Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Expressing Your Movements Revisited

My teacher is able to express his taiji movements very well. Each move is soft, yet you can see that there is meaning behind each move, that each move can easily turn into something that can be applied. While soft, each move hides the hardness inside. It takes a lot of practice to reach this stage, since you must have a strong foundation, understand the principles of taiji and study the application of each movement.

To reach there, you need to practise. While practising, imagine there is an opponent that you are shadow boxing with. Imagine how each movement is supposed to be a counter to your opponent's attack, how his attack/force should feel like and then imagine how each movement will affect your opponent.

But you also need to be careful not to focus too much on expressing your movements. If the application of each movement becomes too explicit, you end up showing too much hardness and lose the softness of taiji. You end up locking yourself into a certain application, rather than keeping your options open for flexible responses.

Moving Together Revisited

While on of the basics of taiji is to move the whole body together, which is usually best seen in the timing of the movement of the upper body tied in with the movement of the lower body, I think that is not enough. When I first started learning taiji, I was told that my hand and my leg must reach together. Once the leg stops moving, the hand must stop moving too. Once the leg changes direction, the hand must change direction too.

The aim of moving together is so that the force generated is the sum total of all the force generated by all the moving parts of your body, rather than just being limited to that force generated at a local part of your body. Which means that the force generated is the sum of the force generated by your legs, waist and arms, rather than just your arms.

However, even though my hand and leg reaches together, I still feel that my upper body and lower body are disjointed, that even though the appearance is that they are moving together, in actuality, they are not. I think the problem is because I have not been paying attention to how I can move my body together as a whole to generate the force that I need. The outer appearance is for hand and leg to reach at the same time. But the way to practise is to pay attention on how to channel the force generated by the different parts of the body towards a single point. I guess this will be something to work on in the practices ahead.

Losing Details

A common mistake that all of us make is losing details along the way. As we become familiar with our routines, with the movements, the small little moves, we start to grow complacent and skip details. After a while, we become used to not expressing those details (because they require too much attention) and end up losing them. But it is the details that makes taijiquan a practical art of self-defence, so when we start losing details, we also lose the ability to use taijiquan. So it is good to have someone (usually your teacher) point out to you that you have skipped some of the details.

Force On a Line, Force At a Point

Yet another inkling... this one is on how to lead your opponent's force away or use it back against him. When your opponent's force is not focused correctly, it is spread out over a line (or area) rather than at a point. When that happens, I think you should be able to use it against him by contacting his force at a single point, then rotating that contact point (so that you maintain contact at a single point at all times) in the direction that you want to lead him. In a way, your force is always focused at a point (ie. the point of contact) and you use that point of contact to decide on the direction of movement, while you use your opponent's force at that point of contact to maintain contact and decide the magnitude of the movement.

If his force is focused at a point, then you use that as the initial point of contact, and then you rotate that point of contact in the direction of your choice, bringing him to change his point of focus of his force along the way. The thing is to use his force to maintain contact and use his force to determine the magnitude of movement, while you are the one who decides on the direction of movement.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inkling - Spiralling In and Out

Yet another inkling while walking home from taiji class... spiralling. To neutralise my opponent's force, how do I use spiralling? When he pushes, how do I spiral his force down from my arm to my legs and to the ground? When he pulls, how do I follow his force and spiral out?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Don't Grab

Another point brought up by my teacher. In pushing hands, we don't grab hold of our opponent. For example, we don't grab his wrist and pull. Instead, we use our hands to lock his arm and roll back. Why? Because when you grab, your hand becomes stiff, and that force can then be used against you. At the same time, you are unable to sense your opponent's force.

For example, if your opponent grabs your wrist and tried to pull you, all you need to do is relax, go with his force and at the same time, peng.

A Strong Stance

My teacher talked about the importance of having a strong stance today. In pushing hands, your legs must be strong so that you can achieve a strong stance, yet at the same time, your upper body must be relaxed. That way, you can sense your opponent's force, yet avoid being pushed around.

Of course, the important thing here is that your kua must be relaxed. Else you will end up being led around because your legs, though strong, are stiff.

Strong legs, relaxed kua, relaxed upper body.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Yet another inkling... it is still about the always important question about how to peng. We have been told that power is generated from the legs, is controlled by the waist, and takes form in the arms. When we try to ward off our opponent's force, I guess this is the same. We need to use the force generated by our legs to ward off the opponent's force. I guess that this means that when his force comes, we need to move our legs (either forward or backwards), turn our kua accordingly to bring the force to our arms, and ward off his force. In order to do that, we cannot stop moving, for if we do, we will end up resisting.

So what does continuously moving mean? As we move our legs, our kua must move, and our arms must move. In a way, our forearm continues to turn outwards together with us moving our legs/kua. And it is not just our forearm, but our shoulder, our elbow, our forearm, our wrist, our hand. As we move our leg (for example, pushing from back to front), our whole arm spirals out. That may be the way in which neverending movement allows us to let the force generated by our legs to take form in our arms. Guess I will try this out and pay a bit more attention to this over the next few practices.