Taijiquan Swordsmanship
Quotations, Sayings, Facts, Poems, Lore, Ideas

Health    History    Principles    Psychological    Practice    Myths/Legends    Poems

Learning    Reflections    Swords    Techniques

Chen 49 Sword     Yang 55 Sword     Standard 32 Sword     Chen 23 Broadsword

Research by

Michael P. Garofalo

Jian - Sword


Last Updated on December 15, 2007
Green Way Research




Warning:  Practicing with Sword Weapons Can Be a Dangerous Activity for Adults



Cloud Hands - Yun Shou

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Jian Shu - Swordsmanship


Taijiquan Straight Double Edged Sword (Jian, Chien)





"Taiji Sword is one of short weaponry routines of tai chi boxing integrated with tai chi boxing and swordplay techniques. 32-form taiji sword was adapted from Yang-Style Tai Chi Sword by Chinese martial arts master Li Tianji.  The set of routines is dissected in 2 sections, 2 returns and 32 movements. The 32-form taiji sword was supported by the National Physical Education Committee."
-   CGC Mall


"Li Jing Lin (1885-1935) , was perhaps the most famous swordsmen in China's modern era.  Li Jing Lin learned his swordsmanship from Sung Weiyi who taught the "Wudang Sword Style". Sung Weiyi’s teacher, Pi Yueh Hsia, was known within Taoist circles as "The Wild Crane Taoist. Li Jing Lin received a copy of Sung Weiyi's Sword manual called "Wudang Sword" in which his teacher traces his martial lineage back to Zhang San Feng. The system was called Nei Chia Chuan, which some claim was based on Kuen-Wu fencing.  For many years, General Li improved his skill by inviting all the leading swordsmen from far and wide to his home to discuss effective techniques for combat and for sword contests where he honed his skills to such a degree that he became known as "Miracle Sword" Li. General Li was the head of a group of seven masters, renowned for their skill in the sword, known as the Seven Swordsmen of Wudang.  Through his positions as general of the Hebei-Shandong Army, director of several Martial Arts Institutes, and vice president of the Central Martial Arts School, General Li taught Wudang swordsmanship to many of the most respected masters of the internal systems in China."
-  Chinese Swordmanship 


"This weapon appeared rather late in the Taiji repertoire being first taught in Beijing. The manuals of Wu Yu Xiang do not record a sword form even though there is a sword form in the current Wu Yu Xiang style syllabus. The manual only records the sabre and the spear/staff, this would be in keeping with the times where the sword had already played a lesser role in combat having largely been replaced by the sabre.  The form that was handed down by the Yangs was recorded by in pictorial form by Chen Wei Ming who had studied under Yang Cheng Fu and by Chen Yan Ling who had studied under Tien Shao Ling who was a student of Yang Chien Hou and Yang Shao Hou. The form recorded by both are by and large identical and remains the most extant traditional form of Yang Taiji sword in practice today."
- Peter Lim, Taiji Sword   


    "The straight sword is a beautiful ancient weapon first mentioned in China's oldest written records and deserves a little indulgent aside all to itself, particularly as it is the weapon most associated with Tai Chi and with Daoism in general.

The straight sword is a flexible blade which is not able to meet force with force, instead the blade is used to deflect and redirect blows before delivering a slash or stab of its own. This nature of the weapon lends itself naturally to the principles of Tai Chi. It is so hard to master that it is often called the "King of Weapons" and perhaps for that reason was a weapon of choice for famous generals and scholars.

In fact there are two types of straight sword. The bigger heavier sword was called the martial sword (Wu Jian) or male sword (Xiong Jian) and had a sharp tip. The lighter shorter sword was called the scholar sword (Wen Jian) or female sword (Ci Jian) and had a slightly rounded tip. The martial sword was originally designed to be taken into battle but was not as practical in peace time, so the scholar sword was used instead as an everyday defence weapon. Traditionally every official and aristocrat would wear a sword to court.

The straight sword has a particular connection with Daoist religion. It is considered the only weapon able to banish evil spirits, so was always used in exorcism ceremonies. This is done to this day, the place of a real sword often taken by a special sword shape woven out of Chinese coins.

