Friday, May 30, 2008

A Slip

I let slipped my hand today.

And was told that I slipped because I was resisting, that I was using brute force to resist my opponent's force. And it was true. So I slipped, in all sense of the word. I was resisting my opponent's force, when I should have been trying to let him have his way, to redirect his force away.

So I decided that I won't let that happen, that I will let my next opponent have his way. And I did. He wants to push? I let his push, then tried to neutralise his force and return it to him. He wants to pull? I let him pull, and use his pull to close in to him. He wants to play rough, to grab and lock arms? I gave him a taste of his own techniques, by locking his arms. It was wrong, but I decided that enough was enough when he just wouldn't let up and continued to push my limits. Here I was, trying my best to learn the finer techniques of pushing hands, and yet he continued to use brute force and play rough. So I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine, only that I tried as much as possible to cause him pain only when he uses force.

Is this right? No. Do I feel good about it? Actually, no. But I think it helps me, because everytime I make a mistake, and let my anger take over, I chastise myself and move one step closer towards better control over myself.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Image Training イメージトレーニング

Image training, or イメージトレーニング as the Japanese calls it, is very important in learning how to apply taijiquan. So what exactly is image training? It is imagining yourself going through the motion, without actually being in that situation. A classic example is shadow boxing, in which you imagine your opponent punching at you, and you train your body to react by ducking, feinting, counter-attacking, etc. Another example would be to dribble a soccer ball, imagining yourself changing directions as your imaginary opponents try to tackle you or block your way.

In taijiquan, it means that when you are practising your forms, not only do you think about how to apply each move, but you try to imagine how each move should actually feel. For example, as you shift your weight to your back leg, you imagine your opponent pushing, and yourself absorbing his force. As you shift your weight forward, you imagine yourself listening to your opponent's force, and returning his force to him. Beginners are unable to do this, since they don't know how an opponent's force will feel like, how it feels to absorb or return your opponent's force. But someone who practises both pushing hands and the forms will gain the most benefit, since it allows him to, in a way, "push hands on his own". And when he actually crosses hands with an opponent, because his mind has been conditioned to react to certain "feelings", his responses are much faster.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Don't Think Too Much

I realised that there is no need to think too much. The thinking should have been done before you put your hands against your opponent's. The moment you cross hands, it should be natural flow, acting and reacting based on what you have been doing day in and day out.

When you practise the forms, you should be thinking about how to use them. And thus, when you actually face one of those situations, it should just be a natural reaction. For example, when his force come, just relax, then return the force. Don't need to think too much about how to return the force, where to return it, etc. Just do it. When you think too much, you lose the opportunity, and that is why you find that you are unable to return your opponent's force.

Listen and Learn

It is very important to listen to what your teacher has to say, even if he keeps saying the same thing (probably because you keep making the same mistake), or if what he says doesn't make sense. Because taiji is amazing because some of its principles seem to contradict what we term common sense or basic instincts. It makes sense to us that when someone tries to push us, in order not to push, we have to resist his force. But taiji says that in order not to fall, we have to go with his force and not resist it. We know that in order to move fast, we have to train fast. That is why our athletes keep running, so that they can run fast. But taiji says that in order to react fast, we have to train slow.

Some people scratch their heads when they listen to their teachers saying these, and never really have the patience to learn what they mean. In the end, they give up, unable to grasp what taiji is really about. Only those who are willing to listen and have the patience to learn will truly understand what their teachers are trying to tell them. It comes with patience and many defeats and lots of frustration, but in the end, you will learn what taiji is all about, and why slow can help you to react even faster.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Playing Rough

One of the new students at pushing hands class plays quite rough. While it is an unspoken rule at our class that we don't use the more violent and rough techniques like bashing, elbow jabs, grabs and pulls, this new student, being very competitive, has been using these techniques. Looking at him, it is fortunate that no one has gotten hurt yet.

But do we really need to play rough in order to win? And do we really need to win in the first place?

The way I see it, if you really want to win that badly, and you are willing to play rough (and thus maybe even hurt your opponent), then you should also have nothing to say when your opponent ends up hurting you. After all, in order to protect himself, sometimes, he may have to use more extreme techniques to counter your violent and rough moves. A more experienced practitioner may be able to slowly counter your rough moves, but the more inexperienced one may not be able to be as gentle as well, when he needs to protect himself from getting hurt. He may not be able to soften your brute force before returning it at you.

So if you want to play rough, go ahead. But be ready to take responsibility should you really hurt someone badly. And you have no one to blame, if someone hurts you badly. After all, if you don't respect your opponent, he won't respect you too.