In Tai Chi Chuan the dao represents the tiger. It is a ferocious weapon used to hack and slash at the opponent. It is fast and agile, it spins and bites. It appears and disappears, twists and turns. It snarls and growls and attacks constantly. The form contains many deep, long stances that really build out the legs and the sweeping, hacking motions strengthen the waist and the arms. It is possibly the most energetic and vigorous of all the forms in the Wudang style.

The dao is, possibly, the most practical of all the weapon forms in the Wudang style. It is actually really easy to substitute the dao with an umbrella or a walking stick. All the techniques still work in exactly the same way except for the fact that they bludgeon rather than cut.

The spear techniques require long weapons ( and we tend not to carry long things around with us ) and the jian techniques are geared towards piercing cuts or techniques that draw blood through slicing actions ( there aren’t too many chopping techniques ). The dao however is a very hacky-slashy weapon that translates very well to being used with umbrellas or walking sticks.

The dao is often the first weapon learnt and in terms of practicality and versatility it really can’t be matched.

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Ray Skin

Swords are beautiful. A well made jian though is a thing of beauty. From the bound ray-skin handle to the layers of folded steel in the blade a well made jian is an amazing piece of workmanship. These things are not cheap. A good blade can cost a lot. Cheaper, practical blades are available but a good weapon is not cheap. The martial artists that invest in these blades, from the ones I’ve met anyway, tend to be the people who want to know how to use the weapons properly, they want to know the techniques used with that weapon and want to be the best they can be. Picking up and holding a sword actually carries an immense amount of responsibility. There needs to be a recognition that by holding a sword and learning how to use it properly we’re actually learning how to kill people. The hand-form contains lethal techniques but these are less obvious and are only taught to the inside students. Weapons are different it should be obvious right from the start that every single technique is designed to kill. Anybody can come to class and learn the weapon forms but this, to my mind, needs to be tempered with emphasising the responsibility of wielding a blade and the ultimate outcome of any fight. Only by learning the form and understanding the nature of what we’re learning can we fully appreciate what a truly dangerous piece of metal we’re playing with. All true martial artists have immense respect for the blade and the weapon they train with is very much a reflection of themselves. A good sword though is an absolute work of art and truly beautiful to behold. A beautiful weapon matched with the graceful and flowing movements of the form though is the reason why many people are entranced by Tai Chi.

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In Tai Chi Chuan the jian represents the dragon. It is graceful and flowing, subtle and clever, high and low, fast and slow. It sweeps and soars, climbs and dives, withdraws and pounces.

The sword and body move as one. They sweep and flow with a grace and beauty that is unmatched even in the hand-form. The sword techniques are subtle and clever and require an understanding of the weapon to a great degree. There is a saying that goes along the lines of 100 day for spear, 1000 days for sabre, 10,000 days for sword, while that’s not meant to be taken literally it does given an idea of the amount of effort necessary to develop a working relationship with the blade.

The sword is possibly the most enjoyable weapon contained within the Wudang syllabus but it does take a lot of effort to learn and a lot of work to understand.

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