Whoever created the 5-Count that I learned from the Dong family style is really smart. Its simple yet good and robust enough to allow for the development of a whole range of skills. What was interesting back then was the discovery that this principle was unknown amongst the practitioners in the public class who weren’t taught by my teacher. These students were taught by normal students of the Dong family.
Perhaps because of this I continued investigating and practicing this principle rather than discard it once I thought I had gotten everything out of it. In hindsight that would have been a mistake. Fortunately, I knew better that to do so because my teacher had early in my learning mentioned that this was a secret teaching.
Well, if you ask me after so many years I would say that what the 5-Count teaches has been openly written about in the Tai Chi Classics. What is good about it is that it provides the means to learn the principles. Many practitioners would know or have read about the principles. Knowing does not equate to being able to do the principles. The major problem here is that you must have a way to learn the principles. Otherwise, you will just think you know what the principles are about when nothing is further from the truth.
This is what I told my student. I said that one move that he thought was unimportant taught a very important basic principle – balance, stability and control. Without it the rest that follows will not work so well. Its like building a house on ground that has not been prepared properly. If so, the house will be shaky and liable to collapse when stressed and pressurized due to ground or wind movements.
After the ground works have been established then the rest of Beginning Posture will enable the development of power. Otherwise, it will just feel like some useless movements that one has to do to jump into the rest of the useful movements of the form.
The next movement after Beginning Posture will act as a check on what was learned before. If the learning is shaky the shortcomings will show up here. Of course, in order not to scare or discourage the student too much normally I would allow him to go on. But if mastery and ability to use the techniques is important sooner or later we will come back to the ghosts of Tai Chi past.
So in this particular case study – why did I end up revisiting this very first movement of the form with my student. Part of the reason was his question in moving quickly. The other was due to his inability to control his punching movement in Step Up, Parry, Punch.
If you ask outsiders to look at how he does his punch he would probably be praised because it looks correct. But the problems will surface the moment tests of structure and power are applied.
A major reason why he is unable to move the punching arm in a particular defined way is because he is unable to reign in his automatic disposition to move his body when he should not do so. If he does move when he should not then he looks more powerful externally but the punching power is not penetrating, direct nor fast like a bullet.
So yes, the details that are perceived to be unimportant can come back to haunt you if you don’t pay attention to them earlier on. In TaijiKinesis we have a few ways to check that what we do is related to the basics. Otherwise, why bother with the basics. In fact, why learn Tai Chi in the first place if you can’t express the basics.