Minimizing Training Problems

I wrote this post after reading a posting from SKD learning group member, AY, today.

Apparently, he is hurting his thumb and feeling uncomfortable from rebound shock when striking a pad (thanks to Sir Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion).

As usual, the same problem he faces applies to my Tai Chi students also.

The root cause of most training problems can be attributed to :-

a) Weak foundation in basics

b) Overdoing a movement to compensate for a weakness

c) Misunderstanding the principles

What the above means :-

a) Each style is configured to work a certain way in line with the way the style is designed.

If your basics is not performed properly then you would not be able to work and apply the techniques in the way it is intended to.

In SKD the way we hold the thumb minimizes injury when striking not just the pad but when playing with a live opponent. I’ve had my share of painful reminders why the traditional way of placing the thumb does not work.

For example, when we train moving at a faster pace such as shown in the video below we can end up bumping our thumb accidentally against the training partner’s arm especially when we strike and he blocks. When this happens the impact will jar our thumb from its holding position and this hurts.

b) When you are not ready to do something and you try to do it and you can’t get the result you may try to force your way through. You might then get the result but there will be a cost.

As an example, if you hit a pad you should be using whole body, relaxed movement. However, you may find that it is difficult to punch harder yet be relaxed at the same time. Yet, you desperately want to punch harder even though you are not ready.

But what the hell, you go ahead and do it anyway, thinking you know better. Your enthusiasm and eagerness is re-paid with rebound shocks that can give you headaches cause not correct is not correct no matter how you cut it. More so if you are punching a pad that is tied in front of a solid, unyielding post.

c) Paying close attention to basics, principles and core requirements can reap positive dividends. If you rush through the learning you can end up misunderstanding vital information.

For example, in SKD we say that the basic linear strike is like releasing an arrow? Why do we say this? When you examine all the information out there you will start to understand why the analogy of an arrow in flight is appropriate.


Summary – when your basics are in place some of the things that look inaccessible when you first started will become doable.

For example, some will claim that it takes a decade of study to be able to do Tai Chi fajing. I don’t think this is true. If it is true it is due to a number of factors, some of which is due to the student and some due to the teacher.

However, if both parties are willing to work towards it then there is no reason why the ability to fajing cannot be achieved earlier. In the video below the student has only learned for 3 years and he is attaining slowly but surely the ability to fajing.

Even then this is not as impressive. Some other students can do it after a few months of learning. They might not be as impressive but they can do it.



Fajing Glimpse

Here’s a clip from a training session on 17 Sep 2018.

The question here is what do you do when your opponent relaxes his arms so that you cannot use his resistance against him.

You will find that its not easy to use the common method of fajing such an opponent unless you can get close enough to push his body instead of his arms.


Begin to Learn Push Hands 3

This is the third video :-

Some explanation on how to use the horizontal circle for application of techniques using Grasp Sparrow’s Tail as example.

In our push hands the understanding of change is important because we never know how the opponent will react. So it is important to us to really understand the various positions we find ourselves in when playing push hands.


Mindfully Yours

It takes time to develop the use of intent. But when you get there the quality of your Tai Chi form play will be markedly different.

Below is an example of a student who has learned for a few years.

The focus is more intense as if you are engrossed in a world of your own. Old masters say that one is so concentrated that even if a mountain collapses right in front of you your concentration will not waver.

Below is video of a student who has learned for three lessons.

Though the performance is quite good after 3 lessons the quality of the movement is not as fine. If you look carefully you can see that the iterative change is less perceptible in the first video as compared to the second.

The blurring of the perceptible changes is a step towards internalizing outer movements and allows one to bring forth the intent clearly.


Comfort in Form Practice

Today I would like to bring up a basic topic in the practice of Tai Chi – comfort.

To begin let’s take a look at a video. This is a demonstration of Yang style 108 long form by a new student as he learned it.

The low stances are great for cultivating leg strength. I used to practice the long form really slow, taking about one and a quarter to one and a half hour to complete one cycle. At the end I would feel this pain in the knees. My student has a similar experience also.

It is only after learning the Yang style Tai Chi transmitted within the lineage of Grandmaster Wei Shuren that I eliminated the knee pain yet retain good dynamic stability. It all began with my teacher offering a simple piece of advice – seek comfort. Today I teach this vital principle to all students – seek comfort.

The logic goes something like this – you are supposed to relax but sitting low too early in the training only makes your thighs more tense. If you must go lower, then do it progressively after you have attained a high degree of relaxation. Otherwise, if you end up with joint pains then your practice would be counter-productive.

Today I made a video illustrating this point.

Conclusion – in Tai Chi we want to move like a mountain yet be as light footed as a rabbit. How do we reconcile this?

Answer – seek comfort. Then we have the best of both worlds in that we are calm, heavy, solid, minimalist, with constantly connected movements concealing the power of mind and body, yet can move swiftly like the wind.


Hammer Time!

The biomechanics of a hammer throw is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you are practicing Tai Chi.

However, you should not dismiss it because knowing it can help your pulling technique. Just last week I mentioned about the hammer throw to two students for learning the same technique.

Today I found a video that is relevant to what I mentioned :-

The part of the video that is an illustration to what I talked about is at 2:32. You don’t need to know the mathematics to be able to benefit from this video. All you need to do is to extract that part of the body movement that is the key to improving your performance.


Take the Step 6

This is the last video :-

This video explains why we learn the raising and lowering of arms as three separate rather than two separate movements.

The benefits can be readily tested with the help of a partner. If you try out the movements you will understand that learning how to fajing does not take years.

Instead, it is the learning of how to use fajing against an opponent, being able to adjust and change to fit the opponent’s reaction and resistance that take years to develop.

If you can keep your focus you will find that you can fajing after only a few minutes of instruction. The key word here is “keep your focus”.

Most students cannot keep their mind focused on the task at mind. Instead, their mind drifts. When this happens they lose their placing, the alignment goes off, the focus goes off and they cannot do the fajing by themselves any more.

Constant and consistent practice of the form is the remedy if you want to be able to do fajing on your own. How long this actually takes depends on how much time you are willing to put into practice and your ability to keep to the quality goals.