||showing student how to hold a sword.|
good teacher passes on martial art etiquette to his students as well as training them in techniques. Some sword etiquette is obvious, but some is not. I can only share with you what I know so far. I'm still learning. Here are a few examples of what people don't understand.
You are training in jian form in a local park. A family with young boys is watching. They come over when you've finished, to have a look at the sword. The first thing they do is touch the blade. Can you see any problems with that?
A student has been training in sword at the martial arts school. He leaves his wooden sword leaning against a wall before class. Is that a problem?
A sword collector has his favourite swords hung on the walls of the living room as a display. anything wrong with that?
You have left one of your swords in its scabbard in the backyard when a friend comes over for a chat. He sees the sword, picks it up, and pulls it out of the scabbard with one of those satisfying swishing sounds. Is that okay?
A reenactor with a blunt sword sticks it into the ground between bouts. She still has her hand on the hilt. That's okay, isn't it?
You are training in basic cuts in the living room when the phone rings. You put your sword down on a table near the door, with the hilt facing the door. Was that a good idea?
When passing your sword to a fellow student, you pass it with the tip to the ground. Safe? Yes? No? Why?
Okay, those are just a few everyday martial art etiquette probabilities you'll come across when training with chinese swords. Let's have a look at the answers.
There is some fairly obvious martial art etiquette for passing a sword between people. It has to do with safety. Hold the sword with the sharp edges away from people. It's too easy for someone to trip and fall on the sharp edge, or even be distracted and touch it accidentally. If you are passing a jian, hold it with the blade flat towards both yourself and the other person.
Hold the sword with the tip upwards, to pass it. A sword held tip down could drop onto someone's foot.
When passing a sword, move your hand to the bottom of the hilt, making room at the top for the person taking it to get a good grip. Don't let go until you feel them holding it firmly. You are more likely to have a safe grip on the bottom of the handle than the person just taking it.
When passing a sword in its scabbard, the correct martial art etiqette is to put one of your hands under the hilt and the other under the scabbard. A sword might be loose in the scabbard and fall out without warning, so this is the safest method for passing it. Make sure the other person has a firm grip before you let go, and if they make a dangerous move, don't let go. Some people go silly when they see a sword. Teach them a few martial art etiquette rules before you let them near one.
If you have permission to handle someone's sword, never touch the blade with your bare hands. There are salts and oils in the human body that cause rust on swords. If someone has touched your blade because they knew no better, wipe it off as soon as you can, then clean and oil it.
Another very good reason for not letting an untrained person touch a sword, is the likelihood of them being cut. Swords are sharper than people expect and it's amazing how the first thing an untrained person wants to do is run their finger down the edge to see how sharp it is .... and blood is also bad for the steel, so wipe it off straight away before you find them a bandaid.
It's also a bad idea to leave a sword with the hilt to the doorway. That comes from a past time when your enemy might pick up that sword to use against you. Putting it down with the tip to the door makes it harder for him. Some of these sword etiquette tips have little basis in our present world. They are traditions and those who handle Chinese swords like to keep them.
Other than atmosphere, it's quite dangerous to have sharp swords hanging on the wall. You can't guarantee every person who enters your house will know not to touch them. If you have children, you'd want to have a sword locked away even more securely than a gun. My teacher once said that swords are always loaded. There was a story in the news recently where a fantasy sword fell off the wall onto a child and the child bled to death. Perhaps you have a special safe room to display them, where no one goes without the key. That's the best of both worlds - your nice display, and safety as well. Remember, if you own a sword and someone has easy access to it, you are responsible if they get hurt.
Now one for the safety of the sword - that nice swishing sound we talked about... That's the sound of a sword scraping against the scabbard and scratching the blade. Proper martial art etiquette is to take it out carefully. If you have a dao, turn it so the sharp edge is up. If it's a jian, turn it with the blade flat horizontal. Now, ease the scabbard off the blade rather than pulling the blade out of the scabbard. Minimise scratching with care.
When you are ready to put your sword back into the scabbard, make sure it's clean. If you put it back in with anything wet, sticky or dirty on it, those things can stick to the inside of the scabbard and cause damage every time you put it in or out.
Some people think it is inauspicious to give or receive a sword as a gift. Obviously not everybody thinks like that, or how would a child get his first sword? I gave one to my baby grandson before he could walk... a padded child's jian, of course. Some people think you can get around this problem by giving a token amount of money - even a dollar, to the person who gives you a sword, so you have paid for it. It was not a gift. This is not part of my belief system but again, we should all be sensitive to one another's beliefs.
I wouldn't take a sword into a church. It's a bit like wearing a sword into the throneroom of the king - an act of submission and harmlessness to leave it behind. Others may have other martial art etiquette for swords not mentioned here. If you are reading this and have something you'd like me to add to the page, use the contact form and tell me. I'll write it here for you.