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The butterfly sword (traditional Chinese: ????; simplified Chinese: ????; pinyin: húdié shuang dao) is a short dao, or single-edged blade, originally from the South of China, though it has seen use in the North.
The blade of a butterfly sword is roughly as long as a human forearm, which allows for easy concealment inside sleeves or boots, and allows greater maneuverability when spinning and rotating during close-quarters fighting. Butterfly swords are usually wielded in pairs. A pair of swords will often be carried side by side within the same scabbard, so as to give the appearance of a single weapon.
The butterfly sword has a small crossguard to protect the hands of the wielder,similar to that of a sai, which can also be used to block or hook an opponent’s weapon. They may also be used as a knuckle duster when non-lethal application of the weapon is desired.
Traditionally, the blade of a butterfly sword is only sharpened along half of its edge – from the middle of the blade to the tip. The blade from the midpoint down is left blunt so that it can be used to deliver non-lethal strikes and to block without damaging the sharpened edge.
Butterfly swords are sometimes called ‘butterfly knives’ in English literature (due to the short blade), but should not be confused with the folding butterfly knife. In some branches of Kung Fu, such as Wing Chun and Wing Tsun, butterfly swords are known as Baat Jaam Do (literally ‘Eight Chopping/Slashing Knives’ – from the number of basic fencing techniques).
Butterfly swords are used in several Chinese martial arts, notably Wing Chun, Lau Gar and Hung Gar. In Wing Chun, one notable aspect of butterfly sword combat is that its principles are the basis for all other weaponry. In theory, any object that can be held in the hands of a Wing Chun practitioner will follow the same basic principles of movement as the butterfly swords. This is because the use of butterfly swords is simply an extension of empty-handed combat.
Butterfly swords are regarded by many Chinese martial artists to hold the most versatility and balance of offensive and defensive capabilities of any other Chinese weapon, with many more capabilities than just a weapon.