Imagery vs Scientific Model

There’s something that feels good when you have a model that is explainable using science. Its kinda like having something validated by the establishment and so should be more readily accepted by the masses.

Does this mean that we should slap a scientific model on everything that we do in Tai Chi?

Have you ever read a scientific paper or even watched a video showing a person performing movements with illustration overlaid on the movements showing how the model works? Did you then try the same technique following the model to see how well it works? Try it. It would be interesting to see how far you get with it.

My classic example comes from an old Wing Chun book in which the master said the Bong Sau should be done with a 135 degrees bent in the elbow. I still remember my senior’s reaction when I told him this information – he asked why not 136 degrees? Or 128 degrees? To which I would ask how does a normal practitioner measure this angle and ensure compliance when performing the movement quickly.

In the old days in China they do have science, well maybe not the science that we know but there’s a hell lot of science in China. If you are interested to know more take a look at the information that has been published to date by the Needham Research Institute.

So why did Tai Chi masters not apply scientific models in their explanations? One simple reason is that many are not literate or literate in the sense that we are scientifically literate today. But I suspect, at least from my own experience, that it is probably easier to use imagery to put a point across. I mean, why make complicated what is simple.

Going back to the example of Bong Sau I still have no idea how to ensure that I get that 135 degrees each time I do it. However, it is far easier to use my eyes to line up my fingers and wrist to a reference line that I can easily visualize to perform a Bong Sau that works. The angles can change, the distance can differ but as long as I line up the parts properly I will always get that functional Bong Sau. If you do your Bong Sau this way you will achieve the principle of “Bong Sau does not remain”. If not, you end up with a posing Bong Sau that is commonly seen.

I don’t need a knowledge of science to make it work. Neither do I need high IQ to understand it. Its that simple. Doing the Bong Sau is easy because you can see your own hand in front of you.

It is more difficult if you try to align the different parts of your body to perform a strike. One reason is because due to their position you can’t align the parts in a linear manner. The different parts are positioned such that to draw a line through them would reveal this to be a winding path from the foot to the hand.

So how does one align them in a split second? If you take longer than a split second to do it then this would not be practical to use in combat. This is where the use of imagery will allow you to do so, in this case the image is as if one is trying to string together nine pearls placed in a non-linear path from top to bottom.

When I was writing this I had a look to see how other writers try to explain this principle and man, I can’t believe the number of non-explanations out there passing off as an explanation. Reading them I understand why some masters are reluctant to explain how to achieve this in practice, they just don’t want the snake oil sellers to pass off what they read as their own.

If you use the right imagery you can use the 9 crooked pearls to fajing throughout the entire Yang style form and you can do it such that it is imperceptible, giving the impression that there is no fajing in the form. There is, its just that its not the suddenly slow, suddenly fast type of movement that we think of as representative of fajing, kinda like explosion (outward) vs implosion (inward).

When you practice doing fajing using the 9 crooked pearls you will have some interesting insights on the nature of movement and how it interacts with Newton’s laws of motion.

Innovating or Rediscovering Application

Changing the tradition or rediscovering what was once there?

Still its a good video. Love the part about controlling the distance and example of the pen.

I’m not a Karate expert but thinking from the perspective of using the Tai Chi form a lot of the techniques can’t be used without an understanding of distance, particularly how to use the proper distance and just as important, angle, posture and timing.

Without distance, angle, posture and timing we will end up too close, basically taking away our choices of techniques that can be used. When we are too close wrestling techniques become relevant, not so much the techniques we see in the Tai Chi form.

It is not surprising then that we see pummeling and wrestling throws being used in push hands nowadays. It is not necessarily a bad thing. It is just that we are wasting our time learning the form in the first place.

Instead of learning the form we would be better served learning exercises like pummeling, arm drags, doing ties, level changes, penetration drills, takedowns, etc. These drills can be readily applied to how we do push hands nowadays and they make more sense at that range and distance.