The Wudang Tai Chi sword is particularly famous and is often considered the highest form of swordplay. It is often paired with Shaolin staff as the two symbols of Chinese martial arts: Wudang Sword and Shaolin Staff, Internal and External."
-  Real Wushu Scholar, Tai Chi Sword


"The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) saw publication of A New Treatise on Disciplined Service (Jixiao xinshu) by General Qi Jiguang (1528-1587).  Qi's book included a chapter called the "Boxing Classic" (Quanjing).  In that chapter, Qi listed more than a dozen boxing styles.   He selected thirty-two moves from them and constructed an amalgamated routine.  The chapter includes pictures of the move and mnemonic rhymes about their application.  Qi noted that boxing was not of use against superior arms, but was still useful for its discipline.  The book also included an excerpt of Yu Dayou's (1503-1580) treatise on weapons call the "Sword Classic" (Jianjing), which exhibited concepts such as softness, listening, and sticking that we now associate with taijiquan."
-   Barbara Davis, The Taijiquan Classics, 2004, p. 4


    "Apparatus training is an essential part of the Yang Style Taijiquan curriculum. Of the two short weapons, Dao, or Sabre and Jian, or Straightsword used in Taijiquan’s syllabus, the latter is by far the most intricate and developed in its method. In martial lore the Straightsword is commonly respected as The King of Short Weapons. Known also as the narrow blade, or double-edged sword, the Straightsword was often seen in traditional Chinese culture as a way to cut through veils of illusion, ego and attachment and is associated with spiritual refinement as much as with martial efficacy. Straightsword masters, male and female, are frequently revered in Chinese history as both highly skilled martial heroes and illuminated people.
    A command of the tradition Taijiquan weapons, Sabre, Straightsword and Qiang, or Spear, enables practitioners to take the early concepts from barehand solo and partner work much further, bringing the work to higher levels of skill. This in turn matures the understanding of the early stages of the curriculum. For example, in the barehand work we come to understand the basic structure of the Gong Bu, or Bow Stance. This enables us to learn solo form and Push Hands drills correctly and progress to weapons training. But when we begin to study Sabre or Straightsword, we see that the Bow Stance behaves quite differently than in barehand circumstances. It often needs to be longer and narrower to support the use of the blade. Having learned and corporealized this we can then explore the stance variations in a barehand context which in turn enables us to develop new sword-like barehand skills. Thus in order to deepen understanding of barehand work, apparatus training is used.
-   Sam Masich, Way of the Tai Chi Sword


    "In ancient China, the way of the sword was widely respected.  This was so not just because sword techniques and skills were difficult to learn.  The main reason was that moral and spiritual qualities were required in order to attain the highest levels of its art.  In order to build a proper foundation for the study of the sword, the martial artist had to master other short weapons, which meant that he had to spend a long time in preparation.  Therefore the sword master (know in Chia as Jian Ke) had to have willpower, endurance, and perseverance in order to get through the long and hard years of training.  It was said that the word is: "The lord of a hundred arms and the king of short weapons." 
    Because the sword is mainly a defensive weapon, it requires a strategy of calmness in action, and to achieve this quality one needs patience, calmness, and bravery.  Sword users commonly practiced meditation to acquire the calmness they needed.  In addition to these qualities needed to develop the required level of skill, sword students learned about ethical virtues from their masters."
-  Yang Jwing-Ming, Taiji Sword, Classical Yang Style, p. 17   


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"The 32 sword form is based on the principles of Yang style Tai Chi and is therefore not a vigorous exercise and is suitable for the elderly. With the exception of the preparation position and conclusion, this form contains 32 movements divided into four sections. The complete exercise when learnt lasts
about two to three minutes and can be practiced alone or in a group."
-   Tai Chi Australia  


"The modern student has many reasons to learn the swords of t'ai chi ch'uan.  It is a developmental exercise teaching relaxation and extension of energy. The sword practice can be a tool for developing harmony in one's mind and body. It is a method for exercising the upper body. The form can be a way to improve empty-hand t'ai chi skills. And, perhaps most importantly, they can add a new dimension to one's t'ai chi training by linking the student with the history and culture of the art."
-   Harvery Kurland,  The Sword of T'ai Chi Ch'uan  


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Myths and Legends



    "One surprising addition to this pantheon of sky creatures is the White Tiger that Sways or Swishes its Tail. When Nü Gua propped up the heavens and set the Green Dragon to guard the East, she set the White Tiger to guard the West. In traditional Chinese astronomy, the White Tiger is the name given to the western sky and can be thought of as a mega-constellation. In contrast, the Green Dragon, discussed above, names the stars in the eastern sky. The White Tiger is associated with autumn and the element metal, whereas the Green Dragon is associated with spring and the element wood.
    Since the White Tiger can refer to stars, we must make sure not to imitate the movements of a sleepy tiger swishing its tail on a lazy afternoon. Instead, when we swing the sword out to the right, turn our head, and thrust out the sword fingers of the left hand, we should remember that we are acting as guardians of the western heavens, helping ensure that Gong Gong cannot return and knock the sky off its pillars.
    In Fengshui, the White Tiger is seen as the guardian of the right, matching the Green Dragon as the guardian of the left. The White Tiger represents Yin energy and complements the Yang energy of the Green Dragon. Again, we can see the connections in the form movement, where the sword performs a low circle to guard the right of the body."
-   The Sword Form: Flying Through Myth and Legend.  By Audi Peal.    Yang Taiji Sword



