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Begin your mastery with our 3-step approach to learning the art.

a) Our teaching commitment

i) Step 1 – We tell you what you are learning; why you are learning it and how to learn it

ii) Step 2 – We teach you how to practice the principles using our forms. We also show you applications to help you understand how to do the forms properly

iii) Step 3 – We use push hands to train you how to respond dynamically using the forms you have learned

 

b) Your learning commitment

i) Keep an open mind to learning

ii) Commit necessary time to daily practice

iii) Be persistent to succeed

 

c) Lesson format

i) 1-to-1 private lessons, minimum once per week

ii) Conducted in English

iii) Teaching customized to learning ability of each student

 

We are located in the south-west region (Yew Tee) of Singapore. Lessons in the evenings week nights or whole day weekends.

Contact us today using the form below to take the first step towards your mastery of Tai Chi Chuan.

 

LogoBegin your journey to master Tai Chi by clicking here.

 

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The first step is the hardest

When I hear the song “The first cut is the deepest” I automatically think of “The first step is the hardest” because they both rhyme.

Yes, the first step in doing anything is always hard because so many things stand in our way. Or maybe its more like a case of so many excuses to give to not take that first step.

To be lazy and procastinate is what we are naturally good at. To be hard working not so much.

Everytime I pass by this road Lorong Kebasi I wonder where it leads to. I always think of taking a drive down it to see where it leads. But I never do. I somehow find many reasons not to do so, not even take a look at the map.

Until this evening, I finally decided to take a look at the map and found that it leads to another road which leads to a dead end!!!

Some learning are like this, leading to nowhere. I used to observe this old art teacher in NAFA teaching. When asked how to draw he would say its difficult to say. Then he would sit and draw to show the student. But he didn’t teach, didn’t explain. Learning under him led the students nowhere. If they made progress it would be because of their own effort.

When learning under such teachers it is better not to learn in the first place. Waste of time.

However, when you find something worthwhile to learn then to not take the first step is to waste your time. Before you know it weeks, months, years have passed and you are still pondering on taking the first step. I see my students and wish they would master it faster. I am not getting younger and neither are they. I don’t want them to be old by the time they get it.

Learning Tai Chi seems to be an exercise in being frustrated when you can’t seem to get it. But then sometimes why do we work so hard on trying to explain everything. Instead, just enjoy the ride. If we can do it then its better than to be able to explain it but cannot do it.

Tai Chi is not magic but then it ain’t rocket science either. Somewhere along the line, with enough practice the understanding will come. Just don’t rush it because it will make you frustrated. Enjoy the journey and before you know it you will have arrived.

First Day Blues

11 Apr 2019 was Day 1 of the SKD Challenge No. 2 which will run for three months.

The objective this time is to learn how to move between 6 blocks in a soft and flowing manner. Six movements do not sound like a lot but if you are not familiar with it then its a case of first day blues such as experienced by SKD member, M.

As with the Challenge No. 1 we will track members’ progress to see how they are getting on. M has performed admirably in Challenge No. 1 on the Yum Chui and even managed to make another breakthrough on Day 100. Kudos. M is made for SKD.

So the standard that I would like all SKD members to reach is as shown below :-

The end objective is to use the sequence to learn how to use the six blocks freely while defending and attacking whether with contact or without. Below is an example of how Yum Chui and other strikes can be integrated into the flow of the 6-blocks :-

Join the SKD Slack training group here.

Internal Not

Yesterday was the 100th day of our SKD Challenge No. 1 for 2019. The entire challenge was focused on getting the first strike, Yum Chui, correct.

As a system SKD does not have to pretend to be an internal art. What purpose would this serve? Instead, we focus on getting movements and applications correct.

For example, a sub-component of Yum Chui is the pulling of one hand back as the other hand moves out in a strike. This movement is simple to do once you get it.

One important lesson that can be learned from the pulling movement is how to neutralize an opponent’s power by diverting it. Below is a clip showing member from Malaysia learning SKD :-

When you can do the pulling properly you can make the movement very small until its barely perceptible. You can then use it to neutralize on one side and issue on the other; the exact same principle of how to do the strike in Yum Chui.

The minimizing of movements to neutralize and issue once it is used in a “Tai Chi”-like context can make it seem internal but its not. If anything, it is just two distinct external movements refined to the point of seeming like one movement. No Chi, no breathing, no meridian circulation, no mumbo jumbo, just plain ole precise movements.

Push Hands Roadmap

If we say that playing push hands is like playing chess what do we mean exactly?

How does pushing round and round like playing chess?

A lot of times doing push hands is not like playing chess. Instead, it is like reacting. You push, I react. Then you react to my reaction. And so on, but its all reacting without a plan except I need to push you off-balance.

If you want to play push hands in a more chess-like then why not play it more like chess with a chessboard and pieces with defined movements?

I guess at this point many readers would scratch their head and go Huh!

I like to think that playing push hands is like playing chess with a dose of game theory, you know the famous prisoner’s dilemma thing? Yeah, that one. This is how we approach playing push hands, by presenting a prisoner’s dilemma scenario cause you see, this simplifies decision making, presenting a more logical take on what-if scenarios.

I know, I know, being an internal arts practitioner means we must look down on such what-if scenarios learning. But truth be told, if you know the whote Chi thing but cannot use it in push hands then as far as being practical is concerned you’ve just lost the plot.

Working with engineers taught me a more sensible way of looking at push hands :-

a) It is not just push here and push there. It is why, why, why push like this and not like that, what’s the objective, what’s the point?

b) It is defined; thus pushing round and round may be fun and serves some purpose but after that if you still push round and round without an aim then you are not really playing chess

c) There are laid down requirements and objectives to fulfill otherwise how do you know if you have made progress?

