Roughly a year after I began training in Yang Long Fist Tai Chi Chaun I had finished the first three rows of the six rows of the form, The first of which I had studied 3 times. For the basic movements, for the correct eye position for the form, and finally for the correct breathing to be used. After that I had enough knowledge to use them is the remaining studies. So I completed the third section, only to find out now I had to learn a Yang Tai Chi Sword form before I continued to learn the rest.
That sword form was likely the most difficult thing I have ever studied. For you essentially had to move the sword to follow your center. Not swinging the sword, but allowing your center to express itself in the movement of the sword. And all you had to do that was control it with your grip, and your wrist. At least that’s how I describe it.
The form was roughly 2 rows of techniques long, one moving to the east, and then another moving to the west. That first section also roughly followed the Yang empty hand form.
Throughout the form thrusts shown with the sword are often accompanied with the other hand touching the wrist, supporting the thrust. I remember that hand position being called the ‘Secret Sword’ though when I reference other tai chi sources on the inter-net is goes by another name.
When I learned that form my studies progressed to the rest of the Yang form.
I certainly practiced, but the level of control for the sword was very difficult for me to achieve. So I did my best not to let Ernest see me work the form for many years. I just did not do it before him.
I should note Ernest knew Yang and Wu Tai Chi Sword, as well as his studies of dozens of Chinese sword forms. I remember watching those days he would practice his own sword forms. Doing form after form, never repeating a form, and looking great with all of them. Certainly that must have helped his own tai chi sword to a great degree too.
That was the reason I was hesitant to pick up my sword before him.
When I thought of that hand position, ‘the Secret Sword’, I could see how it could be used for thrusting into the eyes of the throat or groin. But as I wasn’t learning, then practicing tai chi, for defense, really did not give it more thought.
A decade went by, then one time when I was visiting Pittsburgh and Ernest, he informed me that it now was time to show me the rest of the form. I then learned that I only had ½ the form, and he had a student of his show me the rest. I was fortunate and was able to videotape that section. So there was more of that most impossible form to learn and practice. I just soldiered on. (note ‘the Secret Sword’ continued to be used throughout the form)
A number of years later Ernest continued to educate me, proving I was doing everything wrong. Then he showed me how to correct everything, by beginning to connect all my movements together. It made my tai chi stronger, and also worked to increase my capability with all my martial studies. It certainly increased my own ability.
The use of ‘the Secret Sword’ hand placement on the wrist, was not just to stabilize a strike, but also engage the alignment of the body behind those strikes to a greater extent, increasing the power (or as a force enhancer).
Of course what is found on one system can also be found in other systems. I really never did seek out uses for ‘the Secret Sword’ But one day it came.
One day I met an Isshinryu instructor called Sherman Harrill at a clinic of some of the uses he found for Isshinryu technique.
A while onto his seminar he showed a way to strike into several specific nerve lines in the forearm, Perhaps one technique in two variations.
A while later in the clinic it occurred to me that one could use the same hand position to strike into the side of the neck, and it would look like a 2 finger strike, but was actually something else. I talked to Sherman a bit about it later, and he confirmed that was possible and showed how to increase the effectiveness of that strike.
I have a video record of both of those events, and the neat thing was he had shown a use for the hand position I already know ‘the Secret Sword.’
Further study would yield a variety of ways that hand position could be used. At least four of them, The forward finger strike, A finger whip to the face, the knuckle strike with the bent fingers, and a strike with the Thumb bent knuckle. Of course there was a variety of ways those strikes could be used.
I have developed another way to use ‘the Secret Sword’, mainly through doing the Yang Tai Chi Sword Form, with both hands empty in ‘the Secret Sword’ hand position.
I am quite sure there are other layers of meaning I have yet to explore.