Monday, December 28, 2009


I don't know why, but this phrase 圆化方进 kept showing up in my mind as I was driving home from pushing hands class today.

When pushing hands with my teacher, I felt that he was drawing out my strength until my arm grew tired. How? Maybe it is because he could sense my force and kept changing his force, so that no matter how I tried to move, he was always one step ahead and his force ended up at an angle to mine, causing my arm to flatten. In an attempt not to let my arm flatten, I tried to shift my force, and when I shifted, he sensed it and changed his angle of approach to continue to flatten my arm. In the end, in order not to let my arm become flattened, I kept changing my force trying to meet his, simply following and ended up continuously exerting force, and making my arm tired instead.

Maybe the trick is to draw circles, such that my force is always changing, rather than to try to react to his force and end up trailing behind.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tired is Good

Realised something today, after practising taiji for a total of more than six hours. Tired is good. It makes you relax more, not because you want to but because you no longer have energy. So in order to practise, you have to find a way to be efficient with whatever energy you have left. Thus you try to find ways and means to move without excessive use of strength. For example, if my kua cannot sink down, usually I will use a bit more strength to force it down. But when I am tired, I can't afford to waste that energy. Instead, I try to find a way to sink my kua without having to use strength to force it. I try to relax it. In the end, I try to find a way to move using as little energy as possible (which means I waste as little energy as possible, leaving me with more energy to use when I need it.)

But that doesn't mean we should try to make ourselves tired before we start our taiji practice. Instead, we should keep practising taiji until we are tired. So I guess when my teacher said that he got a better understanding of taiji after he did four (or was it six?) sets of Yang-style 108 routine in a row, he probably meant this.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Hold Your Ground

There is a taiji saying, 虚则守,实则攻。What is means is that you hold your ground when your opponent doesn't use force, and when you sense him using force, that is when you attack. Why?

I have been pondering this for a while, and what I think is that when he doesn't use force, he is ready to react, and thus if you try to attack, you are actually walking into a trap. His force is empty, yet to take shape, and thus can be formed into any shape. Once you move, he can sense your attack and counter it by shaping his force accordingly.

However, once he has made a move, he has committed himself (his force now takes a certain shape), and thus if you can discern the magnitude and direction of his force, you will be able to neutralise it and utilise it against him.

Thus, before your opponent makes a move, you should hold your ground to see what he intends to do. Otherwise, you may end up walking into a trap. Once he has made a move, you must be ready to discern it and react to it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Moving Together Part 2

One of the basic principles of taiji is for top and bottom to move together (上下相随). Being disjointed is a common mistake, and its disadvantage can be seen during pushing hands. And most of the time, I would say the mistake is because of an unresponsive kua.

For example, when our opponent pushes us, because our arm is more responsive compared to our kua, our arm moves back first before our kua moves. The result? Our arm appears limp and allows our opponent to move in. When our opponent moves back and presents an opening, our arm senses it first and move in, without waiting for our kua to catch up. The result? We are not pushing with our leg (whole body) but pushing with our arm muscles (aka brute force).

So the key is still to train up the kua to become responsive, and that means learning how to relax the kua and how to turn it. Which brings us back to the basic foundation skills.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lack of Practice... Going Backwards

I haven't been able to practise much lately, due to work and tiredness from jet lag. And of course, without practice, I can't improve. In fact, I have gone backwards. A standard pushing hands session was strenuous for me... I ended up with muscles aches on my legs, something that I haven't felt for some time (at least, not this bad...) Just a week without practice, and my legs are no longer as strong.

I guess this goes to show the importance of foundation skills in taiji (and probably all martial arts). As the saying goes, 练拳不练功,到老一场空。(Essentially, if you practise martial arts without practising foundation skills, you will still not get anything after years of practice when you grow old.) I guess it is back to basics again.

Push On or Let Go

One of the things that I wonder about all the time. Once you have managed to get in close to your opponent and think he can no longer ward off your attack, do you push on, or do you let go?

How do you know that you have really got him, if you don't push on? But what if you really got him? Do you need to push on and make him fall just to make a point? Or is it better to just let go, knowing that you have already gotten him?