Be Inspired

You don’t have to know 1,001 ways to fajing if you are interested in the combat side of Tai Chi. You only have to know how to get the position and apply one good strong power. This is what I normally focus on.

However, when you eat the same food too many times you get sick of it. So yeah, sometimes we can take a side trip to the fajing world to reaffirm our interest. Mind you, as it is our first form, the 108, already has enough fajing methods for you to play with.

But Tai Chi fajing skill level is like a deep, dark hole as how my teacher once said. This video of GM Wei Shuren is a constant reminder of the skill level we can work towards.

His fajing is light and crisp, with minimal movement and effort. It doesn’t mean he does not have fajing that can cause serious injury. He did but stopped demonstrating it when he nearly caused serious hurt to someone once.

Anyway, consider this a good source of inspiration and motivation. Keep on training.


Vesak Monday

Vesak Day is a good day to reflect on wether we want to be enslaved or to be enlightened.

Rituals can enslave or they can enlighten. So is the same of habits, outlook and biases. All these color our view of “what is” so that we see and hear what we want to rather than “what is”.

To overcome this at times it is good to take a contrary view. For example, if someone tells you that having a lineage is good, take the opposite view. In this way, you train your mind to be truly open by having your own honest dialog unencumbered by having to fit in and meet the expectation of others.

This is not something many will understand and why the true seeker walks a lonely path. This is also why many seek those of similar views and disposition because many are afraid of being on the outside, the odd one out, preferring to blend in and craving the company of many, even if this stands in the way of their progress and eventual enlightenment.

Many famous people walk the lonely path when they were seeking the way. Some who come to mind include Miyamoto Musashi. Muso Gonnosuke, Mas Oyama, Wu Yuxiang, Wang Yongquan, Huineng, Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Einstein, Isaac Newton………

Sometimes the views of those who are outside the establishment are far ahead of what is the norm. So much so that it threatens the establishment; the movers and shakers who are shaken are then stirred into action to preserve the status quo. Their means include disproving, putting down the new views / findings and even character assassination because it threatens their livelihood, perks and society standing.

Knowledge particularly enshrined knowledge can degrade and be misinterpreted over time. The skyrocketing of a field from obscurity to mass popularity can also cause it to lose its way. Case in point – Tai Chi and Wing Chun – two very popular and effective combat arts but now has been distorted and misrepresented such that any seeker of the true way has his work cut out for him.

First, he has to separate the wheat from the chaff. That the true knowledge is obscure makes this difficult. This is why we sometimes say that one is fated to get it or not; I suspect its more of a case of luck, of being in the right place at the right time.

Secondly, once you get the knowledge you have to make sense of it. This depends on your intelligence, your dogged persistence, and most importantly, your willingness to let go of your own biases, outlook and previous knowledge to see what is as is and to find out what it is that you don’t know that you don’t know.

Thirdly, you have to keep working on it, revising again and again what you have, what you thought you know, not be afraid of questioning, reviewing, testing, checking and correcting as many times as you need to, over as many years as is required.

Never set your knowledge in stone. This is why sometimes it makes bad sense to learn from a school that claims to have knowledge that is already fixed, unchanged, received from the past, with ranks to climb.

True knowledge is rarely like this, even messy which is why it is a challenge to learn. Of course, as you build up you should also tear down, decumulating even as you are accumulating.

True complexity resides in simplicity, not in burdensome complexity that overwhelms rather than allows us to see through the mess of tradition. Differences are only meaningful if they are truly meaningful, otherwise they are but marketing tools to stand out from the crowd, an excuse to move up the price chain.

On Vesak Day I remember what my teacher said about the objective of learning Tai Chi simply to be to put in the daily practice rather than try to master it.

Keeping your eye highly trained on the objective can make you miss out on other things. Instead, just enjoy the daily ride and pay the fare of time to take the journey that at the end will allow you to arrive at your destination.

Contact Training 6

In this clip after we got into the groove we let our body moved a little more, gyrating and bouncing gently to an inner rhythm, akin to a dance.

But not for long because as soon as my student couldn’t keep up with the rhythm he started opening up his spaces unknowingly to attack.

In the following clip we change focus to small, tight circles before letting it morph into freer circles. This inevitably led back to the pattern of movements in the clips shown in the earlier posts in this series.

Many times how your opponent responds to your movements is how your technique will turn out. You can dictate how the movements can be but it takes less effort if you just enjoy the moment and go with the flow. Then your body will respond automatically with the pattern of movements that you have etched into your body from the form training.

Contact Training 5

We can create an opening to attack or we can wait until an opening presents itself.

In the clip below my student presented a good flow with strong, sticky movements so unless I purposely created an opening there was no getting through his defence.

But as we flowed and flowed, a slight deviation in his movement flow was detected and I seized the opportunity to attack. This is why when we play hands we put 110% awareness into it.

The clip below presents a different take on how to attack. This time instead of letting the flow of movements open up the space to attack, I used pressure to crowd in, wedge and attack.

Thereafter, I used the same attack over and over again. I didn’t need to change the technique because my student could not solve the technique.

Contact Training 4

Circle, spiral, twist, turn, come in, escort out, snare, trap, lock. A round of push hands can provide us training in these various movements of the arm.

When you can movement seemingly free, yet adhering to a fuzzy pattern of movements you can begin to use it to find and create an opening for your attack.

In the second part of the clip I go through a few patterns of movements using them to probe until I found the opening.

Though we are playing movement patterns we should be careful not to become fixated with only one set of movements. Let the movements flow freely, yet find the pattern in the movements.

Then you can change at will in response to a stimulus. So if in the midst of movement my student tried coming too close and pressuring my arm against my body, I kept my awareness and moved from inside to outside while neutralizing his attack and returning a counter.

Contact Training 3

Why we do form training so much?

This is because this is one way to train ourselves to be familiar with our own movements.

In the beginning of the clip my student is attempting to apply a technique but his movement is not filled with confidence hence the uncertain feel I was getting.

When you know the movement really well you can move so much better. It is not unusual for a student to think that a lacklustre technique is acceptable. It might be when he is training with another student but it will not be if he is doing it with someone at a higher level.

When you know your movement it is like a highly tuned and sensitive instrument, so much so that a slight deviation will set off an instant response.

Otherwise, you can run round and round in circles and still cannot find the opening for your attack.

Contact Training 2

During push hands training we train the automation of our responses by learning about patterns of movements.

In form training we learn movement patterns. Through push hands training we learn how to reconcile what we learned in the form and the application of those movement patterns in push hands.

In the earlier part of this clip I highlighted a movement pattern to my student. This is a frequently used pattern in our push hands. Because he has not assimilated the lessons of the form in his mind he is not able to recognize the patterns amidst the chaos of free movement.

In the last part of the clip I showed an extension of the same movement pattern. This came about because his response triggered my counter to his movement.