Wcats Bat Jum Dao (Eight Slashing-and-Piercing
Note: If you are not familiar with sword
terminology, click the Sword Terminology link above to reference it on a
Thailand, like many countries in Asia, didn't modernize their weapons of
war until after the Second World War. Until then, they mainly used
swords and spears as their weapons. Even after modernization, villages
and families continued making swords as a tradition. On the other hand,
the West hung its sabers in the 18th century, at the arrival of
firearms, and wore them only symbolically.
By the time guns and rifles came to Asia, they were too advanced for the
Asians to manufacture. They were also too expensive to import. Only the
high officers and the rich were able to afford them. Swords remained as
their main weapon of war.
Swords were more than a weapon to Asian swordsmen. They were carried
with pride; they were regarded as tradition, culture and art; and they
were believed to possess spirits. Those who fought with them, died with
them. Those who survived, passed their swords to their heirs, who cared
for them until it was time to hand down to the next generation.
In Thailand, there was a period when some bladesmiths switched to making
single-shot rifles; however, the trade was banned when the country
transformed from absolute to constitutional monarchy. When the trade
died, these families could not switch back to swordmaking, as the
passing of the swordmaking knowledge and lineage had been broken.
However, those, who did not switched to rifle-making, were able to
continue making swords, and pass on their knowledge to the next
generation to this day.
In the old days, bladesmithing was a well-respected art and career. Good
bladesmiths were rare and respected citizens. Even when invaders
conquered a town, they would spare the lives of bladesmiths, and make
them their swordmakers. Although not as prominent, bladesmiths are still
respected citizens in Thailand.
In my search for traditional blademasters in Thailand, I found several
in different areas of Thailand. Some smelt iron from local ore and drop
forge their swords from the scratch; and some imported high-quality
stainless steel from US, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan, and forged
them in charcoal or electric ovens. Some specialized in traditional
Thai swords; some in Japanese katana; some in ancient European swords;
and some in contemporary Western knives. Each area is famous for a
certain type of work. Each area has its own renowned bladesmith. Below
is a movie of one of my bladesmiths at work.
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I have located and narrowed my sources down to three master bladesmiths
who will make my quality Bat-Jum-Daos. There are several advantages to
making the swords in Thailand than in other countries:
The labor in Thailand is cheap compared to the West. Labor is the major
part of sword-making. Although the labor in Thailand is higher than
other parts of Asia such as China, India, Burma, Indonesia, and other
developing nations, the infrastructure is better in Thailand than these
countries, allowing easier access to required goods for sword-making.
Being a freer society than these countries, Thais tend to be more
artistic. If any of you have been to Thailand, you will know what I
mean. The country flourishes with handicrafts of all nature. On the
other hand, the other countries, for example, China ...although the
labor is cheaper, and is developing at a phenomenal rate, the people
have only recently began to express themselves. For 50 years, they were
closed from the outside world. Their only concern was survival. There
was no time or interest for any type of art. In fact, much of it was
banned. The art of sword-making died a lot time ago. Today, China only
produces mass replicas. There are absolutely no bladesmiths, per se.
Thais, on the other hand, have improved their lives progressively. They
demand quality and finer goods. They are very much influenced by the
West. Many are educated, and keep themselves abreast with the latest
technology and trends. Thus, their products are quality and style
West's passion for swords, particularly the Japanese katana, came about
recently, after Hollywood's interest in martial art movies. Although
custom knife-makers always existed in the West, there were only a few
sword-makers until recently. There is a big difference between
knife-making and sword-making because of the different usage. Balancing
the sword is the most difficult part of sword-making. There really
isn't a mathematical formula for balancing a sword. The bladesmith only
knows it by his feel. It also depends on how the sword will be used. A
Japanese bladesmith will know how to balance a katana the best. A Thai
bladesmith will know how to balance a Thai dharb the best. However, both
types of bladesmiths will know how to balance the other type of sword
when they know how the swords are used. A sword form (shadow swordplay)
would be the best source of information.
