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.
In factories a guard is typically placed over an exposed rotating shaft. This is because if you accidentally let your hand or worse, your long hair to get caught when a shaft is spinning at say 10,000 rpm your will scalped before you can even blink.
Understanding about the danger of getting your hand caught in a spinning shaft has given me an insight into how we can apply locks in push hands. In essence, we as the spinning sphere allow the opponent to put his hand into our turning body in order to get it entangled inside.
Below is a simple example of how to use a scoop and rotate action to capture the opponent’s arm :-
When trying to put a lock on a person you can expect resistance. After all, who in their right mind would allow you to lock their arm. This is where a feigned strike helps you to overcome resistance.
This looks similar to the first video above but the difference is that you capture the opponent’s arm deeper into your space. In this way he will have a harder time to get away.
Many times a common reaction to getting locked is to pull the arm away or twist the hand the other way. When you encounter this you should go with the flow and morph into another lock.
To learn how to change from one lock to another you can practice looking for or creating opportunities to lock even as you are moving from one position to the next.
Opportunities to lock can suddenly appear. So knowing the principles of locking can help you to recognize an opportunity when you see it. A cross lock is not something I was looking to use but it just came up and we ended up working on it too.
You can watch the longer clips of my student learning to do locks in my Youtube channel here.