Most taiji students come to taiji to learn an empty hand form. This teaches the student the basic principles of movement in taiji without worrying about moving other objects or outside forces. Empty hand form provides a lot of space for the mind to concentrate on each aspect of the body including the correct timing of body parts moving together, relaxation in the mind and body, and correct stances and body alignment.
After learning a long empty hand form, a student may want to pick up one or more weapons forms as a way to expand your movement vocabulary and work on core taiji principles.
Weapons forms are typically a lot shorter than the long open hand forms, giving a student the option to practice a full form when they have less time. Also these forms are frequently done at a faster speed than open-hand forms and allow one to test their taiji principles at a slightly higher pace, while simultaneously challenging them to manipulate an outside object with their whole body.
Each weapon form tends to focus on techniques and applications specific to that weapon. For example, a two edged sword (or jian) focuses on cutting and stabbing using light agile motions, while a dao form is uses larger whole body hacking and other powerful motions. Different forms will challenge a student by moving in and out of high one legged postures and low stances fluidly. A practitioner develops the ability to move with an agile quickness while focusing on weapon’s direction and application.
Wielding a weapon help develop wrist and upper body strength and, simultaneously, provide an obvious place to explore differing substantial from insubstantial in the upper body. After learning the choreographic set of a form, a student can begin to focus on both the weapon wielding hand as well as the empty hand.
As a student continues to practice, the open hand form and the weapon forms will continue to feed each other with growth. Enhanced concentration on using the whole body to manipulate a weapon will increase this skill in empty hand forms; and the slow steady practice of the empty hand form feeds the ability to maintain taiji principles while performing the faster weapons forms.
Additionally, handling a weapon allows a student to explore manipulating objects with their whole body and directing energy outside of the body and through another entity. Practicing manipulating an inert object makes one focus on something in addition to their own bodies while they complete movements using taiji principles. This can help a student prepare for push hands drills because they become used to training their taiji principles with something other than themselves. Practice with a ‘split focus’ can be helpful when encountering a person that will respond!
And one should not forget, perhaps the most obvious advantage of learning a weapon form is developing a level of comfort wielding an object such as a walking stick or umbrella! While you might not be able to use the actual form and techniques it helps if your body does not find waving a stick around to be a foreign feeling!
All forms offered during the Wednesday night class, Saturday workshops or through private lessons upon request.