There are plenty of great reasons to learn the spear form. It’s fun, it’s fast, and it teaches how to rotate and spiral the arms correctly which translates back into making your tai chi form look and feel better. The problem is that if you get the wrong spear, it doesn’t give you the feedback you need to make the improvements to your form and feel the energy. And if you do buy a tai chi spear that is correct, your form and movements will also dramatically improve.
When you buy a tai chi spear you need to take 4 things into consideration: length, straightness, thickness, and cost. Spear length is determined by raising your hand and having the tip reach the center of the palm, straightness by rolling it on the floor, and the hilt should be about as thick as a U.S. quarter but not too thin at the other end. Spears are nearly identical but prices vary.
Buying a tai chi spear isn’t difficult but it is made of waxwood meaning, there is variability in the products you get. Trust me, it stinks to be doing pole shaking with a new spear and have it crack in half. It also stinks to watch a diligent student practice a lot and not get the feedback needed to make progress because their pole is too think or bent. Here’s what we look for to get great spears nearly every time.
3 Things to Consider to Get a Great Tai Chi Spear
The first criteria is easy. The tai chi spear is a thinner pole made out of wax wood that is topped with metal spear tip and traditionally tied with red horse hair. It is usually 6 – 7 feet long and should be cut down to match your height. To get the right length, raise your hand above your head. The spear tip should come to the center of your palm (lao gong). Buy a spear that is longer than this length and cut the hilt off to get the perfect length. This is important because when you spin the spear you don’t want it hitting the ground.
Spears and long poles need to be straight and can curve over time if not kept flat. A good vender knows this but when purchasing from neighborhood schools sometimes they are stacked on end against a wall. If in person, place the pole on the floor and roll it back and forth like you would test out a cue stick. If buying online, if you use a martial arts vendor it is in their best interest to send you a straight one because returning a tai chi spear will cost as much money as the sale. So if you pick someone who knows about weapons you should be okay as long as a spear is thick enough, but not too thick. Also, extend the life of your spear by storing it on the ground, not vertically or horizontally in a rack.
Here is where it gets a bit tough. Tai chi spears get thinner towards the end. We want this because it allows for the stability in the part that you are holding and the quiver of the spear tip. Choose a pole that does taper off because if the pole looks like a curtain rod the spear tip end will not shake. On the other hand, the diameter near the spear tip should not be as small as your finger because these break easily when you get stronger. Additionally, be cautious of knots. When I have a spear break it is almost always at the point where a knot is. Don’t worry though. Most spears last forever and breaking one means you are correctly developing internal energy that you transmitting out into the spear!
Can I buy a tai chi spear online?
Yes, but you need to chose a place that works with the Chinese martial arts and has the knowledge to care for and deliver high quality spears. That being said, 99% of us have to order them and that isn’t a problem if you ask the right questions. We order spears exclusively from KungfuDirect these days because they have high quality spears that are priced well and are available for questions. If you are practicing in a group, you can order together which cuts down on shipping.
Here is the spear that is trained with because it is responsive enough to build internal strength, teach spiraling movements, and is really high quality: Spear with 9.1in Spear Head