Today is the last day of Chinese New Year.
I haven’t written anything here between the eve of Chinese New Year and now partly because of time constraint and partly because of inspiration. Granted, there are lots of things to write about but if the topic doesn’t stay in my mind for a few days then its not something I feel is important enough to write about.
There is the more detailed stuff I would like to write about, something I want to do if I can retire from work. This material consist of information delivered to students but not captured on video.
When the information is recorded it would have appeared in the public videos on the Facebook page “Learn Tai Chi in Singapore” or on unlisted videos posted to Youtube but made available only to specific students in the Slack group.
Why am I bringing this topic up? Well, its something a student said last night. He thinks I should just go ahead and reveal the information anyway because its difficult enough for him to make sense of it even though he is learning it and he thinks most readers won’t be able to see through the maze so easily.
Actually, there are two sides to it. One is the more complicated stuff that is for those who have learned martial arts before and the other more simplified material for those who are not as crazy about the usage part.
The complicated stuff is that which unravels the principles, their meaning, how to bring them to life in your practice and application. The simplified stuff is less heavy on the traditional stuff, more on using modern analogies to put the point across.
For example, to lower our arm such that we can generate power is easy when we do it quickly and with forcefulness. However, this could make our movement much bigger than we would like it, exposing ourselves unnecessarily to a counter.
The principles point to us a better option that allows us to generate the power but not open up ourselves at the same time. This requires using intent precisely and this is where the problem starts.
Knowing what is to be done and actually doing it is the problem. We know what to do, we think we are doing it but we are not doing it. Throw in the need to be exact to the point of subtlety and everyone ends up not getting it.
So the solution is to make this more accessible by simplifying it, taking an experimental route to learning it, putting aside certain important considerations for the moment. And yes, it gets the job done, students learn much faster. But let’s not kid ourselves, they still need to tighten up their movements and achieve the requirements of the principles.
Or maybe not. As long as they do not intend to learn how to apply the art then this does not matter. The requirements only make sense when we have a combat problem to solve. Without a problem there is no need for a solution.
Yes, we learn Tai Chi as a tool to solve certain problems. To learn Tai Chi effectively we need to ask what these problems are. If you don’t know then whether you learn Tai Chi or not is not important. When you know then you may find that Tai Chi is useful in addressing those problems.
Lately, I have been focusing on pushing the longer learning students to flesh out their push hands game. I made my case to them that if they want to play with outsiders (and some of them do or are doing it) then they must have a problem solving approach instead of pushy-pushy here, pushy-pushy there in a reactionary manner.
Doing so calls for strategies. In turn, this calls for techniques to support the strategies. The techniques must be supported by workable internal and external considerations, stuff that we train in our form.
So for example, we train the lotus kick but can we use it? Master Leong taught Grandmaster Nip’s application of the lotus kick in a manner that I have not encountered in the teachings of other Tai Chi teachers.
For this reason I did not want to video this teaching because it is something that most of us would not have thought of. As such, it is can be something to catch the opponent by surprise, particularly when used with a certain strategy.
In the old days such applications would be considered a secret technique of a style. It would not be something that is readily taught and hesitantly explained. I know of course that knowledge will die out if not passed on. So I pushed it to students to learn it, to make it part of their push hands game, eventually to be applied more freely, much more freely.
Then our Tai Chi would not see its last day so fast and may perhaps linger a little longer for those who seek the way to find it, an art old, lost in a world modern, increasingly at a loss to the ways of the old. A pity. So make it relevant, make it applicable.