There are as many usable starting guards as there are unmoving positions in daofa. Among them there is a small number that we can identify that are commonly used. Starting positions are often not emphasized in Chinese daofa, mainly because of the importance that is placed on the actual engagement rather than before it. What I should also make clear is that the guards introduced in this article are actually quite insignificant when concerning the overall fight. The nature of Chinese daofa is that each position does not neglect any possibility of moves. Rather, it merely gives a very slight advantage for the preference of some.
For most parts, as noted in other sections, the overall design of the dao, both object and techniques, were designed to fight a qiang (槍, spear), not another dao. As such, it is often the case that guards used are often defensive guards rather than offensive ones. This is due to the fact that the reach of a dao is certainly shorter than that of a qiang. As such, it is often a better tactic to allow the qiang fighter to attack first thereby voluntarily shortening the distance before one launching an attack in order to bridge the final gap.
Unless otherwise specified, the stances of the following examples are not absolute. Although the same guard may or may not have a different tactical possibility when the stances are changed, that is not the main subject of this particular article. What is important is the general overall tactical preferences of these positions where the sword is concerned.
The most common of guards, the cangdaoshi is a guard designed for deception. The key is hiding the dao away from sight. Notice that the sword’s blade is actually tilted outwards so to not cut oneself. By placing just the tip of the dao on the back leg’s thigh, one effectively conceals the position of the dao as well as the sword hand from enemy’s sight. This gives a number of tactical advantages to the user. Firstly, it would mean that the position of the dao could changed to a high guard, low guard, defensive or offensive position in a split second without the enemy realizing it until the last moment. More importantly, without being able to ‘see’ the sword, the will be a lack of information for the opponent to analyze before staging an attack. Another advantage of using this guard is how one can be certain of the position of their own weapon. As there are actually two contact points between the dao and one’s own body (sword hand and thigh), one is actually in much greater control sword than if one is only holding it.
The lanyaoshi is a guard with the idea of defending the ‘left’ and ‘right’ side of the body in mind. With the bing (柄, handle) facing the front, the free hand pressed against the sword hand’s wrist and the bei (背, sword spine) resting on the free hand’s elbow, any attack coming in the left could be blocked directly with the spine still resting on the elbow while any attacking coming on the right side could be deflected via a sao (掃). At the same time, one could easily take an extra step forward to turn this defensive position into an offensive one through using the same sao.
The actual variation between the tidaoshi and the lanyaoshi is quite small but the difference tactical emphasis is certainly significant. The only difference is really being the hands a little higher and a little more to the right. But effectively, this guard is taking the defensive position one step further from the lanyaoshi. The tidaoshi sacrifices the possible offensive measure in order to increase the effectiveness of the defence. With the hands brought a little more to the right, almost the entirely body is now protected by the blocking action and with the hands a little higher, there is now a shorter distance for the sword to travel to block anything coming for the face. Although the sao is still a possibility, this guard’s main goal is the execution of the chantou (纏頭).
(A bit off to the side)
Lanyao Cangdaoshi (攔腰藏刀式)
While the tidaoshi sacrifices the possible offensive measure in order to increase the effectiveness of the blocking ability, the lanyao cangdaoshi drops the blocking potential in favour of the having a more encompassing sao range. Because the primary technique is a sao, it actually puts a great deal of force into ‘hitting’ away the enemy’s weapon as it come it, thereby gaining an advantage for remaining of the fighting. This guard moves the sword away from the striking distance of the enemy’s weapon so although the sao is still likely to be defensive by nature, it gives the user much greater level of initiative in the engagement.
Huaizhong Baoyueshi (懷中抱月式)
One of the rare guards that is primarily offensive by nature. The huaizhong baoyueshi could contain two direct-attack techniques including the liao (撩)and zha (扎). This actually allows a number of uses as it allows for the distance between oneself and the opponent to be controlled. In the case of the liao, one would bring the sword around for an upward cut. Effectively, one would first increase the distance between oneself and the opponent by disengaging the enemy and then re-engaging them as the blade comes back up. At the same time, the possibility of the zha means that the sword’s thrust would shorten the distance quite quickly. As noted before however, because of the length of the spear, offensive stances are often not the best way to go. As such, this guard are mainly used when fighting other short arms.
Mainly a defensive guard, the liangdaoshi’s main advantage is that practically any form of trusting attack and be effectively countered by a qua (掛). Because this is a high guard, it can ‘oversee’ anything that comes beneath the sword. While not necessarily the case, it is a very common occurrence to combine the qua with a pi (劈) to form a single complete technique that turns a defence into an offence. Like the lanyao cangdaoshi this position actually invests on the one-defence-solves-all tactic while at the same time retaining a number of other possible techniques to apply, this guard is not as aggressive as the other as it’s primary technique is more encompassing yet lacks the hard hitting approach of the sao.
(imagine the sword placed slightly more forward)
A guard of equal defensive and offensive possibilities, the tuodaoshi takes are much more aggressive approach to defence. While the liangdaoshi allows the sword to watch over the body for incoming attacks, the tuodaoshi moves the sword forward. This leaves less room for the dao to manoeuvre as well as putting the sword itself within striking range of the opponent. Yet at the same time shortens the distance the sword must travel to execute the qua and gives rise to the possibility of delivering a high trust should the opportunity arise. Note that the forward hand needs not be in this particular position as goushou (勾手), liangzhan (亮掌) among others can be used for other tactical purposes.
The xialanshi take a somewhat similar tactic as the lanyao cangdaoshi. Holding the sword out to the side, the main viable technique is sweeping across and upwards to defect any incoming attacks. The reason for holding the sword out to the side is simply to make that it only needs to sweep in one direction in execution and thus employing the one-technique-solves-all approach. This guard also includes an offensive side-thrust that could be delivered along with a number of footwork deployments. The empty hand is held in the higher position for a number of purposes. From being a distraction, a support for the defense of the sword, to an additional weapon to be employed when the attack comes in.
It is very common for this guard to be used in conjunction with a pubu. The point of the sword must be above the front leg and can’t slant downwards as this will mean it will stab one’s own leg when executing the technique. The stance itself is also a deceptive measure to create a false impression of distance. As the body is leaned on the back leg, the body is actually able to move to the front leg without the need of footwork, therefore the distance between the front feet and the body is actually an illusion for the opponent of additional distance that one’s own weapon can reach.
(OK, I added some pictures so you know what I am talking about.)
Edited by Wujiang, 03 May 2008 - 07:56 AM.