Structure is Overated?

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Is a strong and powerful structure really a must in internal arts?

Most of us would shout a rousing yes!

Students who learn from me know that I emphasize a pliant structure as more important than a strong and powerful structure. In fact, more often than not students who have learned martial arts before tend to have a stronger and more powerful structure than me. Yet, they have a problem moving me or they remaining balanced when I apply pressure on their structure.

Why is this so?

Yesterday I was attending a technical meeting. Afternoon is probably one of the worst time in the day to be present in a meeting where in general most engineering information would fly above me. Fortunately, the people calling for the meeting are wet behind the ears so the consultant had to talk to their level.

The topic being discussed was on a problem that this manufacturer of big generator was facing and how to solve it. So after viewing the data and talking through the issues the consultant had a simple suggestion – weaken the structure that the generator was resting on rather than strengthen it which was what the manufacturer had been doing.

How does this relate to the practice of Tai Chi? I won’t try to explain the mechanical engineering aspect of it but I will use the core explanation to put across why we need a pliant rather than a strong and powerful structure in Tai Chi.

Consider that you are the one trying to push someone with a certain amount of resistance. If the person you are pushing is not as strong as you then a strong and powerful structure makes sense.

But what if the person being pushed is as strong if not stronger than you physically? Would you still use a strong and powerful structure? This is where what the consultant said in essence would apply to Tai Chi.

You the pusher is considered to be the prime mover. When you push someone with equal or stronger resistance the energy you are issuing will come back to you because your powerful structure is preventing the energy from being channeled properly because the stronger opponent can dampen your energy and cause it to come back to you. Remember what Yang Luchan said about not being able to defeat three types of opponents?

Thus, in this case if your structure is pliant instead of being strong and powerful the returned energy (you can’t avoid the energy of your push from being returned, why?) will be absorbed, naturally channeled and returned to the opponent making your push seemingly even more powerful for the same amount of energy spent.

So that’s it. The process to Master Tai Chi Today is not difficult. Its just a matter of getting the variables in a good mix i.e. how to be powerful yet be able to counter attempts to resist you. If you want to develop a pliant structure the foundation instructions is in TaijiKinesis Vol 2 – Learning the Taijiquan Form on page 127  -130; read how to practice BP(i) to (iii) – that’s the key.

 

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