A book on algorithm brought up the topic of data idolatry by saying that we should measure what matters rather than what we can measure. This is a good point.

When I saw my student doing the movement in transitioning to White Crane Spreads Wings I wanted to know what an extra turning of the body was for considering that I never taught this turning.

Yes, the turning felt right but feeling right is not the issue. The issue is why have this turning, what purpose does it serve, how does it contribute to doing the form properly. If this can be answered satisfactorily then the extra turning can be accepted.

Since she couldn’t answer then I answered from my perspective of principles and application. From the viewpoint of principles we should try to use a relative 4 ounces of effort and one way to conserve energy is by using lesser movement. So an extra turn means an extra movement which equates to extra effort. Perhaps the extra turn is necessary to retain balance when transferring weight. OK, this is a good consideration but do we really need to do the extra turn to retain our balance. The answer is no so while this can be accepted it is not a good enough reason for inclusion of the extra turn.

From the perspective of application I used a simple illustration of a possible scenario. Actually, this is not only a possible but plausible application as I use it all the time. Anyway, when the extra turn is involved it exposed the face to an attack. Without the extra turn we can preserve our control of the space and move safely into the next phase of the technique.

The moral of the algorithm story is that in doing Tai Chi don’t turn your body unless there is valid justification for it. Turning the body because it looks nice or because it adds to power are not sufficient reasons for doing so. If let’s say turning the body adds to power but slows you down it could mean the difference between getting in your punch when you have the opportunity or giving the opponent a split second opening to counter hit you first.

This is the answer to another student’s question of why I seem to move slower but always getting there first – its because I don’t waste movements, I only move what is necessary. So if I take 2 steps to get in when my opponent needed 3 steps I would have beaten his timing. In this sense a secret to Master Tai Chi Today is conservation of effort and movement.


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

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