Tai Chi Sword: A Martial Artist’s Guide
Tai chi is an efficient Chinese martial art, but learning to use the sword for fighting is another thing. Practitioners use the double-edged, straight sword known as jian, also called taiji jian. We have compiled a guide to help you choose the best training sword and its use in tai chi training.
How to Choose the Best Tai Chi Sword?
It is challenging to find a good training sword that suits an individual practitioner. When choosing a tai chi sword, consider the balance first, before the length, weight, and other factors.
Type of Metal
Nowadays, you can find Chinese swords in varying materials, from high carbon steel blades to damascus steel blades, and so on. A training sword with a spring steel blade must be flexible enough to bend 30 degrees. You may also find non-tempered swords that are cheaper, but these are only practice swords. Also, a stainless steel blade is merely for decoration and not designed for sparring.
For battle-ready taiji jian, both edges are sharp, and the tip is either sharply pointed or rounded. Generally, the upper part of the blade is relatively thin and sharpened, making it ideal for attacking. Since the middle portion is thicker and less sharp, practitioners use it for cutting and sliding. On the other hand, the bottom third of the blade is thick and unsharpened, making it ideal for violent blocking.
Even for unsharpened tai chi swords, the blade must be straight when viewed down the edge. Also, the taper of the blade, from the tip to the hilt, must be smooth. There should not be any variation in its width or thickness. For taiji sword matching practice, beginners should use wooden swords. Practitioners may only use real swords once they have mastered the skills.
The measurements of the tai chi sword will depend on the martial artist’s height. Ideally, the sword length should be from the base of your breastbone to your feet. For advanced practitioners, taiji swords are usually longer than regular jian. However, beginners may find a longer tai chi sword challenging to control.
Weight and Balance
While there is no standard weight for the tai chi sword, practitioners must be comfortable holding the weapon. It is the lightest weapon in tai chi and usually weighs around 4 to 8 lbs. The tip should not feel heavy, as it will only quickly result in fatigue. From the hilt end, it must feel balanced at a point one-third of its length. While the sword is easy to wield and learn, it is the most challenging to master.
Tang of the Blade
The tang is the part of the blade that extends down into the handle. A full-tang sword means it is one continuous piece of metal and as wide as possible. Opt for a blade firmly mounted on the handle. Generally, cheaper types of swords are only bolted to the handle and can break easily.
Stainless steel might be great for fittings, but brass is more common. The brass fittings and wood finish constructing the handle and scabbard must be high quality. Unlike samurai swords, the taiji jian has a flat handguard perpendicular to the blade, rather than an oval or circular.
Most tai chi swords come with a rosewood scabbard, decorative pommel, and sometimes a sword tassel. However, you should skip those with handles made from cheap wood as it can easily crack, making the sword useless regardless of how durable its blade is.
Top 3 Tai Chi Swords Available Online
If you want to master the martial applications of the tai chi chuan, we rounded up the best sword for your tai chi training.
1. Best Overall: Hanwei Tai Chi Sword
Are you looking for the perfect sword for accuracy training? Most practitioners train by stabbing a small object suspended on a long cord, so sharpened blades are the ideal choice. This tai chi sword comes with a moderately sharp blade, making it functional for cutting and thrusting. Also, it boasts a fully-tempered, high-carbon steel blade, which is one of the best quality you can get.
For blade length, you have options between 70 centimeters to 80 centimeters. It also comes with a durable fiberglass scabbard. For a budget under $200, you can own a battle-ready sword for training, though you cannot use it in a partnered practice.
2. Best Premium: Tai Chi Practice Sword
Advanced tai chi practitioners use a metal sword in sparring practice, making this blunted steel sword a good choice. It consists of a 5160 high carbon steel blade with thick edges and a rolled tip. Its overall length is around 100 centimeters, with its blade length measuring 76 centimeters.
It also features a wooden grip, steel guard, and pommel, but it does not include a sword scabbard. For a budget of around $300, you’ll get a high-quality training sword that can withstand heavy blows and provide you with the experience of handling a metal sword in sparring practice.
