About T’ai-Chi Sword
Practice of T’ai-Chi sword movement is not for learning to defend oneself with a sword, which is an outmoded weapon, but for learning the basic concepts of Taoism through T’ai-Chi movement. The second movement in the T’ai-Chi sword form is named “The Immortal Points The Way.” The immortal is Chang San-feng (1247–?),* the legendary originator of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, and “The Way” is the Tao. Thus, by practicing T’ai-Chi sword, one can directly experience and manifest the precepts of Taoism.
Just as in the empty-handed T’ai-Chi form, T’ai-Chi sword form involves a series of movements that are continuous, relaxed, and flowing. One of the main concepts of T’ai Chi is what is called non-intention. That is, the motion of the sword is natural rather than contrived. Most of the time, the sword “tells” you how to move it reather than the other way around. Another important difference between hard-style (“external”) martial-arts and T’ai-Chi, which is called “internal,” is that T’ai Chi involves expression of energy through liquidity and internal wave motion rather than muscular contraction (See article: Peng).
The idea in T’ai-Chi sword movement is for the sword, which is inanimate (made of wood or metal), to move naturally as if it were a living part of one’s body. Sensing the effects on the sword of linear and angular momentum, centrifugal force, and gravity plays a large part in how the sword moves—or, in some cases, how the sword moves you. The sensitivity acquired through practice of T’ai-Chi sword carries through to other activities such as push-hands.
Another feature of T’ai-Chi sword is spirited and ligh footwork. Much of the stepping is preceded by successive heel and ball pivoting, which promotes a feeling of almost being airborne.
There is two-person aspect of T’ai-Chi sword, namely, fencing. In T’ai-Chi-sword fencing, partners’ swords continually make light contact with each other (as do the hands in push-hands practice) until a cut is made.
*Legend has it that Chang San-feng lived for 800 years and had a pet ape whom he taught T’ai-Chi Ch’uan and how to collect firewood.
©Copyright 2009 by Robert Chuckrow
List of Movements of Cheng Man-ch’ing’s T’ai-Chi Sword Form (pdf)
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