Monday, August 12, 2019

Inkling: Nip Force in the Bud

What is taiji really about? Why do we need to stay relaxed and calm? What is it about sensing force? Why is my teacher able to push me even though, muscularly, I am the stronger one due to age?

I think the answer comes from being able to nip force in the bud. My teacher may not be physically strong, but he can sense force the moment it tries to take shape. Force takes time to build up; 0 to 100 does not happen instantaneously, though this change takes place in a very short amount of time. Still, time is needed.

And that is when the master shines. The master of taiji is able to sense that change in force within that very short time. And being able to sense that force as it is trying to take shape means the master only has to deal with a smaller force, one that has not fully taken shape. From 0 to 100: the closer to 0 that the master can sense the force (magnitude and direction), the less force he or she has to deal with.

But sensing force early is just one part of the equation. The other part is to be able to respond to that force. Sensing force, and using force. These two sides of the same coin need to be applied in order to be able to nip force in the bud. And both require practice.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A Visit to AMK Hilltop for Pushing Hands

For years, I have put off visiting AMK hilltop for pushing hands, because the group there is varied, and practise under a different mentality with regard to pushing hands. But the other day, I decided to just give it a try, since I will be away from Singapore for a while, and who knows when will be the next chance I have to go to this place.

Never having been there before, and based on what my memory told me about what I heard in the past from fellow students, I thought the people there are morning people. Arriving at around 10 a.m., I was greeted with the scene above.

It turns out they mostly gather around noon. I was too early. Oh... great. I needed to be home for lunch.

Still, I managed to meet a few of the early birds at around 11:30 a.m., and did a bit of pushing hands. Which basically just confirmed the impression that I had even before I went. Did I learn anything new? Well... yes. I learnt that I can hold my own against people who practise differently under different mindsets/mentalities. I also learnt that while I am able to sense force, and can easily use my opponent's force when doing taiji pushing hands (四正推手), when doing things differently with people who do not do 四正推手, I am not able to adapt and apply my understanding fully. That is something that I will have to work on.

Which can be a bit hard when I do not have a practice partner in Japan... but I guess "image training" is an option when all else fails.

Hopefully, I can find partners to practise pushing hands with in Yokohama.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Panting is Good... Not!

Someone told me that he pants during pushing hands because he is relaxing himself and keeps reacting to his opponent. This constant need to "keep reacting" means he has to move very fast to keep changing, and that is why he pants.

My thoughts on panting were shared before in this inkling. And my thoughts on panting remains the same even after hearing what this person has to say. Because I could see and sense for myself that he was trying too hard.

I am not perfect. I pant too. I pant too because after a long break from pushing hands, I was not confident of myself, and that hindered me from relaxing, resulting in me trying too hard. But after a while, I can usually get myself to calm down, especially as I become more assured that my pushing hands skills are still somewhat there. Becoming more relaxed, I can usually catch my breath, and become more relaxed till my breathing goes back to normal.

Panting is not relaxing. Not relaxing gets in the way of sensing and using force. Panting is probably a good sign to separate those who can relax from those who can't.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Holding Onto Attention

I was on the plane, and there was this movie I wanted to watch. So I selected it, but a bit into the movie, I started to doze off because I was tired. In the end, I missed most of the movie.

Was it my fault that I did not watch the movie? Or was it the fault of the movie for not being able to hold onto my attention?

Similarly, if I were to perform a taiji routine in front of an audience, is it the audience's fault if they start to doze off or wander away? Or it is my own poor performance that is to blame for not being able to hold onto their attention?

Let's strive to be good enough to capture and hold onto the attention of our audiences.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Kao靠 is not Zhuang撞

I was pushing hands with my teacher today and we talked about hitting (打) and zhuang (撞), and why these are not really taiji. It could me thinking, and I realized that while many martial arts employ these methods, taiji does not. Why?

