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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.

 

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Last Day

Today is the last day of Chinese New Year.

I haven’t written anything here between the eve of Chinese New Year and now partly because of time constraint and partly because of inspiration. Granted, there are lots of things to write about but if the topic doesn’t stay in my mind for a few days then its not something I feel is important enough to write about.

There is the more detailed stuff I would like to write about, something I want to do if I can retire from work. This material consist of information delivered to students but not captured on video.

When the information is recorded it would have appeared in the public videos on the Facebook page “Learn Tai Chi in Singapore” or on unlisted videos posted to Youtube but made available only to specific students in the Slack group.

Why am I bringing this topic up? Well, its something a student said last night. He thinks I should just go ahead and reveal the information anyway because its difficult enough for him to make sense of it even though he is learning it and he thinks most readers won’t be able to see through the maze so easily.

Actually, there are two sides to it. One is the more complicated stuff that is for those who have learned martial arts before and the other more simplified material for those who are not as crazy about the usage part.

The complicated stuff is that which unravels the principles, their meaning, how to bring them to life in your practice and application. The simplified stuff is less heavy on the traditional stuff, more on using modern analogies to put the point across.

For example, to lower our arm such that we can generate power is easy when we do it quickly and with forcefulness. However, this could make our movement much bigger than we would like it, exposing ourselves unnecessarily to a counter.

The principles point to us a better option that allows us to generate the power but not open up ourselves at the same time. This requires using intent precisely and this is where the problem starts.

Knowing what is to be done and actually doing it is the problem. We know what to do, we think we are doing it but we are not doing it. Throw in the need to be exact to the point of subtlety and everyone ends up not getting it.

So the solution is to make this more accessible by simplifying it, taking an experimental route to learning it, putting aside certain important considerations for the moment. And yes, it gets the job done, students learn much faster. But let’s not kid ourselves, they still need to tighten up their movements and achieve the requirements of the principles.

Or maybe not. As long as they do not intend to learn how to apply the art then this does not matter. The requirements only make sense when we have a combat problem to solve. Without a problem there is no need for a solution.

Yes, we learn Tai Chi as a tool to solve certain problems. To learn Tai Chi effectively we need to ask what these problems are. If you don’t know then whether you learn Tai Chi or not is not important. When you know then you may find that Tai Chi is useful in addressing those problems.

Lately, I have been focusing on pushing the longer learning students to flesh out their push hands game. I made my case to them that if they want to play with outsiders (and some of them do or are doing it) then they must have a problem solving approach instead of pushy-pushy here, pushy-pushy there in a reactionary manner.

Doing so calls for strategies. In turn, this calls for techniques to support the strategies. The techniques must be supported by workable internal and external considerations, stuff that we train in our form.

So for example, we train the lotus kick but can we use it? Master Leong taught Grandmaster Nip’s application of the lotus kick in a manner that I have not encountered in the teachings of other Tai Chi teachers.

For this reason I did not want to video this teaching because it is something that most of us would not have thought of. As such, it is can be something to catch the opponent by surprise, particularly when used with a certain strategy.

In the old days such applications would be considered a secret technique of a style. It would not be something that is readily taught and hesitantly explained. I know of course that knowledge will die out if not passed on. So I pushed it to students to learn it, to make it part of their push hands game, eventually to be applied more freely, much more freely.

Then our Tai Chi would not see its last day so fast and may perhaps linger a little longer for those who seek the way to find it, an art old, lost in a world modern, increasingly at a loss to the ways of the old. A pity. So make it relevant, make it applicable.

RIP Hawkins Cheung

Today is the eve of Chinese New Year. A day where the cleaning should be done and cooking in progress for the annual family reunion dinner.

Coming home from the supermarket, I was thinking of how to cook the red leek for the family gathering tomorrow while looking at Facebook.

One post stood up. Hawkins Cheung had passed away on 3 Feb 2019.

Hawkins Cheung was a contemporary of Bruce Lee; both having learned from Ip Man. Though he was not as well known as the other practitioners from the same generation such as William Cheung, Wong Shun Leung and Tsui Seung Tin, nevertheless Hawkins had the skill. More importantly, he approached Wing Chun from the perspective of combat problem solving.

I remember one example of this – Hawkins said that he had a problem using Wing Chun against Karate practitioners who moved in to attack and just as quickly moved out of range. He figured that since he can’t beat them, why not join them.

So he did, and ended up with fast forward moving footwork, the principle which has become part of his Wing Chun. A reminder of his Karate learning can be found in the form of a ring that Hawkins wore.

If you happen to have a copy of the year 2000 documentary It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Kung Fu World!!! (大踢爆) you can see Hawkins demonstrate his super fast footwork in it.

Screenshots from the documentary :-

From Hawkins I learned that people who claimed to be your friend are not always so. I was learning the Wing Chun knives from him and he asked whether I knew why the person who introduced me to learn would do so. I had thought that it was a friend thing.

Hawkins said that the real reason was because he did not want to teach this person the knives. So this person (let’s call him R) introduced me to learn. Once Hawkins agreed to teach me, he (Hawkins) could not refuse to teach R.

