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Asian Fighting Arts Principles


Most Asian fighting arts come from complete systems. Taiji sword is no exception. The tai chi principles of Chinese swordsmanship and empty hand are the same. The rule is that in internal martial arts, everything learnt for one part applies to everything else in the system. It is wise and also more traditional to learn empty hand skills before moving on to weapons. If this option is available to you, take it. It wasn't available for me so I had to make the most of the fact that tai chi techniques can also be learnt through sword and later applied to empty hand.

What Does "Waist is Commander" Mean?

In this section of the Chinese Swords Guide we are looking at several tai chi principles that should be part of Chinese swordsmanship:

My teacher gives an illustration about what the word "Commander" actually means in Chinese culture. Remember that whenever we study aspects of Asian fighting arts, there is a history and culture behind the way things are done. This is important for truly understanding the tai chi principles of Chinese swordsmanship.

In the time of Yang LuChan, the Emporer was the supreme commander. He was to be absolutely obeyed. If a person had been thought to defy him, even by something as simple as a line of a poem or song thought to be derogatory, there were extreme consequences. If you were seen in the least opposition to the absolute commander, you and four generations of your family could be tortured to death. They could torture your wife and children to death before your eyes, then your parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters. Finally, you would die a painful death. If one of the four generations were all dead, they might dig them up and symbolically kill them. All this for defying the absolute commander - even if it was only an imagined interpretation.


So in this most important of tai chi techniques for Chinese swordsmanship WAIST IS COMMANDER...

So, in this most important of tai chi techniques for Chinese swordsmanship WAIST IS COMMANDER - absolute commander. This is non negotiable.

Movement from the upper body always comes through the waist. The waist is defined as the entire hip area and with it the upper torso. It is not turning the waist like a Barbie doll, but rather, directing movement and power through the hip area. This area encloses the all important dantian power repository so be sure to include that in your thinking as you develop the principle of Waist is the Commander.

As you move, don't buckle and break in the middle. My teacher says this is like weakening a paper cup by crumpling it in the middle. The walls (sides of the body) should remain synchronised and strong in movement. Asian fighting arts differ from European in that one thing moves as everything moves. European style True Times do not apply here. The body moves as a complete unit with the movement generated and commanded through the waist.

Do not let your joint connections fail through over extension or leaving parts of the body dead and unmoving. Everything must remain connected and in use at all times. The intent flows through the waist. The waist connects the lower and upper body as one whole. Power comes up from the ground, through the legs, is directed from the waist and flows out along the arms and through the weapon - one continuous powerful movement that strengthens toward the final strike rather than diminishes.

To me this is like water flowing through a hose and out of the nozzle, or like a whip cracking. The entire implement becomes one to direct the force.

These principles apply to Chinese taiji swordsmanship and other Asian fighting arts of the "internal" variety.

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