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James Sinclair - Wing Chun Baart Cham Do.

Wing Chun Knives

Wing Chun Knives

Baart Cham Do: Are They Butterfly Knives?

The Baart Cham Do or Eight Cutting Knives of Wing Chun as demonstrated here by Master James Sinclair. Used to slash at the joints of an opponent.
Wing Chun Baart Cham Do James Sinclair

 

 

The Wing Chun Knives, known as the Baart Cham Do, are discussed below by Master James Sinclair Founder and Chief Instructor of the UK Wing Chun Kung Fu Assoc.  These bladed weapons are considered the highest point in Wing Chun Kuen training. There are number of reasons why.

  • Firstly, in Chinese Martial Arts arts hand skills are taught before weapons skills.
  • Secondly, the true character of a person should be understood before entrusting skills that could lead to the death of another person., particularly in Buddhist ideals.
  • Thirdly, the form and application needs a thorough understanding of the empty hand forms and wooden dummy.  The knives are a natural extension of those skills.

In Cantonese the word for for butterfly is WuhDip.

Many Southern Chinese martial arts use the WuhDip Do (“Butterfly Knife”).  Wing Chun Kuen practitioners use the ‘Baat Cham Do’ or “Eight Cut Knives”.  

The Cantonese speaker has different terms for cuts with a sword (Jaam), knife (chit) and axe (pek).   The reference to ‘Butterfly’ is a colloquial term for the Wing Chun knives and derives from the way in which they are displayed when hung upon a wall. 

 When speaking Cantonese, the word for sword and knife, ‘Do’, is used interchangeably.  However, there is a specific word for double edged weapons ‘Gim’.  The ‘Baart Cham Do, are large broad weapons designed to slash rather than stab,.  As a result the size, and manner of use, this has led them to be commonly termed as swords.  

 

James Sinclar founder and Chief Instructor of the prestigious UK Wing Chun Kung Fu Assoc. demonstrating the bart Chaam Do or Eight Cutting Knives.
A young James Sinclair poses with the Wing Chun Knives.

It is considered good ‘karma’ to donate to the Buddhist Temples.  Money would be collected and distributed by monks.  Buddhist Monks would then have to carry a weapons in order to protect themselves from attacks by thieves and gangs. 

In Budhism it is forbidden to kill a living creature the monks would use the Baart Cham Do to cut at the joints of the their aggressors to disable, rather than kill.    The prime targets were the wrists, elbows, knees and ankles.  It is said that these 8 vulnerable, disabling areas make the term for the 8 Cutting Knives.   However, it is not easy to use the knives to the ankles unless the opponent is kicking!   Modern Wing Chun practitioners do not adhere to these Buddhist ideals and are often seen slashing the neck and throat!

Baart Chaam Do: Eight Slash Knives

The knives are intended to match the size to the practitioners forearm.   As the human forearm varies only a little in length from individual to individual, the Baat Jaam Do can be fairly standardised without affecting the application of Wing Chun technique within the form.

Reminiscent of the pole, the knives are designed with a careful imbalance on weight distribution. The knives are top heavy (pole is bottom heavy).  This weight increases the force from the wrist and ensures that that they are effective even when not sharp, rather like using a hammer.   

This weight distribution is very demanding on the wrists and forearms of the practitioner and is of further use in the development of powerful guards (bridges/kui sau) and strikes and the empty handed training.

Are the Blades Sharp?

Many swords in use in Europe in the 15th & 16th century in Europe were not used simply to cut.  They would be used instead to break bones. The average soldier would often use his sword to chop firewood resulting in a dull blade.  The  weight of a cutlass, for example, could still incapacitate an opponent.  

In training weapons today the Knives are sold blunt through the whole length of the blade.  In real word application the Baart Cham Do would remain blunt/dull in the third of the blade near the hilt and sharp toward the tip.  This blunt region is used for blocking as it is closer to the hands.

Blocking near the hands ensures it is  easier to coordinate and reduces risk of slipping under pressure. This also protects the the handlers wrists from strain.  

The blunt part of the blade will also tend to damage a sharp edged weapon.  When used on a pole for instance, it will not cut into the wood and get ‘stuck’.

James Sinclar founder and Chief Instructor of the prestigious UK Wing Chun Kung Fu Assoc. demonstrating the bart Chaam Do or Eight Cutting Knives.
Wooden Training Wing Chun  Knives. James Sinclair 2002
The knives are heavy and training in the techniques works the wrist and forearm very well. Some practitioners practice with lighter aluminium blades but Master Sinclair found that they warp when in use.  
 

It is now common to use wooden or plastic/rubber knives as substitutes for metal.  As long as they are well designed there should be no problem using these in your Wing Chun training.

