I want to begin by telling you why I love the tai chi spear and the impact it has made on my practice. I was a late-comer to the tai chi spear form because I didn’t have access to teaching. I may have also been intimidated by the speed and number of moves. However, learning the spear has paid off in many unique ways:
- My open-hand form became lighter
- I finally understood spiraling energy
- I learned proper opening and closing of the armpits and inguinal crease (kua)
- It added variety to my training so I practice more
- It is FUN! and I laugh and feel like a kid doing it (even though I hit myself in the shins)
- It is the embodiment of what is possible physically.
Like each of the weapons, there is an incredible history, a reason why it is studied, ways this weapon form improves your open-hand form, and jaw-dropping movie and competition examples. Put your seatbelt on because here is a wushu competition example that is absolutely insane.
Now I know what your saying. I could probably do that with a week or two of training, but might not be ready for Russian television. 😉 The cool thing is that it doesn’t matter. Because what is going on inside of her is available to you if you train at your own level.
The tai chi spear form (槍 – qiāng) is one of the primary weapons forms of tai chi but is less known or less practiced than the sword forms. It contains light, fast, spinning movements with quick steps and is used to train internal strength and spiraling energy.
The tai chi spear form is extremely unique when compared to other weapons or other forms of exercise. This routine has its origin on ancient military battlefields. Spear forms use whole-body energy for sweeping, thrusting, and striking. It also teaches you how to extend your inner power (fajin) out to the tip of the spear. Here are the things that make the spear form stand out:
The Spear Increases Your Lightness and Speed
While most tai chi forms are low, slow, and grounded, the spear form is more nimble and quick. You do hold low proper stances but you also come up to full attention. The steps are as fast as the hand movements so it is pretty light and quick. This compliments all of the other tai chi forms well.
Spiraling Energy Originates in the Spear Form
In order to get the much-desired shake in the end of the spear, spiraling energy is used to transmit force through the pole. It is often hard to learn spiraling technique in the openhand form but the spear gives us a visual and tactile way to learn. For a very nice, detailed description about spiraling energy, Dr. Paul Lam has a great instructional video: Dr. Paul Lam on Spiral Force
Opening and Closing Movements
Proper tai chi is performed with continual opening and closing of joints. As a quick example, moving your arms slowly as if you are flying opens your armpits, then elbows, then wrists and closes them on the way down. When you see someone doing beautiful tai chi you are recognizing their timing of opening and closing. They look like a sail filling and emptying. The spinning of the tai chi spear is powered by proper opening and closing motions. When you can properly spin the spear, the opening and closing abilities easily translate back into your tai chi long form.
Connection of Whole Body Force
The spear form is taught slowly in the beginning without using much force. Once the movements are learned and correct, every thrust and strike is powered with the whole body and focused on the spear’s tip.
Hopefully you see that there is a WHOLE lot going on here than just “learning another form.”
How Old is the Spear?
To truly comprehend the value of learning the spear form we have to understand how far back in history the spear has been used and that it has been a part of every culture. Fighting, hunting, or fishing with a spear requires the use of whole-body mechanics that is at the same time forceful, quick, and flexible.
As tai chi practitioners, we are SOOO lucky. While the spear remains part of everyone else’s history, we still have a living, breathing spear routine to learn correct body mechanics that have been honed across several centuries.
The oldest spear to date was discovered in central Germany possibly dating from 400,000 years ago. However, being that spears are wood, scientists think this is an underestimation.
Spears have been part of every tribal, hunting, and military tradition.
- Egyptian hieroglyphics show spears
- The Greek and Roman foot soldiers and cavalrymen used spears
- African tribes
- Native America tribes
- In the Arab world and India, spears were in use right up until the beginning of the 20th Century
- All Asian infantry had spear or lance detachments
The history we are most concerned with is the Chinese of course. There were two primary forms of spears, the Mao and the Qiang. The Qiang was long and flexible and is the origin of the spear we now use in tai chi.
There is some confusion as to how to distinguish the Qiang from the Mao, as they are obviously very similar. Some people say that a Mao is longer than a Qiang, others say that the main difference is between the stiffness of the shaft, where the Qiang would be flexible and the Mao would be stiff. Scholars seem to lean toward the latter explanation more than the former. Because of the difference in the construction of the Mao and the Qiang, the usage is also different, though there is no definitive answer as to what exactly the differences are between the Mao and the Qiang.Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spear
No reason to just talk about the history of spears when there are great movie re-enactments. Here is one of my all-time favorite scenes:
Hero (2004) Jet Li vs. Donnie Yen – Chess Courtyard Fight
Spears Are Not Just Used By Humans
Scientists have now documented that chimpanzees and apes use spears to hunt.
Chimps in Senegal found to fashion spears for hunting
Chen Tai Chi Spear Form
We will end here with two examples of the Chen tai chi spear form. What I would love viewers to glean from this incredible example is how it is simultaneously calm and fast. 72 moves are performed in about 2 minutes. The Chen tai chi spear form movements are listed below.
It also demonstrates the relaxation needed to spin the spear during the martial flower movements and at the same time incredible power at specific points visible by the flexing of the spear.
