Weapons offer a unique way to extend taiji principles through a secondary instrument and explore extension of self.
All forms offered during the Wednesday night class, Saturday workshops or through private lessons upon request.
Why Should You Study a Tai Chi Weapon?
Most taiji students come to taiji to learn an empty palm 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 palm 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!
A blunt weapon is the preferred beginner weapon. The stick is used to acclimate a student to working with a weapon as well as providing familiarity with a weapon that can be found everywhere! It allows a student to explore taij with an object in hand without having to worry edges and orientation other weapons employ. This form also doubles as a dao form allowing students to begin to explore a weapon that has one working edge.
Hooked Walking Cane
Many Forms, or performed routines and styles, of Chinese Martial Arts, both External and Internal, are not the very serious versions we in the West are accustomed to seeing in videos and movies or in tournament competition and school demonstrations, but are a bit of theatre and display Chinese elements of humor. The Taijiquan "Watermelon Style," and Jackie Chan’s "Drunken Monk" routine come to mind. In Chinese Opera even two-person styles have these elements of comedy and entertainment.
The Guai Gun or Walking Cane is just such a style. Dr. Jay describes the Magic Tortoise School’s version as LaoMa’s "signature form."” In this version the comedy and theatre are in the beginning and ending sequences and immediately tell the story of older senior citizens thwarting the larcenous designs of a young, hooligan gang to steal their possessions as they hobble down the street. LaoMa learned this from Lao Zhang, a 76 year old deaf mute teacher in Ding YeYe’s, Snake Hill Pavilion School in 1986. It is the most useful weapon as it is the one weapon that can be carried anywhere, at anytime, even on an airplane at the height of post 9/11 hysteria.
Taiji Dao (knife)
Black Bamboo Pavilion offers three dao forms. These include a Praying Mantis form (taught first as a stick form), a Chen dao form, and a Wudang Dao form. All three provide different takes on the same weapon. While the Praying Mantis form allows for beginners to explore the use of a single edge weapon and its techniques, the Wudang Dao form explores a wide use of the taiji principles within a weapons form. The Chen Da form allows a student to explore a more explosive, athletic and fast use of the dao while maintaining taiji principles.
Taiji Jian (Sword)
Jian is a double edged weapon, typically a weapon for more advances players. This weapon allows a student to explore techniques using a variety of points on a longer weapon while exploring the extension of qi through a weapon. We offer several sword forms, including a tassel form that extends the sword into a six foot flexible weapon.
A popular choice among modern day ladies, the fan was originally a gentleman's weapon. This form is generally performed with a cloth fan over bamboo sticks, however, there metal pronged versions of this weapon. This form is a slow form that allows students to explore one legged postures, jumping postures, and a flexible weapon. Many enjoy the pop that comes with the quick opening of the fan.
The bian or "Imperial Teacher's Whip" is a very ancient Chinese weapon consisting of a knobby stick about 3 feet long, originally with multiple lashes attached to one end. It is perhaps the source of the posture name "single whip": danbian. A rare and unusual form: flashy, active, and thoroughly martial.
This is a weapon in the tang system and is a hard style weapon. Taught from an internal approach, this form allows students to explore creating a whip like motion as an extension of the whole body movement. It can be performed very athletically with many jumps and kicks.