Please note, below is the second part in a multipart series. For Part 1, see Chen Zhonghua Workshop Summary Part 1.
Chen Taiji Broadsword
After dinner, we returned to the hotel conference room for the introductory broadsword routine. We started off with directions on how to hold the broadsword by the hilt in the left hand. Next, we practiced stepping out into a horse stance and doing a basic horizontal slash. Emphasis was placed on slashing with unified body movement and not just the shoulders.
After stepping out with the right foot in a horizontal slash, the next exercise was to step back with the right leg and bring the handle of the sword to eye height ending with the left hand slapping the right wrist. When bringing back the sword, the goal was to not lift the point of the sword, but pivot the sword about the point of contact. Imagine if the horizontal slash resulted in the block of an oncoming sword. With the weight of another sword on your blade, it would be very difficult to simply flip your wrist, lifting the blade of the sword (on a clock, going from 9 => 12). Instead, try rotating the sword about the point of contact (on a clock 9 => 12, but from a horizontal plane) before pulling the sword back.
During the buddha warrior pounds mortar sequence, Master Chen corrected the class to keep the sword hidden until the very last minute. This meant that when we raised our left hand while holding the sword by the hilt, we should keep the blade flat against our arm. In doing so, the opponent does not see we are holding a sword. Only at the last minute when the elbow strike is executed, do we show the sword.
In the Hong Practical Method, there is a strong emphasis placed on the notion of “no retreat”. Master Chen demonstrated to us how this applies in the mechanics of swordplay. In all connecting movements between slashes and parries, there is no retreat. Keep the energy moving forward. This little shift of mechanics and intention really brought about the deadly nature of sword combat. I had done some wushu broadsword before, however I now felt more aware of the sword, the angle of slashes, and the intensity of the fight. I have a better understanding of the taiji classic: when doing the form, we should imagine an opponent.
At one point, Master Chen had all of the students stand on one side of the room and he would call out 2 volunteers to demonstrate sections of the form. A great thing about Master Chen is that he engages with and seeks active participation from all students attending the workshop. Everyone who attends will *feel* exactly what Master Chen is talking about.
Stay tuned for part 3 😉