Chen Tai Chi Spear – Pear Blossom Spear (Li Hua Chiang)
|1. Yaksha Explores the Sea||1. yie cha ta hai|
|2. Full Martial Flower||2. chuen wu hwah|
|3. Middle-Level Thrust||3. jong ping cheong|
|4. Three Quick Thrusts||4. gi san cheong|
|5. Upper-Level Thrust||5. san ping cheong|
|6. Swing the Pearl-Beaded Curtain||6. gen ju dow juen lien|
|7. Lower-Level Thrust||7. shia ping cheong|
|8. Stamp and Thrust||8. dien tway lui cheong|
|9. Green Dragon Bares Its Claws||9. ja ching long shien jow|
|10. Advance Forward, Pierce with Spear||10. sham bu ja I cheong|
|11. Sweep Ground, Block Stab from the Side||11. sau di su bien lon cheong|
|12. Step Forward, Two Strikes||12. wong chien da leong cheong|
|13. Yellow Dragon Flicks the Staff||13. wong dien gahn lowng|
|14. Diverting Pierce||14. leow I cheong show I cheong|
|15. Half Martial Flower||15. bahn wu hwah|
|16. Block Attacks at Waist||16. yao chwin lan cheong|
|17. Turn Around, Half Martial Flower||17. hwey toe bahn go wu hwah|
|18. Press Down on the Snake||18. show an di schwa cheong|
|19. Flick the Spear||19. show I cheong|
|20. Pierce with Spear||20. ja I cheong|
|21. Two-Finishing Thrusts||21. leong shang ye-eh|
|22. Wave the Banner on the Left||22. zoa yao chee sow|
|23. Heaven-Piercing Thrust||23. chw tien cheong|
|24. Wave the Banner on the Right||24. yo yao chee sow|
|25. Iron Ox Plows the Earth||25. tien nyo gun di|
|26. Turn Around, Half Martial Flower||26. hwey toe bahn go wu hwah|
|27. Water-Dripping Spear||27. di schwey cheong|
|28. Two Finishing Thrusts||28. ye-eh leong cheong|
|29. Step Forward and Ride the Dragon||29. shong o-he lowng shu|
|30. Part the Grass to Search for a Snake||30. wong chien ing bo tzow shwing shua|
|31. Step Back, White Ape Drags the Spear||31. wong hoe tway|
|32. Turn Around, Pin Black Dragon into the Cave||32. hwey toe ja u long ru dong|
|33. Stamp and Snatch the Pipa||33. dien hwey twey shu pipa|
|34. Advance Forward, Two Strikes||34. wong chien da leong cheong|
|35. Wield the Banner to Sweep the Ground||35. yao chi sao di|
|36. Mount Tai Crushes the Egg||36. tai shan yah lo-an|
|37. Turn Around, Half Martial Flower||37. hway toe bahn go wu hwah|
|38. Agile Cat Pounces on the Mouse||38. mao puh shoe (?shu-e)|
|39. Strike from the Left||39. zoa puh I cheong|
|40. Strike from the Right||40. yo puh I cheong|
|41. Turn and Thrust||41. fan shun hoy toe (look back) su I cheong|
|42. Flick the Heel||42. tiow I gun zuh|
|43. Single Hand Thrust||43. dan sho chu cheong|
|44. Full Martial Flower||44. chuen wu hwah|
|45. Er Lang Carries the Mountain||45. er lang dan shan|
|46. Sweep the Spear||46. sow I cheong|
|47. Half Martial Flower||47. bahn wu hwah|
|48. Lower Thrust||48. sha leo fun cheong|
|49. Turn Around, Half Martial Flower||49. hway toe bahn go wu hwah|
|50. Sparrow Hawk Swoops Down on Quail||50. guh suh poo on chwin|
|51. Sweep Right||51. yo sow I cheong|
|52. Flick Heel||52. tiow I gun zuh|
|53. Finishing Thrust||53. ye-eh ee cheong|
|54. Full Martial Flower||54. chuen wu hwah|
|55. Er Lang Carries the Mountain||55. er lang dan shan|
|56. Sweep the Spear||56. sow I cheong|
|57. Half Martial Flower||57. bahn wu hwah|
|58. Beautiful Maiden Holds a Needle||58. may new ren gin|
|59. Fair Maiden Works at the Shuttles||59. ewe new xheun sow|
|60. Thrust to the Throat||60. zu chuong ho men cheong|
|61. Turn and Sweep||61. hwey toe sow I cheong|
|62. Full Martial Flower||62. chuen wu hwah|
|63. Protect the Knee||63. who she cheong|
|64. Two Finishing Thrusts||64. ye-eh leong cheong|
|65. Old Dragon Sways Its Tail||65. tsong lang buy huey|
|66. Forward Block||66. wong chien dan I cheong|
|67. Forward Block||67. wong chien dan I cheong|
|68. Block Left||68. wong zoa dan I cheong|
|69. Block Right||69. wong yo dan I cheong|
|70. Half Martial Flower||70. bahn wu hwah|
|71. Tai Gong Goes Fishing||71. tai gong dio you|
|72. Step Forward, Mount the Horse, and Thrust Back||72. wong chien ching bu hway ma cheong|
There are many places online that sell tai chi spears. There are just a few things you need to know to make sure you get the right length and find one that is straight and in good condition. Here is what you need to know and where our class orders from: How to Find the Right Tai Chi Spear.