My training partner and I face each other across the field. In his hands is a staff. But it is being held as if one were fighting with a rifle bayonet. In my hands is a two-handed sword. It has an extremely wide blade. Suddenly, my partner springs forward; moving exactly according to the dictates of the Japanese training manual. I step in, blade touches rifle barrel and immediately I know what to do. In an instant I am inside his thrust, my sword cuts, unimpeded towards his neck.
The year was 1933. Though World War 2 would not commence for another four years, China and Japan were in pitched battle. The European powers, America and Japan, were busily cutting up China for their own use; and Japan was among the most aggressive in this pursuit.
Earlier that year, while fighting along the Great Wall, the Chinese 29th Army was decimated by the technologically-superior Japanese army. Yet, the remaining Chinese rallied under a young commander, Zhao Dengyu. Zhao choose to make a daring night-time raid on the Japanese utilizing stealth and the skills of an elite unit; the Dadao Dui or Big Sword Contingent.
The Dadao Dui were the best soldiers in the 29th Army; in peak physical condition and trained in combat by Kung-Fu masters of that day. They specialized in the use of the Dadao, a large two-handed sword of similar length to a Samurai sword. Trained specifically to fight against the rifle bayonet, they were fierce warriors.
Under Zhao’s leadership, on March 8, 1933, they attacked at night, surprising the Japanese; killing hundreds of them and capturing many Japanese war vehicles. Two days later, on March 11, 1933, under the same commander, the unique force made a similar surprise attack on a numerically superior Japanese force. This time, they killed 3000 of the Japanese troops and captured many advanced weapon systems. However, of the 300 Dadao Dui fighters who took part, only 20 survived the massive seven-day long counterattack battle.
Ultimately, the Chinese 29th Army was defeated by the Japanese superior air power and armor as well as better-equipped troops. Nonetheless, the battles proved the effectiveness of the Chinese army’s choice to utilize the Dadao.
Enter Jin En-Zhong. On March 9th, 1933 he was assigned to the Dadao Contingent. One can only imagine his shock when he heard of the terrible losses to his unit only two days later. The elite Dadao Dui could not be replaced. It had taken too long to develop that force. He needed his regular soldiers fight effectively with the Dadao in the shortest possible time; but how?
Fortunately, Jin Enzhong had actually trained in rifle bayonet fighting in Japan, some time before. He knew his soldiers faced an unequal battle. The rifle bayonet had greater leverage and reach. In close combat, the Dadao wielding soldier would have to be skilled, disciplined and fearlessly aggressive or he would perish quickly. Beginning immediately, Jin began working on a manual for his unit. In June of 1933, he published his manual, Shi Yong Dadao Shu, Practical Dadao Techniques.
The manual was draconian in its tactical approach. It focused only on the first instant of contact between the Dadao and the bayonet. It considered only the three most common possibilities; the straight thrust at the chest, the downward thrust at the legs or the sliding thrust, used when in contact with another weapon. Because the Dadao did not have superior leverage, the method required that the swordsman intercept the rifle as it attacked, feel its direction of force and take advantage of that vector. In this way, the Da Dao user could quickly slip past the blade of the bayonet. Then, at close range, he could easily out-maneuver the much longer rifle.
The Shi Yong Dadao Shu has only 12 movements. It nonetheless provides the fighter with surprising flexibility of response. I have great admiration for Jin Enzhong. He responded to an incredible challenge with brilliance.
Jin Enzhong’s efforts were not wasted. His unit, the 29th Army fought bravely and often alone until, because of betrayal by a Chinese superior in 1938, the unit suffered a crushing defeat. Even then, its members formed guerilla forces and continued to fight throughout World War 2. Often outmanned, always outgunned and poorly supplied, the 29th Army distinguished itself through its bravery and willingness to confront the enemy in combat. Jin Enzhong’s teachings were preserved and used by the 29th Army throughout.
At Authentic Kung-Fu, we teach the Dadao method of Jin Enzhong as well as others. We are proud to be a part of this heritage.