Thursday, December 23, 2010

Balance, Weight and Steps

How you distribute your weight determines your balance. After all, it affects the position of your centre of gravity which effectively determines if you are in equilibrium or not (balance or off-balance). However, one often overlooked point is how your lack of balance can affect your steps.

When taking a step, if your balance is off, you will fall towards where your centre of gravity is. This affects where your step actually lands, since it may not land where it is intended. Which is why we need to place our weight on one leg before we step forward with the other leg. That way, we are stable when taking a step, and our step lands where we want it to be.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Turn Here, Turn There

Yet another inkling after thinking about my experience pushing hands with my teacher. It is about how to neutralise your opponent's force and use it back against him.

For example, when your arm comes into contact with your opponent's arm during pushing hands, turn your arm towards him in one direction until you meet resistance. Once you meet resistance, use that to stick to his arm, and then change the direction of turning your arm, all the while still turning towards him. If you meet resistance again, change direction. The thing is to change direction when you meet resistance, all the while your arm is turning in towards him.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Joke... Or An Insult?

The opening move in taiji is a very simple movement, yet very difficult to master. From the opening move, one can see if a practitioner is able to achieve all the requirements of taiji, such as the body moving as a whole, relaxing the body, not using brute strength, moving continuously, etc.

During one of our classes, a senior student of my teacher was sharing with another student (quite new to taiji, but he has practised Japanese martial arts for decades) that we have been practising the opening move for about 3 years now (though it is more like 30 years for the senior student...) Hearing that, the new student declared that he would master the opening move in 3 months.

I don't know how to treat this statement. Should I take it as a joke? Or an insult? If a person thinks he can master something that we have been practising for 3 (or 30) years, is he belittling our effort, or belittling the difficulty of what we are trying to learn? Or is he so full of himself that he thinks he can do in months what others takes years to do?

I, for one, would think that he should know the importance of training. That as a practitioner of martial arts himself, he should know that there is no short cut. To be good at something, you need to put in effort to train in it. So I was quite shock at his statement. And if he knows the importance of training, would he then make his statement in jest? Or did he mean more than what he said?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Being Relaxed and Accepting Defeat

I keep writing about being relaxed. And I think that is really the key when facing an opponent.

In taiji, we are told to be relaxed. Relaxed is not a state of the body. It is a state of mind that brings about a state of body. It is no use trying to relax the body if your mind is not relaxed. If you are worried or afraid or angry or anxious, it will show in your actions.

Recently, a practitioner of Japanese martial arts was talking about what he learnt. It got me to recall what I myself know about Japanese martial arts, having trained in them before as well as having my own intimate relationship with Japan and things Japanese, including their way of life and their mentality. In Japanese martial arts, they advocate 覚悟, which when translated goes something like being aware of the consequences and ready to accept those consequences. In bushido (武士道) terms, it means being ready to die for a cause.

I think they all refer to the same thing. It means being ready to accept defeat (and the consequences that comes with it, including, at times, death). When you are ready to accept defeat, your mind is no longer cluttered by fear, anger or other emotions. Your senses are then heightened because your mind is at a different (higher) state of awareness. In a way, your mind is now sharper and thus you react faster. You can still be defeated if you never trained hard enough (because your body cannot achieve what your mind tells it to do) but you are otherwise at the peak of your performance.