Sunday, August 19, 2007


As martial artists, ethics is an important part of life. Being skilled in causing harm to people means that we are expected to carry ourselves in a different way, to be more demanding on our own behaviour. We should be pillars of morality. And one of the most important value when dealing with people is respect.

In the past, people have only one teacher. If they want to learn from another, they need to seek their teacher's permission, even if their teacher may not be as skilled as the other. A teacher is like a father, and you had to treat him as such.

Nowadays, this thinking has probably changed. People don't learn from a single teacher anymore. They switch teachers like they switch jobs. When they find someone better, they fly there like bees to honey. They start to forget who was the one who taught them the basics, who was the one who taught them to recognise what is good skill.

Respect your teachers. Respect those who have treated you well. If you don't respect those whom you have benefited from, others will not respect you as well.

Constant Practice

Constant practice is the key to improving.

Due to work commitments, I haven't been diligent in my taiji practices. And it shows. My legs are not as strong as they used to be, so my stance is now not as low when I do Chen style taiji. Couple that with my backside sticking out (because my legs get tired too easily), I would say that I have taken a few steps back instead of going forward.

My teacher sees it, and has been hinting to me that I haven't been practising enough. I guess he is being nice in not telling me straight that my level has dropped. But he also knows that he doesn't have to be too straightforward, that I will get the hint. Guess the only way now is to try to find time to practise on my own even when work seems to be piling up to the sky.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Taiji and Religion

Some people get confused between taiji and religion. Just because the taiji symbol is used as a symbol by Taoism doesn't mean that taiji is part of Taoism. Some Christians that I know decided not to take up taiji because of this. And my teacher was relating an incident about a talk he gave at a mosque. He was talking to the Muslims gathered at the mosque about taiji (they invited him), but at the end of the talk, they asked if there are Muslim teachers. I don't know what that has to do with learning taiji.

Personally, I don't think practising taiji means you are a Taoist. My teacher used to teach at a Catholic church, and he himself is not Catholic. Yet the father there welcomed him and let him used the church grounds to teach taiji to the church goers. If a Catholic father does not see taiji as part of another religion, then why should the rest of the layman?

Yet in another way, taiji is similar to religion. Not any religion, but religions in general. Why? Religion is about faith. No one knows what Heaven is like, yet faith allows people to follow in the teachings of a religion, believing that it will ultimately lead them to where they want to go. In practising taiji, we must have faith too. Right from the start, we are unable to use soft to counter hard. But we must have faith in the teachings of our teachers, and the teachers before them. Follow their teachings and it will ultimately allow you to use soft to counter hard.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

National Wushu and Taiji Display 2007

I heard that this year, the National Wushu and Taiji Display will take place on 15 Sep 2007 at the usual venue (Indoor Stadium). Tickets are available from the national wushu federation, as well as community centres. From past years' experience, tickets will be sold on that day itself at the entrance as well, so if you really have no time to get the tickets, you can always try your luck on the actual day itself. If anyone has any more information on this event, do feel free to share!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Stiff Arms or Not

I asked my teacher how is it that the arms can be relaxed, yet the force generated by the legs can manifest itself at the arms and actually flip an opponent away. I would think that in order to transfer the force from the legs to the arm, the arm and torso should be a whole unit, and by shifting the weight and using the kua to turn the waist, the whole torso and arm would turn with the force generated by the legs.

But this means that the arm is stiff. Which obviously is wrong. But if we relax the arm, then when the torso turns, and the arm does not, the force doesn't get to the arms...

I think the answer could be that the arms are relaxed. The force generated at the legs are not used to forcibly flip an opponent away. Rather, listen to the direction of his force, and use the force generated in your legs to gently shift his force in the direction that you want.

Taiji and Kendo

Yesterday, during pushing hands class, we had Japanese visitors. One of them is a kendo practitioner. Having done a little bit of kendo myself, I was trying to explain to him about taiji and pushing hands. While explaining to him, I made a small discovery, that taiji is similar to kendo in that, to win, you must not fear losing. One of the common mistakes in kendo is to always be on the guard, for fear of exposing yourself and letting your opponent land the first blow. While you may not lose if you always keep your guard up, you are not going to win too. And worse, if your opponent is faster or stronger, he can either slip past your defence, or simply plow through it.

The trick to win at kendo is to actually allow your opponent to attack you. When he is attacking, he cannot defend. And that is when you strike. When he attacks, he opens himself to attack. You use that opening to attack. But first, you must be willing to let him attack. You must be ready to lose, should your attack on him fail and he lands the first blow.

I explained this to the Japanese visitor, hopefully he sees the common ground that taiji shares with kendo in terms of thinking. I would think that the way of the warrior is to be ready to lose. Only then are you ready to win.