A magazine of martial and movement arts, with a focus on the internal style of Tai Chi Chuan
is published by
All material © 2016
By Yin Qianhe
(Originally published by Pole Star Press, 1958. Brennan Translations, December 2015. 66 pages.)
Here I go again, reviewing a book on Tai Chi sword when I do not know much about Tai Chi sword, though I once practiced a saber set. But while I can’t say much about the sword form depicted, I can make observations about the prefatory material. I also can say that Yin Qianhe was a notable martial artist and author of several martial arts books, several of which are reviewed on this site.
Taiji Sword is prefaced by Shen Honglie, who is described thus by the author in his own preface: “When armies were raised in resistance against Japan [during the Second Sino-Japanese War [July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945], I followed Shen Honglie, chairman of my home province of Shandong, by serving in the army. Shen was a long-standing advocate for martial arts, so he made martial arts the major training regimen for the military, and since it is my hobby, I pursued this with extra sincerity. For fighting the enemy and smiting the invaders, it proved to be very helpful.”
From this statement, we can gather that Yin’s swordplay is not only sincere but actually was utilized in battle, making it deadly serious.
The second preface is by Chen Family Tai Chi stylist Chen Panling, who served as president of Henan Province Martial Arts Academy. Yin describes Chen by saying he received “frequent guidance from my martial arts superior, Chen Panling” among others.
To his credit, Yin provides more prefatory material for this book than Wu Tunan did for his book on Tai Chi sword. The author gives a succinct background on the development of the sword, coming to the conclusion, as have many other martial arts historians, that the background of specific martial arts—not to mention martial arts as a whole—are too hazy and steeped in myth and legend to ascertain any sort of accurate picture of their development.
Next is a basic introduction to Tai Chi sword. This includes differentiating the methodology of Tai Chi sword from the sword arts of external styles, distinguishing movement and stillness, coordinating the upper and lower parts of the body, and encouraging continuity of movement, which also takes into account the principles of sticking, connecting, adhering, and following.
The sixteen sword techniques of Yin’s sword form are the subject of the next, very bried chapter. They are presented as a list, each technique accompanied by a brief description of the action of the sword.
The next chapter delineates eight moral attitudes to adhere to in martial arts training. These, the author says, apply to open-hand as well as weapons forms. As should be obvious, they all are in accord with general moral principles by which we all wish the rest of us would abide. I’ll give you only the topics, though Yin provides a sentence or two of explanation: maintain seriousness, look upon others with respect, receive others harmoniously, maintain a sense of justice, practice with diligence, conduct yourself with honor, cherish compassion, and give yourself with loyalty.
The final chapter before the instruction section lays out four pointers for practicing Tai Chi sword. The first is perhaps the most important: “If you wish to practice Taiji Sword, the best thing to do is start practicing Taiji Boxing.”
After that, the form instruction section takes up the remainder of the book. As noted above, I’m not qualified to critique sword forms, but I will remind the reader that Yin apparently actually used a sword in combat, so that should lend some weight to the form depicted. And as a final note, the sword Yin wields in the photos is quite long—much larger in relation to his body than is usually seen.