Singapore Tai Chi Chuan


When the Time is Right

When the time is right its easy to get it.

If you try to do it too early on fajing is difficult to do.

However, when the principles are in place, voila, the fajing comes easily and it seems almost unbelievable that one can do it.

The next step then is to make it naturally part of one’s movement, just like talking, eating, walking etc.

 


Outcomes

Another piece of wisdom from the Zen Master, Bernie Glassman in The Dude and the Zen Master :-

And its constantly changing. That’s why it makes no sense to be attached to outcomes. Only how do you not get attached to outcomes?

 

This is good advice that can be applied to doing push hands. Just go with the flow. Don’t try to impose or force an outcome. Or as Jeff Bridges said in reply to the above :-

Just throw that fucking ball. Just do it. Get into the thing, see where it takes you.

 

Simple advice, isn’t it. Yet, how many times we insist on using more strength, even throwing up tons of excuses as to why we must learn to use more strength so that we can win the shoving match instead of just letting ourselves go with whatever the outcome is, actively feeling the opportunities and when a suitable one comes along slide into it, trap the training partner’s movements, control his space, his ability to respond and his balance, and before you know it he has given up with you barely using much to do it.

In short, help your training partner to help you checkmate him.

 


Get Outta Way

You don’t have to push then – Come on, we gotta do this! – thinking that otherwise its not going to get done. Its more of a moving out of the way than trying to muscle it through. – Jeff Bridges in Chapter 6, New Sh** Has Come to Light, The Dude and the Zen Master.

I love this book. I saw it in a book shop months ago. Picked it up. Put it back.

Another time I saw it again. Picked it up. Browsed through. Put it back again.

The third time I saw it was in Borders in Westgate before it closed down. OK, who can resist a discounted book. So, why not buy it since I have been thinking about it but couldn’t make up my mind. So the lowered price tipped my decision to buy.

Finally, got around to reading it when I was hanging around the community hospital. Man, this book has gems that can be applied to Tai Chi practice. So that sentence is one of them.

Students have this mentality of wanting to resist otherwise its not practice. However, if they but relaxed and empty their mind they will find that they will easily move out of the way of pressure without expanding more than the minimal amount of energy required. As Bernie Glassman, the co-author of The Dude and the Zen Master said further in the same Chapter 6 (Bernie’s the Zen Master in the title) “Imagine if you’re sitting there as part of the band and you say, I’m gonna play these chords no matter what the other guys do. It kills the whole thing.

In Tai Chi push hands we call this not listening to the energy of your training partner and trying to do your own pushing around. This is a meaningless type of practice. Whilst you might feel gratification from shoving your partner around you gain little in terms of learning to listen, understand what you are listening to and acting on it at the right moment.

There are some other gems in the earlier chapters but I don’t have the time to write about it. Gotta go do ironing. Yes, its domestic work that many real men hate. But in Zen if you keep your awareness and concentration even in doing ironing you can learn a lot about the principles of Tai Chi.

 


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So What?

Yang Luchan was great.

So what?

Ip Man was great.

So what?

Lots of masters, dead or alive, were or are great.

So what?

We seem to have this obsession with masters. Why?

Does knowing the greatness of a master translate across into skills for us?

Yes and no.

If you ask me I would reply more often no than yes.

Some students like to ask me for opinion of this master and that master. Honestly, speaking how good a master is can be a case of relativity. But seriously I am not as interested in how good a master is as opposed to what I can learn from him and whether that learning can lead me to getting skills.

Masters can be like clothes in that not all sizes are suitable for the respective body size. So like buying clothes I seek that size which I can wear comfortably.


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Habanero

I looked at the packet of habanero chili. It’s not that big and ugly. Despite reading about its reputation for heat the actual habanero chilies before me didn’t faze me.

That is until I actually tried one and yikes!!!

Once upon a time my schoolmate saw Master Leong demonstrate a low side kick on me from afar. He said it didn’t look impressive.

I said why not go and try it for himself. He walked over to Master Leong. He came back and said that standing on the receiving end the kick was faster than when he was looking at it from the sidelines.

Moral of the story – don’t jump to any conclusions before actually trying something out.

Yesterday someone commented that a particular master didn’t look impressive. Now I know this master from way back and saw him gain control of another local master who had 10 years on him in Wing Chun. So I would not say he is not impressive.

But I can understand the sentiment when looking at this master’s more recent videos and comparing them with the private footage that I have. There could be reasons for this change but I am not going to speculate.

Again, like eating the habanero one might not be able to stand the spiciness whilst another may find it tame. So sometimes it’s pointless to pass judgement on people or things we have not tried before.


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Perspective

I enjoy watching the National Geographic channel. Seeing its programs made me realize how little I really know of the world.

In the learning of martial arts the more you see the wider your perspective. You can’t see every style under the sun but you can see enough to gain a more rounded perspective.

Without a good perspective it’s easy to fall under the spell of our chosen style. More so if the style was run like a cult and students brainwashed into believing in the style’s invincibility.

In this sense don’t be too quick to label another style or school as useless without first understanding your own weaknesses. Otherwise, you might receive a nasty shock one of these days when you underestimate the wrong opponent.

Thus, the more you know the lesser the probability of you falling prey to techniques that should not work so easily on you in the first place.


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Importance

Which is more important – speed, power or the ability to change?

Actually, this is like asking which of the three hand shapes are more important in the game of paper, scissors, rock.

Actually, all are important against the correctly guessed hand shape that the opponent assumes.

Thus, a good kicker can nail you before you can get close but a good wrestler can close in quick and take the kicker to the ground. However, a good boxer can prevent a wrestler from coming near enough to use his takedown techniques.

Similarly, you can blitz your opponent with your fast techniques. But if you fail to finish the job quickly you may run out if stamina. Or you can go the distance but still lose because your body cannot handle the hardened limbs of the opponent.

You can also throw 5 fast punches at the opponent but if not backed by power then that one retaliatory punch from the opponent backed by strong penetrating power can stop you in your track.

This is why in training Tai Chi we should not focus on one thing at the expense if another.

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