Learn Tai Chi Yang Style

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Welcome to Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style.

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a) Style

Our method of Tai Chi is known as TaijiKinesis and is based on the key elements from three Yang style lineages made famous respectively by Grandmaster Wei Shuren, Grandmaster Dong Huling and Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei.

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b) Learning

What we offer to the serious Tai Chi student :-

a) A defined method of practicing Tai Chi involving forms and push hands

b) Analysis of the root causes hindering your progress; how to fix them to master Tai Chi

c) A no BS learning path. Know what, why and how to master Tai Chi

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c) Lessons

Teaching approach :-

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

b) Conducted in English

c) Learn form, do non-cooperative, resisting push hands

 

LogoBegin your journey to master Tai Chi by clicking here.

 

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Clean-Up

As part of periodic clean-up I have removed some Pages.

Some may return, or may not. Such is life. We move on. Don’t let too much information clutter the grey cells.

Read then forget it. You cannot master an art by reading. Practice is the key differentiator between the novice and the master.

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For The Knives Are The Hands

Here’s a video from 2012 of me playing hands with a student who learned Wing Chun from me in the past.

In 2012 this student has not learned from me for a few years. In between he had learned from masters in China and Hong Kong. Since I was in China for a meeting we met and played hands.

I am using the concept of knives as hands in the above video. However, this may make no sense.

However, now I have a video of my playing the knives ad-hoc so this should make clear the idea.

Observe, how the knives are played with stepping and angling to evade a weapon like the long pole, so that I can close in, take away the advantage of the pole’s reach, then I can crowd in and apply the knives techniques.

Transpose this idea to the hands and watch how I used the same steps to evade, close in and apply the emptyhand techniques.

In this sense, the knives are the hands and vice versa.

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Learning To Be Soft 3

Oh, there is one more thing. R said he was told he has a problem with Nikyo, specifically when bending the body to apply power.

There are a few ways to do Nikyo, the version we examined begins at 2:34 in the video below :-

I offered my right hand to R. He grasped it. OK, one problem area.

He held my right wrist against his body. Noted second problem area.

R applied pressure. OK, I saw what his instructor meant. Simple problem to fix.

Before fixing the body bending problem it would be more fruitful to fix R’s grip and fixing of the fulcrum point. These two areas can amplify the effectiveness of Nikyo.

R’s grip is not precise enough, hence when he gripped my hand I couldn’t feel the pressure. No pressure, no pain. I showed him how to modify his grip to that upon gripping his wrist will be locked and twisted strongly, straightaway sending signals of pain to his brain. I wrote about this grip in a past blog so I won’t repeat here.

Grip done, fulcrum to go. The second key to a painful Nikyo is to immobilize the entire arm so that its range of motion is restricted, thus not allowing the pressure that is exerted on it to escape. Hence, pain.

Finally, once the above two issues were solved we examined the final part – how to bend the body. Specifically, where to bend so that a strong force can be applied. This is where the use of imagery from our Tai Chi form training is useful. Fix the imagery, play it out, now let the body do it.

And the problem of Nikyo is solved.

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Learning To Be Soft 2

For R’s second lesson I offered alternative insights to solving combat problems on top of learning a few more movements of the Tai Chi long form.

I am not a great fan of using a vertical chop to practice techniques against but for the sake of having a common understanding it would do. So would a committed straight punch for the purpose of discussion and testing.

What could be R learn in Tai Chi that could help him improve his Aikido, right now, right here?

A problem is his entry, raising his arms and moving to the side. It was clear what the problem is. While R’s movements looked visually acceptable, the feel, the contact didn’t. Part of the problem was coordination, another timing. Not an impossible problem to resolve.

I used the 5-Count mechanism to break down his movement, defining how he could move faster, more accurately, better to manage distance and space. I find that his entry to my side left him wide open. Well, with a more practiced practitioner this opening would not exist because he would flow to the next position.

But it could be years before R reach this level of competence. Using the 5-Count he could improve his entry, close up the opening and be able to carry on using what he had learned.

R mentioned that in Aikido they advocate not making contact. This is correct though for learning in Tai Chi we go through different phases from making contact, increasing the pressure on contact, using the contact to flow, to eventually turning, shifting and to a state of using mental targeting to minimize if not eliminating the need to have contact before countering.

