A student can be like a flower in that you have to give it the time and space to grow and bloom.
Some of the things that X can do with little effort today would not have been possible even two years ago without the constant training in playing form to keep on refining his movements. He still occasionally tries out his skills on friends though to see how he fares. This would give him a more honest feedback than trying the techniques in a group class against cooperative classmates.
I remember one time he showed this interesting circular technique like an attacking version of The Karate Kid’s wax on-wax off movement which one of his friends tried on him during their informal exchange. X didn’t know how to deal with it as he has never been attacked in this manner before.
To me this is a good time to make a point about learning a form to the point of knowing it inside out. If a student only knows how to play form but not understand the obvious applications then he has not learned anything even though he can remember the movements well and even give a form competition level of performance.
Our learning objective for all forms in the syllabus is straightforward – learn it until you know how to apply the movements inside out, and then some. Then when an opponent we meet the first time trots out a strange technique we are seeing for the first time we will not freeze. Instead, we need to train the form to the point where we become formless and without thinking we will automatically know how to respond.
Since I know the forms fairly well the moment I saw the wax on-wax off technique I immediately knew a good response could be. The circular forward wax on, wax off attack had a flaw. In reaching forward the forward leg is wide open to attack. And there is the solution – match the opponent like a jigsaw puzzle in that he attacks high you attack low. I asked X to try his best to at least touch me with his hand. Bear in mind X is a head taller than me but he couldn’t even come near, not without me tagging him first.
I know X is continuing to practice the first form he learned years ago. That form offers a wide repertoire of techniques – obvious, hidden and derivative. If he throws in the principles of the second form particularly on how to apply body angling in weapon play he will have a more effective method of using the techniques of the first form. In addition, training in the third form has made his movements much smaller and economical.
Thus, when I instruct X now on how to use the jing methods to neutralize and attack he can pick it up faster. For example I showed him on how to counter a punch coming right at his ribs. When I tried to have another student, Z, to do the counter earlier he could not do it as his reaction was not well controlled and thus his missed the timing.
With X he could pick it up right away. I just had to caution him not to rush it, to wait for the attack, offer the bait, lure it in and then bring out the counter. Done nicely the solution seems like magic especially when the training partner has (or thought he had) control of your arm before delivering the technique but when his strike was on the way in he suddenly found himself losing control and balance.
To Master Tai Chi Today don’t be like the foolish farmer in the story on Zen fools who kept tugging at the saplings to make them grow faster. Instead of the plants growing faster the farmer only succeeded in killing them.
Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.