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The Wing Chun butterfly sword is not really a sword, but instead a large knife. In Cantonese, the word “Gim” means sword (as it is a double-edged weapon), while “Do” is a knife (which describes single-edged weapons). The character for butterfly is Woo Dip. Many Southern Kung Fu styles use the Woo Dip Do (“Butterfly Knife”). Wing Chun uses the Baat Jaam Do or “Eight Slash Knives”.
According to legend, the Baat Jaam Do was used by monks in their travels when they left the monastery. The monks would sometimes carry large sums of money that were donated to the temple. They had to protect themselves from bandits. Since Buddhism doesn’t allow killing, the monks would slash the wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. So bilaterally you have eight places to slash without killing an opponent.
The Baat Jaam Do construction consists of the handle, guard, hook, spine, edge and tip. Each Baat Jaam Do blade length should be customised for the individual. The blade length should be from the elbow to the end of the closed fist. Should the blade be longer than that length, when the individual twirls the blade to the inside they risk severe injury. The bottom 1/3 of the blade should be blunt and used for blocking. The blunt section prevents the weapon from getting stuck in a softer weapon and provides a greater surface area to prevent the blade from fracturing when making contact with another edged weapon. This also has the possibility of damaging another attacker’s blade.
The back of the blade, the hook, the handle, and the guard can be used to strike. The guard acts as a knuckleduster when the opponent is within punching range. The hook may be used to stab into the eye or face of the opponent and is also used to trap an opponent’s weapon.
The Baat Jaam Do is a slashing weapon, not a chopping weapon. The blade should drag along the opponent’s limbs or torso. This way you’ll make a long cut, so the skin separates, and the muscle tissue pushes out. If you simply chop, you do not use the full length of the edge and your opponent will only receive a small cut. One of the best ways to practise dragging the knives is to use one or two handkerchief size pieces of cloth and practise the movements in the air while trying to keep the cloths fully extended.
The knives are extensions of the hands, so footwork and application will almost be the same as the empty-hands footwork. The Baat Jaam Do form in Traditional Wing Chun contains a spinning jump. The practical application is to avoid a strike to the feet/ankles while covering the distance to the attacker. This is useful when fighting a person with a spear, pole, or any long-range melee weapon.
The basic fighting position, which is typically used in a front or side stance, is called the Do Jong. In Traditional Wing Chun, the knives are placed to the left and right of your face in the shape of the letter “V”. This mimics the Traditional Wing Chun fist when striking an opponent. Keeping the blades in a vertical position and in-line with each other increases the possibility of the individual cutting the thumbs off.
One of the most important things to train is proper blade positioning when defending against a strong strike. The dull portion of the blade provides a stronger framework to block with and reduces the torque needed to maintain blade position. Blocking with the middle or the tip of the blade increases the torque applied to the defending weapon, which may cause the weapon to get pushed into the defender. A good way to practice is to have someone swing a pole to the upper gate and block with the bottom third of your blade. This improves hand and eye coordination and blade placement.
For a strike to your upper gate, the Tan Do should have the bottom blunt third of the blade protecting the head. That’s where most strikes are aimed. The same goes for the other positions. It is always good to have a partner launch strikes from all angles and to different gates. Another way to train blocks is to place one or two rattan poles in the upper and middle mortises of the Jong. Bungee cords can be used on the back of the Jong to secure the poles.
As mentioned earlier, the Baat Jaam Do are extensions of the hands, so the positions are almost the same as the empty- hand positions. There is a Tan Do, Pak Do, Kwan Do, Gan Do, Jut Do, Faak Do and Lan Do. The Tan, Pak, Kwan and Faak Do cover the upper gate. The Gan, Lan and Jut Do cover both the upper and lower gates.
The first position taught is usually the Pak Do. It teaches how to cover points in space. Tan Do would be the next position. The Tan spreads along the weapon just like in the Tan Sao application. A Jut Do should be applied after the Tan Do. This stops the opponent’s weapon from sliding down to your hand. The Jut turns the handle away from you, protecting your hand with the guard. You can add a Chit Do with the Tan Do. The movement is like performing a Tan Da with empty hands.
The positions of the knife exclusive to the Baat Jaam Do and not reflected in empty-hand positions are the Chit (“Stab”) Do, Jaam (“Slash”) Do and Tong (“Butcher”/”Slaughter”) Do. The Chit Do and Jaam Do can be intermixed with the previously mentioned empty-hand positions. The Tong Do is a series of flowing interconnecting blocks, checks and upward figure 8 slashes. The Tong Do practice drills may look flashy, but the application is practical. In fighting application there is a block, check, slash. If an opponent has a knife or short weapon the slashes should be directed to the wrist and elbow. When defending against a longer weapon, the practitioner should block the weapon first, then attempt to slash the hand. This is done to force the opponent to release the weapon. The Tong Do can be from the inside of the outside and of a strike. It can also be used to attack.
The Tong Do flow is used with downward figure 8 slash and an upward figure 8 slash. To execute the right-hand upward figure 8 slash from the Do Jong (“Knife Guard”), position the right-hand flips to the right and slashes from the lower right-hand corner of a square to the upper left corner. The blade then flips to the left and slashes upwards from the lower left corner to the upper right-hand corner of the square. This should be repeated to loosen up both the wrist and shoulder.
The downward slash with the right-hand is done from the upper right to the lower left corner. The blade then flips to the left and slashes from the upper left hand to the lower right-hand corner. It flips to the right and repeats the downward figure 8. It’s like drawing diagonal lines in a square. Figure 8 drills can be done from both sides, with either knife forward, and from varied stances.
Understanding the details of blade construction, basic weapon movements, and the drills for application of the Baat Jaam Do will enhance the methodology behind the empty-hand movements. Training in flowing weapon movements will also improve the flow of techniques.
For more information about Sifu Phillip Redmond and Traditional Wing Chun, please visit his website.