THE sun is starting to show his welcome face, which means it’s that time of year again.
Each spring I run a weekend workshop where students can learn the fascinating and demanding Tai Chi sabre form.
Who can resist the lure of swinging a sword around for a weekend?
The sabre is a traditional Chinese weapon and comprises a curved sword, normally about three feet in length, which would have been used by soldiers over the centuries until modern times when firearms took over. Training swords range from being wooden and fairly light in weight for beginners, to metal and reasonably heavy for more experienced practitioners.
Contrary to popular belief, weapons training is an integrative part of any traditional Tai Chi syllabus, although you do not normally see it so much these days as much Tai Chi in the UK is simplified and watered down.
While we are unlikely to ever wield a sword in our day-to-day life, such training serves as a highly-effective tool for anyone who would like to improve their health, fitness and overall ‘body intelligence’.
For anyone who already practises Tai Chi and is yet to try weapons training, it can offer a really refreshing and challenging addition to regular practise.
Normally when learning a weapon form, one initially practises the basic movements slowly and carefully in order to get a sense of how to move in a connected way that is smooth, natural, balanced and relaxed.
The additional length and weight that a sword provides gives one not only a great new proprioceptive challenge, but also invaluable feedback into one’s body movement as a whole.
For what we want is that the entire body, from the feet to the hands, moves together as one connected unit rather than just mindlessly swinging a sword around with one arm.
For in Tai Chi we see any weapon, such as a sword, as being an extension of the body and it is in this sense that a ‘weapons form’ seeks to train the unique Tai Chi principles into the body and mind.
Awareness, stability, mobility, agility and relaxed whole-body motion that emanates from the body’s centre epitomises Tai Chi movement and this is what we focus on through the beautiful myriad movements of the Sabre form.
The main idea to begin with is to train intelligently and perceptively rather than blind exercise or just trying to chop each other into little pieces.
Simply learning how to move well while wielding a sword can be quite a challenge and it is worth adding that one always starts off with a blunt wooden training weapon so that there is a minimal risk of injury.
Usually, once one has a good grasp of the basics that are integral to everything else more advanced, then the speed of practise can be increased and more demanding techniques incorporated such as vigorous jumps, leaps, spins and kicks.
It is an extremely enjoyable and satisfying workout.
By far the best thing is that the basics of weapons training can be learnt and enjoyed by anyone who is keen to learn.
Go to any park in China of a morning and you will see hundreds of Tai Chi players enjoying their sword practise.
Many of those will be well into their 70s and beyond, so if they can do it, so can you!
I will be running this year’s Tai Chi sabre workshop in Chichester on the weekend of March 22/23, from 10.30am-4.30pm each day at the Newell Centre, Tozer Way.
The workshop will cover the whole Chen-style Tai Chi Sabre form as well as basic warm-up exercises.
For those who already know the form, more advanced/demanding corrections will be given.
All abilities are welcome, but those with specific health issues should contact me first.
The fee for the two-day course is £80 and all the details are on the website.
Sam Moor teaches Tai Chi full-time in Chichester and throughout Sussex.