I was watching a VHS training tape from Sonny's - one picked at random ... I did try to label them with good descriptions but you know, one forgets ... so despite the label, it was a mystery as to what was on it.
It was a series of flows starting with sword, moving to short blade, then to a double cane partner exercise, on to empty hand joint locking.
Sonny always taught long weapons first, just in general, but then specifically to show how the principle we were working shifted from one weapon to the next.
Longer weapons give you bigger angles, bigger visual and tactile clues as to what is going on, they also take more time to throw, so there is also more time to 'see'.
It was interesting that the same morning, in Yizong class (which is ostensibly a Bagua class but ...) we were working with some Hsing-I - Two of the five elements, Metal and Water.
To get a couple aspects of the movement across I demonstrated with a long pole, to show the angle of the attack, the connection between the right and left hands, and the small curves in the form. It always seems to make more sense when you can see the big manifest from the small ... and thus can recreate the small motions with the big in mind.
Same with the forms in Bagua, in the Yizong system the body training is often done with long stances and big circles, theory being that it is easy to make big movements smaller, but easier to miss subtleties when working with small movements only.
I really like using weapons to understand movement, but I do not think I would have come up with the double cane drill that Sonny showed on the tape. A very interesting take on how to understand angles, and how to lock and unlock the joints of the body. Basically it starts with one person holding a cane in each hand, the opponent takes hold of the other ends and you start to pendulum .... perhaps one day I'll post a video.
Really innovative stuff.