Understanding weapons

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The knife teaches a variety of skills simultaneously.
For example:

  1. Range

  2. Short jing

  3. The crouch

  4. 70/30 stance

  5. Single hand focus

  6. Vulnerable targets

  7. Whole-body movement

  8. How to play a convincing attacker

  9. The naivety of many knife defence methods

These initial considerations will radically improve your skills and give an effective workout.

Stick drills

Stick drills can be performed with two lengths of stick:

  1. Navel height

  2. Armpit height

Students are recommended to start with a navel height stick.
The drills encourage suppleness in the arms and wrists, connection and coordination.
They are an excellent training tool for students who suffer from stiff shoulders or are struggling to extend power out of their bodies.
The beauty of stick drills is that they train a variety of skills at the same time.

Knife in self defence

There are a range of training methods that teach a student to counter a knife in self defence.
Students learn how to avoid being stabbed or cut, escape from a hold and apply a chin na against a knife-wielding attacker.
Many of the basic drills can be used to great effect against a knife.
Self defence against a knife offers no guarantees in real life.
In truth, success is a more a matter of luck, opportunity, awareness, presence and technical skill than anything else.

Weapons form & drills

The weapons forms and drills use strategies and movements derived from the Long Yang form.
Therefore a student unskilled with the basic form cannot reasonably learn the weapons form.
This is not negotiable.
Competence with the complete Long Yang form is a must.


The weapons forms and drills must be practiced slowly until the set is ingrained.
Then, the speed depends on the day's training.
Sometimes, slow practice is good.
At other times, high speed practice is advisable.

Drawbacks of weapons forms

Many people love the idea of learning a number of exotic looking weapons forms, but seldom consider the pitfalls:

  1. Weapons forms are exertive

  2. Weapons forms may be fun to perform but they don't yield an energy boost like the Long Yang form

  3. Doing multiple weapons forms aged 25 is not the same as doing those same forms aged 50

  4. A 25 year old may not be as energy efficient as a 50 year old, but they do have a lot more energy to start with. And this will affect how tired you feel

  5. If you get tired from overtaxing the body, it will affect your immune system and undermine the health benefits of doing taijiquan

  6. You need to have a safe, sheltered outside space in which to practice the form every day

  7. If you train a weapon in public, you may get into trouble with the Police or hassle form locals or youths

  8. Weapons forms often attracts unwanted attention

  9. Outdoor weapons practice needs to be done in the very early morning e.g. 6 AM

  10. Carrying your weapons in a discreet case is important, but the large case itself may draw unwanted attention/interest

  11. Are you planning to train outside in the rain, the snow, in high wind?

  12. The more forms you know, the more time you need to commit to practicing them

  13. If you are learning different weapons, how well do you understand each? Are you an amateur? An expert?

  14. Are you just learning forms?

  15. Or are you planning to become skilled enough to really use each weapon in combat?

  16. How much time are you willing to commit to this?

  17. The more forms you know, the more movements you perform and the greater the stress on the body; especially the shoulders and elbows

  18. There is a high risk of weapons forms being too 'external'

  19. In what way does a weapons form enhance your hand-to-hand combat skills?

  20. The benefits of weapons forms tend to be indirect: nimbleness, dexterity, muscular strength, agility - but these same skills can also be learned elsewhere in the syllabus

  21. The deeper you invest in a weapons form, the better you become. If you know a few weapons forms, how exactly do you plan on focussing upon every form?

  22. Focussing upon one form/one weapon must be at the exclusion of the others

  23. Jack of all trades? Or Master of one?

  24. Most people who want to learn sword training are dreamers. They have no idea how much work is involved. They're excited by the idea of the weapon and blind to the reality of the hard work

  25. It is good to assess your goals/ambitions - what precisely are you hoping to get from a weapons form?

  26. Are you really planning to make a daily outdoor weapons form practice commitment for the foreseeable future? How many months/years/decades did you have in mind?

  27. Exactly how much outdoor taijiquan practice are you doing at the moment?

  28. Weapons forms will draw far more public attention than unarmed practice or qigong - which means more distractions and a greater risk of injuring yourself during practice (or somebody's dog)

Legal issues

The Police don't like tai chi people doing weapons forms in public places.
All it takes is one passerby who takes exception to your practice and you may be faced with quite serious legal problems.
Training in public with a metal sword is foolish but even a wooden weapon is legally unsafe.

Walking stick

The advantage of the walking stick form is that it is legal to carry a walking stick (or umbrella) anywhere in the world.
This makes a stick the most viable self defence weapon available to a taijiquan student.
Also the walking stick form is great fun.


Our syllabus features a number of practice methods that teach student show to handle a stick with ease and skill: solo stick drills, 2-person cane drill, improvised weapons and short stick drills.
By focussing upon a stick which is navel height or less, our students have the opportunity to gain real confidence handling a stick.
Many things can substitute for a stick in combat. We believe that pragmatism is essential.


Most taijiquan students don't get far enough into the syllabus to train weapons forms.

Offering a handful of exotic weapons forms sounds great, but who exactly is going to learn them?
e.g. the average tai chi student doesn't possess the necessary commitment or foundation skills need to wield a sword with aptitude.

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Page created 3 March 1996
Last updated  13 May 2017