Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Linking Hands and Feet

I must admit, I have not been a good student, after missing quite some pushing hands classes over the past two months. Of course, I missed some of the lessons due to work, but some I missed intentionally... because I somehow cannot reconcile the differences between the two styles of pushing hands (the one that I learnt in Singapore, and the one practised at this class in Tokyo). But I did learn an important thing from the pushing hands class in Tokyo, and that is the importance of linking your hands with your feet.

In taiji, it is important to use intention, and thus mental images are very important. The mental image linking your hands to your feet is important, since the feet is the contact with the ground from which you derive your force. Mentally linking your hands with your feet allows you to bring the force generated by your legs into actual use (at the hands). When you come into contact with your opponent's force, mentally channeling it down to your feet allows you to neutralise it and change its direction. When neutralising, it is like making his force travel from your hands (assuming that is the point of contact) through your arms, down the torso and both legs to arrive at the feet. And then you make that same force travel from the feet up your legs and torso, through the arms to arrive back at the hands and in the direction that you want to bring your opponent towards.

So right now, the current focus of my taiji routine practices is to maintain the mental image of my hands being linked to my feet. Let's see where this leads...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Perfect Warrior in Bushido Thinking

I attended a lecture on bushido today. It was on what is the image of the perfect warrior in bushido thinking. When one brings up the topic of the perfect warrior in Japan, there may be some who will think about historical figures like Takeda Shingen, Uesugi Kenshin and Miyamoto Musashi. In bushido, the perfect warrior is not just one who is highly skilled in martial arts. He is someone who is also compassionate and kind and skilled in the fine arts. Why?

Bushido believes that the person who is not afraid of death is a strong warrior. I don't think anyone can dispute that. After all, if a person is willing to be killed just so that he can also cut you down, he is quite likely to be able to achieve what he sets out to do (ie. cut you down). But what makes a person able to disregard his own life in the pursuit of his goal?

That is when the pursuit of the fine arts come in. When a warrior pursues the fine arts, he learns to appreciate beauty, he learns to appreciate that the beauty of the things around him do not come by easily. A calligrapher may take only minutes to write a calligraphy piece, but he had to practise years before he could make each piece a work of art. A warrior skilled in the fine arts is thus able to appreciate the difficulties of life, and that brings about compassion and kindness in him. He is able to appreciate beauty and the value of life.

And thus when he can convince himself of his goal being bigger than the value of his life, he is no longer afraid of dying, and that makes him a very dangerous opponent. It is similar to what I have written before about being ready to accept defeat.

Thus, it is not enough to just train everyday in the martial arts. The perfect warrior must also devote time to studying the fine arts and learn to appreciate the beauty in the things around him and the wonders of life.