Think Too Much

Over-thinking can impede your learning of Tai Chi. In fact, it might even prevent you from starting your learning.

We find the best teacher, get the right instructions, pay attention to every detail of the teaching and still we can get things wrong. You know why?

Wanting to be correct is good. But don’t over worry about getting things correct when you begin your learning because the truth is that no matter how good the instructions are, how much attention to pay to following them you will still be doing things wrong.

That’s right. All beginners will get things wrong the first time round. And the second time. Third time. And so on. Until they get to the point where they iron out all the wrongs and then they begin to get things right.

This is not just a beginner’s problem. It also happens to masters of one art who try to learn another art. Being wrong is nothing to be ashamed of.

The moral of the lesson here is not to try to bite off more than you can chew. Learn a bit at a time. Get that right. If you can’t, don’t sweat it. Just keep working on it. You will get it right sometime. Just don’t give up.

However, don’t be in a rush to assume that you have gotten it. Over confidence is also a learning problem. Its good to be confident except when you end up sabotaging your own learning.

Making progress does not end in a single destination. If anything, mastery is a never-ending journey. There is always something to learn, to work on, to improve. More so for beginners.

Don’t think too much but also do not don’t think. The middle way is a better way. Learn, try, ponder, practice some more and you will get somewhere. Start with less, add on as you go on.

One of my students has learned up to the 2nd Cross Hands. But after review my opinion is that he has only got the first few movements reasonably well. After White Crane Spreads Wings the movements are off, some more than others.

I picked one movement to correct – Brush Knee, Twist Step. One obvious problem was in bringing the right arm back. He was not applying the Rollback principle; instead he was just turning his body. This was not right because just turning the body would make the movement useless as a technique and it was easy to show why this is so.

To do Rollback properly the 5-Count must be performed properly. The use of a constant pressure can help in the learning. The student must take his time to flesh out each count. The most common mistake was in getting all the counts in an unclear manner. If so, the pressure would show up the mistake.

When the count is correct then the pressure will slide off nicely. At the beginner level this is still quite physical, albeit a small movement. So if one cannot get it down at this stage then the advanced method of doing it as found in the Old 6 Routines form would be so much more difficult to pin down.

Again and again, we kept working on this one problem until he got somewhere. There is a time to think and there is a time to try and feel. The logic of the movement is not difficult to understand. It is in reining in the natural inclination to move prematurely that is difficult. This is a good example of us thinking we can control our body when the evidence from the practice showed that we clearly cannot control our body, at least not with a lot of practice.

OK, so maybe Rollback is not that easy to get. Perhaps the fourth problem is easier to solve. It is an unusual problem. In fact, it should not be a problem for anyone. But it is a problem here.

The problem is an easy one to understand but may be easy to miss. The objective is to move the hand from point A to point B in a straight line to do a strike. However, for some unexplained reason his hand would stray off the path, just a little bit. No matter how he tried the hand would take on a life of its own and go off before coming back to the path.

It took many tries but he could not get the hand to not stray off. So we tried using a method to trick his mind to focus his hand to move. Part of the problem was due to a small pause whenever his hand reached a certain point. This pause is not something I taught but he was doing it for whatever the reason. So if we could eliminate this pause we would get the hand moving smoothly. It took many attempts to get to the point where he could get rid of the pause.

It can be maddening but no one said its easy to master yourself. Learning is not difficult, it is the actual doing that reveals our own shortcomings. Yeah, sometimes I wonder why students want to learn Tai Chi because it can be frustrating to Master Tai Chi Today, not without a lot of work.

It would have been easy to skip this but not if the objective is to learn how to use Brush Knee, Twist Step. It does not sound like a big deal but in application it could mean the difference between getting your strike in quickly or lagging behind during a split second when the window of opportunity opens up.


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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