Making Bat Jum Daos are as peculiar as making katanas. The usage is
very unique. The BJD form reveals the formula for BJD-making. There are
several factors in making BJD. Making them from picture details will
not suffice. Making them from measurements will not suffice. Even
giving a sample pair to a bladesmith to replicate will not suffice.
A bladesmith needs to know exactly how the swords will be used for him
to balance it. This can only be revealed by the practitioner of the BJD
For example, if the weight of the sword leaned towards the tip of the
blade, the user's hand and arm would tire from "lifting the sword." If
the weight leaned towards the hilt, then there wouldn't be supportive
weight on the blade, to apply force to a strike. The force will mostly
be exerted by the arm, which will cause the arm to tire as well. The
force would not be as powerful. One is likely to believe that the
balancing point of a sword ought be at the center of the whole sword;
"Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!" Incorrect! It should be where it ought to be for
Bat Jum Daos are unique as they are used for stabbing
(piercing/thrusting action), chopping (downward/forward action),
slashing/slicing (pulling/pushing/dragging action), and
pole/blade-trapping (blade-twisting action). How do you design a sword
with such versatile movements? Not easily! I had the bladesmiths make
several trial and error prototypes before settling on the perfect
balanced BJDs. You can try copying my BJDs but will not succeed in
balancing them right ... unless you're a knowledgeable bladesmith and a
For example, if you took the exact measurements of my BJDs and got
someone to replicate them, you will not know where the balance lies.
Using different material will render different weight. Replicating the
thickness of the blade spine does not replicate the weight or balance of
a sword. Even a bladesmith cannot determine the final weight of the
sword until the sword is finished. Each sword he makes will vary in
weight. He will create the balance point when he's forging the sword.
The thickness of a blade and tang is one of the factors of balancing a
sword. The bladesmith may subtly increase the thickness at the balance
point; however, it would be too subtle and gradual for an inexperienced
eye to detect. He may increase or lessen the weight on the hilt by
changing the weight in the tang or the pommel. If necessary, the
bladesmith may cut out a fuller (channel) on the blade to shed some
weight and bring the balance point where he wants. (Note: The fuller's
main purpose is to lighten and balance the sword, particularly for a
long or broadsword; it is not really for passing the blood through ...
although it does help reduce resistance when stabbing.) So, like
everything else, making a copy from an image or not knowing the function
of the original, will never make a good copy. This is not to say that a
Western bladesmith would not be able to duplicate or make a new pair of
BJDs from a BJD practitioner. They can be done ... but at a very high
price. If you surf the web for custom knives, you will see US-made
6-inch knives sold from $300 to $1,000. BJDs sold online are so crappy
that I'd be ashamed to line them up with my kitchen knives. A nice
looking pair that I saw, although not correct in specs, but beautifully
finished, are selling for $2,700.00.
When I see pictures in the net and magazines of people posing with their
BJDs, I can tell that most of them don't know the BJD form, or don't
know the true essence of it. When I look at the pictures of BJDs sold
online, I can tell that most of the bladesmiths have no clue about the
BJD form or usage, or the person who designed them knew nothing about
BJDs, BJD form, or even swords.
The pictures usually show big choppers, with handles that do not align
with the blade point. Some grips are not even aligned within the bodies
of the blades. They're outside and above the blade back. The hand
holding the grip will have virtually zero control over the blade. The
design also tells me that the tang and the blade are two different
pieces (instead of one piece like mine), or that it has a very thin tang
inside the handle. It tells me that the two pieces were welded, or that
the whole sword (blade, and hilt) was produced from pouring hot metal
and synthetic mix into a mold (instead of drop-forged like mine). In
either case, the likelihood of the sword snapping at the tang-blade
joint is very high; and the likelihood of the sword snapping at any
point of the molded sword is very high.
