Saturday, December 22, 2007

How to Return His Force?

One question that keeps coming to mind is how to return an opponent's force back to him.

When there are two points of contacts, that is easy. For example, if his force is coming towards your right, you can relax your kua and let him push your right, while using your kua to redirect his force towards your left and returning it to him. But that can only be done if both left and right are in contact with him.

So when you only have a single point of contact? After all, even if you absorb his force from the start, if you want to return it to him after that, won't you end up resisting his force?

Actually, the key lies in first relaxing the kua, as usual, then absorbing his force (same). Next is to first redirect his force away from you in a circular manner, and continuing the circle, return his force back to him. When redirecting his force, you must first peng, then stick to him, before using your kua to turn yourself towards the direction that you want his force to go in.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

About Impatience

This post is about impatience, it is not about taiji but I guess having patience (and thus learning to get rid of impatience) is an important basic skill in taiji too, so I am putting the link to my other blog here just to share with you my thoughts.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Respect Your Opponents

I have talked about respect before, in a previous post. Today, I will talk about respecting your opponents, your training partners.

Our opponents, our training partners, are there to help us to learn more about ourselves. Through pushing hands with them, we learn about our own mistakes, we learn about our weaknesses and where we need to improve. Through them, we know what we need to focus on. Thus, they deserve our respect, since through them, we are learning and improving.

When we do not respect our training partners, when we think of them as people that we need to defeat, when we start to treat them as objectives to be conquered, rather than the people that they are, that is when we not only stop respecting them, but also lose their respect of us. Mutual respect is lost, and pushing hands become a matter of deciding who is better, rather than a journey of self-discovery and improvement.

In the movie Fearless, Huo Yuanjia's father respected his opponents and rather than injure his opponent to win a match, he would rather suffer defeat and live with a clear conscience. The young Huo Yuanjia (portrayed by Jet Li) did not understand this and treated all his opponents as objectives to be conquered, not as the human beings that they were. He did not show respect, and thus there was no mercy. And when he showed no mercy to his opponents, they did not show mercy too when revenge came.

A martial artist's worth is not in how well he can fight, how many people he can defeat. It is in how he leads his life, how his life is an example for others to follow. And to do that, he must first be able to learn the important lesson of respect, a lesson that is easily clouded in anger and forgotten during success. But it is important because it is the basis that others use when deciding on how they want to deal with you. If you want to be treated with respect, you must respect others first. Otherwise, others will have no qualms about making you lose face, because they know that you will likely do the same to them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How to Lose

Wait! This blog is about taijiquan, a way of life and a martial art, right? Then why am I talking about how to lose?

Because if you know how to lose, you know how to avoid losing.

I lost today. Not because my opponent managed to ram his shoulder into my chest. No, I lost today because after that happened, I allowed my emotions to take over, and wanted to get my revenge. In the end, we ended up tangling in a mess, more like wrestling, instead of pushing hands. And in doing so, I have lost, because I have let my instincts and emotions taken over, instead of trying to apply the principles of taiji to defeat my opponent. No longer was I trying to relax, no longer was I putting attention to my waist and kua. I was no longer practising taiji, which is what I want and am trying to learn. So I have lost, lost sight (momentarily) of my real objective (which is to better my taiji, and not defeat my opponent), and lost to the devil in my mind that is called emotion.

I quickly picked up the situation, telling myself to stay focused on learning taiji, on applying the principles of taiji. But I also told myself that if my opponent wants to play rough, then I don't need to play nice. Usually, once my opponent loses his balance, I don't press the attack (pushing him would just make him fall, there is no need to do that when training). But if my opponent needs to fall down to know that he has been bested, and needs to push his opponent down before he knows that he has bested someone else, then there is no reason not to play the same game, using his rules, but keeping to the taiji principles. He can punch and ram, I can still stick to my push and seal. In the end, I get to improve my taiji skills, which is what I want to do.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Twist and Turn

Recently, I watched some video clips of Grandmaster Zhu Tiancai performing Chen style taiji, as well as some of the next generation masters, also performing Chen style taiji.

One of the characteristics of Grandmaster Zhu's set is the little twists and turns that he likes to add into his movements, small and fine little moves that show his skill at "reeling silk". When you watch those from the next generation trying to imitate his "twists and turns", it is almost as if they are trying to imitate without knowing the meaning behind those little moves. What I see is someone trying to add in twists and turns into their movements because that is the way Grandmaster Zhu does it. The end result is that those twists and turns are big and rough movements, not born of "reeling silk" but rather more from static force. In other words, the source of those movements are not from the legs, but rather are derived from the arm muscles.

Look at Grandmaster Zhu and you will see "reeling silk" at work, from those small yet fine little moves, that derive their source from the legs. The moves are not big and rough, they are not very obvious, they are not exaggerated. They are a natural extension of him moving his body as a whole. And because they are in line with the natural movements of his body, they can actually be applied. These are not additional movements added in to try and imitate a style.

So unless you are able to understand why those small little twists and turns come about, and have reached a level in taiji when you are able to actually achieve that, adding in twists and turns only make it a laudable attempt to imitate something that you are not. It may be more worthwhile to put that effort into improving your basic taiji moves (like relaxing the kua, keeping the back straight, etc.)

Ever Changing

There are no fixed moves. Otherwise, you become predictable, and your opponent will lead you into a trap. Eight basic moves, five basic steps, these are the basic rules of taiji. After that, it all depends on how you apply these simple rules to bring about constant change.

If you keep changing, your opponent will not be able to follow, and eventually will make a mistake when he fails to follow the ever changing direction of your force. And that is when you either move in and push. Or he reads your force wrongly, uses strength in the wrong direction, and thus falls because of his own strength.

It is the myriad of moves that can be derived from the basic taiji rules, that makes taiji so unpredictable. And it is that unpredictability that makes taiji so effective.