Maybe it has to do with being accurate, maintaining balance, and doing the most damage. Hitting techniques (punches, chops, zhuang, etc.) depend fundamentally on the strength of the person executing those moves. The more muscular (heavier), the more damage can be dealt. The damage is at the contact point between the person hitting and the person being hit. There is also an opportunity for the person being hit to avoid the hit. This may cause the person hitting to lose balance, especially if he or she has overextended him or herself.

In contrast, in taiji, even techniques like elbow (肘) and kao (靠) are executed when already in contact. This takes the "avoid" aspect out of the equation. Damage is caused by the person being attacked losing his or her balance and then hitting into something. This means the force is that person's own weight, plus whatever force is used by the attacker in executing the move (which can be up to the weight of the attacker). The total force that results can thus be more than the attacker's own weight. The damage is at the contact point between the person being attacked and whatever object he or she hits when his or her balance is off. Thus, while the contact point between the two persons can be at the arm or torso, the damage can actually be at the head if it is the head that hits the ground. Also, as long as the move is executed correctly, the attacker is not overextending, and thus does not lose balance.

However, this requires the taiji practitioner to be able to effectively close distance to come into contact with the opponent so as to be able to execute these moves and techniques. This "closing the distance" is a topic by itself, which I shall touch on separately at another opportunity. For here, suffice to say that it can be slow or fast; fast enough to make kao look like zhuang. But kao is not zhuang; zhuang is a single move, while what looks the same is actually a "closing the distance" followed by a kao.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Long Time... Bad Feel

It has been a while since I actually practised with a sword or broadsword. And the weight felt... heavy.

While in Japan, I have not really been practising weapons. So that I do not forget the sets, I have been going through the motions, but never really used an actual sword or broadsword for practice. At most, wooden ones, but most of the time, it is just going through the motions.

So when I had to actually pick up a sword and a broadsword last night for practice, the weight felt... heavy. It wasn't really foreign, just not used to it. Still, I think I should be able to get back the feel with a bit of practice.

My thighs are burning, though... as I have not been practising so intensely while in Japan. 😅

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Swinging, Pretending... Respect?

As a martial arts practitioner, I respect anyone who respects the martial arts. Practising martial arts is a lifelong journey. It is not something to be taken lightly.

So I really hate it when people play around, pretending to be martial artists. Pretending to be the warrior they are not.

It takes a lifetime of commitment to be a warrior. Pretending to be one is, at best, an insult to everyone who has devoted him or herself to such a path.

So when I saw someone recently pretending to be a martial artist... I really wanted to go up there and show him that he is not.

But I did not.

I did not need to prove anything. Not to him, not to myself.

And because I understood this, and held myself back, I think I have grown.

It is a lifelong journey, a lifetime of commitment.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Another Post About Learning

I like to talk about learning. Because learning taiji is a lifelong journey, a never-ending endeavour. Actually, learning itself is something that should not end. For if we stop learning, we stop growing.

The learning process is a cycle. It starts with accepting ideas, concepts, knowledge that one does not currently possess. This can be from people, from the environment, even from existing ideas, concepts, knowledge that is within oneself. The keyword here is "accept". One must be receptive; otherwise, it will pass in through one ear, and out through the other. To be receptive, one must not criticise; this is not the stage for that. This is the "absorb" stage, just like a sponge soaking up everything, be it water or oil.

The next stage is to understand what was just absorbed. Again, this is not the stage for criticism. It is about finding out more about what has been accepted into our minds. What is its purpose? What does it mean? How is it applied? What are the underlying assumptions? What are the enabling conditions? The keyword here is "understand".

Then we can move on to make that "new" idea, concept, knowledge into something that we truly own. After understanding that idea, concept, knowledge, we need to then ask ourselves: how does it fit into what I already know? This allows us to draw links between existing knowledge and new knowledge. And it is through these links that we own that "new" idea, concept, knowledge, and become able to apply it eventually when the situation arises. The keyword here is "assimilate": to make it into our own, because we can never truly apply what we do not own.

