Getting There

This is a note I wrote to my FB learning group for Sam Kuen Do (三拳道). Since the pointers can apply to the study of Tai Chi I am sharing it here :-

I am going to save some time and write about things related to practice in general. If you have posed a question or posted a video in the last 48 hours the answer to your question or comment to your video will be below.

a) Dead stance – in Pok Khek and by extension SDK we do not practice standing in one spot in a horse stance because as far as combat usage is concerned practicing this way is useless.

Combat is about movement. If you cannot balance on the fly, when pressured, when struck then the years of practicing nothing but horse stance is not going to save you.

Master Leong never taught any standing in a horse stance in one spot for extended period of time. To him combat is about moving while hitting from different angles.

If we have a stance it is the basic posture which is not meant to be practiced by standing in one spot for an extended period of time. If you want to practice leg strength I would recommend to do squats.

The basic posture is just that – a posture that defines how to unify top and bottom, how to stand such that there is dynamic (as opposed to static) balance, and how to maintain an aligned body that is conducive to generating power.

Every style has a unique way of expressing their principles via the body methods. Paul can now say that he is nearly there, albeit still too much weight on the left. If he embraces Cindy Crawford as his master (not mistress!!!) then he will be able to correct this problem.

b) In-situ body turning – if you cannot stand properly in the basic posture then when you turn it will show. The incorrectness of basic posture will also prevent you from generating power using the 3-step procedure.

When you cannot control your body turning then when you add in a strike it will bring forth the inherent problems inherited from incorrectness.

c) Method in madness – behind every movement in any style there is a method to the madness. Sometimes you have to take it on faith and do it.

If you never do it then you will never experience it. You can imagine what it is like but unless you have superb visualization that artists have then chances are you still don’t know what you should be knowing.

Rope pulling is a method that can give you results. Paul kept working on it, hit the target, then veered off to another tangent.

But at least he got it and so far the only person to really got it. If he keeps at it he will come back to it eventually and then he will master the Yum Chui.

Based on quotes from the book “Art & Fear : Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking” I would say that Paul is a true martial artist (OK, he was hung up on ole Ronnie there for a tiny weeny bit …..) :-

i) ”Even talent is rarely indistinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.”

ii) ”To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you along, what matters is the process.”

iii) ”What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears continue; those who don’t, quit.”

d) Master slower by going faster – some of you want to get there faster. I mean who doesn’t. But unless you are extremely talented you won’t and you will stress yourself out by trying to. Again a quote from “Art & Fear” captures this feeling well :-

”The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast.”

The trick to mastering something is to do meticulously, carefully and slowly by practicing the core material till you know it inside out, backwards and forwards. As “Art & Fear” pointed out :-

”To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you along, what matters is the process.”

e) Veering off the path and losing the way – this happens to everyone. More so, when you don’t listen, don’t read and don’t follow the defined core processes. For example, doing rope pulling – did you really do it? To what extent? How did you fit it back into your practice and ensuring that the process remains intact.

Mastering an art is about achieving the required quality. The easiest way to hit the quality objective is via quantity i.e. do something many times, make mistakes (preferably not the same mistakes), improve and eliminate the mistakes and over time the quality will improve.

Overthinking how to do something is detrimental to learning something new. Sometimes you just have to do it. Everyone is shy about making mistakes but the one who masters the art is the one who doesn’t give a hoot about being laughed at because he will have the last laugh one day.


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