3. Best on a Budget: Hanwei Wushu Sword
If you’re looking for a tai chi sword for your solo and accuracy training, this wushu sword can be perfect. It features a flexible spring steel blade, tapering almost paper-thin at the tip. Hence it is also lightweight, weighing less than 2 lbs.
It has an overall length of 93 centimeters, with its blade around 72 centimeters long. For a budget of less than $150, you’ll have a functional sword with a matching scabbard. However, it is not recommended for sparring and in partnered practice.
Facts About the Tai Chi Sword
Unlike the traditional Chinese jian, the sword forms of the taiji jian are relatively modern. During the Han dynasty, the type of jian indicated the rank of government officers. However, Chinese martial arts only developed to the highest level during the Qing dynasty, and groups used jian swords in training.
Here are the things you need to know about the tai chi sword:
There are many different taiji jian forms.
From the 1850s to the 1870s, Master Yang Luchan introduced the taijiquan in Beijing. During the time, there were no developed sword forms yet. So, he passed on some basic principles and skills to his sons and students, who improved the taiji jian forms. Today, there are different taiji jian forms, but all utilize the same basic principles.
There are five main family styles of tai chi.
All five styles—Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, and Hao—have the same origin but have different characteristics. The oldest is the Chen style tai chi, which is also the most dynamic of all styles. However, the most widely practiced today is the Yang style tai chi, commonly referred to as moving meditation. The Wu, Sun, and Hao styles are less popular than the five. Hence, the tai chi form also varies in each family style.
In taijiquan, the qigong training is the foundation of internal strength.
In Chinese culture, qi is the universal force or energy. The term gong is a shortening of gongfu, translated as study or discipline. Hence, the term qigong refers to the study of qi. Tai chi practitioners use their minds to balance the qi to use the sword effectively. There’s even a taiji sword qigong training, which may vary in different taiji styles.
Generally, the term “sword” implies jian, while the “saber” refers to dao.
In Chinese martial arts, practitioners refer to the double-edged, straight sword jian as the sword. On the other hand, the single-edged dao is referred to as a saber or broadsword. The tai chi sword generally focuses on light and agile movements, while saber involves forceful and vigorous movements.
The jian is one of the most challenging weapons to learn.
In weapons training, the saber uses power and strength, while the sword requires speed and technique. Hence, saber serves as a foundation of short weapons training. The jian is the most difficult weapon to learn because it is double-edged, so practitioners need more skill to use both edges without cutting themselves. Also, the sword is light and requires skills in blocking heavy weapons.
Tai chi training teaches how to do the least amount of damage to the opponent.
Unlike other martial arts, tai chi focuses on the preservation of life. Hence, practitioners focus on disarming their opponent with a strike to the wrist or hand and other non-vital areas of the body. In fact, striking a vital area implies a lack of control. Still, one should learn how to defend or counter against different attacks.
What Is Tai Chi Sword Used For
Some practitioners only practice tai chi for health and fitness benefits, with no interest in developing fighting skills. It is likely because its martial arts applications have a higher risk of injury, or these practitioners already have the basic kung fu or wushu skills. Still, when you practice with a sword, it helps improve your balance and strength.
In the United States, practitioners traditionally practice both tai chi sword and saber, though the staff and spear are less common. A practitioner may use the taiji jian in solo sequence, accuracy training, matching forms, and sword sparring. While tai chi sword sparring is not uncommon in training, it is not part of formal competitions.
For safety reasons, beginners should not use a metal jian in a partnered practice. If you want to experience the feel of a metal sword while practicing fighting techniques, you should use a dummy as an opponent. When using wooden swords, beginners should keep their strikes below the shoulders, and practitioners must wear protective headgear.
Learning some sword forms can help develop skills that are useful in life. The martial applications of the tai chi sword may also help you hone some self-defense skills and bare hand fighting. Today, there are different taiji styles and taiji sword training.