My Saber and Me

saberWhen I said, in my previous post, that I might be on a yangward journey, I did not write about one small, very yang thing:

My saber—and the fact that I am learning a taiji saber form, full of slashing, chopping and thrusts, with the occasional kick and hand blow thrown in.

When I studied the class schedule for the Yang Chengfu Tai Chi Chuan Center in Redmond a couple of months ago, I noticed they were offering a saber form class on a night I was free. I decided to sign up.

I cannot remember why it was that I thought I should take a saber class. Certainly I was forgetting that I had once learned a Chen-style sword form, but had decided to abandon it because I wasn’t spending enough time practicing it to keep it up.

But sign up for saber I did, and I am now perhaps halfway through learning a two-minute form. You wouldn’t think it would take eight weeks to learn one minute of movement, but it has, and I am not good. My moves are sloppy, my balance is poor, and I’m not yet feeling any qi, although that could be because the saber form is faster than the bare-hand form, and I have slow-moving qi. However, I am definitely beginning to feel the form’s potential for yangly fierceness.

I do like slashing and chopping and thrusting my sturdy saber into thin air. I’m not sure what or who my unseen opponent is, although most likely my opponent is the indignities and debilities of old age which are so much on my mind, living, as I now do, in a community where most residents are even older than I am.

But whether or not I’m fighting the bogeyman of old age, it feels good to be moving fast and to be making strong, decisive, outwardly focused movements—which is the opposite of how I move when I’m engaged in my very yin qigong practice.

Bare-hand taiji is more yang than qigong, but taiji with a weapon—well, there’s simply no denying what a saber is for.

So about that saber….

When I decided I wanted to take the class, I needed to purchase one—and the Yang Chengfu Center had them for sale, with the school’s logo and some Chinese characters inscribed on the blade.

The saber was much heavier than my sword, but it was equally blunt, not unlike a butter knife. It came with a wooden scabbard, which had brass trim that matched the brass of the saber’s hand guard and end ring.

I was thrilled with my saber. So thrilled that I put it in my car, went home, got on the phone and invited several neighbors to come to my apartment for a saber-viewing and a glass of wine.

They came, they viewed the saber—I even let them hold it—but I think they were bewildered as to why it was such a big deal. (Fortunately, the wine was a hit.)

However, I continue to be thrilled with my saber. I like its heft, its wooden handle and the scabbard in which it now hangs on a wall next to my sword.

When I encounter one of my neighbors on my way to practice in a vacant parking lot, I take pains to tell them it’s a taiji saber, not a real weapon, and if I’ve already begun practicing, I run my fingers down the blade to prove it’s not sharp. I don’t want anyone calling the police.

But still, carrying my saber around feels very cool. As in, “Nyah, nyah, I’ve got a saber and you don’t….”

Which raises the question:

Is my saber all about my inner warrior?

Or has it also hooked my inner child?

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