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.

 

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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.

 

 


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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.


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Paul Learns Tai Chi – Day 1

2006. Has 8 years really passed since I first knew Paul?

Anyway, finally, today’s the day Paul has come to learn Tai Chi. The weather’s kinda funny today. Overcast, then sunny and finally rained.

But before the rain came we made it out to Maxwell Hawker Center for the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice before adjourning to Haw Par Villa for the little ladies to have a walkabout whilst we parked ourselves at the entrance and just did our thing.

We began the learning of Tai Chi by examining how to do Beginning Posture. In this photo I was delivering the instructions on how to posit the intention to develop one’s proprioception for use in confronting an opponent.

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After the first movement we then move on to grasping the sparrow’s tail. Here the focus is on getting the balance correct so that we can move lightly like a cat.

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Moving like a cat means that we have to be deliberate when moving. If not, our foot will land on the ground like an elephant trampling the ground.

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Once, the foot is on the ground we then move to grasp the sparrow’s tail. Again, where to place the intention is one of the keys in mastering Tai Chi so we need to emphasize this part of the learning and not just pay lip service to it.

 

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From grasping the sparrow’s tail we move on to ward-off. To avoid moving the hands about without purpose we train our mind to cultivate a sense of enemy. In this way our intention will be martially inclined.

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The movement in this part of ward-off can be used in this manner at the short range.

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Opening and closing the doors is part and parcel of learning Tai Chi as a traditional Chinese martial art. This movement in ward-off teaches us about this aspect.

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The correct timing, the correct angle, the correct coordination -these are stuff we need to pay attention to when doing Tai Chi.

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Being able to move the arm in tandem with the leg is an ability trained using the 5-Count. When this is learned well our coordination will look easy and effortless.

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Once we can move easily then we need to learn how to position ourselves in the best position relative to the opponent. For example the leg positioning of ward-off teaches us how to penetrate into the opponent’s space. Once there we can apply a palm strike (not shown) and follow it up with a derived elbow strike as shown below.

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After ward-off we moved on to rollback and press. Here I am giving Paul a bit of pressure so that he can feel if his structure has substance.


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We ended by a short look at how to do push particularly the science behind the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy through the use of 5-Count.

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