training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
September 2009 Issue

Tai Chi Walking Cane Form

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There were no weapons in the originally tai chi chuan system. Through out the years of teaching and fighting, weapons forms and techniques were gradually added to tai chi.

One of these weapons, the walking cane, is a very practical weapon. Not many schools teach this weapon form. I teach the “Plum Blossom Bagua Cane Form”. It is a tai chi form adapted for the walking cane by combining techniques from other weapon forms; such as the Jian (straight sword), Dao (saber), Gun (staff) and Gou (hook sword).

The Tai Chi Plum Blossom Bagua Cane Form is unique. It's name, Plum Blossom, speaks to the beauty of this elegant form. Plum blossom is the flower that represents Chinese Culture. The term “flower” also describes a technique; the rapid swinging of a short weapon to the left and right side of the body in a figure eight pattern to make “flowers”. The application of the flower is for warding off attacking weapon strikes. In this form, there are flowers in two directions, the regular downward flower and the reverse upward flower. The flower is also an excellent technique for developing a stronger and more flexible wrist.

Bagua is the philosophy symbol from the Yi Jing (I-ching), the Book of Changes. Bagua can also be translated as the “eight trigrams”. It's been at the heart of the most important philosophy of Chinese culture for over 4000 years. Ba is eight, Gua is a symbol of the trigram. Each Gua of the trigram represents a fundamental element of the universe: heaven, earth, fire, water, mountain, marsh, thunder and wind. They also represent the eight directions of the compass. In this tai chi weapon form, the walking cane can be used in eight ways. The form uses a standard walking cane with a hook handle. The Tai Chi Plum Blossom Walking Cane Form has the following eight basic postures representing the bagua: 1) Cane tip holding – earth (southwest), 2) cane hook holding – heaven (northwest), 3) single hand holding – water (north), 4) both hands holding – fire (south), 5) hands together holding – wind (southeast), 6) hands apart holding – mountain (northeast), 7) left hand holding – thunder (east), 8) right hand holding – marsh (west).

Tai Chi Plum Blossom Bagua Cane Form techniques are practical for fighting. When holding the hook end one can use the cane tip and the cane body for blocking, striking and poking. When holding the tip end, the cane hook is for pulling the opponent's neck, arms and legs. The cane hook also can be used for striking to the head and thrusting to the opponent's body. The single hand holding is good for fast reflex defending and attacking. When one hand holds the cane, the free hand can be used for grabbing the opponent's weapon as well as for punching and pushing. When using both hands to hold the cane, you have much more power for striking and for blocking. When both hands hold either the cane's tip or hook end, the rest of the cane is free to hit or poke with an extreme amount of power.

When using the hands spread apart from tip to hook end, the cane body is available for blocking; high or low, and left or right of the body. Besides defensive movements, spreading apart the hands on the cane's midsection allows for pressing techniques during close-quarters fighting. Plus, the tip and the hook are readily available for poking and thrusting in a close-combat situation. In a real fight, switching the cane from hand to hand is an excellent way of confusing your opponent.

In some situations; for example if the right hand is trapped due to the geometry of the combat area, switching to the left hand is a must. Of course not everyone is right-handed, so the Tai Chi Plum Blossom Bagua Cane Form gives left handed students a chance to use their natural hand for training. training while holding the cane in the left and right hands is good for the body because both arms are exercised equally.

The Tai Chi Plum Blossom Bagua Cane Form is an advanced weapon training form. When a student is first learning the form, it must be practiced smoothly and with relaxation. After the student has performed the form at least 300 times, fa-jing (to emit force) must be added to the strikes. Without fa-jing the fighting application is not effective. The cane is not like a bladed weapon, if no force is used during a strike, it won't hurt the opponent. However, if the student uses too much stiff force, he is missing the tai chi principle. Therefore, to apply the correct power (jing), the practitioner must use the body and waist to deliver the cane strike with whip-like relaxed force.

A good tai chi walking cane form must have the sticky and adhesive energy, empty and full footwork, and up and down coordination. The Tai Chi Plum Blossom Bagua Cane Form is beautiful to watch, uses all the tai chi principles and offers practical fighting techniques.

Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

September 2009 Inside Kung-Fu