TAIJIQUAN SPARRING

Postby Bamenwubu » Mon Mar 28, 2005 4:08 pm

Bamboo Leaf,
Yes, my posture was being destroyed by my dropping my head forward.
I don't know how this snuck into my form training, but it did. I was collapsing my head forward and down when I was folding and sinking and this was collapsing my upper body, making me double weighted.
I have NO idea why, but I was doing this.
I'm doing much better now since Bill straightened me out, literally.
It will take me time to get back up to speed, but that's something I can afford.

I used to feel that the smaller the circle the better, myself, and I'm sure there is a lot of merit to that and I will eventually begin to train in small circle methodology again some day, once I've learned the large circles correctly.
However, Small Circles really work a lot better if you're doing Large Circles correctly, IMPHO.
TCC, throughout the history of the art, starts big and works towards small.
If you start with small, then it has been my experience that you can miss a lot of the more subtle attributes and movements in the process of learning. Most people will only see and feel things for the first time if they are done quite large, even exaggerated, and then once they learn them they can begin the process of doing them more effeciently.
Think of any kind of physical activity you've ever learned. Did you start out being able to do it effeciently the first day? Could you perform the necessary actions in a very tiny, efficient manner, just like your teacher, the very first time you tried? Of course not, you began with large, clumsy movements and progressed to continually smaller and more efficient movements as you gained more proficiency with practice.
It's a process that everyone goes through, no matter what disipline you're trying to learn.
Having trained small, in the Wu Chien Chuan style, then moved over to large, Yang Cheng Fu style, I can now see how much I missed in trying to train strictly small form with small circles. I am a firm believer now in starting out large in order to learn ALL the movements, then working on making them smaller. Because no matter how small or subtle each movement will become eventually, it is much easier to see and understand it if you've learned it larger than life first, then work on making it smaller and more natural as you go until you are eventually doing it as small and subtle as possible.
But if you don't even know the movement is there, because the person teaching you is making it so small you can't comprehend it, then you may never be able learn it.
I am running into quite a lot of these types of things as I continue to train in large cirles after learning small circles first. There is a lot that I didn't even know existed before that is taught quite openly and easily in the Yang Cheng Fu forms, that I never even considered as possible because I was training so very tiny in the Wu Chien Chuan forms.
That's not disparagement of WCC forms, at all. It's just my understanding of those forms is now greater than it ever was even when that was the only form I trained. I can now see so many more subtleties inside that form that I would never have even known existed if I hadn't trained a larger framed version of the same thing.
So while I'm sure that the method of teaching strictly small frame may work for some people and they are able to pick up these subtleties by osmosis, it didn't work that way for me.
Wu Chuan Yau, Wu Chien Chuan's father, had the same idea your teacher did. Teach only the small frame, because that's the most efficent.
For them, and in their minds, and for many people, that may work. But I think they are ignoring a fact; they began with large frame and learned that to it's logical end, then they began to train in ever smaller circles until they learned small frame. They very likely would not have reached the level they did in small frame if they hadn't begun to train in large cirlces, using large frames until they learned how that worked, then trained to make that progressivley smaller.
Wu Chuan Yau trained for years with Yang Ban Hou in large circle, large frame, exclusively. It was not until he began to train with Yang Lu Chan that he was introduced to the small frame.

It is said in the Wu family history:
"When Yang Pan-hou taught people, he held to the principle of "no pain, no gain". Every time he would Push Hands with his disciples, they would fall so often that they injured their arms and legs. Many Manchu princes and royal guards suffered so much that they stopped studying. At that time, among the royal guards, there were only three who had not quit, and Master Wu Chuan Yau was one of them. However, Master Wu Chuan Yau suffered so much from Yang Pan-hou's brutal treatment that his left leg had become slightly lame.

Master Wu Chuan Yau studied in this arduous way till he mastered the skills of the Big Circles; but he still knew nothing about the Small Circles. One day Yang Pan-hou wanted to leave Beijing and return to his old home in the district of Huang-ping. For this reason, his father took over his duties teaching the Manchu princes and the three hardy, but barely surviving royal guards. Yang Lu-chan noticed that Master Wu Chuan Yau's left leg was slightly lame and asked him the reason. Master Wu Chuan Yau answered truthfully. However, he stressed that although this was the case, he still wished to continue training.

Impressed by these words, Yang Lu-chan felt that this kind of young man who was willing to undergo such hardships, after having been so knocked down, was rare. In addition, he could tell from this that Yang Pan-hou had only taught Master Wu Chuan Yau the Big Circles skills and had not taught any of the Small Circles skills to this long-suffering lad-in-training. Otherwise, he would not have become crippled as a result of falling back on his leg so often during Push Hands, because he was unable to push Yang Pan-hou back.

