Butterfly sword

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11+12" long with a 6" handle.

Other terms

Butterfly swords are usually called 'butterfly knives' in English. However, they should not be confused with the folding balisong, which is also commonly called a butterfly knife. The Chinese word dao is used to designate any blade whose primary function is to cut and slash regardless of length. In some branches of Kung Fu, such as Wing Chun, butterfly knives are known as Baat Jaam Do (named after the system's form, literally 'Eight Chopping/Slashing Knives' in Cantonese).


Butterfly swords are used in several Chinese martial arts, notably Wing Chun, Hung Ga, and Choy Li Fut. In Wing Chun, one notable aspect of butterfly sword combat is that its principles are the basis for all other weaponry. In theory, any object that can be held in the hands of a Wing Chun practitioner will follow the same basic principles of movement as the butterfly swords. This is because the use of butterfly swords is simply an extension of empty-handed combat. [3]

The design of the weapon, including the quillon (crossguard) shape, blade profile and blade length, are specific to each style of martial arts, the precise lineage, and individual. [4] For example, some martial arts lineages flip the butterfly swords between the forward and reverse grip like a Sai, and consequently need a quillon that will fit the hand during a reverse grip. Some lineages trap the opponent's staff or blade between the quillon and spine, and they need a longer quillon closer and more parallel to the spine than would fit a hand after flipping. Some schools like a hybrid quillon design that is adequate for both flipping and trapping, but optimal for neither.

Some butterfly swords had a long narrow blade that emphasized stabbing. While a deadly stabbing blade with a sharpened point—known as "Red Boat" knives—was used by Chinese revolutionaries in the Wing Chun lineage, modern Wing Chun practitioners tend to prefer a blade profile with a wider belly that emphasizes chopping and slashing. Wing Chun lore attributes this to the desire of Monks to maim rather than kill. These knives generally have a quarter circle style tip suitable only for chopping/slashing and not stabbing, or a shallower curve to a more pointed tip that will accommodate both. [5]

The appropriate length of the blade is a combination of the lineage and individual. For a Hung Gar stylist, the length should be a few inches past the elbow when the knife is held in a reverse grip. Wing Chun schools that use techniques which twirl the knives inside the arm need a reverse grip blade length based on the distance to the interior of the bicep. Other Wing Chun schools measure to the outside of the bicep.

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<i>Jian</i> Chinese double-edged sword

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<i>Dao</i> (Chinese sword) Single-edged Chinese sword primarily used for slashing and chopping

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">M3 trench knife</span> Fighting knife

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Navy cutlasses</span> Swords in British military service 1804–1936

Ratings of the Royal Navy have used cutlasses, short, wide bladed swords, since the early 18th century. These were originally of non-uniform design but the 1804 Pattern, the first Navy-issue standard cutlass, was introduced at the start of the 19th century. This was a bluntish weapon that was perhaps intended for cutting away canvas and ropes rather than as a thrusting combat weapon. The 1845 Pattern cutlass introduced a bowl-style hand guard which provided greater protection, with a longer and more curved blade. Its sharper point made it more useful for thrusting attacks, which were now emphasised in the drill manual. The 1845 Pattern was modified several times including shortening and straightening the blades, which weakened them. The 1889 Pattern had a straight, spear-pointed blade with a hilt that curved outwards to catch and redirect an opponent's sword point. The 1900 Pattern, the last navy-issue cutlass, was similar to its predecessor with the introduction of a fuller and a hilt insert that cushioned the user's little finger. The cutlass was withdrawn from service in 1936 but remains in use for ceremonial purposes. It is thought that it was last used in combat in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion.


  1. Judkins, Benjamin N.; Nielson, Jon (2015). The Creation of Wing Chun. SUNY Press. pp. 93–94. ISBN   978-1-4384-5695-9.
  2. Joseph Wayne Smith (15 December 1992). Wing Chun Kung-Fu: Weapons & Advanced Techniques. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 45–. ISBN   978-0-8048-1720-2 . Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  3. Active Interest Media, Inc. (June 1983). Black belt magazine. "Black Belt". Black Belt. Buyer's Guide. Active Interest Media, Inc.: 44–. ISSN   0277-3066 . Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  4. Modell, Jeffrey. "History and Design of Butterfly Swords". Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine (April 2010): 56–65.
  5. Garrett Gee; Benny Meng; Richard Loewenhagen (2004). Mastering Kung Fu: Featuring Shaolin Wing Chun. Human Kinetics. pp. 188–. ISBN   978-0-7360-4568-1 . Retrieved 18 July 2012.
Butterfly sword
Double Sword with Scabbard MET 36.25.1487a c 001 Apr2017 brightened.jpg
A pair of butterfly swords from the 19th century.