The video below shows arm drag drills that can be readily incorporated into push hands.

Did you have a feeling that the arm drag at 2:04 to 2:14 looks familiar?

You should because the arm drag is basically the first movement that you do when changing from Right Brush Knee, Twist Step to Left Brush Knee, Twist Step.

The stepping forward to opponent’s back, using the left hand to control his lower back, while shooting your right arm across his neck is one example of using Brush Knee, Twist Step to do a takedown.

If you take the time to examine how to use Brush Knee, Twist Step this could possibly be an application you will come up with. Or if you do research, apply Bruce Lee’s absorb what is useful, reject what is useless advice, you might come across the use of arm drags in wrestling, put two and two together and end up with a similar application.

Sinawali Training for Open-Close

Opening and closing is a biomechanical motion used in the internal arts for giving power to movements and issuing power.

I taught a number of arm swinging exercises in SKD which works the opening and closing motion. Some of these drills are embedded in SKD Training Sequence No. 1.

Another way we can enhance the training of opening and closing is via the Sinawali exercise taught in iKali. Why I said iKali rather than FMA is because the thrust and slash motions are taught in a very specific manner in iKali.

As Tuhon Apolo pointed out in the online disussion below iKali is not “my” (as in “I”, that is “me”) Kali but indigenous Kali.

The phrase indigenous Kali is in reference to the flavor of how old masters of FMA would move. This flavor is largely missing in today’s FMA and Tuhon Apolo wants to keep this alive. If you go to this page you can see photos of famous FMA masters and their postures when applying their respective art.

In Chinese martial arts what distinguishes one Tai Chi style from another is not the name or the arrangement of the form but the flavor of the movements.

So when you look at Chen style you would never mistaken it for Yang style because of the low stances and spiral movements. On the other hand, Wu (Hao) style would differ from the other Tai Chi styles in the unique upright body structure, minimalist arm movements.

Why the differences exist is due to how the techniques are applied and the power generation method. At times, the environment in which the art is used also plays a part.

iKali is configured to train us to acquire this unique flavor of moving. The Sinawali exercise is one way of learning to do this.

The basic Sinawali exercise which is performed with all high strikes can work the body to learn how to move with correct biomechanics in place.

From my practice I conclude that :-

a) 1st movement is both sides of the body open and then close, and vice versa

b) 2nd movement is one side close, one side open

c) 3rd movement is like the 1st movement in opening and closing both sides

When you add in the indigenous body structure flavor you can feel the body opening and closing even better.

I don’t like to try to turn Kali into a Tai Chi-like exercise. I prefer to do it as I learned it. The reason is because currently many in the Wing Chun community are adding Tai Chi to their styles but refusing to acknowledge it, instead trying to give all sorts of excuses of how their style is internal. Anyone who has seen the photos of Wing Chun practitioners in the 60s and 70s would no doubt notice a disparity in the flavor of the postures then and now.

Training Kali as is puts you outside the box and presents you with a different perspective of how a biomechanical motion can be learned. In solving the question of how to do Sinawali fast, with power, efficiency, timing, flow, etc you will go through a learning curve.

Some of the things you learn here are similar to what other styles regardless of nationality would also do. In Tai Chi we can find opening and closing in Yang style but its is not easy to learn.

Wu (Hao) style would be a better choice for learning how to do opening and closing but you have to minimize and delete a lot of unnecessary outer movements in order to isolate the opening and closing motion, feel it better and then be able to refine it. It can be quite a tall order for beginners. An alternative is to explore how to learn this useful mechanic via Sinawali. It may be easier or it may not be. I suspect it will probably be easier.

How We Learn Tai Chi

I think there is a misconception amongst some readers as to what our Tai Chi is.

Firstly, we are not about styles nor lineage. Our focus is far simpler – how can we learn the principles of the Tai Chi Classics and use them.

