I have begun to read The Reality Bubble. Great book. For those who are lazy to read watch this video.
But seriously, the book is a really good read and is thought provoking. For instance, it can help you to think about your Tai Chi practice along the following lines :-
1) What’s your Tai Chi reality bubble?
2) What are you blind to in your Tai Chi practice?
3) How realistic is a Tai Chi practice that revolves around fajing?
When I learned Tai Chi my teachers rarely talked about fajing much less demo it. My best teacher who is from the Grandmaster Wei Shuren lineage just said not to focus on fajing.
To him if the basics are in place fajing is but a by-result. So why are we obssesed with fajing? Is fajing the magic solution to winning in combat? What does other combat arts view the topic of fajing?
Last night, I received a request on my Twitter account asking for more Fajing / Qi power videos. In the year ahead I don’t think I will put much focus on fajing. And I certainly don’t do Qi power.
That’s right, in my Tai Chi we don’t do Hen-Ha sounds, we don’t do Qi breathing nor Qi circulation along Du-Ren Mai and what not. To me doing Tai Chi this way is missing the point and a major contribution to the sharp drop in the ability to use Tai Chi as a combat art.
Consider this – you square off against another Tai Chi practitioner. He rushes at you, makes contact with your arms and you start shoving each other. You managed to push him back.
Objective achieved. Well done, great fajing. But you have failed at using Tai Chi as a combat art.
Now consider an alternative scenario – its not another Tai Chi practitioner who rushes at you. Instead, it is an attacker of unknown background, perhaps someone you bumped into accidentally, took offense, shouted at you and now looks as if he is going to attack you. You get into your usual push hands posture.
Your adrenaline starts to pump. Your vision narrows. The opponent is also crouching, ready to pounce. Then he rushes at you and you do the same. You close the distance. Puts your hands out to make contact.
Before you have the chance to react the opponent’s arm darts in and out. You thought you saw a glint. Then you feel a sharp pain. You stop.
Horrors! Your opponent is not attacking you with his hands, not pushing you, not trying to fajing you. Instead, he has a knife and you standing squarely facing him in your usual push hands stance just made it easier for him to stab you.
You changed strategy quickly, or at least try to cause old habits die hard. You try to grab his knife hand to disarm him. You even put your body weight behind your arms to be able to use your strength better and out of habit, to fajing the opponent.
This is what works for you usually when you do push hands practice inside your school and against other Tai Chi players you meet outside.
But today, today is not the day, today is the day you realized, too late that you are not prepared to deal with someone who is not going to fight you using push hands.
You managed to grab the wrist of the attacker’s arm that is holding the knife, pinning it against his body. Now is the moment you usually do fajing to send your opponent flying. You advanced and applied pressure to put the attacker off balance.
At that moment, when you thought you had your opponent, he quickly stepped back and pulled his pinned arm back. Your applied strength fell onto empty space, causing you to lose your balance momentarilty. You quickly recovered your balance to continue on.
But your opponent is not stupid. He quickly adjusts his position and puts forward his other non-knife arm to hold you back, fends off your attempts to attack and at the same time to control you.
Then his knife arm comes out bearing a deadly message. Swift like the tongue of a snake, the tip of his knife darts in and out, in and out, spitting its sharp, metallic venom to sear hot pain into your flesh.
We do not want to be caught in such a scenario, ever. A knife attack is dangerous, potentially deadly. But when we do not have a choice, when we cannot run then what do we do? How should we handle such an attack? Is our push hands training adequate to prepare us for this? We hope so. But wishing does not make it so.
Our reality bubble is thinking that our opponent will stand there long enough for us to use our fajing. How an attacker can react when you try to take their knife away is not something I made up. This response is what I learned in a Filipino art that is focused on using the blade. I have not even mentioned how fast a trained knife attacker can be………..
I don’t have all the answers but a diverse outlook helps me from developing a reality bubble that works against me should I ever have to use the techniques of the art.
Fajing does not teach you how to deal with an attacker. Instead, it is the techniques that do so. Fajing is but part of the process of using a technique. This is why focusing solely on fajing is short sighted. We have seen a number of Tai Chi “masters” in China fall to MMA challengers. We may not like it. We may not believe it. But this is the reality. OK, maybe those are not real masters but would you own master fare better?
On page 39 of The Reality Bubble there is a sentence that sums this up – “……while we’ve always thought that seeing is believing, the Church was insisting that we disbelieve what we could see with our own eyes.” – this was in the context of the heliocentrism theory controversy, a theory that the Church was against but ultimately even the holy authorities had to accept that fact is fact and overturned their opposition against it more than a hundred years later.
So our own question is do we dispute what we saw or do we review and revise our position in the light of what we actually saw. This is how reading a book such as The Reality Bubble can help us to improve our own practice by moving it forward and not get caught in dogma, arguments for tradition and what not, things that goes against what we see with our own eyes.