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A tai chi sword is a long, partially sharpened blade used to foster balance and grace while executing the slow-moving poses of tai chi fitness exercises. Originally a weapon when it was created in ancient times, the tai chi sword has become mostly a contemporary prop since modern tai chi emphasizes harmony over warfare. In order to be moved swiftly, a tai chi sword is typically light-weight, weighing between 1 and 2 lbs. (0.45 to 0.91 kg).
These Chinese swords exist in two major styles, both named after two popular forms of tai chi: the taiji jian sword and the tai dao sword. The taiji jian sword is a completely straight blade with cutting edges on both sides; this is the most common sword style and is used in multiple forms of tai chi. In contrast, the tai dao sword is slightly curved and flared. The former is made for stabbing and hacking, while the latter curved blade was crafted for swift slicing. A third type of tai chi sword is used primarily for martial arts competition. The wushu sword is much lighter and moves more swiftly than the other two varieties because it is made of chrome.
While chrome comprises the wushu, most tai chi swords are made of steel. Stainless steel is the most typical material, although high-carbon steel is preferred due to its flexibility. A few tai chi swords are made of aluminum. Training swords are either made of hardwood or of blunt, unsharpened steel to protect novices from dropping the instrument and cutting themselves.
The blade of a tai chi sword stretches between 29 and 41 inches long (73.7 cm to 78.7 cm), creating a sword with a total length of between 37 and 40 inches (94 cm to 101.6 cm). Generally, only the final third of this length is sharpened. These lengthy weapons can often be folded or retracted to be carried comfortably in a scabbard that hangs at the waist by means of a belt clip.
Other parts of the sword include the handle, also known as the grip, the hand guard, and the tip, which generally is cut in a diamond shape. The handle usually has a hole to accommodate a tassel; this tassel is not only a way to distract competitors in contest, but it also guides in practice to affirm whether the practitioner is making moves correctly with the proper balance. An unbalanced move will result in the tassel getting tangled around the arm or the sword itself.
The two most important facets of the sword are its weight and its point of balance. The point of balance, which is generally a blade point just a few inches from the hand guard, denotes the specific place where the weapon must be held so that its weight will be evenly distributed and steady. Knowing this point can allow a tai chi practitioner to manipulate the instrument for balancing and exchange maneuvers.