Secondly, we have a progressive way of learning. We don’t begin with GM Wei Shuren’s form which is far too difficult even for people who have learned Tai Chi for a long time.

Instead, we begin with something easier, something attainable given a shorter period of learning. As Tuhon Apolo would say don’t teach what you want students to learn but teach them what they need to learn.

So I may want them to learn the best, the most advanced that I know but I know from experience that this is not gonna happen. Any student who starts with GM Wei’s Tai Chi will get stuck on Beginning Posture from the word go.

Funny thing is most students will also get stuck from the word go in our Yang Chengfu style long form. But at least they won’t get stuck as long.

I would say that learning the form is useless just like learning the Classics is useless. They have to be learned together with the idea of how to apply the movements to make sense. Copying a movement is not difficult but trying to imitate the nuances is not straight forward.

The nuances are what some people refer to as the small details. Things like the timing of the movement, how to pose the body vis a vis the opponent, when to use strength, when not to use strength, where to intercept, when to neutralize, how much to turn to neutralize, how to harmonize, etc; these are the things we learn even in our Yang Chengfu long form.

For 99.9% of students these are difficult to do properly even though they should be easy to do because they are mainly external movements rather than internal movements. But when it comes to GM Wei’s form its the other way around – its mostly internal – things going on in the mind as opposed to things happening that can be seen.

The things that we practice in our Yang Chengfu long form develops small frame characteristics as opposed to big frame flavor in other Yang Chengfu lineages. At a certain stage the student will discover that it is but the flip side to what is practiced in GM Wei’s form.

The reason why we have this approach is that given a limited amount of time to practice daily we can only practice so much per day. So it makes sense that we should not have too broad a focus if mastery is our objective.

For example, the learning of the straight sword helps the learning of the Yang Chengfu long form in that the straight sword enables the practitioner to use the techniques of the long form with the lively stepping of the straight sword. This indirectly builds the foundation for the learning of the Fast Form later.

The above is how we line up the teaching with the learning objectives. This is why if a student just want to come and learn fajing or just want to learn a particular form I would not take him on because this is not how we learn. We learn from the ground up, develop the basics, simple as they may be they must still be learned to the point where they are habitual and can be maintained when we are applying the techniques.

No one said it is easy but this is how we see it. Then at the end of it when we read the Tai Chi Classics we should not have a puzzled look any more because now we understand what the body of writing means as a whole.

Learning to Use Wild Horse Parts Mane

The confounding thing about a technique is that their application can look obvious.

However, when we go into it we can discover that it is not so. In a big class it is easier to teach one technique, one application.

However, a technique can be used in different ways. A technique is basically a series of sequential movements. The sum of all the movements is the technique.

We can use all the movements to create an application. If we changed the focus slightly the outcome can be different.

And if we use only some of the movements we have yet a different take on how to use the movements.

When we first learn how to use Wild Horse Parts Mane we focus on the obvious application which is to enter and throw.

Once we develop a better feel of each of the movements we might focus on how to use some of these movements instead of in their entirety.

One example of this is to use the entering movement to do an arm lock instead.

The easiest way to learn how to use Wild Horse Parts Mane in many ways is to do push hands. Use push hands as opportunity to explore.

Don’t be stuck on only one way of applying the movement. Test out whatever you can think of. This is how I learned to do push hands, not by pushing in predictable patterns but in free flowing format, try whatever I can do to push my teacher out or put him in a lock.

When given free rein you can either be creative or mind goes blank. Use the form as a reference textbook to inspire you to apply your techniques freely. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Lesson Number Five

This week is the fifth lesson.

Grasp Sparrow’s Tail – 2nd sub-movement fell a bit short because it did not mirror the application. This is important – you don’t just move. You move because you are doing a technique.

When you do it right at the end of the movement your right hand should be grasping my right wrist and your left forearm on my body and your left leg in a position that is checking my right leg.

