Student Notes-That Unsettling Feeling

What does it feel like when you do Tai Chi correctly?

Most people would feel stronger, right?

This is because when you move the body using muscular strength rather than intention you will feel the muscles do the work. If you keep at it your muscles will get a workout maybe even feel a bit sore. So you get the feeling that you have accomplished something.

I asked my new student to show me how she did her Yang style form. Right away I spotted a problem. I pointed it out and said the way she was bending the knees could lead to knee pains.

She agreed as that was what she had been feeling. However, her previous instructor had insisted that this was the right way. I said that wrong is wrong. You can’t argue with the pain.

To remedy the problem I asked her to sit higher up. She would have felt a bit unstable but that’s because I have not fixed the entire structure. This was just the first in a series of steps.

Cut to a later part of the day. Another student.

I didn’t have to look too closely at what he was doing to see that he has not fixed his stance yet. So he was still using strength incorrectly. On top of that the way he was moving would give rise to torsional stress on the knees. What he needed to avoid now is to compound his existing knee pain.

The first order was to readjust the way he was setting up the base. His previous study of Wing Chun and Baguazhang has resulted in a stance that is too narrow. A good base should have a comfortable width – a good guideline to follow would be to use the shoulders width – plus a balanced mix of stability and mobility.

The second order was to fix the balance transference process. How the balance is shifted is important to define substantial and insubstantial correctly. Along for the ride were also the fixes for the Dang and Kua because they are part of the package.

The third order covered the process of aligning and clicking the body into position. We do not do this for the sake of doing so but to solve combat problems. When this part was correct the torsional stress was eliminated, resulting in a stable body.

However, my student felt funny because the feeling of power was absent. This was easy enough to check if it was a real or spurious feeling. I applied pressure on his body so that he can feel the solidness and stability when the alignment was correct versus when it was not despite the feeling of power.

Alignment that is achieved by using the intention to direct the body can feel unsettling because of what is absent rather than present in terms of feeling. But it will fulfill the principles covered by the Tai Chi Classics particularly that in relation to emptiness. Readers of TaijiKinesis Vol 2 – Learning the Taijiquan Form might recall the Four Stage Learning Model on page 21. If you do the stance properly you will be able to achieve the properties mentioned under 2.4 and 2.5.

If you want to Master Tai Chi Today the first thing you should fix is the stance. It won’t be easy to do so but you should not give up. In respect of this my student hit the roadblock when it came to stepping without telegraphing. However, as the Malay proverb goes “Sedikit-sedikit lama-lama jadi bukit” which means bit by bit, over time, (accumulate) will become a hill; we too should just work on it each day, one step at a time and one day our skills will accumulate and culminate in mastery.


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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