The Horse-Cutting Sabre (斬馬刀, Cantonese: Zarm Maa Doe, Mandarin: Zhanmadao) is a weapon of historical significance. As its name suggest, its purpose was to dismount cavalry by killing the horse upon which the warrior is seated. Originating in the Han Dynasty, the weapon went on to be used effectively against invading cavalry forces in the later Song and Ming dynasties.
Although the Horse-Cutting Sabre is more often shaped like a Glaive or a Japanese Nodachi, as is seen in other schools that teach the weapon, the Mizong Luohan’s prototype (as shown in he photograph) seems to resemble the Horse-Cutters of the Qing Dynasty. Somewhat similar in shape to the Dadao war swords (大刀) used in the late Republican Era, such Horse-Cutters can be used both on foot and on horseback, against both people and horses.
Full of leaps, turns, and horizontal and upwards cleaves, the school’s Horse-Cutter form shows the importance of developing nimbleness of technique while cultivating good judgement of timing and bodily spacing. Although the form’s movements are not difficult to do, great emphasis is placed on the precision of body positioning. It is clear that in training for warfare there existed no allowance for error.
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