There are actually two types of tai chi sword: the straight sword, which is a two-edged, tapered weapon; and the broadsword, or saber, which is a single-edged weapon with a wide blade.

The straight sword is lightweight and flexible to some degree. Both sides of the blade are sharpened and the tip is pointed so the sword can be used to slice, chop, slash and pierce. The swordsman can also use the sword defensively to block an opponent’s attack.

Sword blades are made of metal and should exhibit some degree of spring. The blade is topped with a handle that is shaped for proper gripping and is generally made of wood. A crosspiece separates blade from the handle. A tassel is often attached to the butt of the handle.

This provides balance and is sometimes swished in the eyes of the enemy, causing confusion. The tassel provides a good bellweather for the student.

When moves are performed correctly, the tassel whips in a circular movement or swishes smartly; when the same move is poorly executed, the tassel behaves like limp spaghetti, making it very obvious that the swordsman is an amateur.