Lockdown Begins

Today is Day 1 of 27 of our Singapore Circuit Breaker lockdown.

The day doesn’t feel that much different to me. I am still working, still exercising, still watching television, still listening to Spotify, still eating, and still writing except I haven’t written much here over the last 2 weeks. Why?

For years I’ve been meaning to plan out a series of eBooks on Tai Chi using the Scrivener app but not getting far. However, more teaching experience in recent years particularly for the Sam Kuen Do (三拳道) group on Slack has given me new insights into how to redefine the teaching of Tai Chi to further cut down on learning and mastering time.

I’ve been chewing and mulling these insights in my mind for some time now. And now the ideas are boiling over and its time to put them down. I don’t really want to write another eBook as once they are finished they tend to be another “dead” book that largely remains un-revised for years even as my insights change.

Instead, this time I am using the newsletter format to present the information. The advantage is that I can add or amend the information quickly. By using hyperlinks I can create a master content list in one post to link to the other content posts that acts as chapters in this informal eBook.

Some of the information from TaijiKinesis Vol 1 and 2 will be used. However, they are likely to be presented differently or expanded on.

I am calling the newsletter The Tai Chi Solo Player. The reason is the information is geared towards solo training. Why solo training?

The initial learning phase of Tai Chi is the solo training which is meant to develop your foundation. When you have a foundation to build on then it is easier for you to grasp subsequent teachings.

It will also help you when it comes to doing partner training. Otherwise, the gains you get from partner work will be lesser. This is because you will end up trying to fix your bad habits instead of using the training opportunity to refine your correct habits.

Solo training is also important because we can easily train whenever we feel like it without having to go out to meet a partner. More so during this COVID-19 pandemic period.

So there it is. That’s what I have been up to. Some see the lockdown as a negative, I see it as a positive in that I can focus more on writing the newsletter.

Lockdown Learning 2b

Continuing from the previous post Lockdown Learning 2a here.

The 3rd sub-movement is explained below :-

The study begins by learning how to step out of the way. The first movement teaches out to step out of the way by using a triangle even as we are using our left hand to either gently guide (or forcefully parry in actual application) a linear strike out of the way.

A more detailed learning of this part would involve :-

a) How do we train our ability to accurately parry?

b) How do we parry with power when we need to?

c) When and how do we step to get out of the way of the attack?

In this section I mentioned the rationale for the name of the techinque aka Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. The concept bears close examination as it teaches us how to stick and neutralize. At this point this is something we can keep in view and not worry too much about the learning.

What is important however is to practice a technique in the way that we would actually use it. Only then is the practice of form useful and meaningful.

Finally, the concept of hidden kicks is mentioned. I highlighted this to bring the point across for our fussiness in learning how to control the vertical axis in the first post here.

Lockdown Learning 6

The last movement sequence to learn is Single Whip.

Below is an introduction to how to perform Single Whip :-

I have not tried to explain the more difficult cultivation of the 5 bows in Single Whip. Sometimes its best to keep things simple.

Single Whip contains the techniques of :-

a) Two handed uprooting pull

b) Grind and repel

c) Hold-detain and strike

I have not really discussed much about the two handed uprooting pull in the video. There are two ways we can do this. In the video I just showed one way.

The movement of grind and repel is more like a variation of Press. You use a 2-speed movement with gravitational drop to obtain a heavy grinding feel in the right arm movement.

Hold-detain and strike is what we normally view as the technique of Single Whip. The hook hand is the control hand, used to detain opponent’s arm and prevent it from trying to strike you. The left palm movement is shown here as a palm strike but it can be expressed as a palm cutting strike also.

Lockdown Learning 5

The last technique is Push.

I feel that Push is a mistranslation of the Chinese term An but that’s another story.

Here’s how to do Push :-

Push is often perceived as a double palm attack but it can well be a single palm attack.

Separating the hands comes before Push. This is a neutralizing movement and can be used whether on the opponent’s side gate or inside gate.

The hands after separation on the side gate can attach to the opponent’s arm to repel him. Alternatively, if on the inner gate you can attach the hands to the opponent’s crook of the arm. There you can jerk him off balance, followed by the double palm attack.

The energy of the double palm attack is like that of a pouncing tiger. To generate this power you must learn to coordinate the movement of the wrist-elbow-shoulder and waist-leg in the manner of a hammer hitting a nail.

Lockdown Learning 3

Grasp Sparrow’s Tail is followed by four important techniques that we use a lot.

The first of this is Ward-Off as explained below :-

The energy of Ward-Off is like water lifting a boat from underneath. We can easily model this by rotating an imaginary sphere with our hands.

Within the movement of the hands are :-

a) Left hand to twine, compress and lock

b) Right hand to generate rotational power in upwards direction to uproot and impart shocking momentum

You learn to use intent to turn the sphere to initiate the movements of the hands. Take your time to feel how various spirals move between the arms, body and legs.

Lockdown Learning 2a

After Beginning Posture we move on to Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. This is the sub-movement 1 and 2 of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail :-

The first sub-movement in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail is the principle of intercept, connect and neutralize. To perform intercept, connect and neutralize properly we need to examine the importance of distance and range.

Our ability to control distance and range also depends on timing. This in turn is a function of our ability to get where we want to be when we want to be.

Though it appears that we require contact for the technique to work this is not really the case. This will become apparent as you continue to study the movement of the feet in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail.

After we have made contact then we learn how to use rotation to get the opponent’s attack off us. There are two ways to do this – a) use a robust structure to remove the opponent b) move ourselves out of the way.

In this instance we learn how to use a robust structure. It may appear to be using strength to spin the opponent off us. However, this is not the case. By not allowing ourselves to sit back and turn we force ourselves to examine the question of how to use small movements to neutralize when we cannot move the body out of the way.

The study of turning requires us to examine in detail :-

a) How do we turn exactly?

b) When do we turn?

c) How much should we turn?

d) What is the exact process involved in turning to neutralize?

e) What is the logic of the neutralizing turn?

After neutralizing we move into control using a grasping movement of the right hand. The left hand is used to feel and probe before we make contact.

In this section we are introduced to the principle of moving the body by using the hand to lead the stepping. This movement control mechanism allows us to step nimbly like a cat.

In this practice you can observe the principle of how one moving thing leads everything else to move and then on arrival everything stops at the same time.