A common obstacle facing Tai Chi students is differentiating intent from body movement.
When most students perform the form their intent is not clearly delineated from their physical action. This leads to the inability to use intent over reliance on strength alone.
Why is it difficult to separate intent from movement?
Reading The Body Builders : Inside the Science of the Engineered Human has given me the answer. When you think of doing something the neurons in the processing areas of the motor cortex fires and triggers the desired movement.
However, these neurons fire so fast that for most of us it is difficult to detect that length of time between the neurons firing and the corresponding limb moving. The time between neurons firing and movement beginning is but milliseconds so you can imagine how short a time this is.
Given this is the case how then can Tai Chi players train intent?
This is where the specialized intent training of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style Tai Chi comes in. The conceptual models for training intent allows us to experience a time lag, at least long enough to feel when intent begins and when movement triggered by intent comes in.
In this way we can truly separate mind and body. Incidentally, this fulfils the principle of using intent rather than strength and explains clearly why Tai Chi is boxing of the mind.
It would be interesting to one day use science to study this neglected aspect of Tai Chi. Who knows what we may discover that can not only improve our Tai Chi skills but be applicable to other fields such as medicine.
Today I found out a theory that can explain why we need to keep up the practice of forms.
In the past I have read that form practice is like swimming on dry land. However, I think the reason why those who say so is because they have not broken through to understand how form training really works.
Fortunately, studies into intuition have offered us a good explanation on this. Can you guess what this is?
For the moment I will leave this question here as I continue to read why implicit learning can explain the importance of form training.
On rumsoakedfist there is a link to “Essence of Combat Science” by Wang Xiangzhai as translated from Chinese by Andrzej Kalisz. Click here to go to the file.
Wang Xiangzhai wrote :-
In shi li there shouldn’t be partial, superficial force, especially there shouldn’t be unbalanced one directional force. You should observe if the whole body force is round, full or not, if it is possible issuing force at any moment, if there is feeling of mutual reaction between body and surrounding air. Intention shouldn’t be broken, spirit shouldn’t be dispersed. Light and heavy are ready to be used. If one moves, whole body follows it. Force should be unified, swift and solid at the same time, round and full. There shouldn’t be anything forgotten or lost on any side.
The above is good advice to keep in mind when practicing how to issue power.
In our Tai Chi tradition we have additional requirements such as :-
a) Have defined intent to control body movements
b) Align and tune the body internally to allow power to flow like a spring gushing out of the ground
c) Prime the 5 bows strongly to enable quick conversion of energy from potential to kinetic
An example of using these three requirements is shown below :-
I know some masters are reluctant to demonstrate power, claiming (whether true or not) that they are afraid of hurting the student. I wonder if this is true or they just want to hide the fact that they can’t do it well.
You can’t teach how to use a technique without showing how the power is applied or at the very least what it feels like to be tapped, even if lightly. This method of teaching is known as “feeding power” in traditional circles.
To me the concept of “feeding power” is just hands-on teaching. Nothing mysterious about it.
Have you ever been taught by teachers who made it seem that fajing is something mysterious, that you need to learn some secret breathing method, knowing how meridians flow, etc in order to fajing?
You would probably be told that it takes years and maybe initiation into discipleship before the secrets can be taught. Guess what? You don’t need secrets, you don’t have to be a disciple and you don’t need years to learn how to fajing.
In fact, you just need to follow SOP (standard operating procedures) and you can do it. Of course, you can’t apply it freely but that’s just a matter of practice.
Once you keep your mind open and you follow SOP you can demonstrate the ability to fajing even on the first lesson. Below is an example taken on the first lesson :-
In fact, beginners who have not learned Tai Chi before can pick it up faster than a student who has experience. The reason is that a total newbie is not saddled by habits, prejudices, opinions and what have you that prevent them for learning properly.
Too often I see Tai Chi being taught in a manner that is devoid of its original roots as a combative art.
If you learn a form without understanding how the movements are used then your movements, the placements, the timing and so on will be out of whack. This in turn begins a vicious circle of learning useless movements. But why should it be like this?
I can’t answer for others but learning a technique should be accompanied by some explanation of its usage. In that way the learner can understand the importance of keeping correct distance, having the right positions, using leverage, maintaining a stance to have stability and so on.
Below is an example of learning the form on the first lesson :-