Chinese Swordsmanship

Traditional Jianfa & Daofa Training Program

Many contemporary practitioners of Chinese sword forms focus on personal cultivation, often at the expense of practical martial application.  In previous times, the opposite was true.  The focus was on developing clear martial skill.  This program is meant to parallel the type of training in swordsmanship Yang Luchan and his sons would have presented when training the provincial militia and elite Bannermen units guarding the Capital.  

While this training is based upon the skills and basic cuts handed down within the Yang Family Taiji Jian system, this is not a program specifically in taiji jian, but in Chinese swordsmanship (jianfa).  The basic cuts and other skills that are contained in this lineage are techniques that are common throughout all styles of Chinese jian swordsmanship.  While students of taiji jian will find this program invaluable, prior training in taijiquan is not required for participation in this program; students of all styles and backgrounds are welcome.

This training program is divided into three levels: Foundation Skills, Intermediate, and Instructor. Students can study at seminars, at regular classes, or privately.  Each part of each level, when taught as a seminar, is a self-contained, complete training.  As such, it is not necessary for a student to study or learn the parts of any level in numerical order or complete all parts of the Foundation training before attending a more advanced training. 

Scott M. Rodell demonstrating jian cutting.

Scott M. Rodell demonstrating jian cutting.

Foundation Skills

Four Parts: Active study of 1 to 2 years

The first step to progressing in any art is a solid foundation in that art’s core skills.  In the case of swordsmanship, the skills that need to mastered first are the basic cuts.  During each of the five sections that comprise the Foundation Skills levels of training, students will train in the basic cuts of the Yang Family Michuan Taiji Jian and public Yangshi Taiji Jian systems.  These same cuts, or similar ones, are also essential parts of most systems of Chinese jian swordsmanship.  Students will learn the proper solo execution of, and two-man drills for, each cut.  Students at this Foundation level will also engage in controlled free swordplay and other training essential to free swordplay.

  • Part 1 – Michuan Basic Cuts: ci, pi, dian, tiao, liao, and zha
  • Part 2 – Michuan Basic Cuts: dou, tiao, ya, hua, and mo
  • Part 3 – Public Basic Cuts: ci, dai, xi, ji, ge (stationary and moving)
  • Part 4 – Public Basic Cuts: chou, beng, ti, pi, jiao, and jie

Once a student has demonstrated sufficient mastery of these basic cuts, he or she may beginning training in shi zhan (Test Cutting) with the instructor's permission.

Students practice free swordplay.

Students practice free swordplay.


Three Parts: 1 to 2 years training

This level of training represents an increased commitment to the study of Chinese swordsmanship.  Students work to develop a deeper understanding of core principles and how these relate to application in action.  With respect to technique, this level of training will focus on combining the basic cuts in effective ways and on active stepping.

  • Part 1 – Michuan Combination Cuts and transitions.
  • Part 2 – Michuan Combination Cuts and transitions.
  • Part 3 – Public Combination Cuts and transitions



1 to 2 years training, moving from structure to natural free play

This level of training is meant to provide a broader context for the student’s understanding.  As such, those involved in Instructor level training will learn how to face multiple duifang (lit. "opposite direction") and work as part of a unit.  Instructor level students will also study the shuangshoudao (two-handed saber) and dao with tengpai (saber and rattan shield) swordsmanship.  Adding the study of these weapons will provide a broader historical context for the jianfa they studied previously and to season his or her understanding of martial applications.  Instructor level students are also expected to conduct their own personal research into Chinese historical swordsmanship.