Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Xi: The Final Technique of 13

I think to understand a martial art you have to grasp what the secret sauce of that martial art is. What is the concept or technique that makes that martial art different from others, and what is the unique way that martial art exploits that difference to gain a fighting advantage? For example, many would say the strength of Wing Chun kung fu is in it's sticky hands techniques that allow the WC practitioner to fight almost completely by touch at close range. I like to think that the secret sauce of Hung Gar lies in it's 12 Bridges: techniques designed to give the HG practitioner a leverage advantage against a foe nearly instantaneously in almost any situation.

I think Xi, or Washing, is one of those special techniques of Tai Chi Sword. When researching how this move is done, I was flummoxed by how every source showed a different application of the move. How could they all be so divergent, I wondered. I've come to think that Xi is what in sport fencing would be called "taking the steel" and "transfers." The idea is fairly general: any time your blade contacts your opposite's blade, you may have an opportunity ti Xi. Keep contact with the opposite's blade and control it so that it cannot hit you while you hit them.

A simple example might be if your opposite is standing in guard, touch the right or outside of your blade to their blade (assuming you're both right handed). Now keep the point of your blade on the centerline, but push your sword at the guard toward your opposite's left shoulder. The wedge shape you make with your sword will brush their blade aside like you were a snowplow while your point moves unopposed toward your opposite's neck. The key is to control your opposite's blade even as you attack.

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