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.



A New Beginning

I have not written about Tai Chi for a while as I’ve been having fun sharing information and tips on the practice of the basics of Pok Khek Kuen at the BojiLite Study Group on Facebook.

Most online groups tend to be top heavy with lurkers but on our group we weed out the lurkers. So those who remain are members who sincerely and actually want to learn something instead of just taking part in gossips and meaningless arguments. Our group may be small but we have meaningful participation.

I think for me the rewarding part of theĀ BojiLite Study Group is see members actually make progress in their learning. It may be slow but it is sure. The basics look easy but members know after they try that it is not easy. There is more to it and the knowledge will reveal itself as they soldier on in their practice.

That theĀ BojiLite Study Group is making progress makes me wonder if such an approach will work for Tai Chi as well. I am thinking of making a condensed training program based on the form outlined in my eBook TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form.

Anyway, just an idea for now………..


Of Rootedness & Power

I am writing to my friend to answer his question about how to cultivate power and rootedness using non-standing posture methods.

I might as well write a general post on it since a lot of readers would be interested to know too.

To start off with I would say that :-

a) If you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer

b) If you make the wrong assumption, you travel the wrong path

c) Ignorance can impede your progress, so make sure you arm yourself with knowledge

d) Find a baseline to compare your practice to. Adjust and change the baseline when necessary

e) Keep your mind open to possibilities, including those that you know nothing about, never heard of before or beyond your current understanding

The first thing I want to address is can standing posture teach you how to generate power. I will say this – standing perfectly still will not allow you to generate power. Even when we use intent we still need to move, even if the movement is very little.

I once read a story of a Yiquan master who stood in a standing posture for three years to train the ability to mentally pull a tree in the distance to his hands and push it back. Some may point to this as evidence that standing posture teaches fajing.

I would say no, this is missing the point. The standing still is to teach you to calm your mind to the point where you can feel your body, and by forcing you to stand still to reduce the amount of unnecessary movements you are making.

It is only when you reach a state of calmness and elimination of unnnecessary movement that you are able to use intent to move your body in a different, more optimal manner. So you see you still need to move your body.

The form route basically uses the same method but approaching it from another direction. We keep training the movements using intent, moving from gross to fine, big to medium to small, until by compliance to the principles we are moving optimally.

But as I mentioned in another post today it is very difficult to teach kids to generate power by the use of standing postures. It is just as difficult to teach kids using forms.

Actually, to cultivate power it is not important which method you want to use. When I teach Tai Chi to students I would tell them not to focus on power but rare is the student who would actually listen because they think of fajing ability as a magic pill that would bestow martial invincibility on them. Actually, this is not true.

Good fighting skills are reliant on the person and his technical abilities. If a person’s heart is not in it he will still lose a fight. So will a fighter without good skills but the right heart. To be a winner one should have a good balance of personal and technical abilities.

As personal abilities are subjective we normally do not go into them. It is easier to discuss technical abilities as these are more objective.

The question of power and rootedness need not be the same, yet they can be.

Consider this – if you run fast and throw yourself at another person you will have power but will you have rootedness?

Similarly, if you sink really low into your stance you will have strong root but would this lead to stronger fajing ability?

My conclusion is that a balance of both would work best. I suspect this is why a lot of internal systems use small frame characteristics because it would allow them sufficient rootedness with minimal compromise on fajing ability.

So back to the question of how to use non-standing posture method to train power and rootedness. My views as follows :-

a) Basic rootedness – use the Pok Khek basic posture. The basic procedures are listed here.

They are necessary but not sufficient if you want to have a more internal way to do it. You may find it hard to believe but if you get the basic posture right you will have instant rootedness.

The problem why this does not work for most people is because they do not diligently follow the instructions nor try out as many times as necessary to get it.

b) However, nobody stands still in a fight. You need to move, and move while keeping your balance even as you are under attack or returning fire.

This is where you need to train yourself to move. In Pok Khek Kuen we learn how to move by learning the Leung Yi Bo.

There are a few other ways to move, however, the Leung Yi Bo teaches a basic, essential principle that we use in combat. So if you don’t get this principle then your ability to apply the techniques properly will be compromised.

c) The basic posture when applied to the Leung Yi Ma posture lay the foundation for a posture that will allow you to generate power in different ways.

