When was the last time you resorted to using a 7 foot spear to settle a dispute? Or, do you think you would feel safer if your double-edge sword skills were up to snuff? Ridiculous, I know. Yet we study an art form that continues to teach ye-olde weapons forms. Why bother?
Tai Chi weapons forms teach us skills that cannot easily be accomplished with the open-hand form or any other fitness regime.
Here are six reasons why you should study tai chi weapons
1) A weapon gives you tangible, reliable feedback
I love the word “implement” rather than “weapon” to describe this group of tools. Weapons serve as feedback devices to let us know if we are moving and using energy correctly. This really isn’t possible in the open-hand forms. If you leaning over in the ball/sphere form, your back hurts. If you issue into the pole or spear and your weight doesn’t stay low in the body, it doesn’t shake. If you issue into a straight sword with less energy that goes into the opposite hand, the end of the sword barely quivers. Immediate, tangible feedback that uncovers bad posture and disconnected movement.
2) A weapon teaches how to extend your energy out past your physical body
The material of each weapon is responsive. It shakes, quivers, snaps, or rings. When you move correctly (from the center and with a balanced body) energy travels out to the tip or to the edge of the impliment. By taking our focus a few feet past our body we are introduced to a greater extension of our power. The alchemy people argue that our energy extends out past our skin. This esoteric ideas become easier to grasp when you are manipulating a physical object. Pushhands or the open-hand forms puts its focus on energy traveling out to the hands which is great. However, if you study weapons you can shift your energy and focus out to a large area of influence.
3) Weapons help us understand how to separate heavy and light chi
We talk about moving from the center but the actual separation of lightness into the upper body and heaviness into the lower body is more easily understood if you are manipulating something with weight. You must keep your weight low and your upper body relatively relaxed so that you do fall over or lose your balance.
4) Weapons isolate individual energies
Tai chi weapons practice isolates specific energies in the same way that a musician isolate specific notes in a phrase. We isolate these energies to improve them and then re-integrate their use into the open-hand form. For example, the broadsword is centrifugal and sends the body in circles to power the single blade. Conversely, the spear spins portions of the body to create micro-cycles of energy. The straight sword teaches balance and equalization of power between the dominant (weapon) and non-dominant hand. Meanwhile, the dense pole teachers a summation of energy as the pole has to be powered from the heel through a correctly aligned posture in order to get the pole to respond correctly.
5) Weapons correctly transmit knowledge across time
Ok pretend you have valuable health information to share. And, you want to make it available to people in the year 2514. What do you use? A floppy disk? Reel to reel? Will paper last outside of a museum? See what I am getting at? Yes, weapons have conveyed martial knowledge but I believe there is a more practical solution that was at hand. Someone wanted to teach energy work and the found objects that had and would likely be around (wax wood, bamboo, steal, etc). Their dimensions had been recorded and would largely stay the same. These “implements” would be a great way to convey their knowledge.
6) Tai chi weapons are fun as h#@! and connect us to tradition
Let’s cut to the chase on this one. Tai Chi weapons forms are beautiful, fun, and you are participating in history. The arcane implement you are swinging around connects you to 2000 years of history! Be proud that you have chosen to align yourself with the thousands of practitioners over time who have worked to understand themselves better and align themselves with something greater. Plus, we don’t always have to be so serious. Let’s yell, jump in the air, and hit things!