It takes a new student to remind me of the importance of paying mindful attention.
Most students when they are shown something will pay attention but they don’t pay mindful attention.
The difference is that someone who just pays attention is not listening and observing wholeheartedly. If so, he will miss out on the small details due to inatttentional blindness.
Thus, when the student attempts to do the movement or technique he will not get it even after a few tries. But someone who observes mindful attention will get it rather quickly.
So today during a meeting with a new student we were talking about a few things and the topic of basics came up. Since she had done Aikido before for a short time I was curious to know how well she has learned the very first basic movement which would be Tai-no-henko.
Tai-no-henko is a very important basic that the founder of Aikido stressed in class. It is not difficult to do for most students except when the grip is really tight. This is when whatever the student is not doing correctly will show up. The core principle behind Tai-no-henko is applicable to many Aikido techniques so mastering it is a must.
So I grabbed her wrist strongly and she could not do the turn. I showed her how I did it. Got her to do it again. Failure.
The root cause was obvious – imperfect neutral equilibrium resulting in a tendency to resist. I explained and demonstrated the difference between having and not having a neutral equilibrium.
Repeated the attempt. This time she could do it correctly. Its a beautiful moment because most male students would struggle and struggle many times before they get it. But she nailed it on the first attempt after hearing the explanation and feeling it. This is what I mean by paying mindful attention.
We don’t have a single name for this principle in Tai Chi but it is part of the not resist, not collapse principle. Page 119, TaijiKinesis Vol 2 – Learning the Taijiquan Form has an explanation that is similar to what Tai-no-henko is about. To Master Tai Chi Today is actually not difficult; just remember to pay mindful attention.
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