The best part about the above is that in as little as 6 months you can generate decent power………… but only if you actually put in the training. Reading about it, fantasizing about it, intellectualizing about it is useless and for keyboard warriors.



Live Form Vs Dead Form

One of the greatest learning tragedy in Tai Chi is learning a dead form. This means you learned and memorized the choreograph but when doing push hands you are unable to apply the techniques, much less use the principles embedded in the form to solve problems.

This is why we stress the learning of a live form over a dead form. A live form is not about learning and remembering the sequence of movements. This will be missing the point of learning the form in the first place. If such were the case you might as well not learn the form in the first place. To do so is to waste your time and cram your mind with useless movements.

When we learn push hands we study the application of principles and techniques together. One without the other is like a gun without a bullet and vice versa. If you do not know your form really well, like inside out, backwards and forward, left and right, then you have not even begin your understanding of what is in it.

Sometimes it is easier to teach a student to do drills or techniques. But this will cause them to be locked into a particular mindset, a particular way of responding, and worse of all to be stuck, stumped and end up resisting the moment the attack does not go the way they are expecting it.

Techniques born of the form are better because they are not fixed into any particular way. Instead, such techniques are but natural responses born of a frame of no-mind; allowing you to flow within the construct of the principles. It is certainly not easy to learn this way. How should I put it – it is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle that is basically a black square (below is a picture of a jigsaw puzzle known as Black Torture).


Knowing the principles allow you to respond without having to think too hard about it. You can also respond with a better technique rather than just reacting because you need to resist the attack. When we do push hands we explore many different ways of playing the game. Some are common, some are not.

One example – you push with your right hand, your opponent neutralizes and comes in with Wild Horse Parts Mane (left hand leading). One second you are attacking, the next you body is trapped and you are sent off-balance to your rear.

Quick – how do you counter this?

Were you able to answer or you had to think about it?

My student basically froze and took a trip.

Never mind, let’s do it again. So the next time he is able to react because he now knows what to expect. He saw my leftt hand coming and he intercepted it with his left hand. Good response except like what I always said – your opponent is not stupid – so when he grabbed my left hand I readjusted the attack angle and continued with the attack. Reacting without understanding or applying the principles is recipe for failure.

We try again. And again. Moving faster, moving stronger. Not always a surefire recipe for success unless you have the principles working for you.

I got him to try it on me. One time he was too slow or maybe I am faster in my reaction. I stopped his attack before it came in halfway and got spun off to my right. But this was not what I wanted to show him.

Instead, I wanted to show him how he could appeared to be under control and ready to be sent flying but at the last minute he could come up with a save. This required him to have a good grasp of timing, patience and split second decisive reaction to pull it off because we will allow the attacking hand to come through, intrude into our space and begin to apply pressure.

At this crucial moment is when our trap must be sprung, not a second earlier and not a second later. Were he to move earlier an attacker could readjust the attacking angle and still send him off balance. If moving too late then the attack will go through.

It took him a few tries to get it. The first part was not difficult as he only had to slow down the attacking hand. Next he had to subtly let the attacking arm come through enough before inserting a fulcrum point. Then as the attacking force comes he has to borrow it and use it against the attacker. He has to do all the three parts in one smooth flowing process and to do it while appearing to be losing his balance.

It reads easier than actually doing it. However, it is not difficult to catch because the principles underlying the counter to Wild Horse Parts Mane is actually taught within the entire sequence of Wild Horse Parts Mane in the form! One part is movement, one part is inaction and the third part is the use of intent.

The movement and principles are flexible enough to be used as counter against other techniques. To this end, you are not learning one response to one attack. Instead, you are learning to find formlessness within form. In this way, you become flexible in your response like how flowing water always seeks the path of least resistance.



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 :-



Form & Application Example

Learning how to use the movements in the form is part and parcel of learning Tai Chi.

Below is an example :-

The technique used here is Ward-Off transitioning to Rollback. Most of the time when we learn Ward-Off and Rollback we consider them as two separate techniques.

However, as can be seen in this example if we consider Ward-Off, Ward-Off transitioning to Rollback and Rollback as a flow sequence the application can come out differently.

First, we have the entering. At this point the technique can be a straightforward attack. Or perhaps some of us would like to do a bounce out attack instead. Or it becomes the setup of another technique as in this example.

Then we spin the opponent. At this point different possibilities emerge……….

As tempted as we are we stay on course and apply Rollback to get this particular result.