Wudang Taiyi Jian Form — COMPLETE

July 29, 2012

Well, complete in the sense that I now know all the moves, and can perform them in order without resorting to references (though sometimes there are big gaps where I have to pause until I can remember what to do next).  Now, all I have to do is practice it three times a day every day for ten years, and then I will be pretty okay at it!

Some THOUGHTS to follow:

Because I am learning these Jian forms for both their own sake, AND to compare them to Western sword techniques, I am going to jot down a couple ideas here.

Thrusting is still the most common and useful technique in both weapons; my assumption here is because it’s both faster (the sword has to travel a minimal distance, and the thrust can be engaged from a variety of ready positions that do not need to be as significantly prepped) and because it’s going to do the maximum amount of damage to an opponent; small but deep wounds are more dangerous to human beings than longer, shallow ones that damage the same volume, as a general rule.

The chop — which relies heavily on the strength and weight of the body as you bring the midline of the weapon down on an opponent — in this form appears to be used almost entirely defensively.  Twice the technique is employed in a guard stance, in which it looks like  the point is to sidestep or parry a thrust and then execute a chop to the wrist (in this case, the sword fingers, or “free hand”, also thrust towards the opponent, indicating that you’re actually very close, combining the disabling counter-chop with an open-handed thrust to the eye or neck.  The third time the chop shows up is explicitly a chop to the head, but it’s with a 180 degree turn and a step *back* to achieve the weight drop — this indicates an attack coming in from behind, the swordsman turns and backs up, bring the weapon down on the enemy’s head.  That particular technique is accompanied by a high parry — I think this is an interception of a high strike, and then a kind of powering through or over the opponent’s guard and into his face.

The slash, or draw cut (when the length of the blade is drawn along the opponent to inflict long, but typically shallow wounds), as in sabre, is applied primarily as a defensive technique; it seems like the second-most-used technique in this form, and is usually applied upwards, I assume as a stop technique against an opponent’s wrist (doubling, in cases like this, as a high parry), or as a long cut beneath the armpit or groin.  Because the slash doesn’t produce deep wounds, it’s essential to draw it along connective tendons, or places where veins and arteries are close to the surface.

The cut — in this case, performed with the tip of the weapon at the end of a pretty long arcing strike — is used in primarily two ways.  The first is as a pointing strike, which is a quick, often low attack, it seems typically directing at the outside of the knee (but at least once as a stop-cut to the wrist).  The second is as a sweeping cut that comes at the end of a full turn of the body; the Tai Chi form uses this one only once, and seems like it directs it only at the throat.  The Taiyi form uses it several times, typically ending in the low-cross-stance — crouched, turned away from the opponent, with the opposite leg stepping past and behind the sword leg.  It’s tricky to explain and you definitely don’t ever see it in Western fencing except by accident.  These cuts are usually delivered low, I think also to the knee (one is a slightly higher cut, I expect, because of how quickly the step-through footwork happens, as a stop-cut to the wrist).

The pushing strike — in which you set the tip of your weapon against an opponent and sort of push them back, usually while you step back in the other direction — is basically unheard of in Western fencing, I expect because of how our sparring rules work.  There are no forms in Western fencing, so all techniques are learned specifically in the context of what is going to “count” in a sparring match, and pretty much any point contact, whether thrusting or pushing, is going to count the same way, so there’s not a lot of reason to distinguish them.  The practical applications of the push are interesting; would you use it just to keep someone at bay?  As a kind of warning strike?  This is also just not found in the West, because all fights are presumed to be to the death.

The Taiyi form involves a lot of one-foot postures; my Tai Chi book said that the one-foot postures are just demonstration poses, a way of practicing balance and looking cool, but I’m not so sure.  Virtually all of the defensive techniques in this form are high; I think there are only two low parries, equivalent to parries 2 and 7 in the West, but there are a lot of low cuts to the leading knee.  I expect that the one-foot postures, rather than being “holding postures” or guards, are actually a way of practicing to clear that foot out of the way when someone tries to hit it.  The technique requires that the thigh be at least parallel with the ground, preferably higher, and the leg opposite the sword arm is typically held so that the shin is at a slight angle towards the ground, instead of perpendicular to it, indicating that part of the point is to keep distance between the foot and the ground.  This is another thing that doesn’t really happen in the West, in part because in many styles (all sport sabre and foil, for instance) the knee just isn’t a valid target.  It is a valid target in sport epee, but epees can’t cut, only thrust, so displacing the knee is actually not a good strategy compared to a parry.

3 Responses to “Wudang Taiyi Jian Form — COMPLETE”

  1. […] THOUGHTS to follow over at Ten Sword Style. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  2. Anna said

    You should record yourself doing the forms! I hear it is good to look at your form after the fact. Plus, then you could make illustrative screenshots and add them.

    I need more pictures!

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