<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Simon Batten:
...Tai Chi sword teaches you to transmit internal energy into the blade to temporarily stiffen it...</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
You seem to be confusing cheap performance swords with the real thing (high quality historical jian). Historic Chinese jian throughout the Qing and into at least the early Republic (and occasionally still by a few manufacturers today) were made of three layers, with the result being that they acted similar to plywood – not much flexibility! Perhaps you could say that the internal energy is transmitted to the tip of the jian to control or extend the application’s energy into the cut or thrust, but “to temporarily stiffen it” is incorrect.
I am typically somewhat reluctant to reply to possible style specific information on this forum as I favor Chen style (though I started with Yang style and have experience with it including having several teachers of Yang style sword form, drills, and sparring), but I want to make some points concerning this thread. (I am also not particularly familiar with Western fencing so I am perhaps not really able to address the initial question.) Also, since in the past you have posted form pictures for feedback, I hope that you will not mind some comments on the picture that you posted.
I think that Western sporting weapons (light, thin…) as well as the linearity of the interactions (the rules confining you to an alley), etc. may tend to change somewhat what may be effective in sport vs. how we train Taiji jian. Care should be taken when studying two similar arts in different contexts. I think that one would want the same changeability in Taiji jian as is exhibited in Taijiquan, and suspect that a straightened sword arm leading the lunge with the body and legs would be less changeable than the more integrated method exhibited in Taijiquan hand forms. Remember that Taij jian sparring frequently uses defensive stepping that takes one off-line of the attack, and the counter is frequently executed from an angle. I am uncertain if this is accurate since I have not had the opportunity to spar with a Western trained fencer, but I suspect that someone committing to a lunge as in Western sport fencing as you described it may be more vulnerable to counters from an angle. If you have the opportunity to test this out, please let us know the result. Also note that one of the most common targets of Taiji jian attacks is the wrist (not the torso as in Western sport fencing), and that this may result in significant differences in how vulnerable the lunge (as you have described) may be.
I do not really like the use of the term “vertical” in describing a jian block since the jian should continue to threaten the opponent even during a block. However, the “vertical” block with the tip angled forward towards an opponent, as shown in your picture, is ok.
Now for comments on your picture:
1) Starting with the jian position, notice how you are only protecting your head and throat. You will need to check with your teacher as to the intent of this posture, but I would think that the handle could be lowered to protect more of the body while still protecting the head. If you are blocking a straight thrust to your head by sinking your body below the level of the thrust while deflecting the sword to the side, then perhaps it is ok, especially if you have the sensitivity to stick with the opponent’s jian after contact and thus be able to lower your jian if they try to thrust lower (or redirect the jian into a slice against the left side of your torso, etc.). Note that it is very easy to thrust at an opponent’s head and, if you detect a high block, let the weight of the jian drop the tip down to finish the thrust to the abdomen. It is also fairly easy to change from a thrust into a slice (moving around under the deflecting sword) if the blocker is not sensitive. With the jian as high as shown in the picture, I may be more likely to angle the jian even more towards the opponent such that the tip would already be in position for a counter thrust (assuming that the increased angle is possible while maintaining the contact with the deflected jian). The reason for this is that unless the tip half of the blade is being used to contact the opponent’s jian, then it does not need to be that high (as it is above the level of your head) and can instead be directed more at your opponent.
2) The level that you sink to in your stance is about at the lower limit for maintaining the ability to transmit power from the ground up through the leg into the torso (a test of which would be to have someone use one finger to push down on your shoulder; if you can not raise up out of the stance, then you are too low). In your case, however, your low stance seems too low for your level of ability as it causes problems in your posture (try the above mentioned test). Notice how your back (left) foot is rolled inwards, how your rear sticks out, and even how your neck does not look like it is comfortable looking forward (probably due to relative inability of your hips to rotate preventing your shoulders from lining up above the hips).
3) The thumb of your right hand holding the jian is braced against the guard rather than wrapping around the handle. Why? Is this how you were taught to hold the jian in this posture? It is difficult to determine how flexible your grip is as most of the hand is hidden, but I suspect that your wrist may be bent rather that being aligned with your forearm, and I suspect that you have somewhat limited your wrist’s maneuverability, the changeability of the jian through changes in the handle facilitated by changes in how the fingers control the handle, etc.
Hope you do not mind the critique over this public forum.
Only trying to be helpful,