The Chen-style single broadsword (單刀 Dān Dāo) is an exciting form that lasts only about a minute. I first learned it (a slightly different version, actually) about five years ago. This year I have been practicing and correcting my form with the help of Hu Pei Yi and Jesse Tsao’s excellent teaching video.
Here is a beautiful demonstration by Chen Zhenglei: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4ld2HZ8rSY
He also offers a YouTube instructional video with English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL2SvwTYE7Q .
Here is the list of names of the movements, of which there are just 21: ChenSaber (PDF).
Michael Garofalo offers a thorough, interesting, and ultimately bewildering discussion of broadsword techniques, dao fa, on his excellent Cloud Hands tai chi blog: http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/swordtech.htm#Daotech. He lists 18 altogether; the Chen style seems to employ 13 (read the source notes that follow his list). Chen Zhenglei lists “slicing, hacking, blocking, cutting, pricking, rolling, closing, scooping, cross-cutting, twisting, shaking, supporting, and tilting”—but these are not his words. This is English, and as usual, the translation muddies the water.
I come away with the following vocabulary for saber. These are terms that I think I understand (meaning that I know what to do with the saber). I list them here in roughly the order that they are introduced in the form.
- 刺 Cī (Stab)
- 缠 Chán (Wrap)
- 划 Huá (Slash)
- 挂 Guà (Hang)
- 托 Tuō (Support)
- 撩 Liāo (Lift)
- 切 Qiē (Slice)
- 扫 Sǎo (Sweep)
- 劈 Pī (Chop)
- 拦 Lán (Block)
- 截 Jié (Intercept)
- 扎 Zhā (Stab)
- 砍 Kǎn (Hack)
The wrap, chan, is chan tou, wrap the head. The saber passes close around the head, protecting the back and head and positioning for a second slash (hua). The chan tou/hua combination is continuously repeated in Yang saber. Here, it occurs only when the wind sweeps the wilted flowers (and in closing form).