Traditional to Modern Martial Arts: Tai Ji Jian

Taijiquan can be shortened to Taiji, often known in the west as “TaiChi”. While Taiji was traditionally practiced as a martial art, it is most commonly used today as a form of exercise. This martial art revolves around slow, controlled movements, balance and concentration. Taijiquan, especially among the elderly, is practiced as a type of morning exercise. Here in Shanghai, one can see droves of elderly Chinese practicing Taiji on any given day in public parks and squares.

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Taijijian describes the sword used as a part of the practice of Taijiquan. Taijijian translates into Taiji sword, very straightforward seeing as it is the sword used in the practice of Taiji. The sword is double edged, and practitioners historically trained with the Taiji sword in preparation for combat. However, like Taijiquan, Taijijian has also become a form of exercise in the modern world. The modern Taijijian swords are often thinner and more decorative than those from the days of combat in order to add theatrical effect.

While traveling in Beijing, we were fortunate enough to have some free time in a large public park. There were many elderly there making use of the exercise equipment or playing cards and other board games. Here (see video) you can see an elderly woman practicing Taijijian. If you look at the handle of the sword, you will see the ornamental tassel. She moves slowly and precisely. The sword acts as an extension of her arm while the rest of her body goes through the Taijiquan movements.

 

For this particular woman, she is practicing at mid-morning in a group of other Taijijian practitioners, though I caught this video while the others in her group took a break. The practice of Taijijian in groups, as well as other groups in the park, held a fierce sense of community. These people knew each other and gathered together to not only practice Taijijian, but to spend time in this public forum enjoying each other’s company. It seemed as though the health aspect of practicing Taijijian was fused with the social aspect. Though there are undoubtedly practitioners who do so purely for individual training, my own experience while in China suggests that Taijijian has become a social event for many Chinese.

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