Singapore Tai Chi Chuan

See Same, See Not Same

Earlier in the week my student said that he tried to learn Tai Chi in the same manner he teaches school students. I said that learning Tai Chi is different. So you cannot learn in the same manner.

Just last night I happened to catch an episode of Brain Games Season 3. I don’t know the title of the episode but one topic it touched on is Intuition. Intuition can be divided into 3 categories – Intuition, Expert Intuition and Strategic Intuition.

To illustrate Expert Intuition the show used a real life case study of an officer who caught a car thief. So this police officer was in his car outside a supermarket. The first suspect came out, got into his car and drove off. A second suspect followed, also got into his car and drove off.

The viewer was asked to decide who is the car thief. It was easy, right? The first suspect was eating and drinking as he walked to his car. He dressed in a grey top, no facial hair, looked decent, opened the car door of a posh looking car, tossed a used paper bag in, got in, drove passed the officer, took a look at him, looked straight ahead, hit the turning signal indicator and stopped before turning to the main road. The second suspect had long hair, mustached, dark top. He also got into his car, drove passed the officer, took a look at him and without putting on signal to turn or stopping turned right into the main road.

Without hesitation most people would pick the second suspect as the car thief because of the way he looked and the way he drove. But the officer with his expert intuition went after the first suspect. Why?

The officer explained why he decided the first suspect was the car thief. Firstly, he tossed a used paper bag into the car. Who throws rubbish into his own posh car? Secondly, when he drove passed the officer, he took a look and then quickly looked ahead stiffly as if he couldn’t wait to get away. Thirdly, he took extra care to put on the turning signal indicator, stopped and took his time to turn onto the main road, as if he was super careful not to break any laws that would draw attention to him.

So two can see the same thing but yet not see the same thing. The way an expert sees something is not necessarily the same way a novice sees it. This is why when learning Tai Chi you must be careful not to assume that you know what you are doing even when you have the instructions. It is almost, always too easy to get so many things wrong whilst thinking that we got them right.

For example when students do rollback they always just turn the body and assume that this is the proper way to do rollback. They always forget what I told them before on how to properly do rollback from how to take a moment to let the mental imagery sink in before activating the 5-Points. Students will invariably never think of the mental imagery, never carefully move the 5-points and just right away turn their bodies. Is it any surprise then that when they try to apply rollback in push hands it will never work?

Yup, so much for seeing the same, yet never really see the same.




Author: ZenMindSword

Mushin is a practitioner, researcher and trainer for Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. He is also author of The Ip Man Koans, The Ip Man Questions and TaijiKinesis series of eBooks, as well as co-author of Complete Wing Chun.

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