The four Tai Chi weapons consist of the double-edged sword, broadsword, spear and staff. Many schools use the first three only, whilst others have several more weapons, most commonly the walking cane.
It may seem strange in the twenty first century to still be teaching students how to use weapons. The purpose in training in the use of weapons is to strengthen the internal energy (chi). This is accomplished by the increased difficulty imposed by the weapons and the sophistication of the techniques
employed. All of the strengths acquired in the practice of the solo empty hand form are elevated to a higher level with the weapons.
Once students have progressed beyond a basic level of ability in the solo empty hand form, the weapons are introduced. The initial awkwardness of using the double-edged sword soon gives way to a feeling of exhilaration as it moves easily from one posture to the next. The broadsword employs much larger and more circular movements than the double-edged sword. It is heavier and more difficult to use elegantly, hence the broadsword is taught after the double-edged sword.
In Hine Tai Chi schools, the staff is the weapon taught next. The increased weight and awkwardness of the six foot and eight foot long staffs not only exercises the body, but also refines and strengthens the chi. Following the staff the spear is the next weapon to master. It is much more difficult to use than the staff, as the wooden shaft is made of Chinese white “waxy” wood, which is very pliable and has a whip like quality.
When correct technique is used with the staff, its rigidity transmits the energy relatively easily. The waxy wood spear on the other hand bends and twists with an almost snake like quality. A considerable amount of practice is necessary before any sort of relationship can be formed with the spear. But it is worth it, the spear is the most prized among traditional Tai Chi schools for its ability to strengthen the chi.