By: Jin Yiming
Single Defense Saber
By Jin Yiming
(Originally published by New Asia Press, 1932. Brennan Translations, Sept. 2015. 63 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
Most martial arts books on weapons generally depict one or more weapons forms, and Jin Yiming’s Single Defense Saber does likewise. The form instruction section on a single saber form, which runs from page 24 to the end of the book is probably adequate enough. Each movement is described in a hundred or so words and is accompanied by a fairly good drawing that includes dashed lines to indicate the direction of movement for not only the saber but the feet as well. I have only briefly practiced a saber form, and that was many years ago, so I can’t speak to the efficiency of the form Jin demonstrates, but I can definitely admire the first 23 pages of the book, which impart a lot of background on the saber that other books do not.
Jin was not only a martial artist but a martial arts scholar who delved into the history of his subject, and though that history is somewhat sketchily presented, it is better than I’ve seen elsewhere. Maybe of most interest is his catalog of different types of sabers. He presents drawings of twelve types of sabers and mentions sixteen other types that he admits he cannot accurately classify as he has found no drawings to definitively describe them. He also spends a few paragraphs exploring the many fanciful names given not only to saber types but to specific weapons wielded by past experts.
Also of interest both to open-hand practitioners and saber practitioners alike are the many pages he devotes to techniques and principles involved in wielding the single saber. These are not specific movements, per se, but consist of the ways the body and limbs must move together to make one’s swordplay efficient and effective. Included here also is how energy must be stored and released, and in describing this, Jin relies on advice from the Tai Chi Classics and the concept of the body as a bow that stores then releases energy. All this material makes this book a valuable addition to the library of any weapons practitioner.