Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chen Style Taijijian

Today, I have started to learn Chen Style Taijijian (sword) from my teacher. Although I have learnt a wushu jian routine before, taijijian is different as the sword is only lightly grasped. The movements follow the principles of taijiquan, and I am glad that I had spent the last one year building up a good foundation. I was able to understand what my teacher was trying to say, which I think will ultimately help speed up the learning process as well as allow me to learn more from my teacher.

Practising the Movements

Practising the full set of a routine is important. No one can deny that. After all, practice makes perfect. But how many times a day should we practise? For me, practising a set of Chen Style Old Frame First Routine usually takes between 20 to 25 minutes. I heard from my teacher that he takes about 40 minutes to complete a set of Yang Style 108. With limited time for practice each day (yes, I do have to work), I just can't be practising 6 to 8 sets each day.

The solution? A friend of my teacher (he teaches taijiquan as well, the Zhengzi Style) told me the importance of practising one or two movements each time. Besides practising a full set, I should take one or two movements, and concentrate on improving them.

My view on this is that practising the whole set improves the flow of my movements, as well as train the strength of my legs. Practising individual movements improve my understanding and grasp of each movement, allowing me to better apply them during pushing hands and also when practising the full set. The two types of practice complement each other, and ultimate improve my techniques and understanding of taijiquan.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Teach to Improve

One of the best ways to improve at taijiquan is to teach taijiquan. This was what my teacher told me, and from my own experience helping my teacher to teach his other students, I have found it to be very true. When I have to teach my fellow students, I need to be sure that I demonstrate the movements correctly. I need to be sure that I understand each movement well, so that I can explain the movement as well as the application. Not only do I understand the movements better, but I am also forced to practise so that I can demonstrate the movements correctly. When I lead my fellow students in practice, I cannot skive. I must give my 100% so that my movements are correct, else my fellow students will be following the wrong example. When a fellow student makes a mistake, I ask myself if he or she made that mistake because I have the same mistake and he or she was just following my example.

So if you have hit a wall trying to improve your taijiquan, teach! Your students just may be able to teach you something about yourself. After all, a student's mistakes is a reflection of the teacher's shortcomings.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Importance of Listening

Sometimes, it is more important to listen than to practise. Each practice session is about two hours long. Of course, practice is important. But sometimes, just plain practising is not enough. After all, practice alone will not improve my technique if I do not know what my mistakes are. It is only when I listen to my teacher that I know what are the important details to watch out for when I practise. These details may be simple and small, but they are important since they affect the application of techniques. For example, not turning the forearm enough during peng may mean that I am unable to fully ward off an opponent's attack. Not shifting enough weight to the front leg may result in an ineffective push. These are the little details that a trained eye will be able to pick up and point out. Practice without listening may mean that I reinforce my mistakes even more, continuing to learn the wrong things. By listening, I correct my mistakes and also learn the reasons behind the movements.

By the way, the old Chinese character for listen, ting, is made up of the characters for an ear, ten eyes, and one heart. To listen, it is important to not just use the ear, but to use the eyes, and listening must come from the heart.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Using Your Opponent's Strength

Yesterday, I was talking to my teacher, and asking him how to use an opponent's strength against him. It is a question that surfaced during a pushing hands session. I could sense that my opponent was using brute force, causing his whole body to become stiff. But I was unable to exploit this.

When someone uses brute force to push, his whole body becomes stiff. The way to exploit this is to use your waist to turn and ward off (peng) the attack. Continue the motion and the direction of his force will be altered away from your body. If he is leaning forward, continue to lead his force forward, and he will eventually fall as his centre of gravity is brought outside the support of his legs. Not using brute force is very important. When an opponent pushes, do not resist his push with brute force, or it will be ding. Relax (song), then use peng to divert the force away from yourself.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Drawing Circles

Taijiquan is all about drawing circles. When doing a routine, and you just can seem to do the movements smoothly, just draw circles, either big or small, and the movements will become smooth. Circles can be used to neutralise the opponents attacks. Circles can be used to stick to an opponent's arms. Circles can be used to direct an opponent towards where you want him to go. Drawing circles is at the very heart of taijiquan.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hajimemashite

Hi, I have decided to start a new blog to post my thoughts on taijiquan, instead of cluttering everything on my personal blog (Teck's Treehouse). This will make my blogs more focused and with a central theme, easier to find the things that you want to.

Taiji is a martial art and a form of exercise originating in China, and much of the theory behind it is in Chinese. Attempting to translate certain words into English may at times be a bit challenging, and some of the meaning of the original Chinese word may not come across fully. However, I will try to do my best in translating my thoughts. Some entries may end up being fully in Chinese, though, if the concepts are too hard to translate properly into English.