Wait. So when do we criticise? Well, in this process of mine, there is no such deliberate act. When we try to assimilate a bad idea, concept, or knowledge, we may find that it doesn't really link with anything that we currently "own". We can then proceed to put it in a separate "box" in the corner of our knowledge realm, along with other bad ideas, concepts, knowledge that we have assimilated in the past. Even these bad ideas, concepts, knowledge have a place in our learning. They teach us what doesn't fit in with what we have. And who knows, these may one day form a component of something else that does work, that does fit in. Maybe we just haven't found the missing link to link them with our existing knowledge.

So my learning process is:
1. Absorb
2. Understand
3. Assimilate
4. Go to 1

Of course, this is a simplification; in the process of understanding, we may happen upon new ideas, concepts, knowledge too, which branches off into a separate absorb-understand-assimilate cycle elsewhere. Still, it does provide a base model for better understanding my learning process.

Other posts about learning:
How I Learn
A Little About Learning
Learning From A Teacher
The Learning Process
Listen and Learn
Continuous Learning

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Pushing Hands in Yokohama

It has been a while since I moved to Japan, and I have yet to find a pushing hands group to practise.

So, rather than try and find one, I am thinking of starting one.

If anyone is interested to join a taiji pushing hands group in Yokohama, I am proposing we meet at Odori Park (大通り公園, the stretch between JR Kannai Station, and Isezaki-chojamachi Station on the Blue Line; specifically, the portion in front of the Fureai Hospital). The place is relatively quiet at night, yet not so inaccessible (JR or municipal subway), and there is the Yokohama Ginobunkakaikan just beside it. The kaikan offers rooms for rent for classes and meetings and such, so if the group ever grows big, we can rent a classroom or something at the kaikan. Of course, since the park is open air, we won't be able to practise when it rains.

Interested parties, please leave a comment (include preferred days of the week and time). I will respond with a comment too about specific time (which will be weekday nights) to set up an initial meetup at the park.

For those totally new to taiji pushing hands, no problem, I will guide you. 😃

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Teacher and the Student--A Teacher and a Student

I have written about learning attitude before, but I want to take some time today to revisit this topic. A person, when learning something from someone, would do so with previous knowledge in many different fields accumulated over time. Some of that knowledge may be relevant to what is being learnt, and some may not. So when a teacher teaches something that is contradictory to our prior knowledge, there is the urge to question the teacher's knowledge: are you sure? Because that is not that I have previously learnt.

And that is when a person stops being a student. He or she has just raised himself or herself to become an equal to the teacher.

I am not saying the teacher is always right. But in a learning situation, there is always a teacher and a student. And yes, those roles are not mutually exclusive; in fact, in a learning situation, both parties are teachers and students at the same time. When I teach taiji to someone, I am the teacher, but at the same time, my student is teaching me something: how to teach. In that, I am the student.

But that does not make us equal. There is always a "power" difference in the relationship, although that difference flows in different directions depending on what we are talking about. That is how knowledge is passed.

Because when we start out by questioning the teacher, we have stopped being the student, we have stopped learning. From my years of taiji, I think the trick is this: do not question (challenge the teacher's knowledge) right from the start. Do not let your previous learning cloud your current learning journey. Take time to absorb what is being taught first. Have faith, and stay faithful to the new knowledge being taught. Spend time to practise it, to understand it through practice and pondering. Because I have found that, what originally looks to be counter-intuitive at first, will over time become assimilated into our knowledge to broaden our knowledge base. And when we broaden our knowledge base, we will have a bigger foundation on which to build a higher pillar of knowledge.

Do not be too quick to judge. Give your teacher a chance to show that he is not wrong, and yourself a chance to learn something new.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Tracking My Training For 2019

Continuing the practice in 2015, carried on till 2018, I have been tracking my training, and will also do so for 2019.

For 2018, I practised:
54 sets of Chen style Old Frame First Routine
54 sets of Yang style 108
98 sets of Sun style taijiquan
(total 206 sets of taijiquan in a year)

135 sets of Chen style taijijian
135 sets of Yang style taijijian
(total 270 sets of taijijian in a year)

225 sets of Yang style taijidao

And also many hours of basic exercises and single moves.