In the 3rd sub-movement this week I added in 3 steps for the following :-

a) How to move the right arm to close the right side of your front door. A good test of correct biomechanics is when I give your some strength when my left arm is on top of your right arm you should be able to close your position. This is an illustration of the principle of not going head-on against the opponent’s strength. So there are three steps here – i) thumb movement ii) arm movement iii) waist movement

b) Raising the right arm to form the cross involves three steps at the learning stage. Once you get it all three steps merged into one smooth step. The steps – i) Right thumb move right wrist up to left wrist ii) Use shoulder to guide right wrist into position iii) Finally, use hip to get the right wrist into final position

c) I didn’t touch on the third sub-movement of getting the right leg to step out which is another three steps. The purpose of this is to train the single leg balance, feeling the ground and training the leg to be able to kick in accordance to the principle of every step hides a kick

From Grasp Sparrow’s Tail to Ward-off a reminder on using the left hand to properly do the scooping action. This allows for the left hand to defend the left side properly depending on whether the opponent’s right hand is attacking high or low.

Press – revisited how to change from Rollback into Press. The function of the left hand to check and control the opponent’s right hand. How to properly align the right hand to control the opponent’s left arm and be able to issue power easily.

Common mistake is the right elbow misalignment in Press. When the right elbow is not positioned properly you allow the opponent to counter your Press attack.

A misaligned elbow also makes it difficult to issue power not to mention the ability to follow up easily. When you position the right arm properly you can change easily from one attack to the next and counter opponent’s attempt to get away or defend against your Press attack.

From Press to Push – the transition calls for the passing of opponent’s right arm from your left hand to right hand. This sets his right arm to be sealed against his chest, then you can apply Push attack.

If opponent tries to pull his right hand back to strike you the position of your left hand in Press should allow you to instantly attack him before he can hit you. If he is fast and has his strike coming back quickly then you use Separate Hands on the inside to intercept, pull and apply Push strike.

The lesson of Separate Hands and Push can be applied to the first sub-movement in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. Instead of intercept, turn to neutralize and attack, you can just use the same right arm to intercept, neutralize and attack. This is how understanding the basics can translate a multi-step movement into a singular movement, making it efficient.

Lesson Number Four

Lesson Number 4 this week. No fidgeting in Beginning Posture. Good beginning.

Alas, I spoke too soon. The stance and hand characeteristics took on a wushu flavor. Why would this happen? There goes my plan to teach Single Whip.

From nothing to something. From simple natural standing we can form a basic stance with attendant arch.

Shift the weight and we have a forward or backward stance depending on whether the weight is forward or backward. However, he did an arch-less stance which weakens the stance and cause the connection to the ground to be lost.

A backward stance with a straightened front leg is bad because it makes it easier for a takedown to be used against the leg. A simple hold at the ankle and press at the upper thigh and down he went, after clearing his leading arm out of the way.

A proper forward or backward stance has traceability, like a son has matching DNA with the mother. No matter how we move we can always revert back to the basic stance. So in essence we are just practicing one stance throughout. What differentiates each of the stances is where the weight is and how the unweighted leg is positioned.

In turning or in stepping the characteristic of the basic stance is ever present. The shape of the stance when the weight is forward can be applied as an uprooting technique like water floating a boat.

Because of this we have to keep the mind full focussed. We have to do the process carefully so that at the end of the movement we have a proper stance. It is easy to get the 2nd sub-movement of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail wrong and end up with an improper stance once we lose track of what we are supposed to do.

This time to make it clearer I added another component to the process. This breakdowns the movement of the hip, knee and foot so that it can match the movement of the arm more closely such that they move in a coordinated manner.

The same logic applies to the 3rd sub-movement where we end up in the posture of grasping the tail of a sparrow. A wushu like stance makes it difficult to control the amount of strength to use. When we fish we want the bait to move like a living worm to invite the fish to take a nibble.

