Before the late Qing Dynasty, the concept of “big knife/Dadao” in the army mostly refers to the knife of the long pole, similar to the shape of the Guandao. The knife with a short handle and a large blade (in popular contemporary Baguazhang culture) is called a single hand knife, it is not called a “big knife”, historically speaking. Ironically the signature instruments used by both disciples of Dong Haichuan are often misinterpreted in Airbending schools of today.
[Imperial Guard examination & Chang Dongsheng with a nice chin jab] Most Baguazhang lineages today use large oversized instruments such as the giant saber, for strength conditioning purposes. The foundation for this tradition descends from feudal wrestling battalions. Yin Fu and Cheng Ting Hua were both wrestlers.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Interlinking/ Weaving routines of Baguazhang as popularized in mainstream and films, contain ‘wrestling with weapons integration’ and not pure empty-hand wrestling. Grappling and takedowns with the instrument in hand, are crucial in feudal melee- often against armed opponents. It is worth noting the forms/drilling methods of Qing-era wrestling are often distinct in aesthetics from the silky/ twisting/ turning style of Swimming Baguazhang.
A unique characteristic of Chinese fighting arts is the integration of feudal instruments, within the empty hand structures. Close-in wrestling and striking are delivered in conjunction with weapons strategy- this is a primary reason kungfu looks so exotic. The Kungfu vs MMA debate fails to acknowledge most urban adversaries in ancient (and modern) era are armed- a primary emphasis on empty hand application is excellent for combat sport pugilism, however, limited for the real world.
In modern Baguazhang schools, the Giant Sword and Saber is often emphasized, regardless of branch or styles. In fact, many instructors today regard the sword as the soul of Baguazhang structures, in feudal times… While this theory certainly has merit, Feudal Academia is not here to play guessing games. 10 out of 10 Chinese scholars agree that the cold weapon technology of the Qing Dynasty is inherited directly from the Ming. IRFS provides clear documentation, tracking the longsword foundation to Yu Dazhao in the era of General Qijiguang. Yu Dazhao wrote a book called “The Sword Classic”: the techniques illustrated include the iconic T-step/shape footwork entries of triangular point-stepping, describes the sword method as ‘running water’, a continuous striking which ‘flows with the force’, demonstrates ‘reversing the body’ and ‘heaven and earth’ usage of the longsword… last and most importantly, THE SWORD CLASSIC IS A BOOK ABOUT STICKS [aka polearms] FOR PIKEMAN OF THE ARMY!!
Yin Yuzhang, the son of Yin Fu is remembered for his cleaving Saber methods, utilizing an instrument less than half the length of the iconic Giant Baguazhang saber often instructed in contemporary times. Many Chinese scholars link the cleaving saber to the Pudao in feudal era. The Silky Pudao dates back to the Song Dynasty and remained its emphasis throughout the Qing Dynasty. China is an agricultural continent- the pudao is a rare instrument important to both civil and military airbenders for cultivating qi or vegetables. In feudal times, not everyone had clearance to carry long weapons in certain districts- due to government restrictions at that time. The pudao wielders modified the big knife into a short knife (separating the blade from the pole) and attached the blade to the staff during battle. Yin Fu’s methods undoubtedly emphasize the importance of this long weapon, concealed within the Interlinking Body methods. Live Training Available.