Total number of practice hours in 2018: 259.5 hours

I have not been keeping my training log, though... 😅
Guess it is a... goner.
But the amount of practice has increased slightly from 2018.
And I am looking forward to increasing the amount of practice in 2019!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Momentum in Taiji

I am not a fan of trying to use modern science to explain taiji, but sometimes, it does make it easier for us (who have been taught modern science in school) to understand it better. Here is a video I found which tries to explain how the concept of momentum can be used to explain things in taiji.

If you want to know more about the Galilean cannon, you can also check out this video (not related to taiji):

So now we know the science behind "staying rooted".

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Little About Learning

Life is a learning journey that does not end, and taiji is part of that learning journey.

Since moving to Japan, I have not had many opportunities to train with my teacher, Mr Kwek, but I still try to find time to practise with him when I am back in Singapore. Today, I wish to share a bit about my attitude towards learning.

At class, I avoid sitting down. No matter how tired I may be, I do not sit down. I only sit when circumstances require me to sit, such as when I need to sit beside my teacher to share something (like a video) with him. To me, not sitting down is my way of saying "I am interested in learning, and I am always ready to get back to practice."

When I am doing forms for my teacher to check and comment on, he sometimes closes his eyes. But I do not stop. I do not think, "Why am I spending time practising if he is not looking?" Instead, I know he is probably tired (he teaches at many places, and gets home late). And I also know that if I am good, he will be interested in seeing. So the motivation for me when he does close his eyes is, "How do I up my taiji such that he will be so interested, he cannot look away?"

This is similar to when I am practising outdoors in public. Sometimes, people will stop to take a look. But most do not stay long. "How do I catch their interest?" That is the question I have at the back of my head which keeps me going. Maybe one day, someone will stop, and continue watching until I finish the entire form.

Related posts:

Friday, July 27, 2018

Taiji Fast, Taiji Slow

When people think of taiji, they think of slow movements. Which, in a way, is right. Taiji is practised slowly. Why? So that we get all the details right. So that we get used to moving in a specific way, such that this specific way of moving becomes muscle memory. And the way to do that is to keep practising, to take time telling your brain to move your muscles in that specific way. It is not a matter of how many times you repeat each movement; how long you spend on creating that "link" is more critical.

However, I think that does not preclude taiji being practised fast. Because actual application is fast, and your body must be able to move with that kind of speed to response to an actual attack. So there is an aspect of speed in taiji practice. In fact, Chen style taiji emphasizes fast and slow in practice. Even Yang style has a fast form developed by Dong Yingjie.

But slow is the basic. And slow is where you should start. Get the movements right. Create that "link" first. And make sure that you do it slowly so that the "link" is the correct one, that your brain instructs your muscles to move in that specific way correctly. Because when we move fast, we make mistakes. And if we keep making the same mistakes, that mistake becomes muscle memory, and it becomes hard to untrain. Only when you have formed that correct "link" can you start to take it to the next stage, which is to be able to move both fast and slow, correctly.

Sometimes, going slow is the faster way.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Inkling: Moving Gears

I was watching a video online, where a taiji master was explaining about his method. He touched on something about being a set of moving gears, like an engine gearbox.


I have recently been exploring electronics and motors and 3D printing, so gears are not entirely new to me. Coupled with this concept about moving gears, I kind of have a better understanding of how force is being transferred from the legs to the point of application. It is as if the joints are the places where gears are coupled. Broadly speaking, at the kua, one gear (leg) turns to drive another (hip). The other (hip) turns and brings the entire torso with it. This movement of the torso acts on the gears at the shoulders, which is again another set of gears, with one (shoulder) turning another (upper arm), in turn moving the arm.

Of course, this is a simplification. There are a lot more joints tracing the path from the ground to the point of application, and each is a set of gears being turned by the set before, and turning the next set. This also achieves "moving as a whole" and "top and bottom following each other" as well as the continuity of movement without stopping.