True enough, after my first lesson R went to see Hawkins secretly and made him teach him (R) the knives. However, Hawkins was a lot smarter than he looked (he was from Hong Kong after all) because he could even predict what R would do next after learning the knives.

Hawkins anticipated that R would want to compare notes with me to see if he (Hawkins) had taught him everything. So Hawkins told me not to tell him everything. This was of course a dilemma. But since Hawkins was then my teacher I agreed to it.

And I’ll be danged if R didn’t corner me and asked me to show him what Hawkins had taught. I showed him everything, well almost everything. R was so happy when he thought that Hawkins hadn’t taught me the entire set. He was positively beside himself.

So there you go – an important lesson from the late Hawkins Cheung, one that proved to be useful down the road, better than learning any form or technique. You can think that your fellow martial arts classmate, friend, pal, buddy, whatever you think your relationship is with this person is good, close, buds – but the reality is he could be hiding a knife behind that smile.

On the other hand the teacher may not always be an angel either but then a teacher for a day is a teacher for life. If you can bond with the teacher it would be easier to suss out his character. If you can speak in the teacher’s native tongue this would be a big help. With Hawkins this was easy since both of us speak Cantonese and ate chicken feet; stuff that being Americans, R and his students would not touch with a 6.5 foot pole.

Aside from Wing Chun Hawkins had also learned Wu style Tai Chi. However, he demonstrated some Chen style Tai Chi movements to me and he looked pretty good.

An interview with Hawkins Cheung appeared in the book Martial Arts Talk: Conversations with Leading Authorities on the Martial Arts. I recommended my SKD learning group to read this because a lot of what Hawkins said in the book is relevant.

The last time I saw Hawkins Cheung he was happily doing push hands in Kowloon Park.

Rest in peace Sifu Hawkins Cheung. I can imagine the reunion in Wing Chun Heaven tonight with Ip Man and Bruce Lee.

Neurons & Intent

A common obstacle facing Tai Chi students is differentiating intent from body movement.

When most students perform the form their intent is not clearly delineated from their physical action. This leads to the inability to use intent over reliance on strength alone.

Why is it difficult to separate intent from movement?

Reading The Body Builders : Inside the Science of the Engineered Human has given me the answer. When you think of doing something the neurons in the processing areas of the motor cortex fires and triggers the desired movement.

However, these neurons fire so fast that for most of us it is difficult to detect that length of time between the neurons firing and the corresponding limb moving. The time between neurons firing and movement beginning is but milliseconds so you can imagine how short a time this is.

Given this is the case how then can Tai Chi players train intent?

This is where the specialized intent training of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style Tai Chi comes in. The conceptual models for training intent allows us to experience a time lag, at least long enough to feel when intent begins and when movement triggered by intent comes in.

In this way we can truly separate mind and body. Incidentally, this fulfils the principle of using intent rather than strength and explains clearly why Tai Chi is boxing of the mind.

It would be interesting to one day use science to study this neglected aspect of Tai Chi. Who knows what we may discover that can not only improve our Tai Chi skills but be applicable to other fields such as medicine.

Implicit Learning

Today I found out a theory that can explain why we need to keep up the practice of forms.

In the past I have read that form practice is like swimming on dry land. However, I think the reason why those who say so is because they have not broken through to understand how form training really works.

Fortunately, studies into intuition have offered us a good explanation on this. Can you guess what this is?

For the moment I will leave this question here as I continue to read why implicit learning can explain the importance of form training.

Power Generation

On rumsoakedfist there is a link to “Essence of Combat Science” by Wang Xiangzhai as translated from Chinese by Andrzej Kalisz. Click here to go to the file.

Wang Xiangzhai wrote :-

In shi li there shouldn’t be partial, superficial force, especially there shouldn’t be unbalanced one directional force. You should observe if the whole body force is round, full or not, if it is possible issuing force at any moment, if there is feeling of mutual reaction between body and surrounding air. Intention shouldn’t be broken, spirit shouldn’t be dispersed. Light and heavy are ready to be used. If one moves, whole body follows it. Force should be unified, swift and solid at the same time, round and full. There shouldn’t be anything forgotten or lost on any side.

The above is good advice to keep in mind when practicing how to issue power.

In our Tai Chi tradition we have additional requirements such as :-

a) Have defined intent to control body movements

b) Align and tune the body internally to allow power to flow like a spring gushing out of the ground

c) Prime the 5 bows strongly to enable quick conversion of energy from potential to kinetic

An example of using these three requirements is shown below :-

The First Step-3

I know some masters are reluctant to demonstrate power, claiming (whether true or not) that they are afraid of hurting the student. I wonder if this is true or they just want to hide the fact that they can’t do it well.

You can’t teach how to use a technique without showing how the power is applied or at the very least what it feels like to be tapped, even if lightly. This method of teaching is known as “feeding power” in traditional circles.

To me the concept of “feeding power” is just hands-on teaching. Nothing mysterious about it.