Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Foundational Defense of Tai Chi Sword

As much as I was encouraged last week by the problematic content of Stuart Olsen and Scott Rodell's books, I was discouraged this week when I picked up the translated "Taiji Sword" by Chen Weiming and " Classical T'ai Chi Sword" by Petra and Toyo Kobayashi. These books are really, really good. They're clearly written, well organized, and well researched. They have footnotes. FOOTNOTES full of references to source material and clarifying statements. Wow. I felt sad flipping through them on the way home from the store, as if this research project of mine was pointless because there wouldn't be anything for me to add to the community of thought. Still, these two books are so well done that it's ennobling to read them. To learn from and aspire to stand with works of such quality really made me feel privileged.
And there is hope: in spite of how well these books are done, they are primarily guides on doing the form, and their discussion of application is slight. In "Classical T'ai Chi Sword" there are also some descriptions of moves that I disagree with where I feel I might be able to contribute some value.
Back on the ground, I've come to feel over the past week that what I keep reading about Dai being the most-used block in Tai Chi Sword is only a half-truth. If you look at the motion of Dai, which they say is equivalent to Roll Back in empty hands, then it seems to me that Dai is inappropriate for defending against cuts. I think people who use Dai a lot are probably using it in sword sticking practice, and have overlooked that in a duel that starts out of contact and out of range, thrusts and cuts are equally likely attacks.
Therefore, it seems appropriate that Ge be considered the foundational technique for defense in Tai Chi Sword that students should learn before all others.