Student Notes-Men of Iron

After last night’s lesson an idea for my next post percolated in my mind throughout the day. However, I did not get the time to write anything until now as I was in the midst of reorganizing my PC.

Evening came and my Dropbox was still synchronizing. Six minutes more to go. Yeah, I’ll wait for six minutes except it turned out to be longer than six minutes. Yup, more than 30 minutes later Dropbox was still going, and now there’s seven more minutes to go!

So I started browsing the web and saw this on rumsoakedfist :-


source :

I would have to say this is surprising but no, its not. Been there, done that. I know its politically incorrect to say this but training even in internal arts can cause you back and knee injuries.

The reason is not difficult to fathom if you understand basic anatomy and physics. Actually no, you don’t even need to know anatomy or physics. Just common sense will do to understand why such injuries can happen. So how is this related to what I wanted to write. Nothing. Yet everything.

Last night I was observing my student, X, do his form particularly when he was transitioning from Single Whip to Raise Hands. He was moving too much thus affecting his balance and stability though it might not be immediately obvious. But its nothing that a single test of structure would not reveal.

To fix the problem required a simple solution – learn to adjust the kwa. So X tried it but it was not so easy to do because to use the kwa properly required a good amount of mental concentration in order to align the body such that his balance is kept throughout.

When I saw that his thigh muscle started trembling it was obvious that X was not doing it right. No doubt he could grit his teeth and bear with the pain and stress. But wrong is wrong and I said so.

So he tried again. The logic of how to move is not difficult to understand but refined movements in the transitioning involved a lot of mental focus, control and awareness and without the requisite amount of time put into the art this would require X to really stretch himself.

In Single Whip we have the balance between two legs so its easy to do. However, Raise Hands requires the balance to be on one leg yet be able to maintain a degree of stability. To achieve this the left leg which is controlling the balance must deal with the stress of bearing the entire body’s weight on one leg.

Now some practitioners may ask what’s the big deal?

Yes, its not a big deal if you are not doing it correctly by keeping some weight on the void leg. Or you just bear the pain for a while before hastening the transition from Raise Hands to White Crane Spreads Wings.

However, to Master Tai Chi Today in our Yang style demands that we do not cheat ourselves. If the requirement is to void one leg and keep the balance on the other whilst our substantial leg’s thigh muscles should not tremble and shake then we must keep up our practice until we can really honestly do so.

The key to keeping the shakes at bay is to precisely align our substantial leg. If you know how to see then a wrongly aligned leg is very obvious. Some students might get the feeling that they have accomplished something by bearing with the pain and eating bitter. But this is a stupid learning attitude. Wrong is wrong.

If want to improve we have to face the fact that we make mistakes. We must be prepared to revise our outlook and move on. A misaligned leg means that stress is bearing down (yup, that’s gravity at work) on your knee in an unbalanced manner, exerting greater pressure on some parts than others.

If you keep doing this then sooner or later you will injure your knee. There are no two ways about it, whatever excuses you can think of. The same reasoning applies if you do powerful fajing.

Nature’s a bitch. As long as your body is not made of iron then sooner or later the sins of fajing will come back to haunt you. And a most vulnerable point is the lower back.

A fajing movement executed properly involves little stress on the weight bearing joints of the body. An improper fajing, even though it looks super powerful and sends a person flying will exert stress on your body particularly the lower back. Do this often enough and one day your back will hurt.

I am not getting younger and neither are my students though they are at least a decade younger than me. We cannot run away from the fact that an older body is more prone to injuries. If we want to keep doing Tai Chi particularly push hands and fajing into old age then we must remember we are not men of iron.


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.

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