Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disappearing Force

Recently, I wrote about using my opponent's force. I then had the opportunity to talk to my teacher about it. My teacher then proceeded to demonstrate the same thing, yet what I felt was very different compared to when I was practising with my fellow student.

First, when my fellow student uses my force against me, it happens like this. When I push a bit, he would peng and it actually reminded me of aikiage from aikido. He would turn his arms slightly, and I can actually feel my arms being "locked" and my force being sent back all the way to my back leg. Then he would use his back leg to push and that would push me back.

For my teacher, I did not feel anything like that. When I push, it was as if my force was disappearing into a black hole. There is no slight turn of my teacher's arms, I don't feel my arms being locked or any force being sent back to my back leg. It was just as if all my force has disappeared. And then suddenly, it would all come back towards me and I will get pushed back.

My teacher went on to explain that the slight turning of the arm is a technique, but true use of taiji actually does not need to rely on that slight turning. Simply relax, then push. And I realised while practising my routine that it is something that I have already been doing, this "relax, then push" thingy. Relax, then use the front leg to push back so as to shift your weight back. Relax, then use the back leg to push so as to shift your weight in front. I have actually been doing this, and it remains to put this practice into use.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Learning From "After the Rain"

While watching "After the Rain", there was a scene in which a lowly samurai was facing a renowned master in a practice duel. The lowly samurai was actually trying to pull a fast one: he was going to quickly admit defeat, so as to put the master into a good mood and maybe even getting some money out of it. So he entered the duel without any intention to win, or even try winning.

To the renowned master, he was faced with an opponent that presented countless openings, yet this opponent somehow didn't seem to care that he had many openings. In the end, the renowned master admitted defeat: when faced with an opponent that didn't seem to care if he won or lost, the renowned master just didn't know what to do.

It reminded me about what I have learnt in taiji, that when we are fixated with winning, we end up losing. When we are afraid of losing, that fear of losing can be used against us. The renowned master couldn't use fear of losing against the lowly samurai; instead, he was afraid of taking any of the openings as it would fix him on a course of action and open him to counterattack instead.

Bottomline is still the same: Don't be fixated on winning, don't be afraid of losing.

Relearning Lessons

I was pushing hands with a fellow student and he was trying to teach me about how to lock in my opponent's force and then use it against him. What he told me reminded me very much about my experience learning pushing hands in Japan, and it seemed to be a repeat of those same things that I have learnt, such as having to link my hands and feet. And thinking back, maybe the same mistakes are still being made.

But it is the same question again: Is it enough to just learn this, or should I step through what my teacher has been teaching and eventually reach this stage? The first seems like the "quick fix", allowing me to quickly learn how to use my opponent's force against him. But stepping through the steps/stages seem to be more... rooted. Is there meaning in taking things one step at a time, or is achieving the end effect everything there is to this?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sensing Different Types of Force

Today, I was pushing hands with my teacher, after which I pushed hands with other students in the class. I came to realise that I can sense two types of force: the taiji force that my teacher uses (steady but flexible) and the rigid force that the other students were using. Relax doesn't mean to be soft, that much we know. My teacher's force is strong, flexible, but nothing rigid like the force that other students use. So what is the difference between the two? I think it is the source of the force. One is rooted and moves using the kua, the other is local and depends on pure muscular strength.

So now that I can sense the difference between the two, it is about how to neutralise both types of force, and learn how to use both types of force against my opponents.

Becoming Lazy

I used to practice taiji on Sunday mornings, going to a class of my teacher. But ever since he stopped that class, I have not been practising on Sunday mornings. I have been telling myself, I should get up on Sundays, and go practise. But so far, I have not been able to do so... I am getting lazy. When I have classes to go to, I make myself go, because it is basic courtesy not to miss classes. But somehow, I still lack the self-discipline to get myself to practise on my own. Something for reflection...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Learning To Be Pushed

I was thinking about what learning pushing hands is about. It is about how to apply taiji, yes. But how to go about learning it? Is it to learn how to push? Because many of my fellow students seem to be focused on learning how to push each other. They seem to derive satisfaction from being able to push their opponent.

But if taiji is about being able to use your opponent's force against him, then maybe learning to push is just a manifestation? I was thinking, maybe pushing hands is actually about learning how to be pushed. Maybe it is about learning how to let your opponent push you, so that you can then use his force against him. I will be trying this mentality out for a while to see if I gain a better understanding of what pushing hands is about.