Weapons training builds strength, coordination, manual dexterity, agility and superior motor skills. Historically, taijiquan was not designed for unarmed combat. Weapons came first; namely a stick, swords and knife.
In real life your opponent is more likely to be armed with a knife or a stick. The ability to handle such weapons with dexterity and skill will train you to be able to fight against them. You will understand their strengths and weaknesses, range and power.
Weapons training also works the hands, wrists, arms and back in a way that qigong and the Long Yang form fail to do. Your arms will become very strong but not tense.
The final benefit is 'connection'... being connected within your own body is essential, but being able to extend your strength out into the opponent is vital. To use a weapon properly, you must feed power out of your body and through the weapon. This makes you much more powerful - especially for unarmed combat.
He tells himself over and over again in any choice presented to him, "Prefer the hard." This holds good not only in great matters, but also in very small, in fighting by the frozen Danube and in starting the day early.
If you want to get good at form, practice form. If you want to become proficient with weapons, then practice with weapons. The more often your body undertakes the practice, the more familiar it will be.
Unfortunately, whole-body strength is a little bit like The Emperor's New Clothes, in that the student cannot feel their own strength. If you feel anything, you are feeling your tension, not your strength.
In order to accept the presence of whole-body strength, it must be pressure-tested. You determine the presence of whole-body strength by its effect. We call this jing.
A common excuse that tai chi students make is that they don't have time to train at home between classes. This notion is based on a false understanding of yin/yang.
In order to get something, you have to give something. Our entire society is based on this, isn't it?
If you want a loaf of bread, you give up money. You want to watch a movie, you set aside the time. If you want to get good at tai chi, you will need time to practice at home.
Therefore, if you want to practice tai chi at home, you will need to give something up. Make space. This may mean less TV. Less internet. It's your choice...
The single most important fighting skill in internal martial arts is waiting. You wait until your opponent gives you an opening as a gift. Look at joint locks, which are hard to do in full-speed fighting, particularly if you go for them aggressively. Some martial arts like jujitsu and aikido make joint locks look deceptively easy and make them out to be a perfectly reasonable fighting strategy applicable to a majority of situations. In their training practices one partner willingly lets the other grab his arm, usually with a decent grip., deliberately making himself vulnerable. This is a foolish and potentially suicidal strategy in real-life confrontation with a well-trained opponent.
Internal martial artists don't go there. They develop training methods like silk arms where they can twist and bend their joints like a piece of silk, making their movements highly fast, reactive, unpredictable and mobile, which makes it hard to grab or lock their joints.
For an application to work, you must concern yourself with the underlying principles rather than technique. Once you understand how the principles work, you can use them spontaneously in accord with the requirement of a given situation. This is more realistic. Adaptation is essential; you change what you are doing relative to what is happening. If your application is countered by your opponent, you move into a different one or adopt a different strategy entirely.
The danger with learning specific applications is that you may come to see them as techniques. This is not the approach advocated by Sifu Waller. Techniques have their place as a learning tool but are not a good approach to use in actual self defence. A technique involves a series of steps employed against a particular attack. Should your opponent deviate from the anticipated course of action, a technique could easily fail.