Thursday, October 03, 2013

Keeping Things Simple

I was driving back from taiji practice when a thought came into my mind. I was actually talking to my teacher about his fellow student, when it reminded me of a video clip that I saw of his fellow student performing a Praying Mantis routine. While the movements are the same when compared to what my teacher taught me, his fellow student's presentation of the routine is more flashy, mimicking a praying mantis more closely.

It got me thinking: these animal styles, are they supposed to look like the animal that inspired them, or is the inspiration a concept (something inside) rather than in action (something outside/external)? In other words, is the Praying Mantis style supposed to look like a praying mantis? Or is it based on the concept of how a praying mantis attacks it prey? One is literal, the other conceptual. To me, one is flashy and showy, the other is down to the essence.

Do we put more energy into looking like a praying mantis? Or do we put that energy into fighting like one?

The movements my teacher taught me are simple and straightforward. Each move has a use, and there is nothing extra to try to make it look more like a praying mantis (we don't bounce/spring, crouch low and draw needless circles, etc). To me, martial arts are practical skills, they were designed for a specific purpose, and anything beyond that is unnecessary. It is like competition wushu nowadays, the actions are flashy/showy but a lot of energy is spent on making it look good, rather than making it effective in defeating an opponent.

It also reminded me that in my taiji practice, I need to get rid of all that extra stuff, the extra movements, the extra force. Strip down everything to the bare minimum, keep things as simple as they can be. Keep to the essence, everything else is a waste of energy that can be better used.

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