Knowing How to Correct

In learning Tai Chi one of the more important factors that contributes to your success in mastering the art is knowing what you don’t know, what you are doing wrong and how to correct for it.

It is for this reason that we only teach on 1-to-1 basis because each student has their own specific set of problems to solve. Take a look at the picture below of Bend Bow, Shoot Tiger :-


Outwardly, the posture looks fine but there is a small point that is off. Here is the same posture after correction. Can you spot the differences?


I took these pictures to show my student what he was doing wrong. Now, we don’t say something is wrong just because we don’t like the look of it.

In this case, we did a test of pressure – whether the posture can hold up. Next we tested if the posture can be used to fajing. If the posture only fulfills one requirement but not the other then the posture is wrong.

Most readers will probably spot the two main differences but fail to spot the more important difference, the one that I actually corrected. Even my student commented that it is minute, difficult to see if he didn’t know beforehand what it was that was changed.

But this is how the study of Tai Chi is. We do not gloss over things we don’t understand or find difficult to do. We work on them again and again until the postures, the form can meet all the requirements of the principles of the Tai Chi Classics.

If the photos of Bend Bow, Shoot Tiger is difficult to analyze try looking at Right Hit Tiger posture. The correction here is the same as for Bend Bow, Shoot Tiger. This is the “before” photo :-


And this is the “after” correction photo. Spot the difference?


Sometimes a movement can look correct. However, the moment you try using it is the proof of the pudding. If the energetic connections are off then your structure won’t be strong and robust. Under such circumstances you will have a problem overcoming the opponent’s resistance.

The video below touches on corrections for Brush Knee, Twist Step. There are a few things that was discussed.

Some of the things discussed may not make much sense and seem unnecessary, that is, until you use the movements in push hands where your partner will do his best to stop you from applying your techniques.

When your movement is wrong even a simple downward sweeping block will not work. You will find the moment you try to sweep the opponent’s arm you cannot move it. Other things such as timing also matters because the wrong timing means you are too late to reach your opponent.

In conclusion, knowing how to correct what you are doing is important because more frequently than not its the fine details that keeps you outside the gate of mastery. Pay more attention to these little things and you will see a big improvement.




Learning To Be Soft 3

Oh, there is one more thing. R said he was told he has a problem with Nikyo, specifically when bending the body to apply power.

There are a few ways to do Nikyo, the version we examined begins at 2:34 in the video below :-

I offered my right hand to R. He grasped it. OK, one problem area.

He held my right wrist against his body. Noted second problem area.

R applied pressure. OK, I saw what his instructor meant. Simple problem to fix.

Before fixing the body bending problem it would be more fruitful to fix R’s grip and fixing of the fulcrum point. These two areas can amplify the effectiveness of Nikyo.

R’s grip is not precise enough, hence when he gripped my hand I couldn’t feel the pressure. No pressure, no pain. I showed him how to modify his grip to that upon gripping his wrist will be locked and twisted strongly, straightaway sending signals of pain to his brain. I wrote about this grip in a past blog so I won’t repeat here.

Grip done, fulcrum to go. The second key to a painful Nikyo is to immobilize the entire arm so that its range of motion is restricted, thus not allowing the pressure that is exerted on it to escape. Hence, pain.

Finally, once the above two issues were solved we examined the final part – how to bend the body. Specifically, where to bend so that a strong force can be applied. This is where the use of imagery from our Tai Chi form training is useful. Fix the imagery, play it out, now let the body do it.

And the problem of Nikyo is solved.


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.


1st BojiLite Training Challenge Completion

Yesterday was the last day of the first BojiLite training challenge.

Participating members did their best to keep up even though life and work intruded on their busy schedule.

As I expected, those who took part showed improvements even though no member managed to complete all 7 days. The nearest was 6 days. Previously, when they did sporadic practice over the last 6 weeks or so minimal improvements were the result and sometimes problem areas could still not be improved even after 2 weeks.

I am happy to report that a number of these problem areas have been addressed and improved upon. In some cases the improvements came 2 days after members took the advice on where to improve and worked on them.

Below is a sampling of the practice. I have selected three drills to highlight.

a) Drill No. 1 – in-situ body turning
This drill trains basic body movement, torque and foundation for power generation


b) Drill No. 2 – side parry
This drill builts on Drill No. 2 by adding in a defensive movement, the side parry, to train how to intercept and divert an opponent’s straight punch


c) Drill No. 3 – Yum Chui
The third drill adds to the first two drills. The member is taught to deliver a counter-attack in the form of a straight punch after neutralizing the opponent’s attack


This challenge is a good example of the importance of daily practice. The average challenge video is 10 minutes per clip per day. Members probably spent more time trying to understand my comments and thought through what they needed to do to address the areas that needed correction, putting in some practice before filming their challenge video. And the result of their effort shows.

I only hope that after the challenge ends they will keep up the practice. I will continue putting up training material and perhaps the next challenge will be on improving on stepping and speed of punching. Some members are already able to put some snap into their punches. They just need an extra push to become better.


Slow & Steady

It is not my intent to write this post. Instead, I wanted to reorganize my blog by removing the folders eBook and MyWingChun and creating a TaiChiLite folder.

Then I saw Paul’s comment to my comment to his latest BojiLite training video practicing the Yum Chui. I advised him to go slow in his practice. Interestingly, I also advised another student learning Tai Chi this morning to go slow also. So what the heck, let’s make a post about it.

Slow – when learning anything go slow. The priority is to get the steps correct instead of rushing to complete it.

When you go slow you have more time to see and feel what you are doing. If you go too fast you miss out on a lot of things, more so if the art is filled with fine details that cannot be readily sussed out, at least not with a lot of practice, research and investigation.

Steady – you should move at a steady rather than erratic pace. A steady pace enables your body to coordinate better in the early stages of learning, particularly during changes that involve turning and twisting.

As Lao Tzu wrote :-

To know harmony is called constancy
To know constancy is called clarity

Chapter 55 : Purity of the New-Born
Tao Teh Ching

Mastery will come when your hands are enlightened with the clarify of a mirror that only reflects what is before it in the present. So go slow and steady in your learning.


Form & Application Example 4

(continuing from previous post)

Its one thing to do fixed techniques when your training partner is not reacting. This is where free flow, uncooperative push hands come in.

When we play free flow push hands we can train different things. The two videos below are examples of how the principles of the videos shown in the earlier related posts can be applied.

You will no doubt notice the arm control by latching and pulling to spin the opponent off balance and to keep him from being able to train his limbic weapons on you.


Form & Application Example 2

(continuing from previous post)

And sometimes our opponent is standing with the other leg forward. Or maybe he did not extend his arm enough for us to get where we want to be. When this is the case the technique shown in the previous post may not turn out so nicely.

So we have to adapt to what we have. The form teaches us about flow and change. We work with what we have. At the moment of contact we should be able to sense what we have and react accordingly; a possible alternate response is shown below :-