What does the training of a top violinist and an instructor level Tai Chi player have in common?
Sometimes in life things happen in a sequence that makes me think that there are no coincidences. But there certainly are. I have this book which have been lying there for weeks because I have not gotten around to reading it.
Then a week back someone (let’s call him X) asked me about learning Tai Chi. However, X was looking to learn Tai Chi in a group class because he thought that he could not make progress otherwise.
My opinion and the training of my students show that training in a group class does not lead to the cultivation of refined skills. I say this because some of my students have learned Tai Chi before whether in a group class or in practice with a group of friends. Before I touched hands in the first class I had expected them to have a certain level of skills that are in line with that mentioned in the Tai Chi Classics.
Imagine my surprise that their years of Tai Chi learning (and some under renowned masters) had not produced even what I would categorize as beginner level skills. Some thought they had attained a level of sung but what they actually had was a degree of softness which was prone to collapse under pressure. In others the so-called Peng Jing skill was that of resisting through unnecessary tension. As for the ability to use the techniques from the forms they had learned it was practically non-existent.
So I replied to X to the effect that partner training in a group class does not help as much as he thought. But what do I know considering nowadays students tend to think they know better than me. More so when I found out that X has a black belt in Aikido so I can understand where his thinking is coming from.
However, Tai Chi training is different from Aikido because the level of refinement is easily 10 times more difficult. But X wouldn’t know unless he has tried our type of Tai Chi before. In fact, one of my students had learned Aikido before and I have to say his ability to apply locks is not there yet. In push hands training we do not do dead drills. Instead, we learn to apply techniques on the fly.
This means that if you don’t have a game plan to use locks you will never be able to apply them because no opponent will let you do so. To Master Tai Chi Today we must learn the form properly so that when we move the techniques will manifest naturally without us having to think about it.
For example, in the transition from Single Whip to Fair Lady Works Shuttles teaches us a good strategy for applying a wrist lock. Without learning this particular movement properly the student will not understand how the transition can help him to do a wrist lock easier.
What does this have to do with the training of a top violinist? Read for yourself below :-
Isn’t this the same as practicing the Tai Chi solo long form a lot? This is what a top violinist has in common with an instructor level Tai Chi practitioner. There is a reason for this and again this seems like a coincidence but I saw a few clips this week of someone I know (let’s call him Y) explaining about IMA and I noticed that X knew this person too.
The point I would have pointed out to X was that if he had observed one particular clip of 3:44 duration there was a big solid person who was asked by Y to apply pressure on him to explain about using Peng to bounce an opponent. However, Y couldn’t bounce this big person as expected. It was all too clear why this was so. By over emphasizing power Y’s body did not respond naturally when the big guy moved his hands in to an advantageous position and Y could only resist and try to move the big guy to no avail.
You can view the clip here. You will need a password to access the page. This password is the same one you use to access TaijiKinesis Vol 2. The clip is placed in a protected page as the intention is not to put down the practitioners shown; rather it is used as illustration so that readers of TaijiKinesis Vol 2 can learn and relate to why traditional Tai Chi training places so much emphasis on form training to develop a proper foundation.
This is why solo practice of the form is important to internalize the movements naturally. Otherwise, when the pressure comes the Tai Chi player will freeze up. It has happened to me and it happens all the time to my students until they have put in enough practice in the form.
Until the natural response comes about no matter how many techniques the student has learned, how in-depth the explanation they get they will not be able to get out easily. Instead, they will resist and resist, exactly what I see Y doing. In fact, Y was doing quite a few things which actually helped the big guy to resist him better. Solo practice of the form is to help us internalize the key points of movement, the same key points which will help us play push hands better and avoid giving the opponent an advantage such as what I observed Y doing.
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.