Doing It Naturally 4

Further along the form teaches how to move when using a lower stance. This also works the leg muscles for those who love a good workout.

But we don’t just use a lower stance for fitness only. A lower stance and the ability to change between a higher to a lower stance and back is part of the learning of how to carry out three levels of attack.

After this we move to the three core strikes that a beginner should know. Well, actually there is a 4th strike within the movements of Strike No. 2 and No. 3.

For now we just learn how to do the three strikes while moving laterally. Once familiarity and a degree of mastery kicks in we will move on to moving forward and backward while performing the three strikes.

And at a later stage we learn how to combine the three of them and apply in line with the strategy we are executing.

Doing It Naturally

One of the reasons Tai Chi is difficult to learn is because of the intent factor. Why?

Its because the more you move externally, the less you move internally. So in order to use your intent clearly you must minimize excess and unnecessary movements. This is why my Tai Chi teacher liked to caution against moving without rhyme or reason.

This of course gives rise to a problem – what does he mean exactly? If you have ever tried learning to cook in a Chinese kitchen or from old ladies you should get this point for its not uncommon to be told to use some salt, like a pinch, but what does a pinch means in terms of a more exact measurement. For you see, a pinch to you may be more than a pinch in my hands.

So when my Tai Chi teacher said I am having unnecessary movements it is not easy to understand what he is trying to say because from my point of seeing things I am not moving unnecessarily. But that’s my “uneducated” view.

Years later when I got it I understood what he meant then. Now when I see students move I want to pull my hair out when I see them moving excessively. The point here is that you don’t want to move less or more but to move such that you can be quick, powerful and able to use your techniques.

To borrow a concept from game theory, MinMax, we want to minimize what does not contribute to our gain and maximize what adds to our skills. To me this is easy to understand but try explaining it to others and I see this glazed look come over their eyes.

The traditional way of learning is to practice. Don’t worry about the rank or how fast you want to make progress; just practice and little by little clarity will come. Certain things you can rush, certain things just take time.

For example, this morning I was watching the Kali class video for last week and I saw something that I did not notice before. Mind you, I have looked at this same movement done countless times for months. Since this is a key basic I keep practicing and relearning it many times.

In our practice we have a target time to do one whole sequence of movements under 60 seconds. Now when you want to complete a sequence within a certain time the logical thing to do is to go faster.

The problem is what if you can’t go any faster and you have hit a wall in terms of speed. What else can you do?

The logically approach is then to take out unnecessary movements or to minimize excessively big movements. There is a catch though, you can minimize a movement but you have to be aware of not altering its DNA too much when you start cutting out or shortening movements.

There is always a trade-off. For example, you can do a big movement which is good for power. The trade-off is that a bigger movement is slower than a small movement. The idea of MinMax is how do I minimize the movement without losing too much power.

Similarly, if you use big movements to apply your Tai Chi techniques you will find that you are always a step slower than someone who does Wing Chun which uses much smaller movements. However, if you are following the older Tai Chi way of using Small Frame then speed-wise you are not slower than a Wing Chun guy.

This gives rise to a misconception that practicing Tai Chi is about doing it slowly. In the beginning going slow is necessary due to the complexity involved. But at the advanced level a student shouldn’t have to go slow for the sake of doing so. If anything, the student must be able to move through the techniques very quickly because in combat no one is going to go slow and if you can’t catch up or respond super fast when you need to then you are waiting to be beaten.

COVID-19 is a bad time. So many things have to be put on hold or cannot do. But hitting the pause button also gives me more time to practice, think and review what I know (I hope my Tai Chi students are taking this opportunity to revise everything they have learned before). I took this opportunity to consolidate, reorganize and revamp my approach to learning and the first area I applied it to is in SKD.

Tai Chi Form Applications

In this video I am explaining where some of our SKD applications come from :-

Our Yang style Tai Chi form can look simple and non-aggressive.

However, a lot of applications are concealed within the unassuming movements.

In this video I point out how the movement of Single Whip and Cloud Hands are applied.

Axe Chopping Principle

In this week’s SKD I delved into the principle of axe chopping to deliver a strike.

Interestingly, in a non-mainstream Wing Chun that I learned we have a punch called Tup Chui which is literally Hammering Punch in which the punch is not straight out but delivered in a downward curving manner. My final Wing Chun teacher also punched in this manner and he is able to punch really fast and powerfully using this process.

I had also encountered this way of punching in the Biu Jee form of the Ip Man style when my senior taught me this version from one of Ip Man’s lesser known disciple. This punch is performed at the end of every section.

The video below is an introduction :-

Here is where I mentioned the axe chopping in relation to Xingyi’s Pi Quan :-

In SKD this is how we use arm swinging to develop the chopping power :-

To be able to apply the chopping strike we use Tai Chi principles to learn how to relax and control our arm and body acting in concert to deliver the strike.

The arm-whole body movement is my adaptation of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Step Back Repulse Monkey from his 22-form. The arm rolling into backfist movement is the final movement in Repulse Monkey.

Intent is the Driver

In the practice of Tai Chi we say that the mind comes first.

In this context the mind refers to the use of intent. Intent is our desire to do something, in this context, the wish to move in compliance with the principles of Tai Chi.

In Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style Tai Chi we use the intent to practice the process that he wrote about in his book on the 22 form.

The demo above is a segment from the 22-form showing Cloud Hands, Single Whip, Separate Hands to Kick and Strike Ears with Both Fists.

Grandmaster Wei Shuren is demonstrating this segment from 8:16 to 9:59 in the video below :-

The form does not look impressive nor powerful. However, if you try to do it yourself by copying the movements you will realize that it is a lot more difficult than it seems to constantly issue power in a concealed manner while moving calmly as if pulling silk continuously in a movement efficient way.

For example, in the movement of Single Whip the whip hand itself is issuing power 4 ways before moving into the left palm strike to complete the movement. In practicing the form we define the four movements clearly but we can also perform the movements with barely perceptible outward movements once we have grasped the essence of the movement.

At this stage you would need to be in command of your ability to use intent otherwise you will not be able to reduce the outer movements to the bare minimum required.

2021 Day 2

It started to rain last night.

It kept on raining throughout the day. I woke up to a dark, cold and gloomy day.

Practicing Tai Chi is a good day to get the blood circulating. Some say to circulate the Chi.

Playing the Tai Chi form is a good way to train your ability to concentrate, develop awareness of how your body is moving in response to your mind.

When you can quiet down your mind you can focus so much better. In this way you can reduce the outer movements, concealing the movements that are happening inside your body. This is what we mean by being internal.

Good control of the body allows you to tread like a cat. At the same time your body is moving like a series of gears to rotate and spiral to connect to the ground to generate power.

While it does not seem like it but within the slow, seemingly gentle movements we are working the power generation process.

The Tai Chi in SKD

Here I am explaining a countering movement found in Sao Chui.

This counter is derived from the hook hand movement from Single Whip.

If you learn the form normally you might not see this connection due to the timing of how this movement is taught.

It is when we change the timing that this appliction becomes obvious.

SKD Short Talk on Body Structure

In SKD we use Tai Chi body structure.

One of the principles of Tai Chi body structure is 含胸拔背 commonly translated as contain the chest, raise the back.

Here I give a demonstration of what this means and the implication in power generation.

I didn’t hit the dummy harder as I didn’t want it to fall over in case you are thinking that the power is not that strong.

I also kept the demo to this principle instead of involving the other principles so that we can view in isolation the workings of this principle.