Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hadley: The Eight Deadly Techniques

At the end of the day of training in Hadley, they opened the floor to free sparring. Having travelled all the way in pursuit of martial knowledge, how could I pass up the chance to cross steel (or wooden wasters in this case) with other swordsmanship enthusiasts?
I won. Well, we weren't actually fighting to win anything, but I was decisively better than my opponents, scoring two to three times for every hit I took. I found that I was much more mobile, that I was faster, and when I chose to be, much, much more aggressive. Part of my advantage could be attributed to years of Wing Chun, where you had to be aggressive to close the distance with opponents who will generally have longer reach, and part is probably thanks to existing fencing experience where the rules favor the aggressor.
Having the hitting advantage really opened my eyes to a problem Saturday: not all hits are equal. In fencing they are, but with Tai Chi sword my assumption is that we should be fighting from the perspective of life and death to truly appreciate the art. A slash across the bicep is not the same as one on the inside of the wrist. One will impair you, the other will disable you, and both are pretty easy to deliver to an opponent if you're merely fast enough.
I think our future study of Tai Chi sword will have to be accompanied by a gruesome study of deadly cuts and tactics. Choice ligaments, organs and gambits to create opportunities to hit those high-value targets will have to be worked into our analysis of the sword techniques of the gim. Instead of eight ways to touch your opponent as you might frame the fight in sport terms, we must think of eight deadly techniques of warfare and survival...

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