The flat part of the blade us used as cover to protect the underside of the forearm.  The only problem is that is can involve an elaborate spinning of the blade.  This is risky when confronted by an armed opponent.  The chance of dropping the knife is too high leading to some linages have removing this particular technique altogether.

The guard can act as a knuckleduster when the opponent is within punching range.  It is present to protect the hand as bladed weapons slide down and potentially damage the hands.  If you lose the ability to hold and wield your weapon in combat you will be facing a huge and dangerous disadvantage.

The hook may be used to stab into the eye or face of the opponent and is also used to trap an opponent’s weapon. This is effective when training against a pole but advisable against fast short range weapons.

Left & Right Handed!

Well designed knives are specifically left or right handed, they cannot be used in the wrong hand. The grip on the knives is rounded on the palmer side and flat of the finger side, using the same design as a modern snooker or pool cue. This prevents the knives slipping in sweaty hands and ensures it is more difficult to lose the weapon when blocking or striking.

James Sinclair with the Wing Chun Butterfly Knives Aug 2019
James Sinclair Baart Cham Do Aug 2019

Wing Chun Knives Form: In Brief

The knives form is uncommon i that the practitioner is wielding two weapons at the same time.  This level of cordination alone dictates that it is a form practiced by the who already have considerable experience in the Art.

The knives have their own form which is divided into eight sections. The form starts very simply and becomes increasingly more elaborate.

There are some linages that do not play around with the grip but rely on the rotation of the wrist. Whilst James Sinclair is familiar with both apporaches he has developed a no risk approach that deals, even more simply, with this section. However, it must be understood that Wing Chun is an Art and it does not always have to be totally functional. This mean that there is a place for the more elaborate skills in demonstrations.

The vast majority of the form is functional and practical, and the knife techniques are mostly only minor adjustments to the hand shapes. They can, therefore, easily be adapted to sticks or even single knife fighting. It is for this reason that many Wing Chun practitioners can excel in Kali and escrima as there are many resemblance’s in the applications, although any person specialising in an area will obviously be more adept.

 

Wing Chun Knives: Footwork

The biggest change in the application of the knife form is in the footwork.

There has to be a greater understanding of the risks to the legs from opponents with long range weapons like poles, knives or spears.  For this reason there is much more emphasis is placed on blocking with the knives below waist level.

In empty hand fighting we may judge a low technique aimed at us as less risky and counter with a high strike. With the knives you could both die in such a gamble and the gamble is not taken.

The Wing Chun Knives and Pole are the traditional Art. Only taught to the most deserving students.

The knives form is divided into eight sections and covers defence against both long and short weapons. The footwork is contradictory to many previously taught techniques but this is to protect the inner leg against spear attack.

Using The Wing Chun Knives

Many of the Wing Chun techniques look to the causal observer like chops.  The Wing Chun Knives or Baat Cham Do are not a chopping weapon per se.  

Due to the weight distribution, and the broadness of the lower third of the blade they are designed to be used in a chopping like motion.  However, once contact is made the knife is dragged, causing long deep cuts into the muscle, tendon or ligaments.  

The weight of the blade does mean that they remain hugely effective on the skull and and other region of the body where bone can be broken by the force generated on impact.

All systems that use weapons will target the hands of their opponent if they too have hand held weapons.  With this in mind you will note that the Wing Chun Knives are held in a manner to protect the hands, not just relying on the guard, hilt and hook.

When wishing to practice the skills there are ways to adapt your wooden dummy to aid in Baart Cham Do training.  With a free standing dummy, can insert long slim wood through the upper arm and centre hole of the dummy and two people can then work on these ‘poles’ ‘spears’ from each side at the same time.

We would not recommend you use your dummy arms, they will soon be destroyed!

James Sinclair founder and Chief Instructor of the prestigious UK Wing Chun Kung Fu Assoc. demonstrating the Wing Chun Knives, Baart Chaam Do or Eight Cutting Knives.
James Sinclair with the Wing Chun Butterfly Knives Aug 2019

Wing Chun Knives Form: In Brief

The knives form is uncommon i that the practitioner is wielding two weapons at the same time.  This level of cordination alone dictates that it is a form practiced by those who already have considerable experience in the Art.

The knives have their own form which is divided into eight sections. The form starts very simply and becomes increasingly more elaborate.

There are some linages that do not play around with the grip, but rely on the rotation of the wrist. Whilst James Sinclair is familiar with both apporaches he has developed a no risk approach that deals, even more simply, with this section.

It must be understood that Wing Chun is an Art and it does not always have to be totally functional. This mean that there is a place for the more elaborate skills in demonstrations.

The vast majority of the form is functional and practical, and the knife techniques are mostly only minor adjustments to the hand shapes. They can easily be adapted to sticks or even single knife fighting.

It is for this reason that many Wing Chun practitioners can excel in Kali and escrima as there are many resemblance’s in the applications, although any person specialising in an area will obviously be more adept.