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Weapons training in our tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing)
syllabus includes:

Knife drills (13)
Stick drills (20)
2-person cane drill
2-person short stick drills (5)
Walking stick form
Chin na against a knife
Countering a knife
Escape from a knife hold
Improvised weapons
Shuai jiao against a knife
Walking stick form applications
Sword drills (15)
Sabre form
Sabre form applications
Jian form
Jian form applications


Using a weapon teaches you the strategies, distance and timing associated with weapons use.
This, in turn helps you to be more capable of defending yourself against one, and far less naive about the dangers involved.
Weapons training is about precision, better peng, increased strength, amplified striking power, better muscle tone in the arms, back and torso, agile footwork.


The knife is a very popular and dangerous weapon. We learn how to defend against it. We do not learn how to fight with knives.


The first weapon ever used by humans was probably a blunt instrument such as a short stick or a bone. It would have been something that was to hand.
We adopt the same approach and train with sticks because they can be replaced by any suitable object you might find.


A simple stick is the preferred Taoist weapon. It is defensive rather than offensive.

Improvised weaponry

Improvised weaponry is practical. You reach out your hand and defend yourself with whatever you can find.
If a burglar pulls a knife on you, you may well find yourself armed with a frying pan or a TV guide.

Sword training?

The advent of guns meant the end of the sword. In the UK nobody carries a sword. You are unlikely to be attacked by a sword and you are unlikely to be carrying a sword yourself.
The police are not happy with members of the public owning or using swords.

Metal weapons?

Wooden weapons are perfectly adequate for tai chi form practice and the sword drills. We do not encourage students to purchase metal swords.

The spirit of the art

Yang Lu-chan taught tai chi for martial purposes. Exponents had little time or interest in heritage and tradition. They wanted serious, pragmatic, powerful combat skills. They sought rapid victory.
Sword training was developed to address the needs of the 16th Century not the 21st. Your modern urban opponent carries a baseball bat, knife, screwdriver or gun. Not a sword.
You will not be carrying a sword either.

Tai chi fighting method

Historically it may have been is important to be familiar with a variety of weapons and be adept at handling them, it was also necessary to specialise. You cannot be master-of-all-trades.
Tai chi exponents needed to pick a weapon of choice.

Sticks are defensive, not offensive

Sifu Waller puts his attention on sticks: short stick, cane or walking stick. Different weapons, but still variations on a theme. The navel-height stick/cane/walking stick looks like its an extension of his arm.
Work with your preferred weapon until it feels like it is part of your body and can move freely, without self-consciousness.

2-person cane form/drill

This is a short 2-person set of high intensity. The furious vigour of the drill will tax the nervous system. It requires a significant degree of composure and a sharp, clear mind; focussed on the here and now.
The cane must be navel height. The drill must be trained A and B side, and mirrored.

Small stick drills

Simple, fast and technically demanding, this set is an exercise is economy of movement, presence and focus. It continues on where the knife drills.
The drill must be trained A and B side, and mirrored. This set trains the student how to use improvised weapons with skill and power.

Walking stick form

The walking stick form is ideally performed with a curved-handled walking stick. This set is quite long and technical, featuring many movements adapted from the Long Yang form.
Although not necessarily traditional, this set is immensely functional and fun.

Sword drills

Our students practice sword drills, the sabre form and the jian form. A heavy weapon offers a notable workout. It develops upper body strength, whole body movement and wrist flexibility.
Students learn how to extend their power through the blade. We do not teach the sword as a self defence tool.

Sabre form

The old Yang style sabre is a very heavy weapon. It requires a firm platform of strength and smooth transitions between different angles. Comfortable, easy footwork is essential.

Jian form

The jian form teaches agile footwork. The range of a weapon is greater and you need to avoid being hit. In order to utilise the weapon fully, a student needs to move freely and comfortably.
Lumbering footwork is not adequate. Fast, responsive footwork and rapid direction changes are necessary.

Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 10 November 2023