Great Star of the Literary God, Chief Star, Big Dipper:  Symbolism, Myths, Legends, Lore


"Lü Tung Pin is the most popular of the Eight Immortals. His statue can be found in most temples in towns and villages and many grottoes are dedicated to him on the sacred mountains of China. He is, venerated for two reasons. Firstly, because he is associated with medicine and with the elixir of life. For example, if you are ill but not sure of what to do, then you pay a visit to one of Lü Tung Pin's grottoes or go to his shrine in the temple. There, using the old fortune telling method of a bamboo container filled with numbered sticks, you offer sincere prayers, describe your symptoms and then shake the container. When a stick falls out, you note the number and go to the prescription shop within the temple grounds or at the base of the mountain. Here you report your number and receive an herbal prescription to take to the herbalist. Lü Tung Pin is the doctor of the poor.

Lü Tung Pin also has power over evil spirits and through charms. He is usually shown carrying a large sword, his symbol when the Eight are symbolically represented. The sword is known as Chan-yao Kuai, the Devil Slayer. With this sword he is able to capture and tame all evil spirits if he is invoked correctly. Lü Tung Pin's other symbol is a bushy fly whisk, a traditional symbol of one who can fly at will. The field of these Chinese symbols or charms is an enormous one and still immensely popular. The yearly Almanac (the Tung Shu) contains many pages of charms and most Chinese homes will have at least two or three charms pinned to the walls to prevent illness or ward off evil. Lü Tung Pin is seen in the popular imagination as the source of many of the most efficacious charms, although his main source of power is his sword.

In fact, the sword is one of the most potent symbols or charms in Taoism. The other great producer of charms, whose picture appears in almost all yearly almanacs, is the founder of religious Taoism, Chang Tao Ling. His descendents were made into sort of hereditary Taoist "Popes," although they had none of the power or authority which the West associates with such a title. The Celestial Masters, as they were known, dwelt at the base of Mount T'ien-mu in Kiangsi province until the mid 1930's when they were chased out by the Communists. The greatest possession of the Celestial Masters was an ancient sword, said to destroy or trap devils. This sword was supposed to have been the very one which Chang Tao Ling received from Heaven back in the early second century CE. Thus the use of a sword as a charm against evil spirits is common to both Chang Tao Ling, the Celestial Masters and Lü Tung Pin."
Lu Tung Pin, Taoist Immortal


Taoist Ritual Sword

Swords were used in Taoist rituals to purify the sacred altar of negative energies. As such, they were primarily tools of exorcism. Swords were symbolic rather than real weapons and were probably never actually sharpened. However, this sword was constructed and balanced in exactly the same way as a combat sword, and the ritual dances in which it was used resembled forms of martial arts.

One side of the blade bears an inscription modeled after that on a sword given to Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712?756) of the Tang dynasty approximately one thousand years earlier. On the other side of the blade are inlaid images of important constellations in the Taoist heavens: the 28 Lunar Mansions and the Northern Dipper (Big Dipper). Taoists believed that the sword contained the energies of these constellations, especially the Northern Dipper, which was a powerful symbol of exorcism. The scabbard is decorated with the scaly skin of a ray dyed mineral green. Upon it are two dragons, symbols of yang energy.




Taoist Ritual Sword
Ming Dynasty












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    "Tai Chi Sword is a weaponry form of Tai Chi practice, in which the sword is viewed as an extension of body, not a separate part of Tai Chi practice. All Tai Chi weaponry forms preserve the same principles of Tai Chi Chuan (the hand form of Tai Chi). The practice of Tai Chi sword requires a person to follow the sword forms correctly, to balance the sword with body well, and to apply power to the right of point of force. It also requires the person to understand and display as well the meanings of offensive and defensive moves within each form. It is important to show accurately shift of body weight,
the empty (insubstantial) and solid (substantial) moves, and the variations of sword forms. The ultimate goal is to move the body and sword in unity with right balance and rhythm."
-  Cheng Zhao, Ph.D, Indiana State University, Tai Chi Sword - The 32 Simplified Forms


    "The Yang Style Tai Chi Sword must show unique characteristics in its expression, which is different from the bare hand form:
1. The pace of the sword movements are faster than bare hand movements.
2. A higher degree of nimbleness, calmness, smoothness, gracefulness, and skill is required.
3. The names of each movement of the sword form are special. There are some technical names from Wushu. But most names come from the beautiful movements of rare birds and animals, imagery of outer space, and fairy tales and legends. It is helpful to the learner to think in these terms of images and, furthermore, to vividly express the images in their movements.
4. Since ancient times the sword form has been called a sword-dance. However, performing the sword form is not exactly the same as a sword-dance. It does have the characteristic style of dance. For instance, it has the graceful dance movements and a strong sense of beauty felt in dance. Plus, it blends with the naturally smooth movements, open and extended postures or frames and the skill of Tai Chi Chuan. The form is more beautiful. There is a Chinese saying, “Add flowers to the brocade.” When this occurs the beauty is endless. It enables the learner to enter the realm of self-fulfillment and pleasure benefiting both mind and body."
Grandmaster Yang Zhen Duo  


