Learning To Be Soft 2

For R’s second lesson I offered alternative insights to solving combat problems on top of learning a few more movements of the Tai Chi long form.

I am not a great fan of using a vertical chop to practice techniques against but for the sake of having a common understanding it would do. So would a committed straight punch for the purpose of discussion and testing.

What could be R learn in Tai Chi that could help him improve his Aikido, right now, right here?

A problem is his entry, raising his arms and moving to the side. It was clear what the problem is. While R’s movements looked visually acceptable, the feel, the contact didn’t. Part of the problem was coordination, another timing. Not an impossible problem to resolve.

I used the 5-Count mechanism to break down his movement, defining how he could move faster, more accurately, better to manage distance and space. I find that his entry to my side left him wide open. Well, with a more practiced practitioner this opening would not exist because he would flow to the next position.

But it could be years before R reach this level of competence. Using the 5-Count he could improve his entry, close up the opening and be able to carry on using what he had learned.

R mentioned that in Aikido they advocate not making contact. This is correct though for learning in Tai Chi we go through different phases from making contact, increasing the pressure on contact, using the contact to flow, to eventually turning, shifting and to a state of using mental targeting to minimize if not eliminating the need to have contact before countering.

The reason why we learn this way is because you can never tell when you have to deal with an opponent who is suddenly upon you, made contact, shoving you, trying to hit you, maybe even wrestle, try to take you down. So it would be useful to learn to deal with pressure, be comfortable with it, and learn to detach yourself from the situation in order to find a solution.

In Aikido they tend to offer one dimensional strikes so that trainees have a chance to learn but too much of this can lead to false self-confidence. For example, boxers don’t punch and leave their jab out there. Neither would a trained Chinese martial artist who would send multitude of strikes your way, borrowing your reaction to strike more times.

Learning how to apply the techniques of Tai Chi will give R a different perspective early, so that he can keep in mind what could happen outside of the dojo with other styles, especially those he has never seen before. Even with those that are common there could still be deviations and variations for common techniques.

In this sense, we learn Tai Chi for its principles, especially the soft and internal aspects, that can be applied broadly to many styles. I suspect this is why so many masters go into Tai Chi despite their accomplishments in their primary style. At least, this is why Tai Chi has become my primary style, because I enjoy the journey ahead into territory unknown to many, the fun of an ongoing journey.

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