The reason why we learn this way is because you can never tell when you have to deal with an opponent who is suddenly upon you, made contact, shoving you, trying to hit you, maybe even wrestle, try to take you down. So it would be useful to learn to deal with pressure, be comfortable with it, and learn to detach yourself from the situation in order to find a solution.

In Aikido they tend to offer one dimensional strikes so that trainees have a chance to learn but too much of this can lead to false self-confidence. For example, boxers don’t punch and leave their jab out there. Neither would a trained Chinese martial artist who would send multitude of strikes your way, borrowing your reaction to strike more times.

Learning how to apply the techniques of Tai Chi will give R a different perspective early, so that he can keep in mind what could happen outside of the dojo with other styles, especially those he has never seen before. Even with those that are common there could still be deviations and variations for common techniques.

In this sense, we learn Tai Chi for its principles, especially the soft and internal aspects, that can be applied broadly to many styles. I suspect this is why so many masters go into Tai Chi despite their accomplishments in their primary style. At least, this is why Tai Chi has become my primary style, because I enjoy the journey ahead into territory unknown to many, the fun of an ongoing journey.

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Just Right

Even if I tell other people they would never believe me” – so said my student, picking himself off the ground after rolling there for a minute in pain.

Just a short ago I was trying to explain about the degree of softness required in order to do powerful fajing. How should I put it – not too hard, not too soft, just right.

But what does “just right” means? We can’t measure it or maybe we can. At the moment we don’t have anything, no pressure sensors, no force sensors to measure and give a mathematical figure to what “just right” means. We can only do it the old fashion way – by feeling.

This is too hard – what do you feel? Can you feel the hardness, as if the power cannot come through?

This is too soft – like loose gears, and would require some muscle power to get the power out.

Just right” means this – feel the gradation in pressure. My palms on his right forearm, just inches away from his body. I moved my body forward, letting him feel the changes in pressure.

I was standing close, and I moved my body closer progressively, until both my hands were nearly by the side of my body. What I didn’t know was my student was thinking then that maybe I cannot do the fajing with my hands that near to my body. The logic is correct.

Except when the fajing happened and he bounced into the air, landed on his feet loudly. He then held his hands to the right side of his body, pain on his face and promptly laid on the ground, rolling in pain.

It was tempting to whip out the phone and taped it except without context the video would be meaningless. My hands did not make contact with his right ribs so why was he holding his hands there as if to stop the pain?

Curious, right?

Well, actually no. The reason why he felt the pain was because the force on contact, knocked him back with an acceleration so sudden that his body did not have the chance to dissipate the energy.

This caused his body to absorb the energy of the “push“. The spot that hurt was where my palms were facing. So though I didn’t focus the power the energy pulse was still strong enough to make it feel as if he had actually been struck by a physical limb.

I know what mechanics I used to generate this power and to me it is a testament to the robustness of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style model on the use of intent. Though I don’t start my students off with GM Wei’s form, however, I teach them the vital principles because a principle is a principle and we should not draw a boundary here if it can advance a student’s learning.

It would have been nice to have a way to measure the actual force output. Also, a high speed camera would be handy to analyze how I actually moved in that split second. I know how I trained to move but it would be good to make a correlation between “as trained” and compare it to “as applied“.

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Learning To Be Soft

I am reading a book by Maria Konnikova. It is entitled “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes”. Below is a quick video review of what the book is about :-

In the video it is mentioned that :-

i) You can train your brain by deliberate thinking and mindfulness which requires time and practice.

ii) To think like Sherlock Holmes you have to avoid falling for biases and fallacies, practice mindfulness and never stop learning

Why I brought up this topic is because I have taken on a new student, R, who said he wanted to learn Tai Chi so that he can learn to be soft in order to improve his Aikido training. I know that Tai Chi training can teach him to be soft because of our emphasis on optimizing connections and minimizing strength.

As usual, we began the training by learning the 108 form because it contains the basics for learning to be soft. The key to being soft is to cultivate a body structure that is round, non-resistant and able to harmonize with the pressure exerted by an opponent. The Beginning Posture is where we take the first step to cultivating softness.

