Singapore Tai Chi Chuan


Reflections on Being Old

Spending the day at a community hospital has given me time for reflection. When we are young we think we can do anything until sickness or a moment of folly catches us unaware.

It’s common to think that old age is far, far away. But one day when you don’t expect it you are there and find your body riddled with old injuries, everyday a reminder of what you should or should not have done if given a second chance.

Well, it’s no use regretting what has passed. Better to be aware early and rake precautions. Some life’s lessons are unavoidable or some can be avoided.

After observing old folks I reached some conclusions :-

1) Develop a good posture and strive to keep it or one day you will end up slouching and bent over, looking like Quasimodo.

2) Train your legs to be strong or you will have a problem walking when you are much older. Those masters of mine who trained their legs could still walk without a cane and walked up stairs and slopes even when in their late 80s.

3) Train your balance. Old folks have a tendency to fall. When they do they may break their leg or arm. If you have sensitive balance your are less prone to falling. If you have the chance learn to breakfall as well.

4) Reduce your body weight. If you are heavy and suffer a stroke you can imaging how difficult it would be to lift and move you. When I was in the other hospital there was a 125 kg lady who required 5 nurses to move her.

5) Eat healthy. Then you stand a better chance of avoiding common ailments such as stroke, heart attack, diabetes etc not to mention enriching big Pharma.

6) Did I tell you that recovering from a major illness is no fun? Say you suffer a stroke. You cannot move partially or totally depending on the severity of the attack. Either way you cannot move because if one side of your body’s control is lost you will find it impossible to even shift yourself without assistance. If you want to empty your bowels the practice nowadays is not to use a bed pan but to just release it, piss and shit, into the adult diapers hospitals make you wear. Due to manpower shortage and the yuck factor nurses will not be too eager to change your diaper and you have to lie there in your mess till they get around to it unless you have a family member there to ask them to do it.

Yeah, being sick is no fun. Putting in the time to exercise is a hassle but in the long term it is preferable to ending up in the hospital or worse still the morgue. Actually, I think some would say it’s better to be dead than end up reliant on others taking care of you. Then you are no better than the walking dead.

Uselessness of Power

Having power is good. But if you have good technique you can disrupt your partner’s attempts to generate force or apply his power against you.

This is a 2-way thing in that what you can use against your partner can be used back against you. So you need to be more exact in how you do the technique and apply the power. Then only will your partner find it difficult to fight you off and he can take a trip backwards to make friends with the wall.

After several years, the intermediate training must emphasize the principles learned earlier. This is when the strategy of piercing leg, leaning stroke, angling, positioning etc, stuff from the form must be brought out to play. A good place to test them out is doing push hands. If it does not work then your training partner can help you to understand why.

A shoulder stroke can be a very good technique or it can be one in which you end up eating a knuckle sandwich. So do not underestimate the importance of proper positioning. Once you are in the right place any attempts to counter your technique will see your partner placed in a more precarious position.


Buffalo Strength

Spent bit of time seemingly trying to bulldoze each other during this evening’s training session.

That’s what it looked like to an onlooker. However, the whole exercise was a workout for the waist and legs to develop a type of kneady resistance; the type some might consider to be buffalo strength.

But it was really an exercise to train the waist and the legs to control the partner’s effort to apply his technique and power. By using our waist and legs in a pliant manner we can control him and continually frustrate his effort to generate power.

As an aside I used this exercise to explain how a famous master can withstand the pushing power of a sumo wrestler. I asked him to relook again the video and observe the key points that we used in our exercise. Its there in the video of this master. What some may call as a good display of internal power, I say its a skillful application of physics in motion.

By the end of the night, my student had worked his waist and legs hard and can expect to feel sore tomorrow, anyway, until he learns to relax sufficiently.

The Rabbit Hole

The rabbit hole that is the art of Tai Chi is frightening. Many want it but ask them to commit and jump into the rabbit hole and they run scared. Well, can’t blame them. What is intangible is difficult to appreciate. So you can’t really ask people to commit to learn something they have little idea of though they may think they know a lot about it.

Sometimes, its better to go through different experiences before one can appreciate an old man’s art. So its the case with a former, brief student, A, who came back after 4 years. I remember a person stout in body from MMA training. But the passing of years can lead to changes and it was a thinner, less muscles and much wiser person who came back.

I enjoyed listening to what he had gone through what with MMA and WC training. Injuries can lead one to grow up quickly and reassess one belief system of short term practicality versus long term health. Its a trade-off for sure and the choices made today can either mean living with daily pain into old age or enjoy health. Its not a difficult choice once one has suffered some injuries that sidelined one’s practice. I anticipated this a long time ago hence my obvious choice to give up WC and move on to Tai Chi.

Quite a few interesting observations and conclusions were reached by A of his MMA training. One of which was a trade-off between refined control and cruder movements. Yet another was the ability to flow and respond without thinking versus a more restricted, albeit short term practical approach. Basically, I see it as what one wants out of the learning and whether one prefers short term versus long term results.

It was also good to hear of A’s visit and learning from my old classmate, MS, down under. To hear that MS told A to keep doing whatever it was he was doing after adjusting his WC structure was interesting. A told MS about learning from me. I wondered what MS’s reaction would be if A had told him that he only took 4 or 5 lessons.

We talked about a few other things and its time to go finalize dinner. So I have to end this here.

Busy Times

Its been busy times this 1 week plus. As such, though I have topics to write about I simply can’t find the time to do it.

Anyway, what’s new?

Well, for one I think my student’s playing of the straight sword is still too xingyi-ish. Too many start / stop sluggish movements, heavy stepping, imprecise sword movements. I find myself repeating again and again to go slow, lighter on the cuts, relax and whip rather than heavy chop like a butcher hacking bones; need to be nimble on the feet, footwork to flow like a river rather than the stomp, stomp stepping flavor of an elephant.

I find that his intention and awareness keeps breaking. When he should keep strong awareness he doesn’t, not enough anyway. I showed him that with a sword if your awareness is not there you run the risk of walking into a thrust or a cut. He really needs to slow down, examine the details of where and when to move.

Without careful study he still moved too much when stepping to neutralize. As a result, he either typically loses the range or still remain within the danger range without realizing it. And without a heightened sense of the range he can only respond with an obvious technique which can be detrimental if faced with someone more skillful. The lack of refined control also means that he cannot access less obvious, hidden techniques one of which I showed him can cause the opponent to walk right into the tip of the sword.

Yeah, man, busy times. Got to get up now and go do the cooking. Renaissance man, blah…..





Healthcare Cost Incentive

You know what would be an incentive to train Tai Chi more diligently? The cost of healthcare.

For a number of cases that require hospitalization once you are discharged you just pay the hospital’s cost which is already quite high. But if your case is one of those that requires care such that continued hospitalization is required in a community hospital then you better be rich or pray hard that you will strike lottery tomorrow.

The cost of a month’s stay in a community hospital can go up to 12K easily. If you managed to get a subsidy you might think that its cheaper.

Yes, so it is but it still runs to 5K a month. And the cheek of it all…… the community hospital wants you to send along someone to help take care of the sick person. When you think of it even if you employ two maids it will still be cheaper.

So, there you have it. The money and time you spent on learning Tai Chi might one day save you a bigger bundle in hospital bills.

Oh, you might think that having insurance will cover it. Yes, let’s hope so too because insurance companies are in the business of making money too and they will try their best not to allow your claim. I have a saying about insurance coverage”Die You Win, Live You Lose” because if you continue to be healthy you are making the insurance companies more profitable. But if you fall really sick or die then you or your descendants can claim on it. What a way to enjoy the benefits of insurance huh?




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