I am not finished yet with the Defining the Internal series of posts. The approaching Chinese New Year has been keeping me busy and uninspired. Instead, today I will write about mindfulness in Tai Chi Chuan straight sword training. This is something I taught to my student.
Playing with a weapon is different from playing with fists. With emptyhand strikes you can make mistakes, be hit and keep going. However, if you are using weapons its a different story. A real weapon can injure you if you make a mistake. Hence, the training bar needs to be set higher. This is one of the reasons why I don’t like to use training weapons because of the false sense of security generated will dull the learner’s awareness of the danger.
One very important point in weapon training is that one should not rush. When you rush through the movement you will leave the sense of mindfulness and awareness behind and this can be fatal. For example, a straight sword is a flexible weapon so if you block a straight thrust and then quickly move in to counterattack without the sense of danger you may find yourself running into the tip of the blade that you thought you had just avoided.
To learn about this principle I used this section from the straight sword in which the movement calls for turning the body to avoid the opponent’s thrust, defend against it and counter thrust. This is the simple version of the explanation.
A better explanation calls for us to manage the distance such that when the opponent attempts to attack we re-position ourselves and offer the tip of the blade for a rushing opponent to impale himself on. If he is too far off then we just cut his arm. It is only when the opponent is moving too fast into our space that we opt for the blocking option.
So you see, with the correct distance management the better options for counterattacking are not even obvious. These hidden attacks are much faster and more direct. If we were training with wooden swords, blunt swords or padding on the body then the opponent will possibly lower his guard along with his sense of danger and charge forward only to run right into the hidden counterattacks.
The lesson learned from this section of the Tai Chi Chuan straight sword can also be translated into emptyhand techniques.
Tai Chi Chuan weaponry training is beneficial for students who are interested in using the art for combat. If they just learn push hands and shove each other around all the time the moment they face an attacker with a weapon they are likely to do the same and deliver themselves to danger. This is why our training philosophy is we use the art the way we train it.