An anonymous reader writes:
“I have heard that Professor Cheng dueled lightly, barely touching his opponent’s sword. How can this be? What if he really attacks you? What do you do?”
If he attacks you, you meet your opponent’s sword as lightly as you can, and let it push your sword, and you, out of its way as it progresses. When it has gone past you, you may break contact with the sword and slice or stab, as you desire, and as opportunity presents.
You heard right, Professor Cheng dueled lightly. But his opponents often did not. Professor Cheng had wooden swords for use in his school. To teach us to be light, the swords were covered in aluminum foil. Even lightly vigorous contact would rip the aluminum foil. His sword remained clean and shiny while the foil on everyone else’s sword became ripped in varying degrees. The goal is sticking with softness. Resist and, at the least, you ripped the aluminum foil on your sword, at the most, you earned the dubious privilege of feeling a wooden blade slide across your body.
pic of prof Cheng dueling with Tim Gibbs
Professor Cheng could point his sword at me and it had the disquieting lightness of a ghost. I went one way, so did he, lightly. I went the other way, so did he, lightly. There was never any sense of resistance, I could rarely even feel his sword. And the tip of his sword never got out of my face, except when he was going to slice me on my legs or across my body.
So, the goal is control of your sword, as lightly as you can manage it, and through it, your opponent’s sword, and through that, your opponent. When this control is established, you can move, stick to, or cut your opponent at will. And it is not necessary to bang the swords against each other.
In Tai Chi,