard... the handle is too long... the pommel is too wide... is it a one or two handed sword?? Where do I put my index finger??? How is it heavy and light at the same time???
It was a bit of a challenge at first, but in all honesty I realized that my limitations could be easily remedied with small adjustments: The longer blade just took time with regular practice to get comfortable with spacial awareness, and now I actually prefer it, my other sword is feeling a bit too short now. The handle is long enough to allow a second hand to grab comfortably for the serious cuts, but proper grip fixed the awkward feeling. The disc pommel as well, in the beginning it would bump up against my forearm, but that was when I was forcing the sword to move like my Qing dynasty sword, putting emphasis and power in the wrong parts of the movements. Proper grip also helped fix the pommel problem. On top of that, understanding the weight correctly and using the length of the sword and it's greater momentum helped with the weird light/heavy issue I was feeling.
The main barrier for me to overcome was the guard. With Qing style swords, you typically extend the index finger upward along, or in some schools wrapped over the guard (like a finger gripping a trigger). This was not only impossible because the guard is much smaller, but dangerous as the finger would rest along the sharp edge of the blade. What I found was that if I make the slight adjustment of moving my grip a little lower on the handle, I can comfortably hold the sword the same way as the Qing style grip, while keeping the index finger below the guard itself. After a few hours of work with the sword, it became less of an adjustment and more of a natural grip for holding the sword.
In the end those adjustments were very small, yet made my experience handling the sword much more enjoyable. So much so, that at this point of time, the Flying Phoenix is my preferred sword for practice, and I feel like I am learning much more about swordplay in each session.
Is it sharp?
Yes, LK Chen swords are made shard, but you can request that they dull the edge if your goal is safety in practice. I cast no judgement here, most of my sword collection is filled with dull blades and I feel that unless you want to pursue cutting training, there is no need for sharp blades for typical practice.
With that said, I found the blade to be so smooth when cutting. LK has videos of the Flying Phoenix ripping through thick bamboo and Aikidoka made easy work of tatami rolls, but I had a bunch of water bottles on hand so that's where I went for my cutting. I can best describe it as a smooth swing that snaps through the bottle upon impact, even with an up close cut (0:45 sec). Stabbing was also very smooth as you can see in the video, though I found (without much surprise) the overhand stab is difficult to be accurate, but I'm sure it comes down to practice to fix that problem as well.
In working with the Flying Phoenix, I tested a number of forms from Tai Chi, Choy Li Fut and Wudang until I found what seemed to be the most comfortable fit with the Wudang Zenzhu Gun Pan Jian form or Wudang Pearls Rolling on The Tray Sword form, which gets it's name from the stirring blade technique while walking in a circle, in the full form there is more to this section changing the direction of sword stirring and footwork which makes it the signature section. I do edit sections out of forms videos that I post publicly out of respecting the request of my Sifu and Sigung, but I do try to involve the interesting and unique techniques and combinations that give the forms their flavor. You can see how the sword thrusting and circling is very easy and natural to do, and with such prevalence in the Wudang set you can understand why I found it to be the natural fit. Tai Chi sword, heavily influenced by Wudang, prefers to favor tapping and sweeping techniques and movements that really emphasize the extended finger on the guard. Choy Li Fut utilizes many curt chopping techniques between sweeping, tapping, and thrusting which make it more ideal for a shorter blade. Not to say it wouldn't work at all, but it wasn't the best fit in my eyes.
I am a little sad that between the traffic noises, and my wife's footsteps while following me with the camera, I had to tinker the sound quite a bit. Plus, with the music and the ambient sounds of the morning birdsongs, it would've been difficult to hear anyway. Though you can still hear my stepping, and even some breathing, you just can't hear the blade sing. It's something I find remarkable about the sword and especially during forms training. I'll just let the sounds of the Flying Phoenix be a treasure for you when you get your own.
Is that all?
Nope! I still have plenty to talk about, and will probably be bringing this sword up again from time to time. However, if you want more of my thoughts on the sword, or didn't want to read my thoughts from above, all is covered in this video review!
#sword #jian #jianfa #wudang #martialarts #lkchen #lkchensword #hanjian #choylifut #taichi #flyingphoenix
Be a True Instructor
Your student’s progress should not be based on your abilities; help them grow, even if it is past you.
Life is Like Martial Arts
If you focus on always improving the fundamentals, making no unnecessary actions, seeking consistency in transition from one movement to the next, recovering stronger from failure, keeping your eyes ahead of you, giving your one hundred percent and aspiring for improvement you’ll do just fine.
You can apply this to your martial arts too.
When All Else Fails
Calm down, take a deep breath, and go back to the basics. You’d be surprised how many solutions you can find to your frustrations, problems, and questions if you simply look back to the basics and see how they apply. Everything you do is refinement of the fundamentals, there are few tricks and secrets, the truth lies within your ability to perform the basics at an advanced level.