In using strength we shouldn’t be applying peng jing indiscriminately to all and sundry. Some movements require a lot less strength whereas some require more. Calibrating the amount required is what the training of form is partly about.

A proper technique allows you to entice and lead the opponent’s strength to land on empty space. As this is happening you enter with your response. Place it at a good angle and the movement itself takes care of the neutralizing and issuing.

Again, using the leading hand to come up to the bottom of opponent’s arm like water supporting it but not carrying his strength, then floating his arm to unbalance his body. This leads to the opponent’s closed arm position to open up allowing you to enter to attack.

Done properly you do not feel that you are trying to carry the opponent’s body weight. Instead, you feel as if he is floated up by an energetic force. This is the role of the arch in the stance to neutralize and return the opponent’s force using the principle of Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion.

Mind Trains Body

Visualize a point in space. Fix it in your mind. Now point your left index finger at it.

Next, move your left index finger towards it. As you move let your left index finger pull your left arm and your left leg towards the target.

Keep moving your left index finger towards the point in space even as your left foot lands on the ground and you shift your weight from your right leg to your left leg.

At the end of the movement check if your left index finger is still pointing at the point or is it pointing somewhere else.

If you didn’t get it the first time try again and again until you get it. It is not a difficult thing to do correct or is it? How many tries did you go through before you got it. Did you get it within an hour or take a few days to get it?

If you did not get it what was the reason why you couldn’t get it?

Most of the time you would think you got it. So it is good to use a video or get a spotter to help you check if indeed you are doing what you think you are doing.

You may find it easier to actually hang an object for you to point towards. Try it if this is what works for you. Once you can do it with an object try going back to doing it without an actual physical object.

Most people who do this think they are able to point to the point in space when they fail to do so. It is easy to deceive ourselves to think we are doing what we are not.

To be able to do this simple thing you need to be able to keep your mind on your left index finger all the time first and foremost.
When you can do this then you need to assign some of this attention to the other parts of the body that is involved in the movement chain. All this while you must keep your mind still trained on your left index finger so that the entire body coordination is still whole.

You keep practicing until the entire movement chain is smooth outwardly yet on the inside you can feel how each part of the chain is moving in its turn in terms of changes in velocity, getting the relevant mass lined up behind each other in preparation to be able to trigger the mass to move sinuously like the rising and falling of a wave.

The better your body control the less outer movement you need to use, to the point where a slight downward movement will be like an ocean floor suddenly caving down to displace a body of water to create a tsunami, in this case an energetic wave consistent with rising (Peng) and falling (An) characteristic of an actual wave.

The movement in this experiment is the second movement after Beginning Posture that leads up to Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. Though this movement can be used to learn how to generate power, we must never divorce it from the application. If you do not keep the application in mind then what happens is that you will end up exaggerating the wave motion in an attempt to generate more power.

There is a trade-off between power and speed. In application we need to be timely when the need is there. If you are too slow to get into position then you will not be able to get into place to generate power. And when you get into position you have a split second to issue power before the opponent fights back.

So between speed and power you should go for speed because speed is basically a matter of change in velocity. The change in velocity is termed acceleration which is found in the formula for Force = Mass X Acceleration.

The form trains us to move in the manner of an imperceptible wave, controlling the rate of velocity and amount of mass that should be used in various techniques. Sometimes you need a hammer to do the job but sometimes you need to use a thumb.

Training the form is not about training fajing only. Training the form is training the use of techniques and understanding how various force models can be used with their attendant timing, angles, position, etc.

Training the form is the beginning of the study of the means to an end. Push hands is another piece of the study puzzle. When you have learned how to move like the wind, execute techniques like the falling of incessant autumn rain, pound with the force of a wave, and flow like a river then you can learn to apply the techniques more freely.

Lesson Number Three

Added two movements on the third lesson – Separate and Push.

But before that did a review. The fidgeting is still there, not as bad, so I left it at that.

