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  1. #1
    kimjonghng's Avatar
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    Tai chi sword applicable to actual sword fighting?

    So I have a small bit of experience with escrima, silat, the bujinkan (for 8 years) and a few other systems with some weapon work. I didnt reckon much to most of aikido or the booj for sword play, as I feel it is probably inferior to the escrima I have done, and probably isnt as good as other arts.

    As my training is expanding, I am looking at a kendo school near me for japanese sword work, and with my time at the gym I work at now free, I am joining one of the tai chi classes. They teach forms, but the teacher does know and has expressed wanting to teach any of the younger members (of which I would be the only one at this point) more application work such as push hands and weapon work. Since this would include tai chi sword, I wondered if any of the fencers and more weapon minded people on here could give their take on tai chi's sword work?

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    Tai Chi sword work isn't really sword work. It's just another way to ass nuance to the forms. With little to no applicable transition. Having done years of Tai Chi and stick fighting I had to abandon Tai Chi sword completely because it was screwing up my legitimate weapon training.

    Now push hands is a must if you are trying to make Tai Chi legitimate at all. Without it, you are just doing forms. Which is fine, if that's what you are into. But push hands, if done right is the next step. So, I would jump on that opportunity if you have it. Do sword if you have to, but don't go in thinking it's going to be applicable to anything other than sword dancing.
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    I train both Kendo and TJQ. I know it might not be the same with every school but, in my experience, Taiji sword training is almost exclusively based on forms. Teachers often try to base everything on martial applications, but there is no resistance, like in Kendo or fencing - unfortunately I've never had contact with a CMA school that preserves sword sparring besides the forms, only empty-hand sparring.

    The concern with the applications is present, though. One of my teachers often says that the forms simply don't make sense if you don't picture their application. But he won't go beyond that, which is fine by me.

    About training, Taijijian training often includes studying each type of movement, such as "pi" (split), "liao" (sweep), "lan" (block, I think), "jie" (intercept), "dian" (poke) etc. Teachers ask us to study and understand the mechanics of each cut or block, so that we can apply them correctly while training forms. Like in Kendo, there's a lot of attention to how to grip the sword correctly. I've noticed that some notions are used both in Taijijian and Kendo, like "hukou" in Taijijian and "toraguchi" in Kendo. Both terms mean "tiger's mouth" and refer to the opening of the hand(s) and how to use your fingers to grip the sword more efficiently. But I think the similarities end on the principles - Kendo and Taijijian practice methods, footwork and other aspects are pretty different from one another.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drunken Soim View Post
    I train both Kendo and TJQ. I know it might not be the same with every school but, in my experience, Taiji sword training is almost exclusively based on forms. Teachers often try to base everything on martial applications, but there is no resistance, like in Kendo or fencing - unfortunately I've never had contact with a CMA school that preserves sword sparring besides the forms, only empty-hand sparring.

    The concern with the applications is present, though. One of my teachers often says that the forms simply don't make sense if you don't picture their application. But he won't go beyond that, which is fine by me.

    About training, Taijijian training often includes studying each type of movement, such as "pi" (split), "liao" (sweep), "lan" (block, I think), "jie" (intercept), "dian" (poke) etc. Teachers ask us to study and understand the mechanics of each cut or block, so that we can apply them correctly while training forms. Like in Kendo, there's a lot of attention to how to grip the sword correctly. I've noticed that some notions are used both in Taijijian and Kendo, like "hukou" in Taijijian and "toraguchi" in Kendo. Both terms mean "tiger's mouth" and refer to the opening of the hand(s) and how to use your fingers to grip the sword more efficiently. But I think the similarities end on the principles - Kendo and Taijijian practice methods, footwork and other aspects are pretty different from one another.

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    The jian is the rapier of China. Dueling between Chinese has been banned for centuries, as it has other places. Therefore, live training with rapier AND jian is basically a dead art, but they basically follow similar principles.

    These were weapons for thrusting, rather than hacking and its kind of hard to spar unless you just, you know...just fence.

    "dian" = 点, an awesome little hanzi I love because it looks like both a duck, and a tank.

    Watch this rapier form and see if t doesn't remind you of taijijian. This is a real 16th century Italian sword form. The Chinese version is strikingly similar not only in physical construction, but also social legacy.

    Last edited by W. Rabbit; 9/06/2019 9:45pm at .
    '“I am no advocate of passivity,” Coffin Mott said in an 1860 speech. “Quakerism, as I understand it, does not mean quietism. The early Friends were agitators; disturbers of the peace; and were more obnoxious in their day to charges, which are now so freely made, than we are.”'

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    Tai chi in general approaches fighting by starting at the feet/root first, then the motion cascades upward. The sword forms generally follow that paradigm.

    That approach is not usually shared in Western fencing. In fencing, you aspire to move your body in a way that is almost opposite that. When you lunge, your sword moves first and your body follows, because if you step first your attack is easier to see coming. Your sword should be the vanguard, not your root or base. Fencing attacks don't always seek to have the full body english of the tai chi approach.