After watching him carefully for several days, he felt that the lad was worth teaching. Then he threw out entirely the Big Circles that Master Wu Chuan Yau had previously learned from Yang Pan-hou and started from the beginning with the Small Circles method."

From this history you can see that learning the large circles FIRST, then throwing out entirely the Big Circles and starting from the beginning with Small Circle methods, is a long standing tradition which many Masters must have gone through.
It is the only logical progression that I can see. Even when training in the small circle methods of the Wu Chien Chuan lineage I began with larger movements and worked towards smaller, but I don't think, for me at least, that was even enough.
I do know that now in the Wu family schools they are beginning to emphasize a lot of larger circle training methods before they start people out on the path to smaller. So it would seem they are even beginning to see the logic of training large circle first, becoming good at those, then training progressively smaller circles.
I think this is a good decision, as a former student of that lineage I can tell you first hand that it doesn't work out very well going the other way.

Bob
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Postby bamboo leaf » Tue Mar 29, 2005 3:22 am

Thanks for your long and detailed post. Sorry for such a short reply.

My thoughts at this time is really I don¡¯t know how it would be, only what is and what was taught and told to me. I think people can get it using the small frame just takes a while and maybe a certain teacher to bring it out.

The master at 86 would laugh at some pushing hands, he would interrupt and say no that is not taiji power, this is. With a small tap he would send the person 10 feet or more back easily. Much of our work was spent in understanding how this is done, and following the advice of the master to get there.

Some shared advice, (practice the from small, make the mind or think big) if one can really follow that it will really have a profound affect on ones practice.

Saying this, I did note some of his family members could actually do the form extremely low. It is possible to do it under a table. They are also in the process of making their movements smaller. Big or small as you mentioned the correctness is really the main factor in gaining and achieving taiji skill sets.

Best of luck to all in getting there


David
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Mar 29, 2005 3:59 pm

David,
I know what you mean. I would often marvel at these types of demonstrations from masters and their disciples when I was training very small. But I see these same types of demonstrations of Masters who use only Large Circles. The people get launched just as far, the Masters keep their balance just as well when being pushed by twenty guys in a line.
So why should one be considered "better" or more effectient that the other? They both work equally well for these types of demonstrations, so who is to say? I have never seen a clear win/loss ratio between Masters of Small Circle styles vs. those of Large Circle styles. Have you? Has anyone? Is there any kind of statistic available for this kind of thing to tell us clearly who would win a sparring match between two such Masters? If there is, I'd like to see it. Since it hasn't been trotted out triumphantly by anyone in all this time, I'd be willing to bet it's not there. If it was, one side or the other would be parading that about like a banner.
However, when I would ask these Small Circle Masters and their disciples how they got to that point, they would invariably say that they began by doing these thing in a large and almost clumsy manner but after much practice and contemplation, along with many corrections and a lot of advice, they would eventually find the Small Circles. Until they found them themselves though, only the large circles would work for them.
As I said, I do believe you can get there using only the small circles, but from my research, my personal observations and experiences, and the observations and experiences of a lot of others I've spoken to about this very subject over a the last three years, the large circle training will inevitably lead to the small, but training small does not always lead everyone to the Small Circles by itself.
Some will never learn the Small Circles from Small Circle training alone, no matter how long they try, others will "get it" almost right away from only Small Circle training. It will depend on the student, each person is different. Some people will be pre-disposed to this, others may only be able to reach this state after learning the Large Circles then figuring out how to condense them through practice.
I seem to be one of those people who did not completely "get" the Small Circles from that type of training alone.
I have had a lot of problems coming back the other way, from small to large, also. Most of the problems were because my mind was set about some things and was not easily disuaded from its set path. Until I emptied my mind of the things I thought I knew and began to accept new things I was stagnant.
Now that I have allowed myself to begin to expand I have found out much more about the Small Circles by training the Large Circles than I ever did about the Small while training only the Small.
That's my own experience, but I would bet that MOST people will do better this way for all the reasons I laid out in the last post.
I don't doubt that some can and will come to the small circles with only that type of training, because I know quite a few who have. I have a brother who is one of Eddie Wu's disciples, and he appears to have found the Small Circles with only Small Circle trianing.
But I also know that Si Kung Wu Tai Sin re-introduced large circle training to the Wu family schools a few years ago and, while I haven't seen it first hand, I do have VERY reliable reports that more than just some of the disciples and senior students there struggled quite a lot with the Large Circles before they were proficient in them.
Maybe it's just me, but I felt better knowing I wasn't alone in that.
My mother is also a disciple of the Wu family, and she clearly acknowledges that she didn't begin to understand some of the concepts of TCC until they began their large circle training. After that, she began to see them clearly.
I'll give you an example. Turning from your waist. This is something that most students of the Large Circles seem to pick up quite easily. They can turn from their waist without collapsing their stance almost from the beginning. But as a student of the Small Circles, I was not even clear on the concept. Why? The turns from the waist in Small Circle styles are so small, so subtle, that I could not comprehend them properly. Now that I have studied the concept using the Large Circles, I clearly see how this is done properly. Now, in my Small Circle forms, I turn from the waist properly. You can't really see that turn, but you can really feel that turn clearly now when I do it and you're on the other end of the application. My mother had the exact same experience as I did with this. She didn't comprehend the turn because in the Small Circle form training it's just too subtle for a lot of people to see and understand it correctly. She actually learned it from me and my son. My teacher, Bill Wojasinski, showed my son and I both how to turn properly from the waist. He saw clearly that we were not doing this properly despite both of us having trained Small Cirles for a number of years. He spent quite a while getting us to do it right. When we were demonstrating Yang Cheng Fu's form for my mother when she came to visit us, she saw our clear waist turns and had an immediate "Aha" moment. She had us show her how to do that, she practiced for a while, then condensed it down to Small Circle and brought that into her form training. On her return to the Wu school her instructors were all amazed at how clearly her waist turning had improved in such a short time. She told them all, I learned it from the Yang family forms, the Large Circles. That was just before Wu Tai Sin began to train all his students on the Large Circles. NOT because of that, I'm sure, it was coincidental that he began that training a couple of months later.
These types of observations and experiences lead me to believe that for most people learning the large circles first would be more beneficial than learning the small ones first.
But that's only my personal opinion, I may not have all the facts. I'm certainly not an expert, I'm just a guy who has gathered up all the info I can, studied and contemplated what I found and drew my own conclusions. I don't mind sharing them, as long as everyone understands that I'm not attempting to state an absolute, simply that I'm stating my current beliefs.
Understanding changes. Ten years ago I would have thought someone who said what I'm saying now was nuts. Because the school I attended at that time only espoused the small circles, that's all I would have felt was relevant.
However, since that time I've moved on to other training methods and my mind has opened up quite a lot. My understanding and my perspective changed about this and a lot of other things. No one else's has to.

