Saturday, March 30, 2013

Style Versus Strucuture/Form

There are many styles of taiji, though there are 5 main styles, each unique in its own way. For example, Chen style taiji has a good mixture of fast and slow, and the signature silk reeling. Yang style taiji has big movements and uniform rhythm.

The structure/form of each style usually serves to highlight these characteristics. The movements in Yang style routines are big. The movements in Chen style routines have a lot of silk reeling.

By practising the forms, we are eventually able to realise the styles.

But sometimes, we try to use form/structure to cover up our deficiencies in style. We are not there yet in style (because we don't practise enough), but we add in a bit more silk reeling into our Chen style routine to make it look like we are good. We deliberately practise our Yang style routine slowly to make the movements seem big and the rhythm uniform. But these are just movements without substance. It is not true style. We look good not because we are skilled in the style that we practise, but because the form that we practise looks good. We end up being satisfied by appearances and not true skill. We can't bring out the flavour in our styles through our practice, and instead make it up by adopting movements that duplicate such flavour.

So a question to ask ourselves when we learn our forms: does practising the form help you in learning the style, or is it just that the form looks like the style?

Friday, March 22, 2013


Everything in taiji starts with peng.

Need I say more?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rigid to Flaccid to Relax

When we first start out learning taiji, we still use a lot of brute force, there is a tendency to be tense and we end up resisting a lot. We tend to be rigid in this starting stage.

Then we are told that we need to stop resisting. To stop using brute force. As we slowly get rid of the habit of using brute force, we have a tendency to swing in the opposite direction. In order not to resist, we end up having the tendency to let go. When faced with force, we run away. We end up being flaccid.

And then we are told to stop running away, to stop letting go. In taiji, just as it is taboo to resist, it is also taboo to let go. There is a fine balance in between in which you do not use brute force, but you are not totally lacking in force. That is when we start to know what relax is all about.

Not too hard, not too soft, just enough to maintain structure.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Passing On Knowledge

I never try to act like I know a lot about taiji. When my fellow students ask me about taiji or pushing hands, I do my best to share with them what my teacher told me. I pass on the knowledge given to me. That is why I am very reluctant to share with them my own inklings.

And whenever I answer their questions, I will find opportunities to talk to my teacher about those questions and how I answered them. Just to make sure that the answers I gave were what my teacher would have said. After all, he is their teacher, it is his knowledge that should be passed on to them, I am just a conduit.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Win, Lose or Draw

Actually, in pushing hands, I don't think there is any win, lose or draw. Of course, in a pushing hands competition, there is always win-lose-draw, but in pushing hands itself, there is no such thing.

Being able to push someone doesn't mean you win. It just means he was unable to neutralise your force. Being pushed doesn't mean you lose, it just means that you are unable to neutralise your opponent's force. Not being able to push each other doesn't mean it is a draw, it just means that neither of you are able to use the other's force against him.

Ultimately, pushing hands is not about being able to push someone. It is about learning how to sense force, understand force and use force. Just because I can push someone doesn't mean I am good; I could be using brute force and he just was not able to neutralise my brute force. Similarly, just because my teacher is able to push me doesn't mean I am not good; it could just be that I have not reached my teacher's level of being able to sense, understand and use force.

The important thing is to remember what pushing hands is about, and continue to work towards that end goal, instead of being bogged down with the winning and losing.