Living a long way from a city means I can't just pop into a shop to buy a t'ai chi sword. I am happy to carry on training with a wooden one. Its very traditional thing to do, and I want the right sword to come to me. I don't want to buy one over the internet, as they vary in weight and balance. I can wait.
Travelling through London on the way to Japan, the LLF took me on a tour of Chinatown. We found plenty of interesting shops, but no martial arts emporium. Being a librarian too, she had done some investigations and drawn a blank on where to buy a t'ai chi sword.
Last time I went to Kyoto, I found a bokken
easily (you can see a photo of it here
) - a wooden Japanese sword which we use in a set of enjoyable training moves. So I reasoned that I may be able to find a t'ai chi sword this time.
On one of our many meanderings between temples, I spied a small entrance to a shop with a rack of bokken by the door. Motioning to the group (who were strung out back along the street) to wait a bit, I ventured in. It was full of wonderful things - all manner of clothing, weapons (a bit like this one
) - oh I wanted it ALL. Not a soul in sight, so I reluctantly drew myself away from drooling over it and found two people in a cubbyhole at the back, talking earnestly and totally oblivious to my presence. I coughed politely and mumbled something like "summimasen". The old man looked up and looked blank as I tried to explain what I wanted. Eventually the look changed. "Ahhh" he sighed, and stood up and waved his arm expansively around the shop. "Kendo, aikido, iaido, judo, kyudo....Japanese!" He grew an inch and stood proudly, and the concept of nihonjinron
was embodied in every muscle. "T'ai chi....Chinese" His tone of voice now conveyed slight disdain and sadness for me that I should want something other than the very best. I felt dismissed, I bowed my thanks and slunk out of the shop.
I am still waiting for the right sword to find its way to me. And still slowly learning the t'ai chi sword form with my trusty wooden one, as befits a student. Its already been hinted that I should not be learning this form yet - normally it takes a few more years and mastery of the long form before being allowed a weapon.
But now I think of it, why did I go out of my way to persuade my sports teacher at school to include fencing alongside rounders and tennis and other girlie pursuits? Why did I take to it like a duck to water? Its true, I do come alive with a sword in my hand, albeit a wooden one. (Musashi Miyamoto
could do a lot of damage just with his bokken!) I can even enjoy a whole evening of "push hands" - with no sword!
I discovered this article when I was following a trail through the wilds of the internet about librarians who practice martial arts. "T'ai chi as a metaphor for librarianship"
Monday morning at work in Library HQ will be more interesting than usual! Let alone Monday evening t'ai chi class.