The poses showned with the BJDs in the pictures are also a joke. The
posers' centerlines are usually wide-open. The posers demonstrate a
side-swiping action. Sorry, but no side-swipes in any Wing Chun
movements; only forward, forward-incline, and forward-decline movements.
Some pose with the blade flushed against the forearm, the edge facing
outward, and the point at the elbow. I like that pose; it looks cool;
however, it is not Wing Chun or part of the BJD form; at least to my
humble and limited knowledge. It is just a good looking pose. It is
almost impossible to swing the blade from the normal hand position
(pommel at the pinky edge of the hand, quillon at the thumb edge) to the
overhead stabbing position (pommel at thumb edge, and quillon at pinky
edge) without releasing the grip at one point; that is liken to picking
up both feet off the ground, or one foot off the ground without a
substitute or stabilizer, which is against the principles of Wing Chun.
Your grip on the handle is like your feet gripping the ground. They must
be the root of your power. You must stay grounded at all times; not to
say that you cannot move your structure or blades. Once you've gripped
the handles, you shouldn't be taking chances switching grips. I read
someone saying that the blade-flushed-to-forearm position is used for
close-range fighting similar to the overhead eagle-beak-strike in Biu
Jee. Wing Chun is already a close-range style. The BJDs are already made
for close-range. At the eagle-beak strike range, there is no reason why
you couldn't strike, stab or slash your opponent, gripping your BJDs in
the normal way. It would be utterly foolish, slow and risky to flip the
blade at this point to do an eagle-beak strike with the point of the
blade. I believe that the pose and the flipping action done by some WC
sifus and practitioners came from the influence of Japanese Sai form.
This is very possible because of Wing Chun's late entry to the market,
and the secrecy of the BJD form. Many new WC practitioners had already
been students or masters of other martial arts. They may have included
Sai movements into the BJD form, or may have just invented their own,
from the lack of proper instruction. The Sai form includes flipping as
it is light, rounded, and unsharp. It is unpractical to do the same with
Grandmaster Moy Yat was not only a knowledgeable Wing Chun master, but
was also an artist. He was a Chinese calligraphist and a poet. He was
analytic and a very detailed person; and to my knowledge, was the first
person to draft a blueprint of the wooden dummy (which I believe, is the
one widely used in the Internet). When he was still in Hong Kong in the
60's, he had a pair of BJDs made, either according to Grandmaster Yip
Man's or his specifications. The BJDs were made crudely by a blacksmith
(as opposed to a bladesmith); however, the specifications were true to
the form. When his god-son, and Wing Chun protege, (Sifu) Nelson Chan,
left Hong Kong for Canada, GM Moy Yat gave him this pair of BJD as his
parting gift. (See pictures below.)
Note that Sifu Chan's BJDs are, what I refer to as, 2-in-1 swords;
that is, the two are flushed together to become one; in other words,
each sword is half, and become one when put together. In the old days,
this style was practical for concealment. Since the Manchu (Qing)
Dynasty banned the Han-Chinese from carrying weapons, it was necessary
for the Chinese insurgents to conceal their weapons. This was possible
because the fashion of the era was loose-clothing, which allowed the
BJDs to be concealed without notice. The monks who carried BJDs were
also able to conceal them in their robes. Today, it is not necessary or
possible to conceal this type of BJDs. In fact, it is not practical.
When the handle is half covered, it is difficult to get a good grip. The
hands would tire quickly, and would develop blisters from long training.
The swords will not be well-balanced either, since each will lean
outwardly towards the covered side of the tang. So, how did the
old-timers manage them? Well ... they may have trained with fully
finished swords, but carried the 2-in-1 when traveling; or maybe they
just trained with the 2-in-1 BJDs and adapted to them. As with anything
else, if you train hard enough, you will become proficient with your odd
equipment. For example, Jimi Hendrix, the most famous rock guitarist,
played with a right-handed guitar he rigged for his left-handedness. He
didn't use a guitar especially designed for a left-handed person. He
just strung a right-handed guitar backwards, and played backwards,
unlike any other guitarist.
