I was interested in three measures: (1) the inside length of the shaft or handle protected by the individual crescent hand guards (4.5″ for the Sun Moon Spear; otherwise 4″) (2) the gap between the crescent hand guards (3/4″ for the horse blocking knife; 4″ for the butterfly wing and 5″ for the Sun Moon Spear) and (3) the distance between the two furthest connectors between the shaft and the crescents (14″ for the Horse Blocking Knife; 17.5″ otherwise).
Most lyrics to Bob Dylan’s song “Tombstone Blues” (from the album Highway 61 Revisited released August 30, 1965) have the words as ‘the geometry of innocence flesh on the bone’.
It is almost certain today that a tai chi ruler and a tai chi bang will be made of wood and turned on a lathe. Here are some of the technical wood working terms used to describe various cuts made to form a cylindrical spindle.
Intended to be stimulated during exercises with tai chi ruler and tai chi bang:
The heart and pericardium meridians cross the palm. The small intestine meridian follows the outside (distal) edge of the hand. The triple warmer, lung and large intestine meridians cross the back of the hand. To maximize the number of points in contact with the end of either wooden tool (1) angle the two outer fingers (pinkie and ring) slightly more toward one’s heart so the outside tips of the fingers come into contact with the rounded end of the tool and (2) angle the thumb and index fingers in the opposite direction (so different on the two hands) so the points on these fingers also come into contact with the end of the tool (3) You also need the two points on the palm – heart 8 and pericardium 8 – to be in contact as well as heart 9 (4) keeping Small intestine 1 and Heart 9 both in contact with the wood involves some compromise (5) and then you have to have a relaxed grip through all of this.
There is one student who is hyper-shy or whatever the technical description is. We’ve NEVER made eye contact, and he always wear dark glasses. He learns well enough that I assume he can see. I was showing how to do low altitude tai chi bang exercises (a bang is a like a rolling pin) – in this case being twisted below the knees. Bent at the waist is
an awkward position, especially while trying to talk. Plus I was hot from being under the lights. My throat was dry, so I coughed, and was obviously struggling to speak.
Being bent over limits what one can see, but I could glimpse some shoes approaching.
There’s a handkerchief waving at the edge of my vision. I am later told the student has his eyes covered with one hand. It feels like the whole class is all staring.
There’s a commandment in chess and fencing – when you have the advantage DO NOT stop the attack. So I close my eyes and slowly straighten up. Eyes still closed, I point to my face and say, “hot”. That’s something we teach the students to say if they want a cool wrap and a drink because they are overheating. There’s a very delicate brush of the handkerchief on my brow and I can hear the footsteps retreat. Progress. What we call a
micro-victory in the business. I signal for a sip of water all around – on the house.
For a martial art obsessed with circles there is remarkably little rolling either in a gymnastic sense or with weapons. Two exceptions are the tai chi ball and the tai chi bang. I would suspect some early practitioner decided to handle a large rock as some sort of weightlifting and that’s is how the tai chi ball might have started. There are two legends about the tai chi bang: (1) the great Chen Fake (陳發科; 1887–1957) noticed his wife’s rolling pin and extended her motions into exercises. (2) she taught him. I have written to Jack Yan (translator for and disciple of Chen Zhenglei), Chen Juan, and others. In the meantime here are some photos (with bang, with ruler, two views of rolling pin)
We still will do daily classes with sitting, standing and warmups, but we will introduce tai chi ruler (to see a web page about it click here) and tai chi bang (to see a web page about this click here) exercises. Then add a break, followed by 18 movements and Lao Jia. Another break. Then maces and saber. As the class progresses we will add sword, staff and spear. Instead of adding Xin Jia after Lao Jia, we will teach silk reeling exercises.
Same grading, same course requirements except for the Xin Jia / Silk Reeling switch.