Singapore Tai Chi Chuan


To Learn

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Paul has good learning attitude. He is not afraid to think, analyse and try. He even remembers the little things that I mentioned to him.

When you want to learn an art you have to keep your mind and body open to change. Giving excuses like “its old habits” won’t cut it because ultimately no one can change you except yourself. So if you don’t want to master an art this is the best reason to do it.

More often than not students like to sabotage their own learning. Some students think they are very smart and can tell when an art is not what its supposed to be. But the paradox is if they know what an art is then how come they have not mastered it?

So ergo, they don’t really know what they think they know. Thinking that they know is an illusion, a mirage that does nothing except props the ego and boosts self-importance.

My best students are those who allow themselves to learn rather than let their minds and ergo rule their learning. You can see them put in the effort to change. Otherwise, I can teach a form but without doing those tiny, weeny details then a student is not really learning my form but just borrow the sequence to do it their way, the way that didn’t work and didn’t allow them to master the art. How ironic, that they say they want to learn but really they want a pat on the shoulder and a kind word to say that they are doing and getting it.

Paul may be older than me but he has a young mind, has no attitude and open to learning. I am glad that I managed to share a little of what I know and hope that he will master it eventually, come hell or high water. I only wish that some of my students could be like Paul. This is why I consider Paul as a friend rather than a student.

 


200 Buckaroos

Dang. I forgot about this link to a video that my friend sent me.

I remember having a look back then. Not terribly impressed. Maybe its because I already know the method.

Perhaps if I have the cash to spare. But 200 bucks is expensive if you already know this style well or you don’t really know it but curious to find out more. Certainly, from this preview I am not sure if a lot of people will get something out of it.

Firstly, you have to know Mandarin. If you have to rely on the translation then you will be wasting your money.

Secondly, if you buy the video with the intention of learning the form I think it will be difficult because I hate to say it but I saw certain things that are off. I just its just a wee bit but to me off is off. Certainly, not something expected given the write-up.

Thirdly, as I was telling someone the video is boring. Lots and lots of talking. Some might like it. This is how I learned the style too. Lots and lots of informal lecture.

But is this the best way or only way to learn it? Sadly, to say no. Now that I understand the method I can say that its not as difficult to learn and actually master it. Teaching this way might appeal to a niche market of snobs but seriously if we want the art to survive we got to cut through all the words and get to the essence.

 


Open Close Form

Kai = Open

He = Close

Open, Close. The Kai He form is the third form I teach to students. Today I begin the learning journey of a student into this form.

The two forms they learned earlier is to enable them to move their body like a series of chain links though the 5-Count. However, it is not uncommon for students to have links that are too loose. So the first order of the Kai He form is to tighten up the links to that the timing of movements is much more precise. Doing so is the key to imperceptible movements. Students frequently say that they can’t see how I do the neutralizing of their power as I don’t see to move very much. Well, when they get to this point they will know which cat it is in the bag.

Secondly, combat requires quick, direct and precise movements. So Kai He with its concise, tight movements provides training in this aspect.

Thirdly, combat also requires the sudden issuance of penetrating force. The Kai He mechanism is a means to discharge forceful power in an instant.

Fourth, learning how to more in a much more exact manner will also transfer across to the practice of the earlier two forms so ultimately all movements should be natural, flowing and of small frame in nature.

Fifth, Kai He trains the body to have a type of stiff structure. Here I am using the term stiff as defined by the engineering field. If you don’t know what it means you should look it up. It does not carry the same meaning as typically meant in the practice of Tai Chi. This stiffness is necessary to train the body’s body to be like a highly strung bow that can send off an arrow in good penetrating power. For an example of what I mean do a search for videos of Master Qiao Songmao and his fajing demos. They are a good approximation of what I am referring to.


Sung Enough?

How do you know if you are sung enough?

Many times, an explanation can only confuse rather than enlighten especially when we enter abstract territory. However, this topic is important for the student who wants to be able to progress further down the road.

One way to refine the 5-Count is to use certain postures to tune the movements. However, when the student’s body particularly the legs are not sung enough they start shaking and trembling after doing a few times.

It is no use to grit your teeth and attempt to carry on. Once the lack of sung shows up the pressure on the legs will be such that its pure torture to carry on. The mind may be willing but hell, no, the body just wants to stop.

Some may treat this as exercise to strengthen the leg muscles but the whole problem of the legs shaking is due to too much usage of the muscles in the first place. If one can but let go of the excessive strength then the training will be sweet.

This is why you must not practice blindly especially when praised by people who may not know better than you. I know that some of us like to be praised but if you want to improve you must take negative comments in your stride.

Then and only then will you be able to really see what you are doing versus what you think you are doing.

 

 

 


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Paul Learns Tai Chi – Day 3

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.

 

 


Let It Go

Why do you resist? Why don’t you let it go?

Its common for students to think they are practicing push hands correctly when they are putting in resistance. But what resistance only does is to make them stiffen up, unbalanced and ready to be beaten.

Its easy to confuse resisting with putting up a fight. I fight back by not resisting.

Huh???

By not resisting I can move like a sphere, to blend, harmonize, borrow movement, borrow strength and as I do so to use rotation to unbalance using the forces of centripetal and centrifugal. Since I have already explained these principles in TaijiKinesis Vol 2 I will not repeat them here.

When you stop resisting you can go with the flow, adapt, blend and use the training partner’s movements to put yourself in a favorable position to control him. When you resist you end up trying to move faster, use more strength yet ultimately still unable to overcome your partner, at least not so effortlessly.