Here's an interesting note for you. To my surprise, one of the
blademasters I visited owned a single piece of a 2-in-1 type BJD. As a
bladesmith, he collects all types of swords. He bought this in a bazaar
many years ago. He told me that he knows of a customer who has a pair
just like his, and that he had owned it for over 50 years. The owner is
an old Chinese Tong (mafia) Snakehead. I'm curious to know if the
Snakehead is a Wing Chun practitioner. I wouldn't be surprised since
many southern Chinese migrated to Thailand during WW II and Communist
With specifications provided by Sifu Nelson Chan, my understanding of
BJDs, and the bladesmiths expertise, we have produced the finest, the
most accurate, and the most practical BJDs in the market. For all
practical purposes, we've redesigned the BJDs as two individual swords
rather than 2-in-1. However, for those who are adamant about having the
2-in-1 style, we have also developed a pattern from GM Moy Yat's
To view pictures and prices of WCATS BJDs, click the link below.
Note that buck and buffalo horn handles will be curved because of their
nature. The curvature is ideal for gripping as the inside of our palms
(in gripping position) are also curved by nature. (That is why the
creases in our palms are curved.)
By nature, the two horns on an animal are not identical in size or
symmetry; just as a person's left side is not identical to the right.
This works to the advantage of using them for grips. One of our hands
is always larger and stronger than the other (whichever is used more).
Therefore, do not cry "Imperfect!" when you received two different sized
grips. In fact, since the swords are hand-forged, the two swords will
not be exactly the same. This again works to the user's advantage. The
bladesmith was informed that the BJDs will be used as a pair .... one
for the left hand, and one for the right; not one for each person, as it
could easily be mistaken for. Therefore, they will be made specifically
for one to weigh slightly more than the other.
The sword sheath or scabbard is a culture on its own. Sometimes, it can
be more elaborate than the sword. I've used water-buffalo for most
because of its toughness, durability, and practicality. They can be
worn better than wooden ones. I've either seen BJDs sold without
sheaths, or with cheesy looking ones. A sword without a sheath is like
a sheath without a sword. How could someone carry or look after a sword
without it? I've designed my leather sheath with a crossover shoulder
strap, as I think it is the most practical way to carry the BJD.
Alternatively, I can make a pair with wood, to be carried crossways on
the back, like ancient Thai warriors. (See picture below.)
I've seen BJDs designed with brass guard and quillon. This design is
attractive because of the contrast between stainless steel and brass.
However, the brass is not as strong as stainless steel. In fact the
finials (the quillon-extension that runs along the back of the blade),
which in the BJD is meant to trap an opponent's weapon, should be
flexible, so it can adapt to various size weapons, and also prevent it
from breaking under force. It should be flat, not round and hard, for
the same reasons. The light and flexible finial concept is in line with
the Wing Chun principle of yielding against hard force. The finials act
as your forearms. They are soft, and yield against attacks. Note the
similarity between the finials and the Wing Chun Bong arm. The straight
quillon represent the fixed upper-arm, and the 45 degree angle finial
represent the forearm. I've made some with more acute angles for other
reasons. However, none have the wide gaps as seen on other vendors'
swords. The wide open rounded finials of other "BJDs" look more like
the outside prongs of Japanese Sais, which are really farm tools used as
weapons. I have the feeling that these BJD designers were influenced by
the design of Japanese Sai, which have absolutely no connections or
similarities to BJDs. For Wing Chun BJDs, the finials (forearms) ought
to be soft (yielding), the blades (hands and fists) ought to be hard
(forceful) for striking. BJDs are small and short swords, therefore,
will almost always be encountering larger weapons. Like anything else,
the larger an object, the stronger it will be against a smaller object
of the same kind. However, The concept of Wing Chun is to yield against
a larger force. Only through yielding can you overcome it. So, consider
these factors before deciding on the combination. If you are purchasing
the BJD for collection or decorative purpose only, the brass trimmings
would make a handsome set. If you are going to put the BJD to use, you
will be better off with the stainless steel.
