Tai Chi Halbert

halbert The Dragon, as a symbol of Chinese culture, has existed for over 5000 years. Historians believe that the figure of a dragon was originally a serpent that was later combined with other animals figures into a new figure which has the serpent's body, a beast's legs, a dog's tail and paws, deer's horn, and a fish's scales and whiskers.

The Dragon is a mythical animal in Chinese culture. It is believed to be very powerful, with abilities to change in shape, size and color, sail up in the sky and dive down to earth very quickly, stir the ocean up side down, convert clouds to rain, swim in the clouds and fog, etc. The Dragon represents perfection in life and serves as a symbol for many people attempting to improve themselves. Therefore, one can find all kinds of Chinese cultural artifices associated with the dragon; from using the word "dragon" as a last name, place name, object, fruit, weapon, design, clothing. The Dragon is so common in Chinese culture that many Chinese people called themselves descendants of the dragon.

Among weapons, the halbert, which has long or short handle with a metal spear at the end and one or two crescent shape knives attached to the side of the spear, is believed to imitate the dragon. There are several types of halbert that are divided into those with long and short handles and one or two crescent knives. Among halberts with the 13 foot long handle, if there is only one crescent knife attached to the spear, this is called the 'Green Dragon Halbert'. If there are two crescent knives attached to the spear, this is called 'Square Heaven Halbert'. Among the short handled halberts, there are two crescent knives attached to the spear.

When one examines the halbert more closely, one will find that it is shaped like a dragon and all the techniques manifest the form of a dragon by incorporating the dragon's characteristics and movements. Therefore, the halbert is also known as a dragon weapon. The figure of a dragon has eight common body parts. They are the head, mouth, body, tail and four claws. Each part has its own function; the dragon's head goes up, the mouth bites down, the body goes straight, the claws grip and hook, and the tail coils. Similarly, we can see that a Tai Chi Halbert has eight parts to attack with as well. The metal portion is the dragon's head, in which the spear and the crescent is the mouth, the handle is the body, the end of the handle is the tail and the crescent knife is the claw.

The Tai Chi Halbert is one of the long weapons among Tai Chi Chuan system's weapon armory. Like the mythical creature it imitates, the dragon, one only hears of such a weapon by its name but does not see the actual techniques or any written document. According to Grandmaster Yeung Sau Chung, the Tai Chi Halbert has been a Yang Family heirloom for four generations. He told my father Gin Soon Chu that the Tai Chi Halbert has only been transmitted among bloodline members of the Yang Family. Because of this, Tai Chi Chuan practitioners throughout history have only heard and understood fragments of this weapon form within the system but know nothing else about it.

When one is practicing the Tai Chi Halbert, the techniques incorporate the practitioner's body and express the movements in many rhythms. The movements are so smooth and change so suddenly that they are similar to a swimming dragon. Sometimes the movements are hard, other times they are soft. Sometimes the movements are fast and other times they are slow. Sometimes the movements come together like a coiling dragon, other times they are separate. All of these different rhythms and movements present to the observer a sense of flying and swimming. According to the weapon's composition, each simple movement of going forward or backward, up or down, left or right, has many applications and variations. There are absolutely no flowery movements like with other weapons. All movements are strictly for application by pointing towards the opponent's chest and head. Each movement is generally followed with several more movements. When the halbert goes forward to stab, it then retreats backward to hook, goes up to lift, and goes across to cut and hook. All the movements flow very smoothly and naturally, similar to swimming and are all very flexible like the movements of a dragon. The classics said "The Tai Chi Halbert is but a single dragon, frightening people with its claws and open mouth. The Halbert's technique is like a dragon reaching out with its claws, backward and forward, always reaching for the opponent's head and chest".

When one is practicing the halbert, one must express the dragon's coiling and sudden changes of temper by demonstrating each movement with control, flexibility and agility. Each of the movements in Tai Chi Halbert has a distinguished rhythm. Every movement is followed by several applications and variations. Its flexible, agile, relaxed, open and smooth movements can improve the practitioner's health, serve as self defense techniques and also have value as a performance art.

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