Listen to Doctor

This post is inspired based on information from a conversation I had today.

You go to class to learn Tai Chi.

You learn the form. You practice it. You love it.

Then one posture gives you a problem.

The first sign – pain in the knee.

You inform the instructor. He says no problem, carry on.

You believe him. You carry on.

The pain persists.

In the end the pain is so bad that you have to consult a doctor. The verdict – knee strain.

The doctor’s advice – pain means you are hurt and should stop.

In the past I have had feedback from other people that they tend to believe their teacher and continued on in spite of the pain.

I tend to agree with what the doctor said. Pain means something is wrong. Stop. Find out what it is. Take corrective measures. Check. If no pain then continue. If still got pain, have your teacher check your posture again.

If your teacher is unwilling to check your posture or tell you to eat bitter then you have to decide whether the teacher is right and the pain will go away eventually or if the teacher is wrong and you risk injury if you carry on. Remember, if anything goes wrong you are the one to suffer. So decide wisely.

It is my opinion that many teachers do not really understand either the role that pain plays or the principles of the Tai Chi Classics. If they do they will stop you the moment you tell them there is pain. They will check your posture and tell you how to do it such that the pain is eliminated.

If you have pain when doing a certain movement first check your body structure. Then check the movement process. Sometimes the body structure is OK but when you move that is when the problem comes in. This is one reason why we practice Tai Chi slowly so that we can monitor and check our posture and movement continually.

When we practice Tai Chi for combat as it was originally designed it acts as a secondary check on our practice. Without this aspect you may think you are relaxed when doing the form when you are really still tensed. This will come to the fore when you practice push hands for combat. You will be surprised how even a slight move on your part can be exploited by someone who is really relaxed to open up your space to launch attacks. Thus, the practice of push hands can help us to refine our mastery of the principles further.

Remember to listen to the doctor’s advice when it comes to the practice of Tai Chi. If there is pain stop. Do not continue until you have fixed the problem. Otherwise, you risk injuring yourself. That many practitioners keep mum about pain do not mean there is no pain. Neither will ignoring the pain make it go away. Deal with it today. Then you can continue to practice Tai Chi for a long time.


Use Heart

In Tai Chi training we admonish the student to 用心 (use heart / intention) when learning and practicing. When we say this it is not uncommon to point to our chest  or pat the chest where the heart is to put our point across.

In this sense we seem to be literally telling the student to use his heart which is kinda silly, right? This is because we know that to say 用心 we are actually telling the student to learn and practice with attention and awareness rather than use the actual heart.

Enter the HeartMath Institute. In the video below they claim that the heat is much more than what we thought it is :-

After watching the video I hopped over to the HeartMath Institute’s website. The following are excerpts which caught my eye :-

The heart has been considered the source of emotion, courage and wisdom for centuries. For more than 25 years, the HeartMath Institute Research Center has explored the physiological mechanisms by which the heart and brain communicate and how the activity of the heart influences our perceptions, emotions, intuition and health.

We now have a much deeper scientific understanding of many of our original questions that explains how and why heart activity affects mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance, intuition and personal effectiveness. Our and others’ research indicates the heart is far more than a simple pump. The heart is, in fact, a highly complex information-processing center with its own functional brain, commonly called the heart brain, that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs and play an important role in mental and emotional experience and the quality of our lives.

The heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways:

Neurological communication (nervous system)
Biochemical communication (hormones)
Biophysical communication (pulse wave)
Energetic communication (electromagnetic fields)

You can read more about what they wrote beginning here.

In the last excerpt I put in blue the sentence Biophysical communication (pulse wave). What has this got to do with Tai Chi?

Let’s see……. first a screen capture from the HeartMath video, then one drawing and one picture from Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s book side by side :-



Most readers would not be familiar with the principles of the Yang style from GM Wei so I’ll try to put things into perspective here. The use of Qi Posture is an important element of GM Wei’s Yang style.

