Remembering the sequence

Remembering the sequence

Postby Audi » Sat Dec 30, 2006 10:52 pm

Greetings all,

I think every practitioner has had the experience of forgetting the form sequence, which is a particularly nasty problem during ranking tests.

A common variation on this thorny problem pops up when you finish a posture like Single Whip that has many repetitions and can’t remember which sequence of movements comes next. The many repetitions in the form are a blessing to beginners, but they can also be a curse.

I think that one solution to the problem can be to take the mental attitude that there are really no repetitions in the form at all and to think of the postures in larger unique groups. Rather than think of a sequence like Cloud Hands and imagining that it occurs in several places in the form, imagine that there is an initial Cloud Hands (with the ordinary High Pat on Horse), a Cloud Hands with Snake Creeps Down, and a Cloud Hands with (High Pat on Horse) Piercing Palm. In that way, every sequence of Cloud Hands is unique.

Similarly, you can think of Snake Creeps Down (Golden Rooster) and Snake Creeps Down (Step Up to Seven Stars) as different postures. You can distinguish between the initial ordinary Turn Body Chop with Fist and Chop with Fist (Heel Kick). There is Fan Through the Back with a chop and Fan Through the Back with a “poison palm”. Each kick also has a unique preceding and following movement that should distinguish them.

For postures such as Grasp Sparrow’s Tail or Single Whip that repeat many times and are hard to keep track of, you can group them with surrounding postures that are easier to distinguish. For instance, think of the Single Whips in the Second and Third Paragraphs as extensions of other sets of more unique moves. Then remember the sequence of these other moves.

Single Whip (sometimes preceded by Grasp Sparrow’s Tail) in the Second and Third Paragraphs brackets or concludes the three different sets of Cloud Hands, Parting Wild Horse’s Mane, and Fair Lady Works the Shuttles. Then think of Parting Wild Horse’s Mane, Fair Lady Works the Shuttles, and Cloud-Hands-with-Snake-Creeps-Down as a triplet.

Another problematic sequence is Deflect Downward Parry Punch. I think of this as having three versions. The ones to the “right” or “west” always precede Stand Forward Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. The one’s to the “left” or “east” either conclude a paragraph with Apparent Closure or are in the middle of a paragraph and precede Right Heel Kick (i.e., the Punch Downward version). Hopefully, you can distinguish when you are in the middle or end of a paragraph by feel.

The only remaining difficulty becomes the end of the form. I personally think of High Pat on Horse Piercing Palm as signaling the final sequences. From that point onward, every posture has to be unique, except for two things: (1) There is a final repetition of the signature sequence of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail with Single Whip and (2) Snake Creeps Down (Seven Stars) introduces the big finale. I omit mentioning the final Deflect Downward Parry, since this shouldn’t be a memory problem.

Others have occasionally posted good mnemonics for this sort of thing, but I thought I would offer up this new thread for those who might find the approach useful. I also hope I have gotten all the sequences and repetitions right, because I, myself, still have problems from time to time. Let me know if I made any mistakes or left anything out.

Good luck,
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:55 pm

Very nice.
I used a pnemonic poem when I did my form ranking last June and it worked out well for me. I believe I posted a portion of it here.
I've since forgotten the poem except for Section3, or as you say Paragraph, 3.
That is the only sequence I still have problems remembering at this point, so it's the only part of my poem I still use.
I do like you method and will give it a whirl to see if it works for me or not.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Right now, my biggest problem is that I'm taking the 49 posture form class, and I'm constantly running the two forms together.
The beginning of the 49 form is so similar to Section 2 that a lot of times I start out doing the 49 and just keep going until I realise that I'm somewhere in Section 3.
The opposite happens also, I start out the 103 and end up doing the 49 posture form until I stop dead and realise I'm in the wrong place.
I'm not sure how to get around that, except of course for "practice, practice, practice".
Oh, and did I mention... practice?

Bill has us read and re-read the form lists, ad nauseum, until we can recite them. This does help, but as you mention sometimes you finish a posture that is frequently repeated and stand there going....

Again, the only salve I've found is...
More practice.

I think I'd better go practice!!!

Bob Ashmore
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Postby fol » Fri Jan 12, 2007 3:43 pm

Although forgetting the sequence in the middle of a ranking seems a bad idea, I enjoy it (occasionally) in my own practice. It's like opening the door to my home and finding myself in a strange and mysterious place: everything is new. It'd be dull never to be lost.
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Postby Linda Heenan » Fri Jan 12, 2007 8:03 pm

Although our branch does not do ranking, there are other situations when forgetting is a problem. My most embarrassing one was after a few sessions of private tuition with my teacher on the miaodao form. We flew to another city where he was to do a seminar and he asked me to demonstrate the miaodao form. Several movements into the first line, my mind went completely blank....

I do know to start a form in wuji. I do know about having fangsong mind, and also about fullness of qi before beginning a form, but there are times when nervousness can push its way through all the preparation. After that, I used a completely non taijiquan method to make sure that form was never forgotten again. I used one of those memory training methods of attaching mental images to numbers, and then assigned each movement a number with its clear mental image. That works pretty well. The problem is, if you have lost it enough to need to resort to such a method, the tension will be obvious in body movement as well.

When we learn a form, we also practise the martial applications for each movement. This creates a picture of the duifang and the response, so that the form becomes a story, making it easier to remember. We also take as much time as necessary to learn a form. The speed is different for each student. I'm fairly slow, and will take 10 hours to memorise and practise each new movement while adding it to the ones already learnt. That isn't counting application practise. It is better to learn a small piece well than a whole sequence quickly and badly. I like to get beyond the forgetting stage before going on. That means practising movements hundreds, or even thousands of times, seeing the duifang and the application, practising the application with training partners, looking at variations, putting in all the right principles, etc. It's slow, but it works better for me.
Linda Heenan
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Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

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