Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meditative Taiji

Taiji is meditation, without having to meditate. It is a form of stress release, a therapy against life's pressures. Because when you concentrate on practising taiji, your mind thinks of nothing else during that short period of time, be it 5 minutes or 2 hours. In taiji, you can find a short break from your problems, so that you can take a rest from them, and face them once again refreshed.

Constant Review

I had thought I had understood what my teacher meant when he said that the weight should be on the left leg when turning from 拦雀尾 to 单鞭, but it seems that I was wrong all along. While my weight was on my left leg, I was still not turning my kua properly, resulting in my backside turning when I was trying to turn my right leg. The correct way is to have the weight on the left leg, and then turn my right leg inwards without turning my backside (which means I have to use my right kua to turn).

This is why even though I have been practising for some time, I still need to let my teacher take a look once in a while on how I do my routines, so that he can point out the mistakes here and there that I have been getting wrong. While it is usually hard to kick an old habit, I am certain that with determination, I will be able to right the wrongs of my past practices (the old bad habits).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thoughts On Teaching Taiji

This is in response to a post on Formosa Neijia, on "Separating what you know from what you teach".

One thing I realised is that not all students come to learn taiji with the same mentality as me. People learn taiji for their own reasons, and thus even though we are all gathered as a class, they all want to learn different things. Some are fine just learning the broad movements, some are fine just following what the rest are doing, some want to go on to win competitions, some prefer to learn more about applications, etc. As a teacher, one needs to be able to discern what it is that each student wants to learn, and then teach accordingly. Don't overwhelm the poor guy who just wants to move his limbs with how to apply each movement.

Also, another thing that my teacher does is that he lets the more senior students teach the newcomers. Not because they are good, but because the newcomers must first remember the broad movements. Once they are familiar with the movements, he then gets down to teaching them the details. The important thing when first starting out is for them to remember the steps.

Teach something new each session, but not so much that you overwhelm them. Usually 2 to 5 new movements each session, the important thing being that the students must remember them. It gives them a sense that things are moving, without seeming to be hurrying them along. Then, once you have finished teaching the whole routine, you should go back and fine tune their movements. That is the time to touch on some (not all) details. A few months later, go back and fine tune some more. And so on.

The Style of Chen Style

I was practising my Chen style old frame first routine today, when my teacher pointed out the same mistake that I have been making. I have been practising my Chen style as though it is Yang style. My movements are too slow, without much change in rhythm. It is like Yang style with Chen movements.

In the past, I had been practising my Chen style very slowly because I was trying to pay attention to the details, as well as to build up a good foundation (aka leg muscles). But now, it seems that my old training habit is actually hindering my progress. I am so used to the slow rhythm, that I find it hard to change the rhythm to be in line with Chen style.

I guess it is time to change my training routine, such that I use the different styles to help myself improve. First, to use Yang style to build up my foundation, to continue to practise it slowly so that I can work up those leg muscles, at the same time work on relaxing and turning my kua. Next is to practise Chen style as it should be, with a proper rhythm that changes over the whole routine, and at the same time visualising the application of the movements. Finally, once I get Chen style sorted out, I may embark on learning Sun style to add that spring to my movements.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bajiquan Before and After

A bajiquan 八极拳 routine (the usual competition one that you usually see) being done by the same person, in 1996 and 2006.

Using Others to Learn About Yourself

One of the main principles of taiji is not to use brute force, so we always need to watch ourselves to make sure that we don't fall into the trap of using brute force. During pushing hands, how do we know who is the one using brute force? Besides what I have written about here, I think another way to check if you are the one using brute force is by pushing hands with different people, especially with people who are better than yourself.

If everyone you push hands with seems to be using brute force, it may well be that you are the one using brute force, and they are just returning your force to you. If you are able to feel the difference in how different people use their force, maybe you are on the right track. Because only when you are relaxed and not using brute force will you be able to tell the difference between the force that your opponent is using.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Baguazhang Gold Medalist

Take a look at the video here (the first one) to see a Singaporean baguazhang gold medalist. Do let me know what you think.

Update: I managed to embed the video from the source page.

Source post at Wu Xuan

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Be Like Water, Keep Flowing In

Today, one of my fellow students commented that I was more aggressive than usual during our pushing hands session. But reflecting on my own actions, I don't think I was any more aggressive than before. So what was the difference today?

I adopted the mentality of being like water, to keep trying to flow in, to seep myself into every opening. Every time there was an opening, I would move in to take it. When my opponent's force came, I withdrew and avoided meeting it head on. But once that force is gone, I moved in to take its place. I told myself that I must be like the rising tide, flowing back each time, but to come rushing back each time just a bit more. Maybe this unrelenting spirit was what made me seem more aggressive today.

Underestimating Your Opponent

You should never underestimate your opponent, because even the greenest of greenhorns can still defeat you if you ever grow complacent.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Singapore Wushu and Taiji Activities

I have added links to the "Activities" page of the Singapore National Wushu Federation to my "Links" section, for those interested in knowing what are the planned wushu/taiji activities taking place in Singapore for the year.

"Activities" page in Chinese

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Public Display

A fellow student was talking to my teacher, and suggested that my teacher should actually find some opportunities to publicly show others his skill at pushing hands, so that people will become interested in learning pushing hands and join our class.

For me, I don't really like the idea of a public display of pushing hands. It is an open invitation to challengers and troublemakers. And while I am confident that my teacher is able to handle them, people will end up losing face and may bear a grudge against him. We should instead be like the Ip Man in the show, who faces challengers in his own living room behind closed doors, so that no one outside will know who won and who lost, thus saving everyone's face. And in doing so, ensure that challengers have no reason to bear grudges against him. And it also saves a lot of unwanted attention and additional challengers, because when you are good, there is always someone out there who wants to prove that he is better.

So far, my teacher hasn't really taken up the suggestion yet. However, he welcomes people to pop by and observe our classes, and maybe have a bit of hands-on.

Learn to Stick

In a previous post, I talked about how my teacher is able to stick like glue. Today, he was telling me that unlike him, I am unable to stick to his hand, because I cannot peng properly. In order to stick to his hand, I must first peng, then slowly turn my forearm to change the direction of his force, and at the same time, lead him away. He told me that at first, it may feel like I am resisting, but as long as I continue to tell myself to relax when I peng, I will slowly be able to do it. I guess this is another lesson that I will have to spend some time to figure out.