One of the keys to creating the Qi Posture is to open the chest at the position where the abstract rather than actual heart is. It is interesting to note that in the HeartMath video they also show the aura as emanating from the abstract heart rather than the actual heart. You can watch the opening chest sequence at 0:38 in the video demonstration by GM Wei below :-

After the intention has moved through the requisite steps to open up the body then the mind mentally creates the 3 Qi-Rings. Now, if you look at the picture of GM Wei above you can see the 3 Qi-Rings shown as solid rings. However, if you look at 1:23 in the video above you can see that the Qi-Rings actually emanate outwards in the form of a pulse in a manner that is reminiscent of the HeartMath video as shown in the screen capture above.

Does the findings of the HeartMath Institute validate the 3 Qi-Rings approach of our Yang style Tai Chi? Is the pulse wave referred to on HeartMath website here similar or have some connection to our 3 Qi-Rings? I have no idea but it would be interesting to look further into the findings of the HeartMath Institute. Who knows – it may be another avenue to help us to Master Tai Chi Today or at least understand it better.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today

Tai Chi Health Benefits

The practice of Tai Chi Chuan is said to have health benefits. While I am not into teaching Tai Chi solely as a health art, nevertheless, it can address the following observations I have made of older folks :-

a) Diminished sense of balance

A diminished sense of balance brings with it an increase in the risk of falling. Among old folks a fall can result in hip or arm fractures.

b) Weakened leg strength

Weakened leg strength makes walking difficult particularly climbing stairs. In Singapore sometimes the only way to safely cross a road is by using an overhead bridge or walking further to a pedestrian crossing.

If the pedestrian crossing is too far and the choice is between jay walking and climbing an overhead bridge most old folks would go for the former and risk getting hit by vehicles. But you can’t blame them if climbing an overhead bridge takes too much effort for weaker legs.

c) Slouched posture

I noticed that old folks who are active in sports still have good, straight posture. A slight slouch is typical among old folks and in some the spine is weakened to the point where they have to bend forward.


When you are older you owe it to yourself to take care of your body. Take up an exercise that helps you to maintain a healthy body into old age. For me this would be Tai Chi because not only do I get to exercise my body but also my mind.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today

Where’s Your Mind?

Recently I received an enquiry to learn Tai Chi not so much for combat but as an aid to learning meditation.

I can understand that the learning of Tai Chi can be helpful to the learning of meditation and vice versa. However, this would be applicable only to those forms of Tai Chi which lack the training of intention.

In our method of Tai Chi I feel that the training of intention is superior to the training offered by meditation. In fact, form training can replace meditation altogether because the training of form is meditation in motion.

In addition, the training of push hands can help the practitioner check and test his state of mind. Its one thing to sit solo in meditation and achieve enlightenment and another to achieve enlightenment through a combination of solo form practice and push hands practice.

The difference is that you may think that your mind is trained after meditating for a period of time but will your mind be able to remain detached in the face of pressure. This is the million dollar question.

The training of solo form is to help us to reach a state of emptiness. If you have really achieved this state you should be able to be detached and hold your ego in check when doing push hands. If not, you will keep on, nay, insist on resisting on the slightest pressure from the training partner.

Perhaps for those who do not have any inclination to train in a martial art meditation will be a good substitute. But I feel that if you can Master Tai Chi Today you can literally kill two birds with one stone.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

Student Notes-Men of Iron

After last night’s lesson an idea for my next post percolated in my mind throughout the day. However, I did not get the time to write anything until now as I was in the midst of reorganizing my PC.

Evening came and my Dropbox was still synchronizing. Six minutes more to go. Yeah, I’ll wait for six minutes except it turned out to be longer than six minutes. Yup, more than 30 minutes later Dropbox was still going, and now there’s seven more minutes to go!

So I started browsing the web and saw this on rumsoakedfist :-


source :

I would have to say this is surprising but no, its not. Been there, done that. I know its politically incorrect to say this but training even in internal arts can cause you back and knee injuries.