A glimpse of clarity
At some point, when thoughts are no longer needed for a punch or a kick, amid the effort and repetition the body releases more than simple kinetic energy with each movement. Ill will and feelings, anxieties, fears, desires, sadness are expelled; chipping away at the inner self little by little until there is nothing left. That nothingness --that emptiness --that void is to be sought. At that moment the martial artist can have a clear perception of life itself without perversion. Brief as it may be until feelings and ego return, the glimpses of clarity allow the martial artist to grow and understand the workings of world.
Practical Three Section Staff
If you could only learn one technique with the three section staff
This would be your best option. Not only does it make a nice spinning movement which is fun to watch and good coordination training, but this is one of the best grip configurations for using the three section staff as an actual weapon. I use this technique (not as a continuous spin) all the time in sparring. It still utilizes the momentum and unpredictability of a sectioned weapon, but the security of having a blocking/attacking weapon in the front hand.
So if you are ever interested in learning the three section staff as a practical weapon, start here:
That's it... that's the real secret. This is your best technique.
Supporting the AAPI Community
Attacks on the Asian community are at an astounding high and growing at an exponential rate. It needs to be addressed, and it needs to be stopped.
Now, I know there are other communities that are targeted based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and political beliefs, but to compare other acts of violence in other communities just to downplay this current situation in this specific community makes no progress. there’s a lot of things that need to be fixed, but That is why I wish to voice my support of the Asian community at this time, in hopes that maybe others will be inspired to do the same, because right now is the time that they need our attention and help.
Attacks against the Asian community in the US have gone up 1900 percent in the last year. That is unacceptable. Attacks by shoving and punching the elderly to the ground, slashing with knives to the face, and acid attacks. Imagine that for a minute…. Picture your own grandma, your grandpa, your uncle or aunt, you own father or mother… shoved to the ground, slashed in the face with a knife…. Just because of what they looked like. How would you feel if you found out a loved one had been killed while out walking in their own neighborhood, going to the grocery store, or riding the subway? That is the reality for the many family and friends of the victims of recent attacks.
These acts are sick, and although I may sound pessimistic, during these stressful times of ever growing tension and desperation, I don’t foresee things calming down anytime soon. That’s why it is so important to start looking out for one another right now. Go and be the person you would want to be there for your grandma, your grandpa, your aunt, uncle, mother or father… To keep them safe and unafraid to do their daily errands and activities.
There are many ways to change this tide of violence, but the first is to recognize and your own racist and stereotypical beliefs and make efforts to un-learn them. No one is more or less deserving of violence and aggression just because of their how they look or speak. Now don’t use this as an opportunity to point fingers of racial injustice elsewhere, because yes, that also needs to be addressed too. You can stop being racist to every community and ethnicity.
It is important to realize that anyone is capable of violence, so just because you don’t look or act like the people committing the crimes doesn’t mean you cannot step in to help stop it when it happens, including verbal confrontations.
Another option is to join community groups that support the Asian members of your community. Sites like www.stopaapihate.org have a number of ways to help, and make everything accessible in different languages: like providing a platform to report incidents of targeted violence and crime, resources like safety tips, and how to deal with discrimination in businesses and restaurants, updates on news and U.S. politics, and of course accepting donations to continue to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and stop racism and xenophobia.
I also advise everyone to have a plan in case they are onsite and witness such an attack. Know your emergency service numbers, and practice finding and remembering the addresses of the places you visit. Know how to quickly open the camera on your phone and snap photos or video. Pictures are good but can blur from motion. Stills can be taken from video so it is often times better for identifying. Practice height estimations and remembering clothing and hair color in case you need to identify an attacker. If you carry any first aid like bandages or single use ice packs, be sure they are sterile, especially now during the pandemic.
This type of violence can’t continue. There is no excuse. Until it ends, it is up to us, it is up to everybody to stand up and do whatever is possible to support our fellow neighbors and communities, especially those who are targeted for no other reason than their skin.
Now I know this type of post tends to invite arguments in the comment section, but don’t prove to the world that you aren’t racist by your comments. Instead prove it through your own actions. I would however encourage anyone to share other organizations like www.stopAAPIhate.org in the comments so we can help each other help our friends in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
#stopasianhate #stopracism #supportAAPI
No matter where you learn it, though each style may word it differently, the energy expended in combat is the same when performing a singular technique. Whether a punch, kick, or throw, if the body is coordinated at the single moment of execution, the speed, the feeling, it is all the same.
* This is a repost from my Tumblr originally posted June 2016
Thoughts, memories, lessons and the little tidbits of martial philosophies I stumble upon along my journey.