Dear Bob and Louis,
Thanks for your replies. I hope I can answer both your points in one reply to your both, but I'm not guaranteeing anything! The main problem is, I'm not even sure myself what I meant by those two quotations, so will only offer a few random thoughts. When I first bought a metal Tai Chi sword, it was in preparation for lessons with the Master I was learning from in London (I'm unable to travel up there at the moment, but that's another story, and I hope to be able to do so again soon). I read a few things on the web and in books etc., so I had what I thought were a few ideas about what I should be trying to invest in. I went round a few shops in London and eventually settled on a sword which was a bit heavier than many Tai Chi swords and rather longer, to suit my height (6 '1")and which also had a metal handle welded to the blade (many of the others had wooden handles bolted on and which rattled. Having done fencing before, I knew that wasn't a good thing). But the lessons started later than I thought they would, due to a linguistic confusion about dates, because the Master was measuring them from the Chinese New Year, and I mistook it for the Western New Year. When the sword classes eventually started, the Master had bought swords for the class and I was mortified because I had taken my own purchase along! I apologised afterwards to him for this mistake, but I think the apology might have made us both - especially me - even more embarassed than we already were by the situation! Then he said I would probably have been better off just buying a telescopic one, anyway. Well, that's all he uses, and he's a top swordsman. Sometimes, he demonstrates the sword form barehanded. I suppose that all made me think about why I had bothered to go to so much trouble to buy such a 'suitable' (as I had thought it) weapon. Shortly afterwards, I read the Book of Chuang Tzu (I had already read the Tao Te Ching), and the passages I quoted above made me think even more about this. Also, the law here means that I am not allowed to practise in a public place with a metal sword, and the police won't even let me practice with a wooden one. They said I could use a stick if I wanted, so I bought a Kendo Shinai, which is after all virtually a stick with a grip, but slightly better balanced than a stick, and I now use that outside every day for practising the entire form sequence and I only practise individual moves with my metal sword in my flat as there is no room to do anything else, and otherwise, I just use it when I visit my Mum, who has a private garden. Ironically, the Kendo Shinai has been a blessing disguise, as being square in crosssection, it has really forced me to concentrate on my hand position in both blocks and thrusts, as I don't have a flat blade which I can look at to guide me as to vertical or horizontal positions, pronated/supinated wrist, etc. I visited my Mum a week ago, with my metal sword, and when I practised in her garden, the whole form just seemed to look after itself, as my hand positions felt so assured. Another thing about the Shinai I bought, is that it is slightly heavier even than the comparatively heavy metal sword, so using the metal sword now feels like a 'piece of cake'. Now, for all these reasons, I think I might as well have never bothered going to the trouble and expense of buying the metal sword. Then there is also the Taoist point of view on swords in general, given the quotations I have already made. I suppose I the sword just as a means to an end: another form to practice, which adds interest, more postures, more co-ordination and balance, and which give a useful overview in handling short weapons as a whole. Bob, I agree that the 'Son of Heaven' could afford as many swords as he wished for, but I suppose that the point of the story is that he was no longer bothered. Personally, nowadays I don't care if my sword, which was rather expensive, gets a bit rusty. The rust can always be cleaned off, and the Shinai, as well as being a quarter of the price, has ironically given me more discipline in terms of hand position and weight. Also, the Master from who I learned in London, says: 'First learn goodness and justice, then martial arts' and 'those who are unkind to others bring only shame to themselves and dishonour to their martial art'. I hope it does not sound too pious of me to repeat those phrases of his in connection with the Taoist quotations. I think (trying not to sound 'pious'), that such considerations are more important than a little rust. I'm not actually 'pious' (Ihope!). Indeed, if I was 'pious', I don't think I would have gone to the pub tonight and downed a few beers before writing this! Kind regards, Simon.