The muscles as pistons and actuators, and the joints as gears. An inkling for verification in training.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Inkling: Transferring Force

I think there are two aspects to force being generated from the legs.

One is using the force generated by the legs to move your own centre of gravity. Another is to use the force to turn your body (trunk), which in turn changes the direction of the force from the legs and applies it to another direction through the arms.

These two are non independent of each other. In fact, they are to be used in combination, so that you bring force to bear (by moving your centre of gravity) in the right direction (with your body as the axis).

And one of the best ways to train this is through basic exercises. There are basic exercises where the focus is on changing the direction of the force through the body, basic exercises on how to use the legs to move your centre of gravity, and basic exercises that combine both. I guess this will be the focus of my training for a while as I pursue this inkling.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Tracking My Training For 2018

Continuing the practice in 2015, carried onto 2016 and 2017, I have been tracking my training, and will also do so for 2018.

For 2017, I practised:
33 sets of Chen style Old Frame First Routine
48 sets of Yang style 108
64 sets of Sun style taijiquan
(total 145 sets of taijiquan in a year)

99 sets of Chen style taijijian
99 sets of Yang style taijijian
(total 198 sets of taijijian in a year)

165 sets of Yang style taijidao

And also many hours of basic exercises and single moves.

Total number of practice hours in 2017: 243 hours

I have not been as diligent in keeping my training log, though... 😅

Looking forward to increasing the amount of practice in 2018!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Force Skips One Point

I am not a real fan of Chen Zhonghua, but I wish to share something that I saw on one of his videos on YouTube. It is about force skipping a point.

The points here refer to the hand, followed by the elbow, the shoulder, then the waist. If your force is at your hand, your elbow will be weak, and there will be force in your shoulder, and your waist will be weak. If instead you relax your hand, the force will be in your elbow and it will be coming from your waist.

This is just a case to point out that we should relax the hand and shoulder, but I thought I would share it anyway.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Unbelievable Theory (off-topic)

I am reading a book written in the late 1990s by Japanese researchers of martial arts. One practised karate before moving on to Chinese martial arts, while the other has stuck to Japanese martial arts, focusing on traditional ones like ju-jitsu.

This traditional Japanese martial artist actually thinks taiji theory came from Japanese martial arts, proposing that Yang style taiji came from something with a similar name in Japan. He also thinks the founder of Chen style taiji came to Japan and brought back martial arts theory with him that led to the creation of taijiquan.

The researcher of Chinese martial arts was trying to debunk his theories. I mean, taijiquan originating from Japan is a totally unbelievable theory. The simple fact is that when taijiquan was created, Japan was shut off from the world; the Tokugawa Shogunate did not allow contact with the outside world. That alone would have made it impossible for outsiders to enter Japan to learn Japanese martial arts. There are many other facts pointing out how this theory cannot be true, but I rather spend time pointing out facts to support a real theory, than wasting time on debunking something as unbelievable as this.

Talk about egoistic... I almost wanted to stop reading, but I told myself that I should continue so that I am aware of such extreme (and untrue) views out there in the world. There are people who choose to believe in their own beliefs rather than open their eyes to facts.

Okay, this doesn't really have anything to do with taijiquan. I will try to steer back to talking about my taiji journey from my next blog post onward. Bear with me for this one post.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Complementing Taiji Practice

Taiji is a complete martial art by itself. My teacher always advocates it is enough to just practise taiji alone, going through the traditional 108 form, the quick form, balanced with pushing hands and the practice of basics. I too agree that taiji is completed in itself. But I also think taiji practice can be complemented with other martial arts. The two very obvious ones, which I have partially brought into my own training, is xingyiquan 形意拳 and baguazhang 八卦掌.

How do these two complement taiji?