Good luck to you,
Bob
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Mar 30, 2005 1:45 am

Hi Bob and David,

I think different teachers have different focuses (foci? Image ) but all want their students to master small circles eventually—whether they start there or end there. Small circles are just part of the repertoire of what’s needed to have tai chi gung fu, right? When we started training push hands, we started with very large circles and if the circles looked too small, we were admonished to make them larger: to expand to the largest circle possible while still maintaining proper tai chi structure.

The standard circle patterns in Yang family push hands are quite large, and applications are drilled with large movements too…at first. Later, the applications become smaller and smaller, both for speed, and to suit a variety of situations. Master Yang Jun has said that we train the form to be large and expansive, but in a real time situation (“during using-time”) the application might be quite small because you won’t necessarily have the time or space for a big circle.

It’s my impression as well that starting with large circles makes learning small circles easier later on. I find that if someone uses a small circle on me and I want to imitate it, I often spontaneously make it larger in order to understand it better before shrinking it down again. But this is pure speculation on my part because I didn’t start with small circles.

David had some good advice that I was mulling over. He said:

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B> (practice the from small, make the mind or think big) if one can really follow that it will really have a profound affect on ones practice.
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If the mind can think big, then maybe one’s perception of one’s internal landscape can shift until even the smallest circle seems large. IMO, training large circles is a good way to start expanding the mind so that it can eventually do this. In the early stages of push hands, the mind has to learn how to track several things at once simultaneously: the position of every single body part and its correct alignment; the opponent’s incoming speed, trajectory and intent; how to turn the waist to lead everything, etc. I think it’s easier to make corrections in a larger circle because there is the perception that there is more time and space.

For example: it’s much easier for a beginner to see a bobble or imperfection in a large circle than to detect a defect in a small circle. In a large circle, they can say, “This isn’t round enough. We have too much of an angle here.” It may be easier to correct because they can more easily see what’s working and what’s not. After the mind expands enough to encompass all the moving parts and make things smooth, it’s a natural transition to make the circle smaller without losing the ability for the mind to “think big” and keep tracking these myriad things—without even thinking about it (regulating without regulating, perhaps).