The reason is not difficult to fathom if you understand basic anatomy and physics. Actually no, you don’t even need to know anatomy or physics. Just common sense will do to understand why such injuries can happen. So how is this related to what I wanted to write. Nothing. Yet everything.

Last night I was observing my student, X, do his form particularly when he was transitioning from Single Whip to Raise Hands. He was moving too much thus affecting his balance and stability though it might not be immediately obvious. But its nothing that a single test of structure would not reveal.

To fix the problem required a simple solution – learn to adjust the kwa. So X tried it but it was not so easy to do because to use the kwa properly required a good amount of mental concentration in order to align the body such that his balance is kept throughout.

When I saw that his thigh muscle started trembling it was obvious that X was not doing it right. No doubt he could grit his teeth and bear with the pain and stress. But wrong is wrong and I said so.

So he tried again. The logic of how to move is not difficult to understand but refined movements in the transitioning involved a lot of mental focus, control and awareness and without the requisite amount of time put into the art this would require X to really stretch himself.

In Single Whip we have the balance between two legs so its easy to do. However, Raise Hands requires the balance to be on one leg yet be able to maintain a degree of stability. To achieve this the left leg which is controlling the balance must deal with the stress of bearing the entire body’s weight on one leg.

Now some practitioners may ask what’s the big deal?

Yes, its not a big deal if you are not doing it correctly by keeping some weight on the void leg. Or you just bear the pain for a while before hastening the transition from Raise Hands to White Crane Spreads Wings.

However, to Master Tai Chi Today in our Yang style demands that we do not cheat ourselves. If the requirement is to void one leg and keep the balance on the other whilst our substantial leg’s thigh muscles should not tremble and shake then we must keep up our practice until we can really honestly do so.

The key to keeping the shakes at bay is to precisely align our substantial leg. If you know how to see then a wrongly aligned leg is very obvious. Some students might get the feeling that they have accomplished something by bearing with the pain and eating bitter. But this is a stupid learning attitude. Wrong is wrong.

If want to improve we have to face the fact that we make mistakes. We must be prepared to revise our outlook and move on. A misaligned leg means that stress is bearing down (yup, that’s gravity at work) on your knee in an unbalanced manner, exerting greater pressure on some parts than others.

If you keep doing this then sooner or later you will injure your knee. There are no two ways about it, whatever excuses you can think of. The same reasoning applies if you do powerful fajing.

Nature’s a bitch. As long as your body is not made of iron then sooner or later the sins of fajing will come back to haunt you. And a most vulnerable point is the lower back.

A fajing movement executed properly involves little stress on the weight bearing joints of the body. An improper fajing, even though it looks super powerful and sends a person flying will exert stress on your body particularly the lower back. Do this often enough and one day your back will hurt.

I am not getting younger and neither are my students though they are at least a decade younger than me. We cannot run away from the fact that an older body is more prone to injuries. If we want to keep doing Tai Chi particularly push hands and fajing into old age then we must remember we are not men of iron.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.


Older folks are urged to exercise so that they can keep themselves fit.

Tai Chi is good for training coordination, timing and balance. Some weight lifting can help bone density. Now old folks can add learning how to fall to their training.

The story of Elliot Royce here is particularly inspiring and useful. If you are not treating the subject of how to fall seriously you should – take a look at this info here.

You may think that you are too old to learn. Really? Read this here.

Old folks falling down is serious business. Read how a scientist, Dr Clive Pai, is doing research into it here. Or watch this video about broken hips :-

My observation of old folks is that many have problem walking, have slouched posture, bad knees, unstable legs and inability to take a fall without breaking an arm or a hip. With the help of Tai Chi the question of posture, balance and bad knees can be addressed. Doing kicks and rigorous stepping is good for strengthening the legs. Working on pole strikes repetition gives the bones a workout as well as pumps up the heart.