Just before starting the training I wanted to have a quick feel for what he has learned and achieved over the two years he has practiced Aikido. A good place to start is to check his Tai-no-Henko which is a vital exercise in Aikido. Below is a video showing how Tai-no-Henko is practiced :-

So I grabbed R’s wrist and got him to do Tai-no-henko. He turned and resisted my grab. That was good input because it is an indication, not conclusive, of how much he has learned from an exercise that would normally be taught from the first day, unless that is not the norm in the class that he attended.

Tai-no-henko is a good exercise. To me it is not an internal exercise, at least not by the definition of what we do in Tai Chi, but still a good exercise because it teaches you how not to resist, to use a curve to harmonize, bind and lead, to apply leverage, to unify your body and mind. Anyone who masters Tai-no-henko would have good controlled movement of the arms and stable hips.

In the Beginning Posture after we lowered our hands in front of our body we are required to use intent to unify the body. If you use this coordination here and you add in a body pivot (from the Hao style form) you can easily replicate the Tai-no-henko exercise requirements. So in this sense you can see how Tai Chi can help R to be soft in his Aikido training.

The learning of Beginning Posture begins with balance, defining the baseline of what sensitive balance is. Then we move on to separating the balance to avoid being double-weighted, controlling the balance and moving the weight deliberately. It was not easy for R to do so, it is not unexpected because this takes some training which in turn requires a high degree of mindfulness from adhering to a series of deliberate steps.

We defined the body structure first particularly how to set the base, the axle, the wheel before we move the arms using the 3-Count process. R seemed to learn this part fairly well. I applied some light pressure to check some parts of his structure to see if they were correct and R was holding it up well.

We moved on to Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. Again no big learning problem except to adjust some coordination and timing so that the physical connections are better because they impact the ability to remain soft and generate power.

Overall I think R did quite well. Now he only has to put in more practice to make the movements more natural and accurate. I got R to be able to do basic fajing without having to sit in a low stance or use too much arm power. I wanted him to see that in Tai Chi, at least in our style, it is not about developing your skills but unlocking the skills that is already in us.

R went home with a souvenir from the training. I wanted to see if he has developed any striking power from the practice of Ikkyo, example below :-

Ikkyo starts with a unified vertical cutting motion. When the arm is moving slower it should feel strongly unified. If the cut is performed with a fast motion there should be power. So I asked R to strike my forearm to give me an idea of his power.

He has heavy arms but would need to learn to relax in order to be able to get the force out. I demonstrated on his forearm the type of whipping force we can cultivate using the Tai Chi palm formation and left him a souvenir palm print as shown below :-

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As long as R puts in the time to practice daily I am confident he will be able to become a lot more softer and more powerful, hopefully in a matter of months. I mentioned to him that I used to practice 4 hours every night to cultivate the essential requirements. Hopefully, he is motivated to find the time to do consistent practice.

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1st BojiLite Training Challenge Completion

Yesterday was the last day of the first BojiLite training challenge.

Participating members did their best to keep up even though life and work intruded on their busy schedule.

As I expected, those who took part showed improvements even though no member managed to complete all 7 days. The nearest was 6 days. Previously, when they did sporadic practice over the last 6 weeks or so minimal improvements were the result and sometimes problem areas could still not be improved even after 2 weeks.

I am happy to report that a number of these problem areas have been addressed and improved upon. In some cases the improvements came 2 days after members took the advice on where to improve and worked on them.

Below is a sampling of the practice. I have selected three drills to highlight.

a) Drill No. 1 – in-situ body turning
This drill trains basic body movement, torque and foundation for power generation

 

b) Drill No. 2 – side parry
This drill builts on Drill No. 2 by adding in a defensive movement, the side parry, to train how to intercept and divert an opponent’s straight punch

 

c) Drill No. 3 – Yum Chui
The third drill adds to the first two drills. The member is taught to deliver a counter-attack in the form of a straight punch after neutralizing the opponent’s attack

 

This challenge is a good example of the importance of daily practice. The average challenge video is 10 minutes per clip per day. Members probably spent more time trying to understand my comments and thought through what they needed to do to address the areas that needed correction, putting in some practice before filming their challenge video. And the result of their effort shows.

I only hope that after the challenge ends they will keep up the practice. I will continue putting up training material and perhaps the next challenge will be on improving on stepping and speed of punching. Some members are already able to put some snap into their punches. They just need an extra push to become better.

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