Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: sabre

I got my weapons on my mind

Let’s talk weapons. Not the gun kind that has been making the news with distressing frequency, but the kind that doesn’t shoot projectiles at a high velocity. We’re talking swords, sabres, canes, and fans. We’re also talking escrima sticks and karambits. I mentioned this before, but I want to delve more into it.

I never wanted to try weapons when I first started taiji. While I was all about the martial arts application, I thought weapons were…uncivilized. More than that, they scared me. I was a ball of rage at that time, and I felt if I did weapons, I would just beat the shit out of everyone with said weapons. It wasn’t rational, but it was how I felt. I kept a tight rein on my anger, but when I slipped, it exploded all over the place.

I’ve told this story a million times, but I fobbed off my teacher every time she brought up weapons for an uncomfortable amount of time. It was only when she put a wooden sword into my hand that I realized what the fuck I had been missing. The second I closed my fingers over the hilt of the sword, I knew this was what I was meant to do. It felt like an extension of my arm, and I bought my stainless steel sword pretty soon after.

I would like to say that I practiced diligently once I started learning the Sword Form, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and I didn’t experience a radical personality change. I still dragged my feet, but I *did* enjoy learning the Sword Form more than I did the Solo Form. I learned it fairly quickly, and I loved every minute of it. When I was learning the Solo Form, there were several times I questioned what the fuck I was doing and why the hell I was doing this thing called taiji? I don’t mind saying (and my teacher doesn’t mind hearing) that I resented the hell out of taiji, and one of the reasons I went to more than one class a week is because I didn’t practice at home at all.

Side Note: I have a new classmate who is challenging to me for many reasons. The one I’m going to focus on this right now is because she’s so gung-ho about taiji, especially weapons. I am the weapons person in my class, and it’s a poke to my ego to see her learning them before knowing the whole Solo Form. Back when I started taiji, my teacher was told by her teacher that weapons could not be taught until after the Solo Form. That is no longer the case, and while I think it’s a good change, it’s hard for me not to feel resentful. I know I sound very much ‘back in my day’ about it, but it doesn’t help to hide it. I try not to have attitude around her, but it’s difficult.

Anyway, after the Sword Form came the Sabre Form, and that was a rocky road. It was nothing like the Sword Form, which shocked the hell out of me. Ignorant me thought, “Hey, it’s just a slightly bigger sword. It should be a snap.” It was not a snap. Not a snap at all. It was the opposite of a snap, and it upset me. There are very few things I’m proud of when it comes to myself, and one of them is that I learn things quickly*. Whereas the sword instantly felt at home in my hand, the sabre was just…dead wood. It never came alive. It never sang to me. It never thrummed with excitement, and I hated it.

I can say that now because I am past that hate and the resentment. Way past it, but I’ll get to that in a second.


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Falling in love…with my sabre

The first time I learned the Sabre Form, I was high off learning the Sword Form, which is my favorite thing in the world. Well, at least in the top three. The sword was like an extension of my hand, and I naively expected the sabre would be the same. I mean, it’s a sword, but bigger, amirite? I dove in with enthusiasm, only to find it wasn’t the same. At all.

I struggled with it. I can admit it now. The sabre felt clunky and unwieldy in my hand, and I was instantly disappointed. Let me tell you one of my biggest flaws: I will quit something that I am not good at in a heartbeat. I don’t like to look stupid, and I get embarrassed beyond all measure when I’m flailing about. There is also some childhood background on this. My parents were typical Asian parents in that they were way more apt to harp on my mistakes than to praise me for something well done. An example. I graduated magna cum laude from college. Not bad, right? My mom immediately says, “If you had done better in your first semester, you would have been summa.” Years later, when I confronted her about it, she denied saying it. Then, she added if she *had* said it, she meant it to comfort me in case I was upset about not making summa.

Well I wasn’t until you mentioned it, Mom, but I am now, thanks! That’s my mom, though. She has selective memory (putting a rosy tint on everything), and she allows her anxiety to overcome her common sense. I actually understand the latter because I have anxiety as well. I just learned to keep most of it to myself.

Anyway, I didn’t feel as if I couldn’t do the Sabre Form. One of my assets (which is also a flaw) is that I learn things really quickly. (That’s one reason I give up easily if I don’t catch on right away. Like badminton. It’s also one reason video games have been good to me. All the games I really like are ones that had steep learning curves.) The first time with the sabre, I learned the postures, now movements, easily. There are six rows, and we got to the end of the fourth row. I didn’t sweat the postures, but I felt as if I were doing them by rote.

The sabre never felt alive in my hand–it felt like dead wood. With the sword, I felt as if I were dancing with a partner. Every cell in my body would sing as I moved it around. Or let it guide me around. My teacher was asked by one of her classmates about if the sword should lead or the person should lead the sword (in the context of a certain movement). Her response was that there is a movement called ‘Step Forward to Unite With the Sword’. It’s in the beginning of the form, and she explained it’s meant to bring the two together so they work as one. Her classmate did not appreciate the response, but I did. It neatly summed up my feelings for the sword, and it was sorely lacking with the sabre. Granted, that movement isn’t in the sabre, but I still wanted it to feel the same way.

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