    Aside from that body dynamics issue, tai chi sword doesn't seem to address kinetics well. Things work differently when you move slow vs fast. Swordfighting is very kinetic- people move quick with short, uncommitted movements and make frequent changes and shifts. I think trying to practice rootedness like in tai chi while swordfighting is counterproductive most of the time. You should be light on the feet, nimble, quick. Not exactly what tai chi tends to develop.

    Tai chi people generally don't put on gear and fence. Almost never. So, I'm not crazy about tai chi sword method.
    Last edited by Permalost; 9/08/2019 4:04am at .

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    W. Rabbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Permalost View Post
    Tai chi in general approaches fighting by starting at the feet/root first, then the motion cascades upward. The sword forms generally follow that paradigm.

    That approach is not usually shared in Western fencing. In fencing, you aspire to move your body in a way that is almost opposite that. When you lunge, your sword moves first and your body follows, because if you step first your attack is easier to see coming. Your sword should be the vanguard, not your root or base. Fencing attacks don't always seek to have the full body english of the tai chi approach.

    Aside from that body dynamics issue, tai chi sword doesn't seem to address kinetics well. Things work differently when you move slow vs fast. Swordfighting is very kinetic- people move quick with short, uncommitted movements and make frequent changes and shifts. I think trying to practice rootedness like in tai chi while swordfighting is counterproductive most of the time. You should be light on the feet, nimble, quick. Not exactly what tai chi tends to develop.

    Tai chi people generally don't put on gear and fence. Almost never. So, I'm not crazy about tai chi sword method.
    Good points. Also another big difference between the Western and Eastern sword forms are that the jian itself predates Taijiquan by at least a thousand years and Taijijian forms are far newer, more artistic and meditative compared to Italian and French schools, which are pragmatic.

    So I heavily doubt Taijijian forms represent the proper jian styles/techniques used for dueling, the most common usage of the weapon found in texts. The entirety of Wudangquan extant today is basically an artistic representation of Daoist and Shaolin influence on weapons that 2500 years ago were trained 100% practically, without any artistic trappings.

    But the modern sword forms in many TC schools now represent more abstract concepts like you mentioned, than praxis. So you're right nobody is learning to swordfight in Taiji schools. They are learning other things that will often not translate.

    To compare and contrast, some of the Hung Ga bladed weaponwork has the same limitations. I say some because there is a broad spectrum from practical to not so. things like saber and staff work are essentially similar to Western training. There is also a solid history of practical sword forms in China right up through WWII and beyond. On the other hand you have the Gwan Dao, which is a pretty dangerous weapon, but very impractical to wield unless you are the Hulk.
    Last edited by W. Rabbit; 9/08/2019 12:38pm at .
    '“I am no advocate of passivity,” Coffin Mott said in an 1860 speech. “Quakerism, as I understand it, does not mean quietism. The early Friends were agitators; disturbers of the peace; and were more obnoxious in their day to charges, which are now so freely made, than we are.”'

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    The western straight sword also incorporates better hand protection as time went on. Hand protection is not only a passive defense against getting cut on the hand- it allows simultaneous attack and defense. Until I took up fencing, I didn't fully appreciate how much of an advantage a cup or basket hilt (or even just better quillions than the average jian) was over a straight sword without it.

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    Permalost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by W. Rabbit View Post
    On the other hand you have the Gwan Dao, which is a pretty dangerous weapon, but very impractical to wield unless you are the Hulk.
    I have yet to see any gwan dao training that's not theatrical baton twirling, even from non-wushu styles, but a large blade polearm is a fine weapon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Permalost View Post
    I have yet to see any gwan dao training that's not theatrical baton twirling, even from non-wushu styles, but a large blade polearm is a fine weapon.
    Here's some really old school VHS, probably the best technique exposition I've seen on video. Sadly, this is one weapon I never trained, but wanted to (because of 36th Chamber of Shaolin, obviously).

    '“I am no advocate of passivity,” Coffin Mott said in an 1860 speech. “Quakerism, as I understand it, does not mean quietism. The early Friends were agitators; disturbers of the peace; and were more obnoxious in their day to charges, which are now so freely made, than we are.”'

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    W. Rabbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Permalost View Post
    The western straight sword also incorporates better hand protection as time went on. Hand protection is not only a passive defense against getting cut on the hand- it allows simultaneous attack and defense. Until I took up fencing, I didn't fully appreciate how much of an advantage a cup or basket hilt (or even just better quillions than the average jian) was over a straight sword without it.
    What's funny is that a lot of the Southern staff and saber forms focus on attacking the enemy's hands, rather than their weapon.

    Every time sifu mentioned this I thought of that scene from Starship Troopers.
    '“I am no advocate of passivity,” Coffin Mott said in an 1860 speech. “Quakerism, as I understand it, does not mean quietism. The early Friends were agitators; disturbers of the peace; and were more obnoxious in their day to charges, which are now so freely made, than we are.”'

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