    "Professor Cheng Man-Ching said that the Tai Chi Chuan he practiced was like a tripod: the form, push hands, and the sword.  The goal of swordplay is to combine our Tai Chi quality of stable, heavy rootedness with rapid movement.  Be as solid as a tree but quick as a cat.  Work to develop a sense of root even when the form has you leaping off the ground.  The ch'i sets the sword in motion.  After that, like a hawk sailing on wind currents, let the sword ride the currents of gravity and centrifugal force."
-  Wolfe Lowenthal, Gateway to the Miraculous, 1994, p. 26.  


    "The same principles of the basic t'ai chi ch'uan form are used with both the tao and chien: natural breathing, body upright, keeping the movements integrated, coordinated, and flowing smoothly, etc. The difference is in the focus. For the tao, the broadsword, the focus is on the blade. For the chien, the narrow, double-edged sword, the focus is on the tip. The chien is considered the higher art form, and is more difficult to learn. The tao is basically a chopping and slicing weapon; little skill is needed for that.  It was generally the weapon of the common soldier. The chien was used by the more scholarly and aristocratic Chinese. ...  Sword tai chi is a very rewarding experience at any level.  It’s movements, done correctly, develop one’s awareness, timing, grace, and continued good health"  
-   Dorothy A. Odsen, Tai Chi Chien   


    "The sword represents a symbolic system representing justice and fairness, dignity and honor.  The swordplay is characterized by the balanced body positions and all-around defense and offense techniques.  In swordplay, the smooth body movements, the lightning thrusting and dazzling swings, are synchronized into a fluid rhythm.  Sword, "the king of all weapons," was used by millions of soldiers and warriors all over the world for centuries."
-   Xiao J. Li, T'ai Chi Symbol and Sword Postures, 2000.  


    "To practice the Tai Chi Sword correctly, the first thing a practitioner must be able to do is to have a flexible body and wrist so that the sword and the body will coordinate and move in unity. The second thing is that the intent should direct each movement so that all the movements have applications, speed and accuracy. The third thing is to have spirit and natural breathing in each movement. In usage, it also emphasizes the concepts of sticking and adhering, running and following.  In summary, in order to practice the Tai Chi Sword correctly, a practitioner must execute all the movements in an even, soft, continuous and smooth manner. All the movements are initiated by the waist, controlled by the wrist, with the upper and lower parts of the body coordinated so that when one part of the body moves, all parts follow. When one part stops, all stop. Therefore, all the movements are very light, speedy, flexible, nimble and stable.  People often describe these kinds of motions as like a "swimming dragon and flying phoenix."
-  Vincent Chu,  Gin Soon Tai Chi Chuan Federation Tai Chi Sword Practice 


    "To tell the quality of a person’s tai chi forms, we need to examine the following: (1) The angles of the body when performing each posture and the transitions between each movement; (2) the pace of the movements; (3) the height of each posture. 

A person is considered a good practitioner when he/she can carry out every movement gracefully, with coordination and precision. A good tai chi practitioner keeps the almost same height during the execution of the form. He/she does not bob up and down. The ending form finishes in the place the opening form began.  The form is practiced in a constant and regular pace. The movements of the limbs should be coordinated with the waist. 

All postures should be erect, coordinated, continuous, flowing, and balanced throughout the forms. The whole body should be relaxed. Each posture demostrated Eight Balances: 1. Top and Down balance; 2. Front and Back blance; (3) Left and Right balance; 4. Inside and Outside balance. These Eight Balances or Harmonies come from Taoism, the foundation of Tai Chi."
- Cheng Zhao, Ph.D, Terre Haute, Indiana, Tai Chi Sword


    "Power enhancer: A sword used for power training is different from a demonstration sword. A "real sword" (like the one in the photo) should be used for the purpose of power training. A "real sword" is much heavier than a demonstration sword. Manipulating and making use of the weight of a "real sword" requires specific technique. 
    In a taijiquan form, it is the body that leads the limb. In a sword play using a "real sword" it is the limb that leads the body - the purpose is to enhance the flowing of power like "mercury in a bamboo pipe".
    Apart from facilitating the power flow, the taiji sword form is designed to enhance the opening of the "Gate of Life" and the wrist joins. In most time of the sword play, the "gate" is opened. It also demands high flexibility of the wrist joins."
Live Water Blog 



