Friday, July 21, 2006

Ge: The First Parry of Tai Chi Sword

In Chinese martial arts there's this concept called Bridging. It's a model for thinking about the options available when you are attempting to connect an attack or deal with an attack during a fight. When your opposite touches you, the connection between your bodies is called a bridge. You might think of bridging as having three flavors. If your opposite reaches out and touches you and their arm is parallel to the floor, that's a level, or middle, bridge. If they reach out and touch you and their arm is rising as might be the case if they were shorter than you or touching the top of your head, that's called a high bridge. If they reach out and their arm is descending like if they were reaching for your belt or if they were much taller than you, that's called a low bridge.

When thinking of defense, a rule of thumb is to draw a line from your shoulder to their elbow, and then follow that line for your block. Therefore, if someone is attacking you with a high bridge, an invisible line would probably go from your shoulder to the underside of their arm. You would therefore attempt some kind of block against the underside of their arm. For middle bridge you'd block to the sides, and for low bridges you'd block down. Simple, right? The thinking behind bridging is that is gives you a reliable starting point to think of your attack and defense. The actual move you use and the energy you apply is up to you.

With bridging in mind, we will learn the first of three parries in Tai Chi sword: Ge. Ge means "to block." In my interpretation of Tai Chi sword, it is a mid-level block, used to deflect attacks aimed roughly between your collar bones and your belt. Here's how the great sword choreographer Anthony DeLongis explains it: Imagine that you are in a doorway. Take a step backwards so that the frame is just in front of you. Now, as attacks come at you, gently sweep each attack with the flat of your blade just enough to the side so that the attack hits the door frame. Cool, huh? Anthony DeLongis can be seen fencing against Jet Li and his gim in the opening of Fearless.

No comments: