The sword is called the "gentleman of all weapons."
It is the most widely used of all weapons and its influence goes beyond the field of Wushu. Every school of Wushu uses the sword as the basic weapon for rigorous training.
Sword play in China was first seen in sacrificial offerings to gods or ancestors. In the Spring and Autumn Period and during the Warring States 2,000 years ago, sword play became a common practice in society. After years of refinement, it is now one of the major competitive events in Wushu competition today.
Sword play is brisk, agile, elegant, easy, graceful and natural in action. The movements are flexible, as well as variable. Attention is paid to both motion and stillness. Hardness and suppleness supplement each other. So sword play is likened to the "flying phoenix.".
There are many techniques in sword play. The main techniques include hitting, piercing, pointing, lifting, jumping and leaping, hanging, chopping, floating, poking, sweeping, wrestling, blocking and wiping. These actions, combined with body movements and footsteps, form various routines of sword play.
There are varied styles of sword play routines, handed down from ancient times. The popular ones include Tai Chi, Wudang, Bodhi-dharma, Longxing, Sancai, Qing-ping, Baxian (Eight-Immortals), Mantis, Lianhuan, Drunkard and Xingyi. The Chinese Physical Culture and Sports Commission has also worked out new routines for competition and physical exercises.
It is said that the Chinese sword play, although a simple form of play with hand weapons, has deep ideological connotations. From emperors, high-ranking military officers and ministers to common people, experts and scholars, the wearing of swords shows them to be a refined person signifying they are cultured and familiar with the arts. The skill and theory of sword play was perfected and eventually formed the distinctive "Sword Culture" in China.