In various martial arts movies set in China, we see swords that are "wobbly" (for lack of a better term).

Sometimes the effect is subtle, visible only if you pay attention to the moment when two blades clash.

Sometimes it's very pronounced, even pointed out by the choerography. I remember a scene where a combatant was hit around a bamboo pole because the sword blade of his opponent was flexible. Double-take and all.

This doesn't mix with what I know about either European or Japanese sword smithing, where a blade has some flexibility to avoid breaking, but certainly nowhere near flexible enough for "hitting around the corner", and definitely not to the point of becoming a part of the fight technique.

And yesterday I watched another such movie where the female lead character unsheathed a sword from her belt. As in, the sword was in her belt, bent around her waist. That was the "wobbliest" I've seen so far (including appropriate sound effect), and I finally wanted to know:

Are, or were, "wobbly" swords a "thing" in China?

  • Are they historically acurate? (I know nothing about ancient Chinese weapons.)
  • Are they a "stunt prop", somehow making the fights safer? If yes, how?
  • Are they an "item of legend", something that didn't really exist but is a staple of Chinese mythology?
  • Can a "wobbly" sword actually work as a weapon?

What are they about?

  • When I see a wobbly sword or spear, I think of the wobbly pencil trick of light. The pencil is stiff, but they move fast to make it look like rubber.
    – cde
    Nov 5, 2015 at 21:28
  • @cde: Being a student of martial arts, I can assure you that I can tell the difference. I know how a fast-moving weapon looks like, and these wobble. :-)
    – DevSolar
    Nov 6, 2015 at 6:42
  • I meant as a lay popcorn eater in any given theater ;)
    – cde
    Nov 6, 2015 at 6:58

2 Answers 2


From my admittedly passing interest in this same subject I can point out a few things I found interesting on this subject. Links to articles for further reading at bottom.

The main chinese sword is a single edged combat weapon the Dao. Used effectively in almost all sword period wars including fighting the Huns and WW2.

The two edged sword the Jian was mainly used by higher ranking people and for ceremonial use and has been adopted as a preferred sword for flexible tai-chi or wushu.

As to the flexibility you ask per the movies well the jian used for wushu practice was not designed for combat and has a very high degree of flex used to appeal visually to an audience also transfer effective sounds. We can see why this would be adapted by film. (plus the idea of a belt sword is amazing and it's still a weapon!)

This kung Fu Tea article is amazing and great pics. KUNG FU TEA : A Social and Visual History of the Dadao: The Chinese “Military Big-Saber.”

QUORA, same question

Jian wiki

Dao wiki

  • 2
    Indians have the Urumi. A ridiculously flexible sword used for martial arts. Nov 5, 2015 at 19:05
  • oh ho ho That was amazing! I want those "whips" Nov 5, 2015 at 20:51
  • @SystemDown: That is an amazing find, worthy its own answer -- because it's evidence that a) flexible "swords" indeed exist, and b) apparently they do work in actual combat (something that was completely counterintuitive to me, given European / Japanese sword styles).
    – DevSolar
    Jan 6, 2016 at 13:10

In order to make the fight more exciting and acrobatic Wobbly swords were used. As these sword are thin and flexible in order facilitate the movements,for the FAST movements and create like a force-field around yourself according to Chinese wordplay,speed of the sword has to do a lot and this was only possible with a light, thin and flexible sword with good balance.This is the reason for using wobbly swords as a weapon in china. Although Authentic swords (for battle) were not wobbly.

Source Kendo-World:

Generally Chinese sword is one handed. The blades are on both sides they might seem flimsy but they are light so acrobatic too.

Wobbliness only exist in movies or TV. They know how to make stage fight more exciting .IMHO has some reference to the weapons (props) as used in traditional Chinese Opera (esp. Peking Opera which is famous for actions). If you check out their sword it's only a thin piece of metal which can be bent by hand... Probably the same thing they use for wushu jian.

Originally posted by Yo...osh!****:

Before I started Kendo, I practised one year of Wushu (I still practice once a week), including the straight sword. I can tell you that the sword is only thin and flexible in order faciliate the movements in wushu.

There are many FAST movements in Chinese wordplay. At its best, you almost create like a force-field around youself because of the speed of the sword. That is only possible with a light, thin and flexible sword with good balance. Authentic swords (for battle) were not wobbly. I must say, the movements, cuts and swordplay in wushu is exhilirating and so much fun to do. There are limitless possibilities as to how to use the sword. The sword really becomes part of the natural movements of your body.

Source Wiki:

Wǔshù literally means "martial art". It is formed from the two words 武術: 武 (wǔ), meaning "martial" or "military" and 術 (shù), which translates into "discipline", "skill" or "method". The term wushu has also become the name for the modern sport of wushu, an exhibition and full-contact sport of bare-handed and weapons forms (Chinese: 套路), adapted and judged to a set of aesthetic criteria for points developed since 1949 in the People's Republic of China.

  • 6
    This answer has lots of nice information, but could benefit greatly from better presentation (formatting, grammar). (Not my downvote.)
    – DevSolar
    Nov 4, 2015 at 13:21
  • "There are many FAST movements in Chinese wordplay." This visual made my day. :o) Nov 4, 2015 at 14:44
  • Please, please fix the spelling mistakes, missing words, etc and summarise what they're trying to say. I genuinely can't figure out what much of this is supposed to mean Nov 4, 2015 at 21:09
  • I have just briefed everything along with article
    – Dark Army
    Nov 5, 2015 at 7:38
  • A definition of wushu is needed
    – cde
    Nov 5, 2015 at 21:27

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