The Miao Dao is a rare form of Chinese two handed swordsmanship arising out of a long history of two handed sword use in China.
During ancient times, before China became an empire under the rule of the First Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, Chinese warriors only used swords, not sabresin . ln the early Han Dynasty (206 AD – 220 BC), when frequent clashes occurred in the Northern borders of the empire, the sabre was introduced to Chinese army. Due to their battles with the Hun nomadic tribes from the Northern wastelands the Chinese learned that sabres were much more efficient against cavalry. In the following centuries, the sabre found its within Chinese military, and the skills in wielding such blades reached it pinnacle during the glorious Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). The Tang Dynasty was the golden age of Chinese civilization, and many smaller kingdoms sent emissaries to pay tribute to the Tang court. The Chinese emperor would bestow many gifts to the vassal kings in return for their homage. It was during this period of cultural exchange that the Chinese long sabers (chang dao) found their way to the island kingdom of Nippon. Several versions of two handed swords appeared during Tang Dynasty -Mo Dao, Zhang Ma Dao, Tang Dao and Chang Dao . During Tang dynasty the famous General Li Siye was known for his outstanding skill in the use of Mo Dao and was later nicknamed “Mo Dao general” due to his skill in battle. Later that weapon became wildly spread among Chinese soldiers and had excellent performance in battle . The Mo Dao was one of the weapons that king sent as a gift to Japan during cultural exchange with China and that weapon made major influence to the creation of the Katana. Due to the prestige of the double edge weapon (Jian) as being the noblemen weapon, the two handed sword was gradually abandoned and all the techniques of the sabre were lost in time.During the Ming dynasty China suffered from Japanese pirate raiders (Wo kou) along the south-eastern coastline.. The central government sent the legendary general Qi Ji Guang to deal with this pirate issue. Initially Qi's troops did not fare well against the pirates, and General Qi once made a comment on this by saying "长兵不捷，短兵不接，身多两断！".which roughly translate into "(our) Long weapon is not agile enough, (our) short weapon does not have enough reach, and is often cut in half" This is a clear indication on how the design of the Japanese Katana was much more superior than the weapons used by Ming troops at the time.
Qi Jiguang analysed their tactics, weapons and fighting methods and took several years to create winning strategies, one of which is the use of a double-handed long blade to counter the pirate’s samurai swords. Qi Jiguang later updated the documented strategies《纪效新书》 – initially published in 1560 – to include《辛酉刀法》, adding two chapters to the original eighteen. Probably the first manual in the history of China on fighting with a double-handed long blade, many practitioners of modern Miao Dao (苗刀) regard Qi Jiquang’s 《辛酉刀法》 as the origin and source of their art. The weapon has been used in continuing period until republican period where it’s usage almost stopped .In 1928, the Central Guoshu Academy was established in Nanjing, with Guo Changsheng as its chief weapons instructor. Guo Changsheng (also known as Guo the Swallow, famous for his light body techniques) was the disciple of Pigua Tongbei master Liu Yuchun and has mastered the styles Pigua, Tongbei and the rare art of chang dao. It was during this period that the chang dao was officially renamed Miao Dao, in order to hide its (partly) Japanese origins. There are two explanations for the name Miao Dao:
- “Miao” literally means “Grain Leave”, and refers to the form of the blade (which resembles an actual grain leave). Miao Dao therefore means Grain Leave Sabre.
- The Miao are an ethnic minority in South-Western China who use a farming tool similar to the long sabre, thus the weapon was named Miao Sabre.
The form of Miao Dao as taught to Guo by Master Liu was the classic Ming Dynasty form handed down by Cheng Zongyou. Due to the specific teaching situations at the Guoshu Academy, Guo Changsheng developed another Miao Dao form by combining the classic techniques with Tongbei zigzag footwork and the waist movements of Pigua. The Second Road of Miao Dao was thus created to teach students more efficiently. The classic form became known as First Road of Miao Dao from then on. Among those who learned the Miao Dao system from Guo Changsheng at the Academy was Long Fist master Han Qingtang. Master Han later brought the system to Taiwan, where it is preserved until today.