The right sword for you...
Choosing the right sword is as exciting as getting a car. Every martial artists will go through this process. It's no easy choice and like a lot of things, you should shop around* first. There's more to choosing a sword that just how it looks and the price. You should also see the swords in person.
Try before you buy
A sword is a personal item and you should choose carefully and you should get the best you can afford. Swords are not all the same, even in the same batch, there are differences and hence you should definitely try before you buy. Handling is very important. I have owned a number of weapons over the years. Some I sold or gave away, because they didn't suit me. Maybe it's the handling or that the way it is made didn't suit the way I do my forms. They were also brought via mail order, so I know what I am talking about.
Weight & usage
There are many schools of thought on this area. Some believe that you should not use wushu grade swords**, because it gives people the wrong idea as to what real Chinese martial arts about. Others believe historical weapons would be the way to go, because it is what people used to use at the time. However, antiques are not cheap to obtain. You can get swordsmith who can make you something that is close to being historically accurate. These aren't cheap either and they are usually sharp. If you are new to training with weapons, it is not a ideal to start with anything that heavy. Which is why it makes sense to train with wooden swords first.
There is also a school of thought that believes in training with heavy swords and the heavier the better. There are a few caveats here. Generally, we train with heavier swords and fight with a lighter sword. This gives us an advantage over a period of time, when it comes to stamina. If you are using a heavier weapon, you have to be very fit. However, you are only human and would be subject to fatigue. On the battlefield, how long will you last? In competitions, weapon forms could be up to or around 4 minutes. Fatigue will prevent you from completing the forms properly.
A heavier weapon wouldn't be good for your overall health either. A heavier sword could give you shoulder or back injuries. Not to mention tennis elbows, wrist injuries and arthritis. The impact on joints is not good and it is not very Tai Chi to go to extremes. I personally would recommend people try this, unless you understand what they are doing. For example, if you have a 2kg rod of steel and you repeatedly beat it against a lampost. How would you imagine that to feel? Exactly.
I would suggest a sense of harmony and balance. Choose a weapon that suits yours needs and objectives, not somebody else's acceptance. Tai Chi is about health, longevity and improving the quality of life. Poor choices with take you away from that. Lastly, I have been told by a friend who owns many antique swords. That real swords for combat aren't very heavy, which makes sense, considering what they are made for.
Thank for for reading my blog.
* Whilst you should shop around, in reality, the amount of martial arts stores in the UK have dropped over the past 10 years.
** Wushu is a sport set up by the Chinese Central Government, which merge Chinese martial arts with gymnastics. The aim is for demonstration and not combat.
Jian (劍): Chinese double edged straight sword
Dao (刀): Chinese single edged sabre, also known as a broadsword
Qiang (槍) Chinese spear
Martial arts can be a lot of fun, and training with weapons makes it more exciting. However, weapons (wooden or metal) are not toys and you should train and handle with them with care. It is still recommended that you carry adequate insurance as accidents do happen. Furthermore, train responsibly as the police have the right to question what you are doing, if you are training in public. In the UK, it is illegal to practice with metal weapons in public. Please be mindful that what you do may frighten members of the public. In light of how sensitive people can be, please don't ruin it for other martial artists.
Originally published on 21st December 2019
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