"In my opinion, the sword form is even harder than the hand form. It takes all the skills of the hand form to a higher level. You have to become much more refined when handling the jian. For example, the form has chansijing in it, but doing it with the jian can add a whole new dimension on the reeling silk because of the sword weight and length.  Then there’s the sharpness that causes you to be so much more precise in your movement. This quality goes back into your hand form once you develop it.  Additionally, the footwork (as with all weapons) takes on new importance.  Sword trains you for qinna as well. You have to deal with with complex motions with a weight on one side of your body – much like if you grabbed the opponent’s hand in a qinna.  Finally, some of the taiji postures are only found in the weapons forms and they really expand the range of “normal” taiji. Try doing the sword form with only “sword fingers” and you’ll see what I mean. For example, the one-legged stance and stab forward with the opposite leg up in the Yang jian form (I forgot the actual name, sorry) is normally out of bounds of what people think of as taiji movement. But it isn’t and that move isn’t in the hand form.  Taiji sword has much more than most people realize."
-  Formosa Neijia, Why Do Taiji Sword



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    "When you begin your study of jian, you should first learn each movement of the from in great detail.  The ability to perform the movements correctly is basic to all other skills.  It is usually best to study the form several times through from beginning to end at increasing levels of detail.  After you have learned the basic movements, you should focus your attention on your footwork and stances and then become adept at controlling the range, direction, and level of your movements. 
    Next, you should perfect the ways you hold the sword and practice changing grips quickly and comfortably so that you can correctly execute the different movements.  Jian must be held very flexibly so that the angle and thrust of the sword, especially at the edges, can be adeptly changed.  An understanding of the application of the different movements can be very helpful at this point in your training.
    Once your movements are correct and can be smoothly performed, you should turn your attention to the training of the internal components, shen, yi, and qi.  Let your movements reflect your inner feelings.  The inclusion of fighting skills in your practice at this point can help you become more aware of your feelings.  This part of your training will require a lot of time and discipline. 
    Do not rush or become impatient.  Practice regularly and with devotion and take one step at a time.  It is counterproductive and dangerous to seek shortcuts.  There are none to be found and the futile search for them will distract you and will make it less likely that you will ever achieve a high
level of expertise.  
    Finally, do not forget to study Tai Chi principles.  They are the essential foundation of the form and if you do not understand them, it will be impossible to attain high-level mastery."
-   Zhang Yun, The Art of Chinese Swordsmanship, 1998, p.34.  


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Mental Aspects, Attitude, Yi, Spirit, Shen


    "The sword is practiced with a meditative attitude of mind.  As in the short and long forms, two methods are commonly used.  One way is the concentration on the lower tan t'ien, which is held there during the entire form.  This method is practiced, for example, in the Cheng Man-Ching tradition.  The other way relies on exercising the utmost attention and is comparable to Shikantaza in Zen Buddhist meditation.  This technique is used, among others, by the Yang family and their followers, including master Fun Zhong-Wen.  Both methods lead to the state of non-thinking (empty mind).  Naturally, it takes many years of practicing to become accomplished in each of these methods.  Understandably, a meditative state of mind is difficult to achieve in the beginning.  Frequently, thoughts will arise in the first years of practicing the forms, as they do in sitting meditation.  With growing relaxation and the ability to sink the energy, the state of non-thinking increases and prevails.  This is an indication that the student has advanced on his or her way."
-  Petra and Toyo Kobayashi, Classical T'ai Chi Sword, (Tuttle, 2003), p. 20. 


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"The proper length, weight, and balance of the jian (sword) vary according to the staure of the practitioner.  The standard length of the jian is measured when the swarod is held in fanwo, or reversed holding position.  In this position, your arm should extend down along the side of your torso and the body of the jian should rest along the outside of your arm with the tip pointing up.  The tip of a standard-length jian held in fanwo should be level with the top of your ear."
-  Zhang Yun, Art of Chinese Swordsmanship, p.39 

[I use the Practical Tai Chi Sword from the forge of Paul Chen, Hanwei ($65-$110 retail).  The blade is 32" long, unsharpened, moderately flexible, and made of fully tempered high carbon steel.  The overall length of this sword is 39", with a 7" handle.  The handle and scabbard are black.  The tassel is white.  This sword is Model 2008-C and weighs 1 lb and 15 oz.  There are many examples online:  Example 1, Example 2, Example 3.   I practice the 32 Sword Form with this Paul Chen Practical Tai Chi Sword, and with a 50" rattan bow.  Although this sword is not sharpened, I believe I should always think and practice as if it were sharpened.] 