Grasp Sparrow’s Tail – added one detail – after pluck to get the body weight behind the grabbing hand. Emphasized not to lose this control when moving the left hand and shifting weight from right to left. Reason – do not lose control once you have grabbed the opponent’s hand otherwise he can exploit it against you.

Oh, a problem with navigation when moving the left hand and left leg out. The movement is to be linearly to the side. However, at the last minute the linear motion became a curve.

It is a slight deviation in the movement path, however, that is enough to leave room for opponent to grab your left hand when your arm enters his space, enabling him to throw you instead of you throw him. Root cause – awareness not 100% throughout, inattention to the entire process; mind not kept on the lead hand causing the off course steering at the last moment.

Step forward into Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. And the stance is too narrow. This is an issue with traceability.

Went back to basics as defined in Beginning Posture. How is a stance formed. How do we actually shift weight. How to keep the stance strong and primed to fajing.

From lower body to upper body. Need to keep the left hand guarding properly. How can the left hand be used?

Two possibilities in how to use left hand in push hands to guard and open up opponent’s door for you to enter with your own attack.

How to dissipate opponent’s strength when he intercepts your right arm. Option of not changing to another Ward-off by using neutralizing energy or by changing to Ward-off.

How to use position of posture to neutralize, intercept, open door and enter. Softer response to neutralize first then attack vs faster, more aggressive counter to continuously attack like wave pounding.

Addressed the question of the opponent’s left hand response. How to preempt a counter-attack by delivering a stinging strike. Example of how a light strike can work instead of relying on heavy, fajingy pushing.

Had to explain how to do basic push hands by just doing horizontal circling. How to use the movements of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail for meaningful learning instead of meaningless pushing. Going back to the use of just Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, Ward-off and Rollback for a simple game of push hands to learn strategy and change.

Dyson & Tai Chi

I read an interview with James Dyson in last week’s The Sunday Times entitled “No Such Thing As A Silly Idea”.

Whether you agree with him or not, his comments can nevertheless be useful to us in learning Tai Chi.

Comment No. 1 – “Knowing what has worked in the past really doesn’t help you at all now. In fact, it does always the opposite. It’s a hindrance.”

Opinion No. 1 – Its a no-brainer to say that the most obvious example is this was when BJJ met the striking arts in UFC and we see strikers being defeated left and right.

However, I will talk about this in the context of Tai Chi instead. The thing about knowledge is that it can be a double edge sword. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we know a lot just because we learned a lot or is learning from a knowledgeable / famous master. However, until we know the boundaries of our knowledge we cannot really say that we know a lot and by extension what we had learned may not be as helpful as we thought.

Nowhere is this more obvious than when I switched to learning the Yang style of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s lineage. If you look at some of the videos of people playing the forms from GM Wei’s style you might think that in terms of flavor there is not much different though the same techniques are played differently from that in Yang Cheng Fu’s descendants’ style. This typically is the problem of making the mistake of thinking that you can bring your previous learning experience from other Yang styles to GM Wei’s style.

If anything, your previous learning can be a hindrance to learning GM Wei’s style. I had to practically relearn GM Wei’s Tai Chi style from the ground up once I realized that what I had learned from the Yang styles of Cheng Man Ching, Dong family, Yang Sau Chung and Nip Chee Fei was of little help to mastering GM Wei’s style, if not an obstacle.

It is only when I go back to the beginner’s mindset that I could change my physical habits. GM Wei’s style is not just about outer movements but how what you are thinking of can affect the way your body moves and reacts. Once you know what this is you can read the Tai Chi Classics and things that do not make sense will now make a lot of sense.

So Dyson’s comment can be taken in this manner also, that your past is a hindrance to your present and therefore future. This is especially true in today’s fast changing technologies that look set to change a lot of things across many fields of knowledge and industry.

Comment No. 2 – “I think naive curiosity, naive questioning, wrong suggestions, are good ideas.”

