Singapore Tai Chi Chuan

Paul Learns Tai Chi – Day 3

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Changi Airport. Man, the taxi queue was long. I didn’t expect to see such a long queue as normally the line moves reasonably fast.

Anyway, here I was at Changi Airport to meet Paul on his way back to the US of A.

The previous two days in Dec 2014 proved to be difficult for Paul as he struggled to learn the form. So this time I tried another tack. Instead, of trying to teach him the form I would explain the principles to him instead and hopefully he can put two and two together.

The logic is that if he does the form but fail to understand certain key pointers then he would end up doing an imitation of what should be. Its like this morning when I saw my student do Single Whip and though he had the body unity principle down, the arm movement as an actualizaton of a combat technique was off.

So its little things that this that make or break an art. Its not so much a question of lineage or style but understanding what the story is about that will eventually lead to improvement.

Thus, I focused on linking the learning of the form to the principles and to applications. So for example in the first GST Paul turned his body but it was wrong.

So what was wrong with the turning in general?

Quite a few things.

The turning produced unbalance in the body’s structure.

The turning failed to comply to good combat defensive practice.

The turning didn’t get Paul out of the way totally.

And a few other things.

A posture is not a posture, yet a posture.

If you don’t understand how the posture is connected to how the principles are put into play then to you a posture is useless, just a way to look good, lacking substance. But put the principles into play and the posture allows you to manifest the principles of Tai Chi. Which brings me to the principle of relativity.

I touched on why those who advocated learning to train the 1000 lb strength is off the mark. Its a good thing that Paul is taller and not a 98 lb weakling so he can appreciate this point better. I wanted him to understand how training the 1000 lb strength promotes unnecessary resistance, resulting in hanging on to the opponent like a meat hook, a point which Yang Cheng Fu warned about.

The use of 4 ounces isn’t about the literal measurement of weight but of relativity. I showed Paul a trick of how by using focused power to break one of his 5-points I can disrupt his ability to apply strength and with a push of the hand on his body send his off balance with little effort. Tai Chi is not about being like a bull when applying strength. Instead, one has to use strength in a smart manner in compliance with the principles of the Tai Chi Classics that makes it the art that it is.

Some of the learning in Tai Chi is intuitive. Over analysis can only paralyze one’s learning and retard progress. I have seen it in some students. In doing the turn Paul was over thinking the movement. He has to trust in the teaching, let go of his preconceptions and just do it. Was this so difficult to do?

As it turns out, no, but a lot of coaxing and persuasion was necessary to get Paul to trust himself to do the principle mentally rather than physically. When it was wrong the problem areas were obvious. But when he managed to let go and do it a quick test verified that though it didn’t feel as powerful the structure was robust enough to allow Paul to be pushed without losing his structural integrity and balance. Its just a small thing but its a tiny dip into the other side, a feel of what mastery can enable the body to do. With sufficient practice the objective of being able to be like a ball floating on a raging river as touched on by Takuan in his classic treatise on the mind is possible to master.

Finally, Paul wanted to ask the one question that so many others had asked before. He won’t be the first, neither the last.

Yeah, the million dollar question. Fajing.

He probably didn’t think I would tell him but to me what’s the big deal. I gave him the scientific explanation of how intention manages the 5-Count to connect the body to the ground to bring up this sudden power like a geyser discharging water suddenly. I contrasted the difference to him particularly the common wrong way of trying to use the rear leg to push off the ground particularly its implications in combat. I wanted Paul to feel how the process is like from receiving, to grounding, to exchanging energy, to the force buildup, the feel of an overpowering force and how it can suddenly and quickly gush out.

The principles for being able to generate this type of fajing has been explained in TaijiKinesis Vol 2. I think the reason why most readers don’t get it is because they don’t trust what they read, their minds being handicapped by their existing knowledge, paralyzing their effort to try out new methods. You can’t always have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes when you really want something you have to put yourself out there, be prepared to let go of the old in order to embrace the new. A half hearted learning will never get anyone anywhere.

The witching hour was soon upon us and it was time to bid adieu to Paul. Hopefully, he will be able to work his way through the information and transform his skills.




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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