Singapore Tai Chi Chuan

Old & Soft

Its an odd question.

Over the past month at least two students have asked me for my age. They have this doubt that mastery of Tai Chi can only be by old people. Just because I didn’t quite look like my age they are skeptical and so had to confirm that I am indeed old.

One student commented that he noticed that a number of masters seem a lot stiffer in their latest videos as compared to that taken a few years back. So when I didn’t feel stiff or look rundown to him he had this doubt that I am not older.

The thing about the practice of Tai Chi is that it should rejuvenate you rather than sap your energy and wear you down. This is what being pre-heaven is about. If you look haggard and tired from Tai Chi practice then you are practicing it the post-heaven way.

Lately, I saw some Tai Chi push hands practiced in the post heaven manner on the page of a Facebook group. You can see the practitioner try so very hard to push his training partner out. He nearly fully extended his arms, leaned forward at a steep angle, the forward leg’s knees went beyond the toe line, the rear leg thrusting straight and hard against the ground. You can see which video I am referring to in the second post Old & Soft 2.

If you do Tai Chi in this manner you are going against the principle of using 4 ounces to overcome 1000 pounds. Not only that but you are also not applying science to what you do. It seems odd to me that for the claims of secret movements what the practitioner demonstrated was anything but worthy to be termed secret. It fell short of even the most rudimentary model of force which you can read about in any physics textbook.

To practice Tai Chi in a way that conserves your strength and leaves you rejuvenated with energy and cultivate soft hands you have to rigorously apply the models of physics that relate to the generation of force. I am very surprised that for all the talk of being scientific less than 1% of the Tai Chi I have seen are truly scientific. Most of them are downright crude or pseudo-scientific with models and methods full of holes in their arguments. This is why I tell students to do themselves a favor and buy a good physics textbook to read. How many will really listen I have no idea. I can only bring a horse to water but not force it to drink.

When you do push hands in a strong manner in the mistaken notion that to do so is building a good and strong structure of 1000 pounds that can withstand 1000 pounds then I can only shake my head. The undisputed truth is that you may be able to build 1000 pounds but if your opponent is say 2000 pounds you will still be crushed by him. Due to size differential it may be impossible for you to develop 2000 pounds of resistance. So following this logic you will always lose to the 2000 pounds force person.

The principles of Tai Chi exhorts us to borrow the strength of the opponent to defeat him. If you work on the idea of developing 1000 lbs of force then you will fail to understand or even use the model of borrowing strength to defeat strength. So the practitioner that I observed in the video is from a school that advocates this approach of developing 1000 pounds. If you see the video I think you too will sigh and be surprised that bulldozing can be considered good Tai Chi.

To develop the model of borrowing strength you need good and sensitive structure, something along the lines of a geodesic dome but much more simpler in order to maintain its practicality. This is not something I made up. If you read the Tai Chi Classics carefully you will find the information there. This type of model enables you to be soft yet robust and can withstand strong pressure without collapsing or having to resist it. Any resistance is for the purpose of borrowing the opponent’s strength and when the necessary and sufficient conditions are in place you can fajing with minimal effort, the 4 ounces to overcome 1000 pounds principle literally coming alive.

Because you use little strength you won’t wear yourself down and actually feel invigorated after practice. I cannot say for others but this is what I have discovered after practicing the Tai Chi method that is handed down from Grandmaster Wei Shuren to my teacher.




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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