Finding a tai chi sword for sale is easy but they come in a staggering number of styles and have prices that range from $20-$2000. The good news is that if you know how to judge a tai chi sword and know how to pick one based on your needs and size, you can get something beautiful to use in practice or your competitions. With so many types of swords the first and most important thing to know is that if straight swords for tai chi are called “jian” in Chinese. That is what you need to look for when searching.
Tai chi jian swords are typically wooden, retractable steel, or metal such as stiff, cheaper steal, stainless steel or spring steel. The type of tai chi jian sword you buy is dependent on your level of expertise, and whether you will be using it for practice, demonstration, or competition. The length of the sword is dependent on your height.
I’m going to describe why you would want or need the different types of swords to help you make the right purchase on the front end. Let’s start by talking about how to get the right size and weight tai chi jian sword and then find one that fits the activities you do and the price point you want.
2 Things to Ask About When You are Looking at Tai Chi Swords for Sale
Tai Chi Jian Sword Length
Tai chi jian sword length is measured as being the distance from your wrist to the top of your ear. If you are buying a Chinese jian in person, place the handle upside down in your left hand with the thumb hooked under the hilt. Have the blade run against your forearm and triceps muscle. The tip should come up to the top of your ear. If you are looking at tai chi swords for sale online, measure from the wrist to the top of the ear with the arm handing down straight. You may have to have someone help you with this.
Tai Chi Jian Sword Weight
The weight of a jian sword is not something that you can actual choose but the weight is actually a sign of how good of quality a sword is. The weight of a wooden jian sword is next to nothing of course but the the cheaper metal swords are quite heavy. A proper jian sword is on average 1-1.5 lbs with the weight balanced at about about 6 inches from the hilt where the tassels tie on.
Tai chi jian sword weight and the point of balance is important for when you learn how to hold a jian sword. The hand posture changes throughout the form ranging from a full grip to holding the hilt with your index finger and thumb with almost no pressure on the handle. The balance point for the weight of the tai chi sword has to be right in front of the hilt to allow the sword to move and swivel gracefully in your hand. If the weight is too far forward or the sword is too heavy, the tip dips towards the ground when you relax your grip. If you are buying a tai chi sword for sale from an individual or from a store asking about weight and balance point can give you an indication of the quality of the sword.
What are you going to buy a tai chi sword for?
This is an important first question because it will determine how much you will expect to spend. If you are only beginning, I recommend that you buy a wooden sword which I talk about below. The reason being is that most people starting out don’t want to spend a lot and they end up buying a mediocre metal sword the never like. However, it was just enough money ($50) that they don’t get a better one and miss out on the benefits of having a better sword. Whereas, buying a wooden sword ($15) lets you learn the movements and you have it to lend to another newbie so you have someone to practice with. If you are only participating with a class, the cheaper versions might be fine. If you want to do demonstrations or competitions you will need one that is flexible and balanced ($95-$170). Here are the arguments for each.
Can I Practice with a Wooden Jian Sword?
Having a tai chi wooden training sword is a good idea for a number of reasons. First, it is cheap so if you are new to the sword and don’t know if you will continue, this is the way to go. Second, at the point you are ready to buy a metal sword, you will want a tai chi wooden training sword for a partner to practice with. Third, most classes are held outside and if you live in a rainy place, you can get your wooden tai chi sword out on the wet evenings.
A wooden tai chi sword is good enough to be able to learn the form. Once you have been doing it for awhile though, you will want to upgrade to metal. As I pointed out up above, energy that is transmitted down the sword makes the blade shake. This can’t happen when a sword is made out of wood. Also, wooden jian swords are the only practice option for teaching large groups and for teaching kids. Here is one for just a few bucks:
Inexpensive Metal Tai Chi Swords
Full disclosure, I am not a big fan of this category. I will tell you about them but for a few bucks more you can get something amazing. Inexpensive metal tai chi swords are around $40-$50. They are nice looking and get the job done. However they are a bit heavier and are considered “firm.” That’s a nice way of saying they won’t transmit energy down the blade when you issue force into them. This “energy” manifests as a shake and tells you that you are using internal strength instead of just muscular strength. It is like the sword is saying “good job!” Additionally, the handle might be wrapped in tape rather than a woven material. And the blade might not extend down to the base of the handle but might be screwed into the hilt.