Below is a picture of a pair of Shaolin style "butterfly swords," sold
in the market, made with rounded brass finials. As you see, one is
broken. You will also see how poorly they are designed for Wing Chun.
The handle is way below the blade point. The quillon and finials are too
wide for trapping. An opponent's weapon could slip out too easily. In
order to trap a weapon, the user will need to twist his wrist a lot. A
twisted wrist is not as strong as a straight-flushed wrist. Obviously,
this sword encountered a stronger weapon, or perhaps, simply dropped on
a hard surface.
For those of you who are not familiar with the differences between the
types of stainless steel, the table below shows you the compositions
for ATS34 and 440C.
Table of composition for the ATS34 and 440C
||1.05 ||0.4 ||0.03 ||0.02 ||14.0
||0.35 ||4.0 |
||1.2 ||1.0 ||0.04 ||0.03 ||18.0
||1.0 ||0.75 |
Bladesmiths and knife-makers differ in opinions on which of the two
is stronger. The compositions are similar except for ATS using more
Molybdenum than 440C steel, and 440C using more carbon and chromium than
ATS34 steel. The characteristics of chromium give the steel a colorful
luster, while the Molybdenum give the steel a dark luster. Both types
are used for commercial aircraft, therefore, understandably very
I lean more towards 440C because of the extra carbon content. The
carbon gives the steel more flexibility. This is a good property to have
in a sword. When something is hard, it is also brittle. Under very
strong pressure, it can snap. Although it is unlikely you will be
swashbuckling your BJDs wildly with someone, the extra flexibility would
ensure longevity and resistance against heavy use. On the other hand,
ATS-34 is commonly used for knives. The property of hardness is more
desirable for knife-length blades.
I made a pair of BJDs out of Thai Namphi iron for collection and
uniqueness. I don't believe it would be as durable as 440C or ATS-34.
However, the iron is unique, rare and soon to become extinct. It has
historical and spiritual value. Namphi swords were exclusively made for
kings of Thailand. Namphi iron is smelted from an ore pit located in the
Namphi district of Uttaradit province of Thailand. The ore contains
iron, manganese, silicon, aluminum, titanium, cerchromium, boron,
lead-tin, niobium, cobalt, arsen, and 20 other unknown materials. The
Thais believe swords and objects made from Namphi ore possess magical
power and sacredness that can repel evil spirits and spells. As part of
the ritual, bladesmiths in Namphi engrave ancient religious scripts on
their blades to empower them against evil spirits. (See pictures of
Namphi BJDs in the Bat Jum Dao Prices and Pictures chapter.)
The pictures below, taken in the Namphi Museum, depict Namphi villagers
making Namphi swords.
Uttaradit, where Namphi is located, is well known for its teak growth.
It boasts to have the most and biggest teaks in the world. For this
reason, I've made the scabbard out of teak. The alternative is to use
ebony or rosewood; however, I chose teak not only for its abundance, but
also because it allows pearl-inlays to stick. The oily property of the
other two does not hold the glue required to make the pearl inlays
If you want, I can make plain scabbards out of ebony or rosewood.
Pearl-inlay is an attractive feature. Namphi villagers are very good at
it. The labor extensive artworks cost only $150 for two grips and one
scabbard, and $250 for two grips and two scabbards. (See pictures of
Namphi BJDs and pearl-inlay scabbards in the Bat Jum Dao Price and
Whatever you order for your Bat Jum Dao, rest assure that you will get
the best and most unique Bat Jum Daos available in the market.
To see what's available in the BJD market and other Wing Chun products,
go to Aaron Cantrell's website www. wcarchive.com.