"If your right handed, carry the scabbard with the left hand with the handle next to the body. 
Carefully remove the blade from the scabbard by holding the sword handle and pulling the scabbard away.
Carry the sword in the left hand, blade pointed upwards, behind the left arm.
When you have finished your practice, carefully insert the blade in the scabbard.
Store the scabbard and sword in a safe and dry place. 
The sword and scabbard should always be kept very clean
Keep the sword in its scabbard, and in a sword box or display case.
Keep the sword away from children. 
The sword is a weapon.  Weapons are dangerous.  Weapons can accomplish good or evil intentions.
The sword arts have an ancient, serious, dignified, mystical, frightening, and venerable tradition - treat them accordingly. 
Know the qualities of the swords you use in practice."
-   Michael P. Garofalo, Taiji Swordsmanship


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"Weapons at best are the tools of bad omen;
Loathed and avoided by those of the Way."   
-   Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching


"In Daoist ritual the first act is also called, “calling the qi to order.” To call the qi to order one must first invoke the Perfected Warrior, Zhen Wu. This is done by standing still using the physicality of the method described above. It is a totally ready stance–able to instantaneously issue force in all directions.  But Zhen Wu is not just a physicality, he is a whole way of seeing the world, and he is the first stage in the practice of jindan (golden elixir).  Zhen Wu is visualized in his armor with skin like the night sky drawing inward, chain and silk is woven into his hair.  He has bare feet and he is energetically on the edge of his seat.  Think of him as holding a sword in one hand, without a sheath, the tip of the blade is dragging on the ground.  He is the embodiment of the taijiquan concept song (or sung, let go, sink) he is utterly fearless, the god of nothing-to-lose."
Weakness With a Twist - Daoist Ritual Standing



The Sword of Wisdom

Ever since the adepts handed on
The secret of the sword,
The true imperative has been upheld
Completely, truly adamant.

If someone asks me about 
Looking for its origin,
I say it is not ordinary iron.
This lump of iron
Comes from receptive stillness;
When you obtain it, it rises up.

Forging it in a glowing fire,
Through repeated efforts
It is refined
And forged into steel.

When students of the Tao
Know this secret,
The spirit of light is intensely powerful,
And devils of darkness vanish.

The subtle function of spiritual work
Is truly hard to measure;
I now give an explanation for you.
In telling you about it
I divulge the celestial mechanism.

Setting to work when one yang comes back,
First have the six yangs pump the furnace bellows;
Then the six yins work the tongs and hammer.
When the work of firing is complete,
It produces the sword;
When it is first done,
It flashes like lightning.

Brandish it horizontally
And a cold clear breeze arises;
Hold it upright,
And the shining bright moon appears.
Auspicious light illumines heaven and earth;
Sprites and ghosts are distressed.

It stops turbidity, brings out clarity,
Sweeps away weird defilements;
It slays volatility,
Cuts down aggressiveness,
Destroys monsters:
Influences draining away
Vitality, energy and spirit
All vanish in the light of the sword.

Entanglements are cut off, rumination dies down,
And the web of feelings is rent asunder.
Where the spiritual edge is aimed, mountains crumble;
The demon kinds of mundane planes are all routed.

This precious sword fundamentally has no form;
The name is set up because it has spiritual effect.
Learning the Tao and practicing reality
Depend on this sword:
Without this sword,
The Tao cannot be achieved.

Opening up the vast darkness,
Distinguishing heaven and earth,
Dissolving obstructions, transmuting objects -
All is included.
If you ask me to show it to you,
I bring it out before you -
Do you understand or not?

-   The Book of Balance and Harmony
    Translated by Thomas Cleary, 1989, p. 115-117


"Pricking, pointing, wiping, cutting and thrusting;
Twining forces causes attacks to come to nothing. 
Scooping like a moving plough is the right way;
Pushing and supporting are the orthodox school. 
Defending all with keen skills,
Attacking appears in the cold light.
Shrink the body like a hedgehog,
Extend the body like a rainbow.
The rays of the sun shine in all directions,
Boundless radiances are very wonderful.
After practicing Taiji sword for a long time,
Your constant efforts will yield success."
-  Chen Zhaopi (Found in Chen Zenglei's Chen Style Taijiquan, Sword and Broadsword,  p. 255)
    Paraphrased by Mike Garofalo


"The sword techniques are exact, and the force is smooth.
Practicing it is as gentle as drizzle,
Powerful as a thunderbolt,
Sensitive as a cat pouncing on rat, a
Steady as a bear walking on the grass.
Stress the hardness or softness when revolving and moving.
Pay attention to sword techniques, change force by body."
-  Wu Shijun, Concise Adapation of Chen Taiji Sword




Sword Dance by a Pupil of Lady Gongsun

"There lived many years ago the beautiful Lady Gongsun,
Who, dancing with her sword, drew from all four quarters
An audience like mountains lost among themselves.