One reason why I don’t join many forums is because people that flock together tend to be of the same feathers. They have a tendency to agree with each other, shouting down those that they don’t agree with.

Innovation comes about because of questioning the status quo. If we agree with everything we will still be living in caves and hunting with stones. You will be surprised at how closed minded Tai Chi people are. A number of practitioners have told me that they consider zhanzhuang to be super important. One of my friends even told me zhanzhuang is the secret to mastering Tai Chi.

They are so super assured that zhanzhuang is the way that they have never considered the alternative argument that zhanzhuang is not the way (or not the only way). They never thought to ask me why. They never asked why the Dong family, GM Wei and some masters don’t have zhanzhuang practice yet these masters have superb skills. In fact, I doubt anyone who considers zhanzhuang to be the way can explain how GM Wei did his fajing but for us what zhanzhuang people do for fajing is so obvious that to call it a secret is doing a disservice to those who want to uplift the practice of Chinese internal arts.

Comment No. 3 – An experienced person will only put forward a sensible suggestion, which might work, whereas a native person, or a young person who is unafraid to make mistakes, will ask the wrong question, will make an outrageous suggestion, which might actually be a very good idea.”

I am relatively new to learning FMA. I was taught that we can hold the blade with a forward grip or an ice-pick grip. We could also switch from one grip to the other while we are wielding the blade.

Forward Grip
Ice Pick Grip

At one point I thought why not hold two blades in one hand? Wouldn’t this eliminate the need to switch from one grip to another if I want to switch the way I am holding the blade? The question why anyone would want to switch grip is another matter.

This is not a new idea. In fact, there is a weapon from the style of Yin baguazhang called Judge’s Pen (goggle it) that sparked off my thinking (past experience can matter sometimes…….) in this direction. I played around with it while holding two knives in one hand. Seems like a good idea.

However, the reality is that unless a real blade is made this way this idea is not practical. Why?

Firstly, a real knife handle may be thicker and oval shaped, making it difficult to hold two knifes in one hand. Secondly, how will you carry the blade in a concealed manner? How will you draw it out quickly when required without cutting yourself? So what seems like a good idea is not a practical idea. But who knows, maybe someone will make this into a practical idea, which begs the question how does a Yin style baguazhang practitioner carry a Judge’s Pen?

Comment No. 4 – “Being very open to every suggestion and not ever saying ‘that’s a silly idea, don’t be so stupid’ – that’s my style. I like the unobvious suggestion…I get very worried when someone says they’re an expert.”

There’s nothing wrong with being an expert. The problem is when their mind is closed even when they are obviously wrong. They want to argue until a corpse can come alive, to use a colorful Chinese saying.

The basis for creativity is to not be afraid to ask what to others would be obvious stupid or even impossible questions. Remember the assumption that things heavier than air can’t fly (Lord Kelvin said that heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible). So for a long time if someone brought up the idea of flying they would be laughed at. Yet birds can fly. So obviously the assumption that things heavier than air cannot fly is not true.

Assumptions can be wrong. What is today correct may also be wrong tomorrow (flat earth versus round earth argument). So it is this way with the argument with zhanzhuang being the secret to developing fajing skills in Tai Chi. I say that this is not true because any beginner can learn to do fajing without having to learn zhanzhuang. They don’t even need to learn forms or to put in years of practice.

There is a difference between being able to use freely (requires years of practice) and being able to do fajing in controlled environment (does not require years of practice, just a few minutes of instruction and tinkering the movements for proof of concept). The latter is proof that it is important to know what you are doing clearly and not be caught up by outdated dogma that is enslaving you.

So in this sense when an expert, someone who proudly tacks a sifu before his name, tells you that you take years to learn how to fajing take it with a few spoonful of salt because it is not true. Even if I don’t tell you the basis of my argument you can figure it out easily with the help of a physics textbook and a partner willing to be your guinea pig. Once you figure it out you will probably slap your head for not seeing it for the simple thing that it is.