Miao Dao / Chang Dao » Martial Arts Philadelphia | Seven Mountains Kung Fu

8 Mar

Miao Dao / Chang Dao

According to ancient Asian history, the Miao people are an ancient Viet civilization in old China (now an ethnic minority group in the mountainous region between new China and Vietnam) who once had long bladed swords. Chinese people called these weapons Miao Dao, or Chang Dao. In Vietnamese, we call them Trường-Ðao (長 刀) or Dao, and in Thai/Burmese they are called Dha. How we call them does not matter, it is just a long-bladed weapon. It’s a family of Wu Jian (Martial Sword, 武劍), Võ-Ðao (武 刀) that belonged to the double-handed combat sword family. In the old days, we used a variety of different lengths and sizes of banana -choppers to replace them, because after the revolution, to custom-make a sword was outlawed, and still even to nowadays in Vietnam, some areas require the permission of the local government.

banana chopper weapon

Extra-Long Banana Chopper


coconut chopper weapon

Coconut Choppers, Dual Weapon (Double-Hand)



Ornate Southeast Asian Dha


Truong Dao

Double-Handed sword in the Trung Sister’s Temple [Trưng Trắc (徵側) and Trưng Nhị (徵貳), c.12 AD-c.43 AD] outside of Hanoi, Vietnam.


Thai Dha


Thai Dha

Thai Dha

Burmese Dha

Burmese Dha









The long-bladed weapon and Miao Dao is my favorite besides the whip & the Kwan Dao. A traditional chang dao should have one cutting edge; its handle-grip length should take into account the use of both hands, but, depending on the circumstance of how you are defending or striking, one hand may be used. The blade is the most important part of the attack, the second is the sword’s tip (which depends on the angle), and in some cases, such as very close-quarters combat, the pommel is used to strike at different angles. For our style, the blade must be heavy at the end (which is very different than Japanese style) so it can be grounded at the center-pose near the Tan Tien, Ðon-Ðiền. The thinner blade moves faster, but it is flimsy, and only useful for easy forms practice. When attacking, the thin blade has the disadvantage of being weak. However, traditionally, we prefer the correct weight proportionally compared to the heaviness at handle. To be called a reasonably nice sword, a sword is not only judge on it solid or fragile structure, but as a whole piece when the back of the blade is relatively thicker and stronger because the leverage is likely grounded at the bottom of the sword. The weight is not right at the center, or tilted toward the front. For swords resting technique, we use its sharp edge to place against the shoulder back, but nowadays people have changed it. I’ve been taught and grown up with this art all my life, and many traditional Asian masters still use the old techniques. When using the sharp double-edged sword, where can you hide the other sharp side of it? If people are so afraid to get cut, may just don’t practice it! We are the brave swordsmen!

The “Long Hổ Ðao Pháp” (龍虎刀法) is our base form for any weapon. Our ancestors used this traditional technique in battles and form-practice, but not for showmanship; it’s not a flashy style of weapon.  King Goujian of Yue (越王勾踐) (reigned 496 BCE – 465 BCE ), who ruled the Kingdom of Yue (present-day Shanghai, northern Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu, China), had a sword named The Zue Wang Jian (越王劍) which is a long double-edged sword.

The Sword of King Goujian (King of the Yue/Viet Kingdom)

The Sword of King Goujian (King of the Yue/Viet Kingdom)

The Miao reside in southern China’s mountainous regions, in the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Hainan, Guangdong, and Hubei. The Hmong people, have migrated out of China into Southeast Asia (northern Vietnam, Laos, Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand). Just a few years ago, I saw the Chinese dedicate the Miao Dao to the Miao Zu (the ethnic minority in China). Now, China calls that a popular misinterpretation and changed the lineage of the long-bladed sword. The Thai and Miao people call themselves children of Bai Yue (hundred Viet people) king, Goujian. Out of curiosity, if this long-bladed weapon truly belongs to China, why didn’t they invent the weapon form until the late 20th Century? The Miao people had fought with China for a long period of history, I wonder what has happened to all of their weapons. The Miao people have martial arts even though China had banished it: it does not make sense that do not have their traditional sword! Hoping not to offend anybody, I am asking out of curiosity.

We are wondering, where did the Chinese government discover the Miao Dao? What culture did the Miao Dao belong to, the north, east, south, or west? Where did China find this weapon?

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