Heaven and Earth moved back and forth, following her motions,
Bright as when the Archer shot the Nine Suns down from the Sky
And rapid as Angels before the Wings of Dragons.

She began like a Thunderbolt, venting its anger,
And ended like the shining Calm of Rivers and Sea.

But vanished are those red lips and those pearly sleeves;
And none but this one talented pupil bears the perfume of her fame,
This sword dancer from Lingying, the Town of the White Goddess,
Who still dances and sings in the carefree old ways.

After the dance, we chatted for awhile.
We sighed together, saddened by the changes that have come.
There were a thousand ladies in the late Emperor's Court;
But Lady Gongsun's sword dance was first among them all.

Fifty years have passed, like the turning of a hand;
Wind and dust, filling the world, obscure the Imperial House.
Instead of the Pear Garden Players, gone like the fog,
Only two girl musicians remain to charm the cold Sun.

There are now man-sized trees by the Emperor's Golden Tomb.  
I seem to hear dead grasses rustling on the windy cliffs of Qutang.
The song is done, the slow strings and quick flutes have ceased.
At the height of joy, sorrow comes with the eastern moon rising.

And I, a poor old man, not knowing where to go,
Walk away slowly into the lonely hills, tired, facing the sunset."

-  Du Fu, The Sword Dance Performed by a Pupil of Lady Gongsun
   "300 Chinese Poems

The poet Du Fu (712-770, 杜甫) mentioned in his poem Witnessing Gongsun Da Niang's Disciple Sword Dance Performance (观公孙大娘弟子舞剑器行) that there was a female sword dancer in the court of Emperor Xuan Zong (唐玄宗) who was probably the greatest in her field. Du Fu wrote the following preface to this poem, "On the 19th of the Tenth-month in the second year of Dali, I saw, in the house of the Kueifu official Yuante, a girl named Li from Lingying dancing with a dagger.  I admired her skill and asked who was her teacher.  She named Lady Gongsun.  I remembered that in the third year of Kaiyuan at Yancheng, when I was a little boy, I saw Lady Gongsun dance.  She was the only one in the Imperial Theatre who could dance with this weapon.  Now she is aged and unknown, and even her pupil has passed the heyday of beauty.  I wrote this poem to express my wistfulness. The work of Zhang Xu of the Wu district, that great master of grassy writing, was improved by his having been present when Lady Gongsun danced in the Yeh district.  From this may be judged the art of Gongsun."

    "Another aspect of the martial dance is the "sword dance," devised by master swordsmen. Ancients sought to combine the ethos of swordsmanship with the sword dance, calling it "sword vigor." The most famous sword dancer of the Tang Dynasty was legendary beauty, Lady Gongsun.  As a child, the celebrated Tang poet Du Fu once watched her dance, and the specter created by her superb skill remained forever fresh in his memory.  The square in Yancheng, Henan Province was a sea of people.  Following a roll of drums, Lady Gongsun appeared, rapier in hand.  The sword glinted with every change of posture and stance, whispering like silk on being unsheathed and flashing at each thrust.  Her dancing seemed to evince a power that could hold back rivers and repulse oceans. Years later, Du Fu watched the sword dance performed by Li Shi'erniang, one of Gongsun's adherents.  Her execution of it was so reminiscent of Gongsun's original performance that Du Fu, now in his 50s, was fired with new vitality, and wrote a poem, 'The Sword Dance Performed by a Girl-Pupil of Lady Gongsun.'"
Tang Dynasty Dances


"All of Sesame Street was in the last stages of Preparation for the Chinese New Year's art contest. The paintings were being hung in Mr. Hooper's store for everyone to see.

Gordon and Susan had painted a winged horse flying through the night sky, making Three Circles around the Moon and then soaring over the Big Dipper. "We liked the past year," they explained to Mr. Hooper. "A winged horse represents something leaving too soon."

Big Bird had painted a scene of birds: three swallows and four phoenixes. He explained to Kermit, "The Swallow Flying Over Water flies straight at a goal, while the one Sweeping Right and Left over the prairie has no New Year's resolutions."

The Count had painted the entire Chinese Zodiac. To himself he stated, "Twelve animals (hah hah hah hah!), in a circle around the moon and the Little Dipper." Thunder and lightening happened briefly outside.

Oscar had painted animals making use of trash: a Swallow Flying Back to its Nest with bits of string, and a Weasel Chasing a Rat to get a fluff of comforter filling both wanted to use as a pillow.

