Singapore Tai Chi Chuan


In retrospect its a funny comment. One day we were discussing applications and my student Z mentioned he didn’t know how to follow up after countering an attack.

However, months before this comment I had taught him an entire sequence made up of linked strikes. I even explained how to practice the footwork component by using a short portion of the sequence.

If Z had put in consistent practice even if I do not explain further to him his hands would automatically react to put out the strikes if he had been practicing regularly. That his hands are still wooden means he did not practice at all or not enough. If he had put in the practice he would have questions but he never asked. So it means he understood; he did not know what to ask; he knows enough and so no need to ask or he still is not interested in investigating the sequence of strikes further.

This is what I call teaching a person to fish but if the person is not interested to fish there is nothing much we can do.

On the other hand, another student X has taken the time to practice. He stopped when I saw him practicing but I wanted him to continue. This is because if he does not show me the practice I would not be able to offer corrections unless he was not interested to improve on the movements.

At this point I should point out that students can improve their learning if they read the book The Invisible Gorilla.

Moving on, when I saw how X moved it was obvious what he was doing wrong. So I set to correct what was wrong and emphasized the importance of certain elements and why they were vital keys to using the art.

For example a missing movement in the leg meant that power cannot be projected out as strongly rendering the strike much less penetrating. Also the same tweak to the leg would also improve the ability to move and kick with power.

These corrected principles can also improve form performance and provide a different understanding to how a movement can be used. Thus, a movement that seems to be a run-of-the-mill defensive move suddenly becomes one that emphasizes penetrating, sharp strikes at weak points of the anatomy.

When the mind is open to learning it is possible to improve one’s skill. The danger to learning is that of the “smart” mind, the student who thinks he knows what is going on when he does not. This is the illusion of knowledge that is written about in The Invisible Gorilla.

It is only when the mind is receptive that knowledge can be transmitted. Transmission does not guarantee mastery but it is the first step to take for those who want to master an art.




Single Whip is a well known Tai Chi posture. For the beginning student without the necessary play of looseness and tension in the body its difficult to teach them how to generate the whipping force that can be learned from Single Whip.

On page 105 in TaijiKinesis Vol 2 there is a conceptual model of how whipping force is generated. When the body can be controlled at the intermediate stage through the use of the 5-Count then learning how to generate whipping force is really easy.

However, just having the ability to generate whipping force is not particularly useful. Its when the whipping force is combined with the use of body postures that is learned through the 5-Count that this particular force is of value.

When the intermediate level is reached one of the first things to learn is how to transform big frame motions into small frame motions. To be able to use Tai Chi as a combat art one must be swift, direct and fierce in response. At the advanced level when one has more subtle skills then one goes to the other end of the spectrum when counterattacking.

To be able to move swiftly the student must not waste movements. He has to be able to mobilize quickly when required to. To be direct means to deal with attacks in the shortest manner possible. However, being swift and direct will fail if not backed by fierce and powerful counters. Hence, understanding how to harness the principles of Single Whip will boost our skills up another notch.

Using the principles of Single Whip can result in techniques that are not an exact replica of the movements that make up the posture of Single Whip. The technique of Single Whip requires contact to use and not as useful when going against an opponent that is fast and gives you little opportunity to make contact.

However, when you use the principles of Single Whip you don’t have to rely on making contact with the opponent’s bridge. Instead, you can respond differently with responses derived from understanding Single Whip broadly instead of narrowly. At this stage you can see that Tai Chi can be a very simple and direct method of combat.



Inner Transmission

My student asked why after training for a long time he cannot figure out those things I am teaching him.

I said the reason is simple. Many of such teachings are kept within the style so unless one happens to be selected to be given the info one will never get it. In addition, if the info is not transmitted in written but verbal transmission then all the more reason why most people will never hear of it much less read about it.

I pointed out that our 5-Count is simple in theory yet is difficult to master. If one simple force method is so confounding yet how does one master the super many types of force methods that is described in certain books on Tai Chi?

Our Tai Chi method revolves around key basics. Our core force method is but one. Any additional expressions of force are but different ways of applying the core force method. In this manner our art is at its heart extremely simple in approach. Yet once the variations kick in the art can be complex.

Understanding how the principles are practiced through the form and then applied in the manner they are practiced is a key function of the transmissions. These principles are consistent with principles of physics.

They are not the stuff of hocus pocus. If you research Tai Chi along certain lines of thought you will probably arrive at similar conclusions. The problem is most practitioners think in a narrow manner hence they can’t, nay refuse to see the light.

Many arts are the results of careful research, thinking and enlightenment based on learning and experiences. Hence, every art is valid and useful as long as one adheres to what which makes the art work well in the way it was designed.

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.

Of Contradictions

It sounded like contradicting advice to my student. Things I told him not to do previously now I am asking him to do it.

Funny isn’t it. First I said its wrong don’t do it but now I’m saying to do it. But it’s not contradictory.

There are things that a beginning student should not do and yet the same things can be practiced by a higher level practitioner. This is because to do the more advanced stuff a student needs to master certain basics. Without these basics to attempt more advanced material is folly and leaves one with more bad habits than desired.

For example a beginner can’t do concurrent neutralizing and issuance of an opponent’s power within the same movement for example Push with minimal outward motions. To teach him to do so would be asking a lot.

But once the 5-Count is mastered this skill becomes a by-product of this training. After a series of hands-on transmission the student should be able to acquire this skill.

However, this is only the beginning. This skill can still be refined further through the learning of certain principles. Thus, such learning by necessity needs to be transmitted on 1-to-1 basis due to the depth of information, explanation, feeling and corrections required.

Hidden Blade

It was just like a scene out of a movie, perhaps a yarn called The Secret Flying Sword. But it sure was funny.

We use telescopic straight swords for practice. It’s not ideal but a poke won’t hurt much nor a splitting cut.

Here I was talking and showing, repeating something I said before about the importance of keeping a distance whilst the swords were moving when my student’s sword broke and half a section flew at me. It missed me by a lot since I followed my own advice to keep a distance and safe, angled position.

But it sure was funny. Right away the notion of secret flying blade popped into mind.

This was the second sword we broke in practice though we tried to avoid doing hard contact this time around.

Smart Chess Players & Stupid Criminals

Do you know what smart chess players and stupid criminals have in common?

This is an interesting question posed by the book “The Invisible Gorilla” on the issue of confidence, particularly the illusion of confidence and the effect it has on others.

The take away lesson here is that :-

i) Never fully trust the master who appears confident and talks confidently. He may give the appearance of knowing what he is talking about but it could be an illusion . To test him you should play the why boy game that is discussed in the chapter on hedge funds manager. Its too easy to mistake confidence for competence.

ii) Don’t fall for appearances. Some¬†masters put on a nice Chinese garment and give the appearance of someone who is confident and therefore by assumption has the skills. Be wary of treating a well dressed master like a priest with divine insight. The master may actually know a lot less than he claims to know.

iii) Look out for the overconfident master. Some masters talk as if they know everything under the sun and insist that they are the only ones who know it even when presented with evidence to the contrary. Only a master who is confident in what he knows and does not know would dare to say “I don’t know” when asked about things outside their area of expertise.


There is a lot of other interesting information in this book that is relevant to the learning of Tai Chi. For example why should you avoid learning from a group of friends? The issues written here will help you to answer such question so that if you must learn from friends at least you jump in with your eyes wide open and be able to tell when you are learning from someone who is confident rather than someone who is a real expert.