Mastery Through Out-of-the-Box Approach

I first read the article “Why few child prodigies grow up to be geniuses” by Adam Grant in The Sunday Times of 7 February 2016. You can read the article here.

There are good points in this article which can help you to master Tai Chi. The first one is below :-


The first hurdle to Master Tai Chi Today is that many learners see what they want to see, not what their teacher want them to see. This may seem such a simple point but you would be surprised at how only a lower percentage of learners really get to eventually see what they are supposed to see.

This of course leads to the second hurdle which is until you can see things a certain way you have no reference point from which to springboard new insights.

I will offer a learning example here – the mastery of the 5-count which is explained on page 58, TaijiKinesis Vol 2 – Learning the Taijiquan form. The 5-count is basically an abbreviated version of the principle of the 9-crooked pearls.

The 5-count is intellectually easy to understand. So a student might see it, thinks that he understands it and mistakenly thinks he is doing it. Of course, as a teacher we see that he is not doing it and points it out. The students tries it again and still does not get it.

This calls for hand holding and physical prodding and slowly the student gets it …… for about a minute. Then he tries it again and its back to the same problem. Again we prod and again he gets it. So much for the session.

Come next session and he has lost the 5-count again!

So again we repeat the learning. And somehow it is difficult for him to see the process clearly and unambiguously. But the first step towards mastery calls for him to get this down pat and make it a habit. When this habit is there he will have a base from which to generate insights as to what the 5-count means on a deeper level.

A very obvious implication of the 5-count is that it allows for the body to be coordinated such that one can fulfill the principle of body moves hand and hand moves body. The continued investigation of the 5-count will reveal that it has further implications in the mastery of the principles of the Tai Chi Classics.

We need to practice to make perfect because without perfecting it the generation of new insights will be difficult. However, because Tai Chi as an art has a lot of depth it will not be easy to generate new insights unless the style of Tai Chi that you are being taught lacks depth in the first place. The principles of the Tai Chi Classics may read in a linear fashion but they are intertwined in a non-linear fashion. Once you master each of the principles you begin to understand the links. Now you are at the stage of generating truly new insights!

Here’s a thought and physical exercise in generating an insight :-

i) Read page 58 on 5-count in TaijiKinesis Vol 2

ii) Next read page 91 to understand the relationship between the counting and parts of the body to be moved

iii) Read page 93 on Qualia after page 91  – this gives you an understanding of the nature of feeling

iv) Now go to pages 147 – 148 to see how to do Rollback and Press on how to do Rollback. The instructions are on pages 156 – 160. Put in enough practice to familiarize yourself with the movements particularly how to do the 5-count to realize the principle of body moves hand (Rollback); hand moves body (Press). If you have a problem visualizing the movement watch 0:22 – 0:30 in the video below; that’s Grandmaster Dong Huling


v) Now stop your practice and watch the video below. Go back to your practice and as you practice meditate on what you have seen in the video. Did you manage to generate any insights? If you have put in sufficient practice I will bet that the moment you see this video a light bulb would go off in your head because you will then draw a connection between what you feel when you practiced Rollback – Press and what this video showed.

OK, I will stop writing and give you time to rest your mind. For most people the practice of Tai Chi can make them physically tired. However, in the practice of our Tai Chi students find that they are mentally tired because they have to pay attention and concentrate on what they are doing much more intensely.


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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