In the last post, I wrote about my love for blades and how it has happened. Before I continue waxing rhapsodic about the love we don’t talk about, I just want to say that I did the whole Sabre Form today (as much as I know), and my right arm definitely got a workout. That’s another thing people don’t realize about taiji–it’s exercise. Yes, it can be gentle and meditative (which is where the health benefits come from), but it can also get the blood pumping. In addition, the weapons are definitely weight-bearing, especially the sabre.
Side note: The saber is considered the most basic of the weapons. The sword is the second most advanced (the spear is the most advanced. This is to the best of my recollection), and I still find it amusing that my teacher taught the Sword Form to me first. Now, I knew it was probably because that’s the one she was taught first and felt most comfortable with, but it’s still funny. I do wonder if I was taught the Sabre Form first if my feelings about the two weapons would be flipped. I don’t think so. I loved the sword before learning a lick of the Sword Form, and it’s still the most comfortable weapon in my hand.
Side note II: I found out recently that my teacher is not a fan of the weapons. Or rather, they’re secondary to much of the other aspects of taiji. I could sense it on some level, but it was interesting to hear her say it out loud. She’s done a great job teaching me despite her lack of enthusiasm, but I’ve wondered if I should approach her teacher for lessons in weapons. He’s amazing, and when I saw him do the Sabre Form at the last demo, it was sublime. He made it seem effortless and his movements were minimal. That’s part of taiji–the least amount of effort for the maximum effect, but I had thought with a weapon like the saber, you had to move it more aggressively. He showed you did not have to, and it blew my mind.
These days, I have to choose which weapons I want to practice every day. I have to rotate them as the list of what I know/what I’m learning is growing. Right now, I’m learning the Sabre Form (two to three movements from done!), the Karambit Form (last section!), the Dancing Wu-Li Sword Form (new sword form! Just learned the first movement), and a drill for the Double Sabre Form (too hard to learn through Zoom, so on hiatus. I still practice it once in a long while, but it’s definitely on the back burner). I do the Sword Form once a week by halves (first half Sunday, second half Monday) and the whole Sabre Form once a week (Tuesday). I practice the last row or two rows of the Sabre Form every day along with as much of the Karambit Form as I know (it’s very short). I learned the first movement of the Dancing Wu-Li Form last Thursday, and I’ve been doing that every day as well. I do the Cane Form (first row, only row I know) every third or fourth day.
I must say, it’s boggling my mind that I’ve gone from ‘I’m never gonna learn a weapon, no way no how!’ to learning four different forms at the same time. When my taiji teacher used to talk about learning three or four different forms, I thought that sounded bonkers. Now, I’m doing it like it ain’t no big thing. I think the reason it’s been ok, however, is because it’s been staggered. I started with the Sabre Form, then the Cane Form was added several months later and in class (as opposed to the Sabre Form, private lessons). A month or two into the pandemic, my teacher and I started talking about the Karambit Form, which she demonstrated at the demo. I had bought practice karambits, and she had shown me a drill in class in the Before Times. She showed me the first few movements of the Karambit Form, and I was hooked. I took to it quite naturally, and she showed me more. I’ve learned four of the five sections in a few months, and then last week, she showed me the first movement of the Dancing Wu-Li Form.
I love learning another Sword Form. I simply love it. This one literally has ‘dancing’ in the title, and I always feel like I’m dancing with my sword. The sword is a considered a finesse weapon, and the Sword Form is elegant and refined. It’s not about power, per se, though it’s definitely deadly, and it’s more to show how controlled the practitioner is than to be a show of power. The saber, on the other hand, is a power weapon. There’s no finesse to it, though it can still be elegant. I feel like a swashbuckler with it in my hand, and I feel so damn powerful. This is like that person you hated when you first met them, then ran into them years later and discovered much to your surprise that they had changed or you had. They weren’t annoying and a jerk–in fact, they were funny, thoughtful, kind, and, you know, kinda hot.
Then there’s the karambit, the new kid on the block. It’s not a taiji weapon, but goddamn is it exciting.
Side note III: This reminds me of the deerhorn knives from bagua (another internal martial art). My teacher loaned me her practice deerhorn knives to walk the circle when I couldn’t meditate, and I loved them. LOVED THEM. I should ask her about that as I would love to learn more. Which means buying practice deerhorn knives. I have no problem with that!
The traditional karambit is a double-sided curved blade, but the ones we use for practice are one-side bladed (inner side). The point of this weapon is to attack fast and furious(ly) before the opponent knows what hit him. That means two or three quick slices in a row before retreating. It’s very different from both the Sword Form and the Sabre Form, and it’s exhilarating! Extending my romance analogy, the karambit is like that hottie who catches your eye at the dance club and you go home with them that night. The sex is hot and raw, and you can’t get enough of them. It’s intense, and you know you’ll probably get burned in the end, but you simply don’t care.
Side note IV: There’s a game called Boyfriend Dungeon in which your weapons are also people you can date. Men, women, and nonbinary folk.
I am here for this! All the way here for this! Dating your weapons? HELL TO THE FUCK YEAH! It’s what I dream of, and I can’t wait to see it in effect. All the hot hot weapons to date. I would like more of body shapes and sizes, but you can’t have everything. And I haven’t seen everything yet. And there’s a cat who is brass knucks.
I should graduate from the Sabre Form next week. That’s so strange to me, and I expect I’ll be internally overcome with emotions. It’s been a long and arduous journey. I’ll always remember how much I hated it when I first started and how much I like it now. Do I love it like I love the Sword Form? No. I will never love anything like I love the Sword Form, and I am fine with that. It’s my first love, my soulmate, and I’m ride-or-die for my sword. I don’t expect to love anything like I love it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love/like/adore other weapons. As much as I love the Sword Form, I’m prouder of myself for learning the Sabre Form because it wasn’t easy for me. I mean, each individual movement? Fairly easy. The overall gestalt and feel? Not easy at all.
What will the next weapon be? I don’t know. I’m hoping to learn the Double Sabre soon, but that *gestures wildly at the world around me* isn’t up to me.