Big Bird continued his explanation to Kermit. "The four phoenixes are a barbershop quartet. This Phoenix Raising its Head is the bass about to sing the low note in the series of four notes a barbershop quarter always starts with. Their first song is 'Molasses to my pancakes like a Wasp Flying back to its Hive.' The Phoenix Opening its Wings is the lead. The tenor is the phoenix that appears to be looking at the Count's Little Dipper. The Phoenix Opening to the Right is the baritone, ready to complete the chord."

Ernie arrived next. He explained his painting to Mr. Hooper, "A recent event with cookie crumbs in bed made me unhopeful about New Year's resolutions. They seemed as elusive as a Chinese dragon. So in my painting, that's me, Holding a Fishing Pole, trying to catch a water Dragon Walking on the lake bottom. Behind me, between my hands and chest you can see the moon. It looks like I'm Embracing the Moon in My Arms. That's because I'm grateful to have so much, even if I cannot always have my New Year's resolution. Then a Bird Flies Out of the Wood and the water dragons all want to chase it. This Black Dragon Swings its Tail and that Black Dragon Jumps from the Water after the bird. The bird will escape. But to show how strong the dragons are, see on the lake side how I painted the twisting and broken flowers? Its flight made Wind Whirling away the Lilies."

The store got noisy as the Yip-Yip aliens arrived. They had a small sculpture of animals going "Yip yip!". A lion did so as that Lion Shakes its Head. A tiger did so too (the alien carrying the sculpture did so by Holding the Tiger Head). A wild horse did so in fright as it nearly ran off a cliff. After the Wild Horse Jumps Over a Canyon it landed near a cliff, so its front hooves had dug in to the dirt, Holding Back the Horse from the Cliff.  ....."
-  David Van Slyke, A Maggid's Musings: Yang Tai Chi 55 Sword Story



"I will sharpen my shining sword,
My hand taking hold of justice.
I will take revenge on our enemies,
Repaying those that have hated us."
Deuteronomy 32:41


"He will act as judge for many nations,
He will render wise decisions for all.
They will hammer their swords into plow-blades;
Turn their spears into sickles.
Nations will no longer raise swords to fight,
Never again prepare for war."
-   Isaiah 2:4


"You have lived by your cruel sword.
You have committed abominations.
You have stolen wives.
You now have no right to inherit the earth."
-  Ezekiel 33:26 


"Put on Your Sword and make it ready at Your side;
O Mighty One,
Hail to Thy splendor and majesty."
-   Psalm 45:3

Put up thy sword, Peter;
For those that live by the sword
Shall die by the sword.
-   Matthew 26:52


King Wan of Kao Delights in the Sword Fight: A Story 


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"Clothing should be appropriate for Tai Chi Sword practice. 
Practice in satisfactory weather conditions.
Find a safe and clear area for practice. 
Remove animals and/or children from the sword practice area. 
One's mind should be settled, calm, undisturbed, and ready for serious practice.
Warm up the body properly with exercise.
Bring to mind the purpose, goals, and objectives of today's sword practice.
Stand and reflect on the Spirit of the Swordsman before practicing."

Use the appropriate sword for the style of the sword form you are practicing.
Be fully alert to your surroundings and assess the nature of the area of your practice.
Settle and center the body, calm the mind, and raise the spirit for your practice.
Use the eyes to focus your intentions and spirit.
Make the Tai Chi greeting or bow to the past and present Spirit of the Sword. 
Draw the life energy (Qi, Chi) to the Field of Exilir (Tan Tien) behind and below the navel."
-   Michael P. Garofalo, Taijiquan Swordsmanship


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13 Sword Techniques of Taijiquan

"Over all the centuries of its development, many sword techniques were created.  Often, due to lack of communication and secrecy, confusion in terminology is common today.  Often, the same basic technique has several different names, given by different styles.  Occasionally, even techniques with the same name can be slightly or very much different from each other.  Therefore, when you start learning these key techniques, you should not be confused and restrict you mind in the areas of terminology and narrow technical meanings.  Cast your mind widely, and absorb as much information as possible."
-  Yang Jwing-Ming, Taiji Sword, Classical Yang Style, 1999, p. 53. 
Dr. Yang carefully describes 30 sword techniques and uses many numbered photographs to illustrate these 30 techniques.     


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Ace of Swords
Aleister Crowley, Thoth Tarot Deck,1969
Ordo Templi Orientis
Painted by Lady Frieda Harris
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.



Jian Shu - Swordsmanship




Warning:  Practicing with Sword Weapons Can Be a Dangerous Activity for Adults





Jian - Sword






Warning:  Practicing with Sword Weapons Can Be a Dangerous Activity for Adults



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Biography of Michael P. Garofalo

Green Way Research



Qigong: Links and Bibliography

Zen Poetry

Cuttings: Short Poems

Cold Mountain Sages



Fitness for Older Persons


The Spirit of Gardening


Fitness and Well Being

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Subject Index to the Cloud Hands Website