So when we play push hands we have to address the questions of :-

a) What is the chessboard? Why is it important?

b) How does the chess pieces (our techniques) move, strengths and limitations?

c) What are the markers of success in implementation of technique and strategy; example check-mate the opponent by pushing him off balance or by ability to implement techniques of strike, lock or throw

With the above, we can then proceed to define what constitutes a chessboard and how the pieces’ movements should be like as well as associated strategies :-

a) What is the mental chessboard? How it is defined and mapped by intent

b) Key strategies and positions

c) Major techniques and associated changes

d) Process of implementation and execution

e) Application of power

If the above doesn’t make much sense don’t worry about it because the target audience is my students who are learning push hands. This is an overview of our approach to help them remember what the outline of the story is about. The rest of the details they can fill in when they are learning it.

Science in Tai Chi

Ouf of the blue my student asked me about Chi and what not in Tai Chi. I told him that its better to spend time dwelling on the science behind Tai Chi then on matters like Chi.

The reason is simple – Chi is difficult to conceptualize clearly and definitively in practice. You can tell someone to breathe in and out to circulate the Chi and he can then believe that he has Chi in his movements but will it mean he can apply his techniques better? Aye, that is the question.

However, if we examine the practice of Tai Chi from the perspective of science it is clearer as to what is or is not happening. Of course, we can argue about Chi from say the perspective of physiology or TCM but will it lead to a clear cut answer or lead you deeper into the rabbit hole?

Just because you can’t see the science behind Tai Chi does not mean that it does not exist. In order to identify the science behind Tai Chi you should first master the art however you have to do so. Then when you read books on science you have a better idea of what you are looking at.

For example, the Tai Chi Classics exhort us to seek stillness in motion and motion in stillness. What does this mean exactly?

If you read both lines as a whole this would mean stillness must co-exist in motion and vice versa. Meaning that both must exist concurrently in every Tai Chi movement whether you stand still or you move.

However, to move but then have to be still sounds like a contradiction. Admittedly this is so until you know the science behind it. I am not good in science but being exposed to the field of engineering helps because it is in this line of work that I happened to see a real life example of this Tai Chi principle. I actually shot a clip of this but unfortunately it was in the early days of phone cameras and the quality is so bad that I couldn’t see the illustration clearly.

What is in the clip is a shot of a shaft starting to rotate from 0 rpm till past 10,000 rpm. The interesting point is how the eye sees a reflective tape that is pasted onto the rotating shaft as the speed increased. At a lower speed the reflective tape can be seen turning round and round. However, as the speed increased to about 5,000 rpm two reflective tapes can be seen in the same spot on the shaft. Once the shaft spun at 10,000 rpm the reflective tape can be seen in the same spot, as if its not moving.

The paradox here is that at a very fast speed we should expect to see the reflective tape spinning round and round very quickly. Except, this is not how it behaves and if anything, it is as if the reflective tape did not move from the same spot – a good example of stillness within motion. And because the reflective tape is vibrating at a fast pace due to the speed it looked as if there is motion when the tape appeared to stay still – motion within stillness!

The implication here of this observation is that it is not only by moving slowly we should seek to fulfill the principle but also at a faster speed. Indirectly, this is telling us that if we can do something at a slow speed it is only half the mastery. Instead, we have to be able to do it fast because when you apply this principle in the execution of techniques you must be able to carry out the technique as and when required, meaning when you need to be fast, you must be able to do it fast.

This indirectly answers an observation of why many Tai Chi practitioners are good at pushing an opponent as long as the opponent is not able to move out of the way fast enough. However, if the opponent fights back or moves about a lot then one must be able to do the technique in however little time is available or the window of opportunity will be gone in the next instant.

In this sense, being internal is not enough. Instead, one must also master the external factors relating to motion such as timing, range, angle, etc.

Aloha

Last Tue (28 Mar) I met Mark and Janet; both Tai Chi instructors via Grandmaster Dong Zhenchen’s lineage. That makes us kinda like “cousins” in the Dong style.

Below is a clip showing GM Dong demonstrating his techniques on Mark :-

We talked shop and I had a chance to feel Mark’s hands which were solidly responsive, an indication of good learning under GM Dong.

But then I had already more or less expected this since it was watching GM Dong do his push hands and demonstrate the Fast Form once upon a time in a dim YMCA room that helped made up my mind to learn Dong style back then. Not to mention a short flight into the wall when trying to push hands with GM Dong.

A clip of Mark and Janet demonstrating Dong style push hands below :-

This is traditional type of push hands training unlike the “wrestling” type that is typically seen nowadays. Its good to see this type of training still ongoing and hopefully for years to come.

Flow & Change

Work sucks because it takes away my fun time. While I have a short break from work now let’s have some fun.

Unless you are doing a cooperative drill your partner / opponent will never give you a free pass. You want to apply a technique on him you gotta make him give it to you or force it on him.

When we apply Play Pipa while standing in the center of our opponent’s gate we have to capture his arm before we can apply the lock. The first thing to do is to capture his extended arm’s wrist rather than elbow so that your right arm can still do its job to protect you from his left fist.

As you flow into the position to catch his right wrist you need to carefully control the position and capturing motion. If your position is off he can run away and hit you. This is when your position must allow you to recover if you make a mistake. If you encounter resistance that stops you from capturing his wrist then you would go on to Plan B, perhaps a change of position and technique.

But if you die, die must play the pipa then you can change and flow until you get back to the position where you can grasp the pipa (opponent’s arm).

However, there are times you just cannot get back into the position you want because the opponent has put up a strong guard. In these type of instances you should just go with the flow, take what is given and just use it. An example of this is shown below :-

Sometimes when we train we will use a bit more resistance than normal just to see where it takes us.