I see xingyiquan as complementing the fajing portion of taiji, so I weave wuxingquan 五行拳 into my practice. Baguazhang is being brought in for the footwork. This is not new; Sun style taijiquan founder Sun Lutang was himself an expert in taiji, xingyi, and bagua. But I do not seek to be an expert in all three; I just wish to better my skills in taiji. Ultimately, the aspects from xingyiquan and baguazhang brought into my training is just to help me get better at taiji.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Practise Slowly As It Helps To Build Up Muscle Memory

Recently, while practising routines (especially Chen style) and single moves, I realized my fa jing has significantly improved. It is no longer stiff, it doesn't feel like I am overly trying, it is just a natural transmission of force from legs to where I want to express my force.

I think this is due to the way I have been training, focusing on imagining how the force is transmitted from my legs to the hands and arms every time I practise. We all know that muscle memory comes from training. But there is a theory that says that muscle memory comes from the amount of time that the brain tells the body to do a certain action. What this means is that practising 100 times of the same movement quickly in 10 minutes is the same as practising that same movement slowly for 10 times over 10 minutes. Which is basically what taiji training is about. Instead of practising the same movements quickly for many many times, taiji is about practising those same movements correctly more slowly and therefore less repetitions. But the amount of time should work out to be the same. In fact, given that you are not over-exerting yourself, but taking those movements more naturally, you probably end up training for longer periods of time than if you had been practising those movements quickly.

The important thing is to focus on getting things done correctly. In taiji, that means thinking about how the force is transmitted from legs to arms and hands. About the brain sending that same message to the body over and over again in the right way, linking up the legs and arms in the right manner. I am going to continue on this track for a while to see how far it leads me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Did Not Get Worse

Nothing makes me happier than to hear him say:

It was my main worry. After all, I am practising a lot less than what I used to. So there is no way I could have improved. My main aim was to maintain at the same level, and slowly work into a rhythm that will allow me to improve from there.

So after 2 sets of Yang 108, and hearing my teacher say those words to me, at least I know that the effort spent in getting myself to practise while on my own was worth it. I managed to maintain even in his absence. Which means, if I do more, I will get better.

So now, I need to work into a rhythm that allows me to practise more.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Ten Principles of Taijiquan 太極拳十要

These are the ten principles of taijiquan, according to Yang style grandmaster Yang Chengfu.

These principles deal with the movements of taiji, how taiji should be practised. They also affect how taiji is actually used. I will try to find time to explain each of them in more detail.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Breathe Naturally

A lot of the time, I hear or read about people who say that we need to link our actions with our breathing when practising taiji. Inhale when opening, exhale when closing; inhale when drawing in, exhale when pushing out. And so on.

Which may seem to make a lot of sense, since taiji practice is slow. But when you think a bit further, and remember that taiji is not an exercise but actually a martial art, this linking of breathing with action seems to lack a sense of practicality.

My teacher, Mr Kwek, has always told me that in practice, just breathe naturally. Think a bit more and we can see why. In a fight, you need to be able to open and close, draw in or strike out, regardless of whether you are inhaling or exhaling. Things are going to be happening a lot faster than during practice, and there is no way to match your breathing with the speed of actions. Your opponents are not going to wait for you to inhale before they come at you, so you need to be able to punch and strike even when inhaling. Things cannot be inhale (wait), exhale (punch), inhale (wait), exhale (punch)... You need to be able to take the most appropriate action, at the most appropriate time, whether you are inhaling or exhaling.

Another thing is that different people have different lung capacities. By controlling your breathing when practising, you may end up either breathing too fast, or holding your breath in between actions. And holding your breath is especially bad, since it tenses up your body, which is one of the things that you should never do in taiji.

Oh, and in pushing hands, if you link your actions to your breathing, you are giving your opponent an extra source of information to know what you are trying to do.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Learning to be Put in Disadvantageous Positions

Pushing hands is a form of training. And as a form of training, there is no winning or losing. The important thing is to reap the most benefit out of the training, to know what the training is for, and how best to use it.

And pushing hands is about learning how to sense force, and how to use your opponent's force against himself.

