Play Pipa is a technique that appears twice in the Yang style 108 form. Below is an extract from a longer video of Grandmaster Dong Huling showing its application in push hands.
The pipa is a Chinese musical instrument, somewhat like a guitar, but with 4 strings and a pear shaped body. Below is a picture showing how the pipa is typically held when played. Does it not resemble the way GM Dong applied the technique?
GM Dong’s video shows the way the Play Pipa technique is normally executed on the opponent’s outside position. For beginners this is a safer position to apply the technique without having to worry about the possibility of the opponent trying to punch you with the other hand.
However, our point is that a technique should as far as possible be able to be applied even when we are standing in the front gate of the opponent’s position. To safely use Play Pipa and not be punched we need to address the elephant in the room by examining the use of strategy. In this case the strategy is to distract the opponent before we apply Play Pipa and for this purpose we are borrowing a move from the Fast Form as shown below :-
The video below gives a more detailed explanation of how the use of a strike to distract can also help you to land the position :-
And it goes without saying that once you get the arm locked you should use proper leverage to jack the opponent up and away.
For the purpose of learning we did not include those parts of Play Pipa that can cause injury.
Reference – The leverage principle is explained on page 68 of TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form. The part of the application that can cause injury can be seen on page 336.
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.