I love taiji weapons. I probably don’t have to say that by now, but I want to make it absolutely clear. If I had the stamina to do it all day long, I would. I’ve raved about how it’s helped me through the pandemic and how I’ve pushed ahead with it at a clip that has surprised me. In comparison, doing the Solo Form is like pulling teeth with me. Even the Medium Form, which I like well enough, is not something I would choose to do if I had other options–like weapons.
We need to talk about Master T. T. Liang’s Long Form because it has been my nemesis since day one. It’s roughly 20 minutes long and is split into three sections. The third section is nearly as long as both the other sections put together and the entire form is filled with repetition. In addition, Master Liang loved the performative aspect of taiji so he made every movement an even-number of counts so the whole thing could be set to music. That means there is filler, which is strange for a medium that is predicated on exerting the least amount of energy necessary in any given situation.
I have to get into the weeds a little to explain some of the differences between the Long Form and the Medium Form so my apologies in advance if some of this is a bit abstruse. Hah. I first typed obtruse–which is my mashup of obtuse and abstruse. Anyway! In the Long Form, the bow stances–oh dear. A bow stance is when one foot is forward and pointed straight ahead. The back foot is shoulder-width apart (and usually the toes are at a forty-five degree angle NE, if front foot in north). Usually, the feet are a foot/foot-and-a-half apart front to back, but that doesn’t matter as much as the shoulder-width apart side-to-side. There can be a forward bow stance and a back bow stance, but it’s usually forward–meaning the weight is forward.
In the Long Form, the weight is 2/3rds and 1/3rd, but it can be rounded up to 70% and 30%. In the Medium Form, the weight is 100% forward, and it’s 60/40 on the back stance. The benefit of the Long Form bow stance is that you’re not exerting extraneous energy and it’s good for health reasons. The benefit to the Medium Form bow stance is that prime for martial arts applications. At least, that’s my understanding of the differences. The Long Form is considered the beginner’s form and easier to learn. The Medium Form is the advanced form and more difficult. At least this is what my teacher has told me. Her teacher wants her to teach the Long Form to the beginning classes and the Medium Form for the advanced classes. In prep for this, she has been going over the Long Form in all Zoom classes.
I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I still do not like this form at all. It used to give me crippling back pains when we did it on the regular. They would start at the end of the first section and by the third section, my back was screaming in agony. I’ve had to stop more than once during the third section because my back had clenched up so badly. In addition, my knees…oh my poor knees. I was able to clear up the latter problem with the help of my teacher looking at my knees as I demonstrated a part of the Long Form to her. She deduced that I was collapsing my knees and counseled me to make sure that my knees were over my toes. That helped tremendously with the tendonitis in my knees, but the issue of my back pains still continued.
Fast-forward to now, roughly two years after my teacher’s teacher switched from the Long Form to the Medium Form. I am now 100% back pain-free because of the stretches my teacher suggested I try. In starting the Long Form again, the pain has come back. Not nearly as intense or as often as before, but it’s there. I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s talk about the Medium Form instead. Yes, you still have to make sure your knees are over your toes, but it’s easier when 100% of your weight is on one foot.