TAI CHI SWORD;
AMERICAN KANG DUK WON KARATE
Presented by Dan McGrath, Black Belt Instructor
TAI CHI NARROW BLADE SWORD
One of the highest achievements in Tai Chi is the use of the narrow blade sword. According to tradition, the narrow blade sword, the king of the short weapons, requires at least ten years of Tai Chi training before it can be started. In addition, the individual who is interested in Tai Chi for its health aspect can perform the sword sequence as another method of exercise.
Because of the construction and techniques of the narrow blade sword, blocking requires the use of soft, nonviolent power. The defensive techniques of the sword are very much like those of the barehand maneuvers; both require the ability to stick to an opponent while avoiding an enemy's attack. Thus, the Tai Chi martial artist must be proficient in the methods of neutralizing an opponent's power before he starts sword training.
The techniques of the narrow blade sword require the smooth circulation of Chi to all parts of the body. Because the Tai Chi narrow blade sword is very flexible, the martial artist must have the ability to pass his Chi into the sword to momentarily harden it. To pass Chi into the sword requires Grand Circulation. To help the Chi into the sword, Tai Chi practitioners use a special form called the Secret Sword Hand on the arm that is not holding the sword. The Secret Sword Hand symmetrically balances Chi circulation so the Chi can enter the sword. This hand is also used for cavity press during combat.
In actual construction, the narrow blade sword is flexible and sharp in different areas. The top third of the blade is extremely thin and razor sharp. The top third is never used for blocking because it can be dented very easily. Instead, this sharp part is used only for attack. The middle third of the blade is thicker and less sharp than the top third. This part of the blade is used for sliding, guiding away, sticking, and cutting. The bottom third is very thick and unsharpened. The bottom third is usually used for situations when violent power is needed. Thus, because of the unique construction of the sword, the Tai Chi martial artist will attempt to keep his opponent in the middle and long range for proper usage.
Once again, due to the construction of the narrow blade sword and the techniques emphasized by Tai Chi stylists, there are only a few effective methods of using the sword. Basically, the Tai Chi student can slide, sting or stab, deflect cut (sliding and cutting in the same motion), slash, or chop while handling the sword. Most of the motions are done with fluidity and extreme speed. But to properly use each movement of the sword, the stylist must be capable of smooth locomotion. Without the correct use of the legs, each motion of the sword can be wasted. In fact, the ultimate goal of the Tai Chi swordsman is to successfully attack by never touching the weapon of the opponent through the use of deceptively quick steps.
After the Tai Chi martial artist learns the narrow blade sequence, he will go on to exercises that serve the same function as pushing hands, but which are done with a sword. These drills are called fighting forms. The Tai Chi student must practice and become proficient in the fighting forms because they will train all the important abilities needed for free fighting: smooth Chi flow into the sword, fluid and alive movement, an understanding of the opponent's power, an ability to adhere, expertise in sword technique, and proper defense. Later, experienced Tai Chi stylists can develop their own fighting forms. Once all the requirements are met, the student proceeds to unrestricted fighting.
In performing the slow motion Tai Chi sword sequence, a few precautionary points must be noted. When holding the sword, the hand must remain loose. Although the sword is held loosely, it is always under strict control. Second, concentrate on passing the Chi into the sword- this aspect will take time and energy to achieve. Third, coordinate all the forms with deep breathing. Like the barehand sequence, the sword forms must be done slowly in order to get the full benefits of this elegant and ancient weapon sequence. Finally, observe all the points for correct practice of the Tai Chi barehand sequence such as placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth, relaxation, keeping the elbows low, keeping the spine straight, etc. With patience and practice, the practitioner can make the Tai Chi sword sequence a useful and beautiful series of techniques for health or defense. The American Kang Duk Won martial arts style emphasizes the mental aspects of the martial arts above all. Learning Tai Chi sword can be a tool for further development of the mind through self-discipline.
BASIC HAND FORMS
OPEN PALM - thumb set back slightly as if cupping spherical object
FIST - circular and open
Both are open and loose, the wrist is never tight.
Move low, heel first, coordinate with breath. There are eight stances.
1. Ma Bu or Horse Stance is used as a transition between techniques or forms. Feet parallel, slightly beyond shoulder width. Feet flat, knees turned in slightly.
2. Deng San Bu or Mountain Climbing Stance is the most commonly used offensive stance. Place one leg forward so that the knee is above the ankle and the leg as a whole supports 60% of the body's weight. The toe of the lead leg is pointing 15 degrees to the inside. The rear leg is firmly set down supporting the rest of the weight. Knee of rear leg slightly bent. Keep upper body perpendicular to ground.
3. Dsao Pan Bu or Sitting on Cross Legs Stance is used for forward movement. Assume Ma Bu; then turn body and right foot 90 degrees clockwise while pivoting on the left toe. The same can be done with the left side; turn the body and left foot 90 degrees counterclockwise while pivoting on the right foot. From either side the rear leg can easily move forward.
4. Ssu Lieu Bu or Four-Six Stance is the most commonly used defensive stance. Front leg supports 40% of the weight, rear leg 60%. The rear leg is turned inward with the front leg flexible, bent, and relaxed.
5. Fu Hu Bu or Tame the Tiger Stance is used for low attacks and defense. Stand with both feet spread. Squat down on one leg while keeping the other leg locked. The thigh of the squatting leg must be parallel with the ground and both feet must be flat.
6. Shuen Gi Bu or False Stance is used to set up kicks. Similar to Cat Stance. Place all your weight on one leg. Set the other leg in front of the body with its toes lightly touching the ground. From this position the false leg can kick without hesitation.
7. Gin Gi Du Li or Golden Rooster Standing on One Leg is also used to set up kicks and is similar to the Crane Stance. Lift either knee up with the toe pointing 45 degrees down. The raised leg can kick at any instant.
8. Dsao Dun or Squat Stance (Samson's Chair) is used as a training device to build up the knees. Stand with feet spread shoulder's width apart. Squat down until the thighs are parallel to the ground and the back is straight. Try to stay in this stance for five minutes while keeping the mind calm.
TAI CHI SWORD FORM
Point sword and feet together
Stand on one leg and thrust
Sweep sword in crouch
Carry sword to the right
Carry sword to the left
Stand on one leg and cut with arm swing
Step back and withdraw sword
Stand on one leg and thrust
Plunge sword downward in empty stance
Thrust in left bow stance
Turn round and carry sword
Retreat and carry sword
Lift knee and hold sword with both hands
Hop and thrust
Swing up sword in left empty stance
Swing up sword in right bow stance
Turn round and withdraw sword
Thrust with feet together
Parry in left bow stance
Parry in right bow stance
Parry in left bow stance
Step forward and plunge backward
Turn round to cut
Point sword in right empty stance
Stand on one leg and hold sword level
Cut in bow stance
Cut with arm swing in empty stance
Step back to strike
Step forward to thrust
Withdraw sword in T step
Circle sword horizontally
Thrust forward in bow stance
Hong, Bing; Taiji and Wudang Sword; videotape.
Lawlor, Robert C.; American Kang Duk Won Karate: Basic Principles and Techniques, 1994.
China Sports Editorial Board; Taiji 48 Forms and Swordplay,The Foreign Languages Press, 1988.
Yang, Jwing-Ming; Advanced Style Tai Chi Chuan, Volume One and Two; YMAA Publication Center, 1987 &1988.
Yang, Jwing-Ming; Tai Chi Chuan; Unique Publications, 1982.