So instead of trying to push your opponent, the best way to reap the maximum benefits from pushing hands is to let your opponent push you. This allows you to discover for yourself the limits to which you can and cannot neutralize force. Up till which point can you allow someone to push you and still neutralize his force? Up to which point can you still be able to use your opponent's force back against him? Up to which point will you no longer be able to achieve either?

Use pushing hands as an opportunity to be put into various disadvantageous positions to learn how to get out of them. Because life is not a bed of roses, a real fight may not start equal or fair, and a true martial artists must be able to get out of any sticky situation.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Martial Arts Are Not Sports

Martial arts.

These are arts with roots in the art of killing. Their original aim was to kill another human being, in the most effective and efficient way.

Controlled portions of martial arts training has been adapted for competitive sports, but these are limited to certain aspects of the martial arts that has been adapted, and is not representative of its true potential. For example, boxing is an adaption of bare-handed fighting, with very strict rules on what can be used, and where can be hit. There are similar adaptations, such as in karate, and even in taiji (pushing hands).

But that is what sports is about. You isolate a limited portion of something, and compete in that limited aspect to see who is better. The thing is, it is not a representation of who is better overall, but just in that limited aspect.

Yet the art of killing is not about being limited. It is about being effective and efficient, using all available means. So when martial arts is turned into a competitive sport, we must remember that as a competitive sport, it only represents a limited portion of the original martial art. We are isolating a certain, limited portion just to see who is better in that particular aspect. It does not, however, represent who is the better martial artist, since attempting to compete in such an aspect will most probably lead to fatalities.

In sports, a person trains within certain rules, learns how to excel within those boundaries, and gets better over time with training. That invariably makes him or her better within those rules compared to someone new to the rules. And that is all competitive sports can show: who is better in a certain aspect within the boundary of certain rules.

At the end of the day, martial arts were not developed as systems for sports, but were developed as systems for killing. While adapting martial arts for sports allow us to see who is better in certain aspects under certain rules, it does not guarantee us a way to see who is a better martial artists, since there are no rules in the art of killing.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pushing Hands is Not About Pushing Your Opponent Out

「推手时要细心揣摩,不可将对方推出以为笑乐。务要使我之重心,对方不能捉摸,对方之重心,时时在我手中。」  董英傑《太極拳釋義》

A reminder by a taiji master. Let's not forget what pushing hands is for.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Inkling: About 粘黏连随


I think this is about the stages of contact.

First is establishing contact, then remaining in contact. These two stages are more in the physical realm.

After which is becoming connected, and moving together. This is more in the conceptual domain, although moving together manifests itself in the physical realm too.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Inkling: Force from the Legs, Control from the Waist

An inkling I got while reading a book written by a Japanese martial artist, who was explaining about aikido's use of force through aikiage. The feeling described by the author kind of like struck a bell in me, and I could see how it is similar to my own experience with taiji and pushing hands. It helped me to better understand force and gives me a new focus for my own training.

Basically, the force comes from the legs, which moves the body's centre of gravity, and the waist area is actually where that centre is, and moving that centre of gravity (using the legs) allows one to achieve more force that can be applied to the point of contact (such as the hand), compared to just using muscular force from the arm acting on the hand.

Will be focusing on understanding this better during my own practice.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Explaining Taiji with Modern Science

The human body is a complex mechanical and chemical system, so it is no wonder that people try to explain taiji in terms of modern science. I am not against it, although I think it is a difficult thing to do (see other blog post here). But I do think in terms of modern science. I believe that taiji is really about how to move your body in the most efficient manner, using the least force to achieve the biggest effect.

But trying to use modern science to explain taiji is not easy, because our bodies are just too complex. We learn about levers in mechanics, but the human body is not a simple set of levers. We have so many levers interconnected, working together and against each other, that it is very difficult for the human brain to grasp.

So while using modern science to explain taiji can help us to better understand taiji, understanding the science behind it does not mean we can actually put it into practice. The only way to do that is to actually practise, and feel it for ourselves. Only through practice can our bodies actually move in the way that taiji requires so that we can achieve the biggest effect with the smallest force.