Mental Model

Last weekend I took a break from the PC. The internet can be a fun place to find out a lot of things. But call me old fashion, if you want solid information you should still read a book. Yes, a book, not an eBook. I know they hold the same content but somehow holding a book and flipping the pages just feels different.

I read all kinds of stuff. Some for fun, some for information and some because it sounds interesting. I first finished off two books, Wired to Create and Losing the Signal. The latter was interesting to me because I am a fan of Blackberry phones and I wanted to know what happened to cause their downfall. A secondary perspective Losing the Signal provided was as a business case study and market strategy.

I then moved on to Van Halen Rising, a book about how the band Van Halen came about. The website for the book is here. I realized that though I have listened to Van Halen for years I know little about their background. A book about Van Halen is on first glance like a book about pop culture. However, after reading the book it could easily be a book about having a dream, a vision and how persistence pays off. The second lesson is how even music experts can underestimate the commercial viability of a band when the growing fans on the ground are indicating otherwise.

Finished Van Halen Rising. What’s next? Its a toss up between Bob Dylan and another business book. I came across an interesting article a while back here on a book about Bob Dylan but as it turns its not really only about the Tambourine Man. Nevertheless, a promise of an interesting read beckons. But it will have to wait after I read through Chapter 1 Motivation in Charles Duhigg’s latest book entitled Smarter Faster Better : The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.

I am halfway through Smarter Faster Better and came across some interesting information in Chapter 3 Focus. The whole chapter makes for compelling reading since it used two airlines accident to illustrate the model. One accident had a tragic ending and the the other a happy ending. The difference between the tragic and happy endings was due to the use of mental models. I like what the author wrote on page 101 :-

Mental models help us by providing a scaffold for the torrent of information that constantly surrounds us. Models help us choose where to direct our attention, so we can make decisions, rather than just react.

I suspect that students who have learned Push Hands Game would find a bulb going off in their mind when they read the above. The description of what a mental model is describes the rationale underlying Push Hands Game. Just last night (I read Chapter 3 this morning) I was trying to teach one student the correct position of placing the arm in Press. I explained why the previous method he had learned didn’t work because the biomechanics part was wrong, the intention wasn’t there and so on.

I had him tried his version of Press on me. His Press couldn’t move me and proved to be unstable. I offered a counterattack and he reacted without knowing what he was going to do next. This opened him up to more attacks. This was like what Duhigg wrote above. Without knowing where to go next my student could only react rather than make an informed counter. Thus, in a way you can say that the study of Push Hands Game involves learning how to translate the mapping of movements in the long form over to playing push hands. The alternative perspective is that Push Hands Game is about learning how to finetune our long form.

When you study the Push Hands Game you are learning about strategies and how to implement them through positioning. A correct position, much like a chess piece, informs you what you can do next so that you don’t just react blindly. Every reaction should be a means to an end. In this manner, push hands then becomes a game of chess or even weiqi. The process for Master Tai Chi Today is not an accident but a deliberate study. Otherwise, we can learn for years and still not get anywhere.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) 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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