Monday, January 11, 2010

Conserving Energy

No, this is not a post about saving the environment. It is about using the least amount of energy when applying taiji.

Taiji is about using the least amount of force to counter a larger force. It is not about not using force at all. If you don't use any force, you cannot move except to fall by gravity, though using zero force (aka falling by gravity) is also part of taiji since the least force you can use is zero.

How is that done? It means moving each muscle just the right amount to achieve the effect/movement that you desire, and not using those muscles that don't need to be used. Naturally, because we are not used to it and also because our joints are not very flexible, whenever we move a part of our body, some other part of the body will move along with it. The aim of practising taiji is thus to learn how to control our muscles and move them only when needed, and independent of each other, such that when one of them moves, it doesn't cause unnecessary muscles to move as well.

For example, when you turn your wrist, there is a natural tendency for you to move your shoulder as well, resulting in not just your wrist turning but your elbow moving inwards (if you are turning your wrist outwards). But with practice (actually, just conscious effort, which is 意), you will be able to turn your wrist without causing your elbow/shoulder to move. You are thus able to turn your wrist without wasting unnecessary energy (and thus you conserve your energy for other movements).

The more energy you conserve, the more energy you have for other things, which means you are able to wear down an opponent if you want (using little energy over a long period), or throw a stronger punch at him (using more energy within a short period).

It also means that we don't beat around the bush. We get straight to the point. We observe. Then we choose a course of action and move in. Even when we move to test an opponent's reaction, it is not a random move but a calculated one, in which we already know in our mind what reactions we are looking for, and once the opponent has reacted, we straight away move in. In this way, no energy is wasted doing anything that is not related to defeating the opponent.

I guess that's conserving energy at the tactical and strategic levels.

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