Saturday, March 29, 2014

Recent Training Routine

My recent training routine starts with 15 minutes of warm-up.
原地走 (walking on the spot, to loosen up the body)
转脚 (ankle rotation)
转膝盖 (knee rotation)
伸屈膝盖 (bending of knees)
弯腰压腿 (hamstring stretch)
大鹏展翅 (raising of arms front and back)
转肩 (turning the shoulders)
伸手 (stretching out the hands)

I practise about 4 days each week.

Day 1:
1 set of Sun style taijiquan
2 sets of Yang/Dong style fast form
1.5 hours of pushing hands

Day 2:
10 sets of opening 起势
1 set of Yang style taijiquan

Day 3:
3 sets of Yang style taijidao
3 sets of Yang style taijijian
3 sets of Chen style taijijian
1 set of Yang/Chen/Sun style taijiquan

Day 4:
1 set of Chen style taijiquan
1.5 hours of pushing hands

Will probably expand the warm-up to daily if I can. At least on those days in which I don't really practise, doing a bit of warm-up exercises before going to work seems like a good idea.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Relaxing Is Not Letting Go

Staying relaxed is a taiji fundamental. Yet it is not the same as letting go. It does not mean going limp. Even when relaxed, one must maintain the "balloon". It is not the same as dropping the balloon. You relax in order to maintain the balloon, so that when people press in, they bounce back. If you drop the balloon, then when people press in, they reach you instead.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Inkling: Some Thoughts on Taiji, Consolidated Into Simple Phrases

Relaxed but not letting go.
Slow but not stiff.
Fast but not disorganised.
Light but not limp.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Force as a Concept in Taiji

The word force (劲) is often used in taiji, such as when we talk about the eight forces of taiji such as peng (棚) and cai (采). This Chinese character for the concept of force in taiji is used to differentiate it from what we understand as force in our normal sense of the word. But what we need to understand is that the concept of force in taiji is not what we normally understand by the word force. We understand force as something physical that is used to move an object. That is not what the word "force" in taiji means. It is a concept used to understand the physical manifestation of a state of mind in taiji.

The biggest clue to us that the concept of "force" in taiji does not refer to physical force comes from the phrase 用意不用力, which means to use mental intention, not physical force. This is what taiji is about: using the mind. Our actions are actually the physical manifestation of what our mind is thinking about. The mind leads and the body follows. So in taiji, the focus is not on the physical but on the mental state of the mind. The use of the word "force" is to explain a concept, something that starts in the mind but comes to manifest itself in the physical.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Inkling: Relax and Change Direction of Force

I still haven't really figured it out yet. But I think relaxing has something to do with changing the direction of your opponent's force. Somehow, when you relax, his direction of force is reversed, and you are thus able to return his force towards him and use it against him.

Such as when he tries to pull you towards him, by relaxing, you change his force, and can make him fall forward instead. Or when he is pushing towards you, by relaxing, you change his force and bounce him backwards.

I will need more experience and pondering to figure this out, but that is the basic idea as of now.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Learning to Push

You don't need to learn how to use brute strength to push. Even a baby knows that. A 5 year old (like my son) knows that. We are all brought up learning how to use brute force.

So coming to pushing hands class, trying to learn how to push, and continuing to use brute strength... that is a waste of time. There is nothing new to learn here. These are all things that we have learnt as kids and gotten better at over the years.

The value of pushing hands class is in learning where we are still unable to relax. Because when someone is able to push us, it means we still have some place or point in time in which we are unable to relax. Realising that, and then working to relax that place/point, is why we actually push hands.

Everyone can push. But not everyone knows how to relax.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Fast and Slow

In taiji, it is said that when your opponent is fast, you have to be fast too; when your opponent is slow, you have to be slow too. This fast and slow should not be taken literally, though. It is not about the physical movement, in other words. It is not about how fast or slow we move.

Rather, it is about intention. After all, one of the things that we learn about taiji is that it is not about force. We are told to use our intention and not our physical force. Similarly, this thing about fast and slow is not about the physical but rather the mental. It is actually about how fast or slow we change our intentions so as to match that of our opponent's.

Intentions translate into actual action/behaviour. But it is the intention that leads, not the action. By making sure that our movements follow our intentions (instead of being instinctive/reactive), we become the masters of our bodies, and we are able to control our actions and our reactions. And that is what sets a taiji master apart from the average Joe.