Consider buying an inexpensive metal jian sword if you are mainly interested in practicing with groups and learning the choreography of the sword form movements, not if you are going to demonstrate, compete, or want to develop internal movements and internal strength.
Competition Jian Swords
Demonstration or competition jian swords are where we start getting really nice products starting at around $90- $170. Here are some things most swords in this price range have over the cheaper versions:
- The blade is springy so if you stood the sword on the tip it flexes down a bit. This allows for the quiver we want to see when we are moving correctly
- The handle is woven
- The blade extends through the handle and is screwed into the end by the tassel. Again so you can transmit force the whole length
- The balance point is right in front of the hilt
- Many are now made with this beautiful matte stainless steal so that your sweat or water doesn’t ruin the metal
- They are ornately designed on the handle, hilt, and lower portion of the blade
Buy a competition level sword if you ever plan to do the form in front of someone and are interested in not only learning the form’s movements but how to move from the center of the body and transmit energy effectively. One tip I can give is to borrow a sword from a teacher to begin and on break tryout some of your classmates swords. If you are learning the sword form on your own or buying online. I think the extra $50 is twice as expensive as the cheap swords but 10 times better. That’s the price of 8 lattes and you will have it for the rest of your life ;).
Here are our all-time favorite three tai chi straight swords. I wanted to provide a variety of prices. All of these swords are high quality and perform well. All three of these are extremely pleasurable to use because they are balanced nicely. As you go up in price, you get more engraving, higher quality tassels and case, and the design of the handle improves.
Tai Chi Competition Sword
This a really nice sword and much like the swords you would practice with if you train in China. The handle and scabbard are wooden. It is balanced and very responsive.
Premium Well-Balanced Competition Jian Sword
This is a really nice sword to do tai chi with. This sword has some beautiful designs on the metal, the handle and scabbard are made of yellow brass and really beautiful pear wood.
Hand Forged Stainless Steel Jian Sword
No two ways about it. This sword is gorgeous. The carvings on the metal pieces on the scabbard, tip, and handle are extraordinary. The balance and response quiver make you feel like you are doing the form with an old friend. This is not as expensive as you would think to get something this beautiful. I really don’t know why someone who actually practices would buy something more expensive.
Should I Buy a Retractable Jian Sword?
A retractable or telescopic tai chi sword is one of those things that sounds like a great idea. I can just shrink it down to make it smaller! It also sounds pretty cool when goes sliding out! I wish it were that easy but there are a few reasons that buying a retractable tai chi sword is not a good idea.
- They are usually heavy
- They rust where the collapsible jian sword ends meet because they wear on each other
- They are supposed to stay extended during use but often fold back up
- They fall apart more than any other sword, probably because of the telescopic pieces
- They are way more expensive than a wooden sword if you are just looking for something to practice with
- Most importantly, a retractable tai chi sword can’t transmit energy down the blade and quiver so you never get feedback on if you are moving properly
Do I Need a Tai Chi Sword Case?
Oh yes. Tai chi sword cases do more than protect your sword. They also protect the scabbard, protect the scabbard tip, and keep your tassels in good shape. This all might seem trivial until you spend money on a sword and then you damage it. Or more likely, you’ll spend the first 10 minutes of practice unraveling your tassel because you threw your sword in your trunk. Here are the top reasons you need a tai chi sword case which all can be remedied for a few bucks:
- Tassels get knotted up or all stringy and need to be replaced because they wrap around the handle or your wrist
- Handle nut where the tassel ties on snaps off and the handle falls apart
- Denting the metal tip of the scabbard which can split the case
- Swords are metal and your sweat or water can ruin them. You need to carry oil and a cloth
- Many people have both a wooden sword and metal sword which you will want to keep together
Buy a tai chi sword case that is big enough to hold more than one sword so you can have all your swords in one place and have a second sword on hand if you practice with a buddy. And you also will want a pocket for oil, a cloth, and for your car keys and phone! Here is a pro tip: wad up a t-shirt or piece of material in the bottom so that the sword doesn’t wear the bottom out prematurely like it did on my first one. I had to sew the bottom shut and use duct tape.
Please Practice the Tai Chi Sword!
Above all else, just please practice. The jian sword form is so fun and so interesting. It helps with our open-hand form because it improves your balance, posture, and thrusting (punching). It is also a way to participate in the deep history of tai chi. You won’t regret putting the time in and adding this to your life. If you are an old pro or just getting started, read this: Tai Chi Straight Sword Tips, Techniques, History, and Examples