Previously I wrote a post on constructing a wooden practice woldo (moon-blade – 월도, 月刀). Wol-do means ‘moon blade’ because the blade looks like almost half-moon. It has a long history in both Korea and China, where it is known as a guan-dao, and because it was a formidable weapon which took much strength to use, it often formed part of the testing requirements for promotion within the army. Indeed, high-ranking tests called for proficiency on a version weighing close to a 100 pounds. The woldo appears in the Military Treatise, the Muyedobotongji (무예도보통지,藝武圖譜通志), published in 1795. Further, a similar Japanese weapon is the naginata. A small Korean weapon, with a narrower blade, known as the hyeop-do (협도- 挾刀), is also common in Korean classical martial arts.
The Japanese naginata
The Korean hyeop-do (협도), similar to the chinese pu-dao
In 14th-16th century Europe, a similar weapon was the glaive. Often, the woldo/guan-dao is mistakenly called a ‘halberd.’
Examples of European polearms similar to the woldo/guan-dao. The glaive is the closest.
While a wooden practice woldo is perfect for promoting muscle memory and learning the basics, the only way to truly learn the woldo is to practice with one which has a steel blade and which demands more of your body. A heavier woldo gives a totally different experience from a wooden practice or even light metal version. With a light woldo (wooden or metal) it is the arms which power the weapon and often it is the arms which stops it. However, a heavy woldo demands much more use of waist and core muscles and once it is powered it quickly gathers a momentum. Stopping a heavy woldo in its track, as you can with a light one is not just easy, but not really the way to use the weapon. The woldo needs to travel to maximum extension, where it slows down and the rebound then used to initialize the next movement. Not only is the stance important, it needs to be strong and table enough to counter the pull of momentum, but the woldo’s weight and momentum are important tools which help control the weapon – the lighter weapon gives totally different experience.
The second woldo profiled, is live and one which I have both cut and practiced with. Surprisingly, it weights in at 2.6 kgs (5lbs 11oz). Most of that weight is focused on the blade with very little counter balance in the butt. I have no ideas how one trains with a 25 pound woldo. 2.6 kg totally knackers me and takes a lot of effort to wield – and I’m 6’6″. However, my Sabeom can throw the same weapon around like a tooth pick has a vastly smaller physique. However, I have trained with a guan-do weighing 3kg (6lb 9 oz); the weapon was more balanced with a much less weight in the blade and much more weight in the butt. I suspect that equal weight distribution might make the weapon easier to handle – but this is only an idea, I’m not certain.
Metal practice woldo (adult size)
Approx 2m in length
The guard, slightly flimsy
The following dimension, only marginally different, are from that of a ‘live blade.’ It will be noticed that the ‘live blade’ has a far superior guard and a sleeve has been added at the base of the blade along with some visible, extra welding. The former example would be just as suitable for a ‘live’ weapon.
One of my dojang’s ‘live’ woldo (moon-blades)
Blade dimensions. Only the side opposite the hooks is sharpened