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Principles for Chinese Swordsmanship

The concept of Fang Song is the first of our tai chi principles for developing Chinese sword skill. It comes from ancient Chinese culture to today's internal Asian martial arts. It literally means "loose and unclenched". I practise Yangjia Michuan Taiji Jian as my main weapon. I also train in Dao and Miaodao. The thing that makes Chinese swordsmanship different from other styles, is the taiji principles.

Fang Song is essential for good Chinese swordsmanship. It is achieved by releasing tension from the muscles and from the mind. This is not the complete absense of tension. It does not mean being limp and weak. It is a state of complete readiness to respond while holding minimal tension. So the body is alert without being stiff. The mind is highly aware of the moment and released from every distraction - ready to send the right sort of action through the fang song body.

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

Developing Fang Song

...fang song physical and mental state of being loose and unclenched minimaltension...
In order to release unnecessary tension, a sword student must become aware of it. We often use zhan zhuang to develop this awareness. When you stand in one position for any length of time, you will quickly discover which parts of your body are tense. They start clenching and hurting. The shoulders are often the first to scream at you.

Use your mind in cooperation with your body to release the tension. Here are some other ways to develop this loose and unclenched state:

  1. Consciously drop your shoulders whenever you become aware of tension in them - sitting at the computer, working, reading - anywhere. Sometimes it takes years before this becomes natural but it never will if you don't start. When you release tension from one part of your body, other parts also relax.

  2. Put yourself to sleep at night by relaxing one muscle area at a time, starting at the top of your head. Consciously relax your face, jaw, neck, shoulders. then go down each arm, releasing all the tension. Do this down your torso and then each leg. You might have to clench a muscle first to feel the difference when it relaxes. Do this several times until you fall asleep.

  3. Stand in a basic tai chi emptyhand or sword stance. Release the muscles as you did for sleep, but keep enough tension to maintain the stance. You will gradually learn to transfer the structural support to bones and ligaments rather than needing muscular tension to stand.

  4. Release the tension from your mind and be in the present moment. Breath slowly and deeply.

Benefits of Being Loose and Unclenched

When you are truly loose and unclenched, the joints will also be slightly open. This helps blood flow around the body and qi (the electro magnetic system of the body), to freely flow as well. It's good for health as well as making you more responsive in swordsmanship. A fang song body is a ready vessel for the mind to send intent exactly where you need it.

This state is necessary before you can send fajing, the explosive energy, into a strike. Every strike in Chinese swordsmanship needs fajing, to be correct and effective. Use your mind intent to bring energy up from the ground, directed through the waist, all the way out through the sword. If you are song, your strikes will be springy, unhindered and powerful. It will not drain energy from your body and tire you quickly, since minimal effort is being used to the best advantage.

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