Whilst I don’t teach how to fall I would mention to students that they should learn how to fall wherever they may learn it. Those who are into self-learning can try out the information offered by videos such as this one :-

I know some people accept falling as an inevitable part of growing old. It does not have to be. Even young people can fall down. One of my students told me that the training of balance in Tai Chi has prevented him from falling down a few times.

Even if you are not into Master Tai Chi Today you should take the subject of old age falling seriously if you don’t wish to suffer pain and the inconvenience of immobility in your old age. I won’t even mention the impact on the person trying to take care of you if ever you are immobilized and have to use a wheelchair.

Whilst you are at it work on losing the excess weight too. Did you know that its a chore trying to lift and move a heavy person? I once saw 7 nurses in a hospital trying to lift up a 120 kg woman. In the end they had to use a portable lift to get her up.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

Mutually Exclusive

Did you know that the learning of Tai Chi for health and combat is not mutually exclusive?

Yet today when we talk about Tai Chi for health or Tai Chi for combat it is as if the other part does not exist. But this cannot be the case. Why?

Tai Chi started off as a combat art. It was never a health art. But the slower pace at which it was practiced gave health benefits. So today it is common for Tai Chi to be synonymous with a health exercise.

To a person who leads a sedentary life style the impact of taking up Tai Chi may seem marvelous because he sees an improvement in his constitution. However, the irony is any sedentary person who takes up an exercise whatever that may be will definitely see an improvement in health. Its like what people say about a non-moving hinge developing rust.

Tai Chi has something going for it that many exercises do not. It is the training of the intention to control your body to move in a manner such that your ability to generate power using efficient, minimalist movements is enhanced and along the way the improved flow of Qi boosts your health physically and mentally. I won’t even talk about the spiritual aspects.

The precise and intense use of intention is what is absent in the Tai Chi that is practiced for health. A health Tai Chi practitioner can have an intense, furrowed look, seemingly lost in concentration. However, a test of intention will reveal that it is but a self-deception. The practitioner may seem to be concentrating but as far as the use of intention is concerned nyet.

Do not be surprised though because the same problem also plagues those who claim to be training Tai Chi for combat. The thing is if you do not understand what intention is about, how the Qualia is like and consequently the skills it brings then you are still not using intention properly.

We practice Tai Chi slowly because our intention-in-training is unable to cope with a fast movement. However, at the advanced stage we should be able to move fast whilst keeping the intention. Moving slowly also allows us to work on precision in movements because in combat if your limbs are not placed properly your body will be like a window opened wide in the summer, allowing a lot of flies to come in.

Correct placement of the limbs in accordance to combat requirements will enable your Qi to flow much more intensely. If you feel the Lao Gong point of a combat Tai Chi practitioner versus that of a health Tai Chi practitioner the difference is there. The former’s Lao Gong point will feel warmly intense whereas that of the latter will just feel warm. Likewise, if you feel Yongquan acupoint.

There are other types of Qualia that a combat Tai Chi practitioner will feel to confirm that his practice is able to achieve the requirements of the principles of the Tai Chi Classics. This is how we know our approach is correct.

On the other hand how does a health Tai Chi practitioner knows that his practice is correct? I doubt a health Tai Chi practitioner will understand that something as simple as how to place and position the hand can affect the flow of blood to surge to the Lao Gong acupoint such that the moment the hand is in place one can feel the heat increasing.

These are just examples of how learning Tai Chi as the art is designed will help us to Master Tai Chi Today. I sometimes feel that health Tai Chi is but an abomination, an aberration of the true path. Tai Chi was never meant to be a health art. To use an analogy Tai Chi is designed like a Ferrari. But to those who don’t know how to drive it or even aware of its capabilities the way they use the Ferrari is but like an ordinary passenger car.

Finally, below is an example of a set of instruction for practicing a sub-movement in Playing Pipa from our Yang style long form.


This is taken from TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form (available here). Can any health Tai Chi practitioner say that their practice of Tai Chi is on the same level or better?


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.