Why Practice the Tai Chi Sword?

If you are learning the art of TC sword, or even just want to appreciate the style, you have picked one of the great martial arts weapons. This double-bladed instrument — whether wooden practice or combat steel — is unlike any other in the Tai Chi arsenal. It encourages direct concentration aligned with movement — what we call “intent” — and we see that the sword measures up, internally and externally, to any of the Chinese martial weapons. Intent is the marrow of movement.

Hand a sword to a Tai Chi player, and watch her demonstrate the easy morphing from the artist’s role to the warrior mind set. With the sword, we are directed to be functional and artistic at the same time.

Pick up the sword yourself and experience how it extends your own range of focus. Begin by watching the tip — the last three inches — of the blade. Like a cat’s whiskers, everything in the body is directed (intent) by the slightest impulse. In this case, it is easy to heed the rule: “Forget the Qi, follow the sword.”

Does playing the sword remind you of Push Hands? Do you see how the manipulation of the sword, with its long straight body, activates “Beng” or deflection? It is a light weapon, unable to stop the progress of the opponent’s attack, so instead it follows the arc of the attacker, meeting then “matching,” the arc of the tip widely circling while the footwork “covers” the change of angle.

More observations:

* The sword holds the shoulder girdle in such a way that the entire shape of body and weapon form one perfectly balanced unit, with both arms joined to create a stretch throughout the shoulder girdle, unifying the back and increasing the potential range of the movements.

* The sword “sticks” to the opponent’s, increasing feedback which you can take back and incorporate into your empty hand practice, not to mention the double benefit of the shared postures, traded back and forth. This invaluable information will better your Tai Chi routine by multiples.

*Also, note how the intent, which streams all the way into the feet, allows for angles and responses that incorporate the tip of the sword with foot actions. Tai Chi melds the sword with the step.

* And, throughout the training, there is the simple fact that playing the Tai Chi sword just feels good. Balanced movement, circular motions, and directed intent make for a harmonized performance as much for the audience as the performer.

Nothing is quite like the sword. It moves like a dragon and leaps like a tiger. There’s seven an old image of a tiger and dragon locked and tumbling through combat and, as the saying goes, “It is impossible, in the middle of the contest, to distinguish which is which.”

The sword art extends the range of Tai Chi’s focus. If the spear, in kung fu, is considered the King of Weapons due to its reach and battlefield record, then Tai Chi sword is the Queen of Weapons. Its unhurried pace, its flowing transitions, its surprising angles of attack connect thought and performance in this unique art.

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2 Responses to “Why Practice the Tai Chi Sword?”

  1. Miles Coleman says:

    Sifu- I keep holding out hope that you will write a book /dvd for the JIAN just like you did for the other weapons!
    That would be fantastic!

  2. Plum Staff says:

    Thanks, Miles, someday…it’s on ‘the board’ with a few projects ahead of it.