So the next time you have a problem trying to overcome your training partner instead of resisting harder try letting go instead. If you have been diligently training your form and trying your best to observe the principles you should take a chance and trust in your own training. If the principles have been absorbed into your body’s muscle memory the form should now do you once you let go of your attachment to your own body.

 


Time

In training Tai Chi you got to give yourself the time to absorb the principles. Everybody will get it given enough time to practice, reflect, absorb and practice some more.

Everyone gets it in their own way depending on their learning ability. Some get it one way whereas some get it another way.

The important thing is to practice without thinking of winning, beating others, issuing power, thoughts that distract you from learning the principles thoroughly. If you know the principles well the rest will fall into place. If not, then you may have one piece of the puzzle but not another, making your mastery of the art one sided.

When this happens your mind becomes confused as to what the art is about. Then you may find yourself on social media asking or arguing over unnecessary things. Clarity of outlook is what you get when you learn deeply rather than learn widely. The latter can be picked up easily but not the former because the former requires you to invest your time and effort, something which most people are reluctant to do.

I was just telling a student that his pace in playing the form is too fast. But then we don’t want to play the form slowly for the sake of being slow. We end up doing the form slowly because our inability to connect thoroughly demands that we slow down, some more, some more until we can feel the connection and maintain it throughout.

We don’t want to always play the form slowly because at certain levels its counter productive to do so. However, without the slow training our mind cannot feel and cannot permeate through every part of our limbs.

Being aware is a form of mental control. When you are aware of what you are doing you can then really use your intention to control your body. Otherwise, you may think you are using intention but its just a self delusion. The mind requires a prolonged period in immersive awareness training before it can be awakened from its self delusion to see things as they are.

When the cloud of delusion is dispersed then you will see that lineages, styles, forms, etc contribute to the delusion if we are not careful. Thus, it is always useful to apply the “so what?” question to ensure that we don’t fall into mental traps of our own making.

 

 


Kit Kat Moment

Taking a break now after releasing 2 Dots – Six Learning Steps to Mastering Wing Chun’s Kicking Model.

This is a useful primer for those who want to learn how to be able to kick without telegraphing as well as deliver penetrating power. Its not so much a book on how to perform kicks as what are the essential principles; the so-called body knowledge, that must be acquired in order to do kicks in a more optimized manner.

Students have asked and I have demonstrated how I can get my foot off the ground slowly and then suddenly whipped out power through the foot. Just last week I gave a student a tap on the stomach with my foot that bounced him off his feet. Too bad it was impromptu and hence wasn’t filmed.

The key to kicking is balance. If you don’t have balance you can’t get into a position to kick as and when you need to do it.

Also, if you don’t have balance you can’t generate the power.

Learning to kick the Tai Chi way is difficult due to the subtlety of the body movements involved which is largely governed by how the mind directs the body to move. However, if one understands the Wing Chun way of kicking it may well kick start one’s ability to kick. It won’t replace the Tai Chi method, just act as a short term solution for those who don’t want to wait to long to be able to do kicks.


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Paul Learns Tai Chi – Day 2

I am glad Paul made it out here. As I have been telling him some things are difficult to try to write about; it so much more easier for him to actually learn how to do it.

Our objective was to go through the 13 movements described in TaijiKinesis Vol 2 but in the end we managed to only do two and a half movements. I was willing to push on but it was really tough on Paul’s mind to have to learn, remember and absorb so much in so little time.

But all was not lost as we at least now understand a common terminology when discussing Tai Chi and we have established a simple way to describe how to move about. This will be useful for learning through the internet.

Today the focus was more on doing ward-off. Here I am pointing out where to focus the mind and what the body should be doing in response to the intention.

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And of course, how to get the power off the ground; a key fundamental that is in accordance to the principles of the Tai Chi Classics.

 

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Rollback follows the movement of ward-off. Getting the arms in the correct position is necessary for being able to eventually use it as a technique.

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Good positioning of the arms in rollback makes it more difficult for the opponent to try to escape.

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Though rollback looks like a defensive technique, it can also be used for attacking as I demonstrated here on Paul and surprising him with a quick and sudden attack which was too fast for the video to be able to stop at that position for me to do a screen capture.

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After rollback we moved on to doing the transition that leads to press.

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A properly executed press can be performed with one arm and not necessarily with two arms. When the position is correct even Paul can fajing me as seen here.

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The end position of press calls for two arms to be used for a stronger fajing.

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Here I am pressure testing Paul’s press. With the correct amount of pressure when I try to push him his expanded posture allowed him to bounce him back.

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A second pressure test and Paul does it better this time, sending me further back.

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This is how I do it, press with a dash of ward-off energy thrown in.

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Then we move on to separating the hands, a movement that precedes push. I am showing Paul how to use the separation of hands to pull the opponent off his feet.

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Here we move on to learning the biomechanics of push. Not as simple or straightforward as one would think. The 5-Count comes into play here to enable the body to generate elastic power by using the ground.

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Even as we move forward in our learning the key principles must not be forgotten. For example lowering the elbows in one such principle. This is because the elbow joint is part of the 5-Count mechanism.

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Here I am testing Paul’s learning of the 5-Count in doing push. Some times he got it and sometimes it was a off. But when Paul got the mechanics correct it made for a great photo moment as can be seen here. It proved what I have been saying all along, that all of us have it in us to do fajing. You don’t need to train low stances, thigh strength, this strength or that strength for a long time. Just get the mechanism correct and you can do it right away.

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Learning so much in such a short time is tough for a virtual beginner like Paul. I’ve been through it and I understand how the brain at a certain point starts to go into overload. Finally, we take a rest and just do light discussion. Here I am talking about the different ways to play Single Whip.

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Its fifteen minutes past midnight now. Its been a long day and time to hit the sack.