Tai Chi Chuan (Glasgow)

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The Spear by Ian Cameron

The Spear Form, with only fifteen postures is the shortest of theTai Chi chi weapons forms as taught by Master Cheng Tin Hung. It is an essential aspect of Tai Chi Chuan training.It is said that practicing the Spear encourages wisdom. (Still waiting on that one). Like all weapons, the basis is in the hand form, meaning, that if the hand form is correct, then there is a good foundation for everything else. With the Spear and its potentially powerful techniques, it is perhaps easy to become focused upon the feeling of the form being ‘strong’ and rely upon strength. This is to miss the subtleties within the form.

The Spear is the same as any other aspect of TCC, in that it is based upon the Tai Chi principle, and should adhere to this. Adherence, Connection, Entwining, Stabbing, Lifting and Hitting, Drag and Dot, Diverting upwards or downwards with a springing motion, Using Spirals to divert an attack and counter.

Holding the Spear: The hand holding the Spear should be down in the ready stance position and only slightly forward, which is to say, the arm is at its natural length. (Fig1) When the Spear is brought up into the rear hand, it comes up from the ground at exactly the right width and settles into the hand easily. This relatively simple position is balanced, whereas, if the Spear is held too far up its length at the start, it is not balanced, the grip being too wide, effectively shortening the weapon. This creates an area of six to eight inches between the hands, that is “dead.” Equally, if the rear hand holds the Spear up from the end, this creates another ‘dead’ area. The rear hand has to be flush with the end of the Spear. In this on guard position, the left hand is ‘closed’. (Fig 2) The techniques, whether defensive or offensive, are greatly affected, depending on how the Spear is held.

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Figs 2 and 3

When thrusting, the final positions of the hands are: the lead or pointing hand will be again, the natural length, with no sense of being “wide’ or “stretched.” The right hand will be at the solar plexus. The correct body angle, adding distance to the thrust. If, on the other hand, the grip is too wide, the rear hand will be at the hip, the body too square on to the thrust, consequently shortening and losing the full effectiveness of the weapon. This also has the effect of making the form ”stiff” as it has stopped short of ‘going with’ the weapon. The left hand when thrusting is ‘open’ meaning, the forefinger points in the direction of the thrust, giving added focus. (Fig 3) The heels, when thrusting should be in line. This creates a continuous line from the tip of the Spear through the body to the rear foot.
The left hand, apart from one posture, Cockerel Nodding its Head, should not wander from its original position. Even in the posture mentioned, where the Spear is effectively ‘shortened,’ by drawing it back through the left hand, allowing for a faster turn, the left hand returns during the execution of the technique, to its original position.

As with all Tai Chi Chuan forms, it matters greatly how one gets from point A to point B. Although the traditional Spear is long (8ft) and quite heavy, the hands must remain soft and play a supportive role, which allows the Spear to be an extension of the body. Fluency can only be transmitted from the body into the weapon, if there is no unnecessary tension in the body leading to a soft connection through the hands. With the Hand Form, the body moves as one unit. Likewise
with the weapons. Whatever the weapon, this too has to be part of the one unit. Whatever happens in the body, is reflected in the weapon.
In terms of Yin and Yang, the Spear is Yang. However, there is softness within the form and any power generated, has to come from the total coordination of the body. Doing the form softly, an awareness of the moments of focus, such as when thrusting, parrying or the more powerful downward movement, is highlighted. It also instills a sense of timing. The form can be done large or small, slowly or quickly, each one bringing a different perception to the form.
One has to be careful however, when practicing with the shorter lighter Spear. It is easy to develop bad habits as, there are things you can do with the shorter Spear, that the longer version will not allow. For example: The longer Spear won’t allow the focus of the weapon to stray from the direction of the opponent. To parry, taking the Spear too far back or too far to the side, leaves a gaping hole, and would be too slow to recover, which leads you vulnerable to further attacks.
When parrying another weapon, it isn’t enough just to knock it out of the way. You use the same principle s in all Tai Chi Chuan applications, by going to meet the attack. Using the anti-clockwise spiral, created by turning waist coordinated with the turning of the wrist, you can neutralise the attack, and by spiraling back in a clockwise direction add power to the counter thrust.

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Fig 4

When disarming your opponent by knocking the Spear out of his hand, turn the hand over until the power of the downward force is through the index knuckle of the left hand. (Fig 4) By using this turn more power is then generated in the downwards movement. Using these spirals can also allow you to ‘drag’ your opponent off balance.
When practicing, the vertical (woof), horizontal (weft) and the diagonal must be taken into account. This is so that an attack will be caught in what should feel like a net. This net should seem like a ‘dome,’ one that surrounds you, so that no matter the direction of an attack it will be caught up and entangled within this net.

The technique shown is: Wind Blowing Through the
Photos by John Buggy
Article first appeared TCU magazine 2015

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