Another example: it’s easier to draw a small circle (the letter o, for example) than it is to draw a very large circle—whether on paper or at a blackboard. If we try it, sometimes the resulting circle is bumpy. Sometimes it’s lopsided. Using only the hand or arm yields a different result from using the whole body. Other options: internal circles, fast, slow--it’s tricky! It’s easy to see how calligraphy practice dovetails with Taijiquan training—each improves the other.

I believe the idea of practicing small and thinking big may work with time (speed) as well. This is why we train slowly in order to move fast later—so we can coordinate everything without thinking about it. Small intervals of time open up and seem immense when the mind shifts. I was in a fight once, before I knew any martial applications for Taijiquan, or had any martial training to speak of, and time seemed to slow down. I had time to have discrete thoughts and make observations for future reference in the midst of my body moving, seemingly of its own accord.

I asked my teacher if time ever seems to slow for him when he is using Taijiquan at a very fast speed and he said, yes, he has enough time. Now, I’m not entirely sure that we were talking about the same thing—but we might have been. Does anyone have any experience with altered time states—in general, and specifically in a tai chi context? I’m sure there’s a vast difference between being thrown into an altered state/perception of time by panic, as I was, and training so that the mind is so calm and expansive that even the very fast seems slow enough to respond easily…and yet, I wonder still if there’s any similarity. Was my instinctive response something that people train to do in the process of reacquiring natural movement and natural responses? I certainly wasn’t operating on logic or reason at that moment; I was totally on autopilot.

Yet, as I understand Taijiquan, we’re training to be completely calm so that we are never operating on autopilot—there’s a union of reason with the animal responses of the body and somehow, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and its more than both together.

Thanks,
Kal


[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 04-08-2005).]
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Postby bamboo leaf » Wed Mar 30, 2005 7:31 am

(practice the from small, make the mind or think big) if one can really follow that it will really have a profound affect on ones practice.


My comment was meant to illustrate something that he found and emphases in his practice and to those he teaches. Only to say that his meaning was that we are training the shen and qi to respond to the will or yi.

The idea of the mind thinking big, is that the movement is first done in the mind and leads the body, conversely if the body movements are very big the qi tends to be scattered not as condensed as in the small form practice which is designed to do this.

If one thinks about it, to get the same results there must be something more going on that is not so obvious but harder to get and understand as you have found. Image

take care

david



[This message has been edited by bamboo leaf (edited 03-30-2005).]
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:48 am

Kal, you asked: "Does anyone have any experience with altered time states—in general, and specifically in a tai chi context?"

Just one, in my very first martial arts tournament. It was some years ago and I was studying an external Korean style and enetered a local semi contact tournament. I won my first four fights comfortably, and in each of them I found that time went really slowly. I saw every punch and kick coming and countered without really trying.

Then I realised I was in the semi finals and before I knew it I was 4 points down (having never had a point scored against me before) in a 6 point match. All that happened in 'real' time. I managed to get back into 'slow' time and leveled the match at 4-4, before going into a sudden death (during which I knocked the guy out and was disqualified...doh.).

It only became apparent to me at the 4 - 0 point down what had caused this seeming temporal changes. During the initial matches there was zero pressure on me - I had no expectations other than to enter for the experience, to learn, and my instrucotr had no expectations either. You mentioned going on autopilot in your post, and the feeling was something like that, but in a good way. I felt disconnected from what was going on, like an observer rather than a participant, but was still able to act effectively. However, on reaching the semi all of a sudden I put pressure on myself - the final was in my sights - and I started trying to 'do' things rather than just to 'be' in the situation, if that makes sense. As soon as I tried to score I went to pieces, and it took me a while to figure out that I needed to relax and get back in the zone I was in before.

In subsequent events I tried to get back into that zone and never ever managed it, despite doing OK and winning the odd thing or two. I always saw it as a desirable state, a no-mind, natural condition if you like, and something that I got a glimpse of early by luck rather than judgement. I always kept it in my head as the ideal, something that hopefully would become a natural state given long, dilligent practice. Your last paragraph has caused me to rethink that...lots of food for thought, thankyou!
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Postby Bamenwubu » Wed Mar 30, 2005 2:48 pm

Kal,
My point exactly. Big to Small is a more natural progression for most people.
Not all, some will flourish in the Small Circles only and never find the Large Circles, others will never learn or comprehend the Small Circles but the Large Circles will work for them perfectly.
However, on the whole I feel that more people would benefit from Large Circle training at first, then train smaller and smaller at their own pace until they find their comfort zone.
Let's not forget, there is a third realm of Circles in TCC. Yang Cheng Fu's father was the family expert at the Medium Circle, or Medium Frame of TCC. From this I have to conclude that there is an optimum frame for each person and each person will eventually, after much practice and contemplation, find their own frame, their own comfort zone for stances, circling techniques and internal thinking.
"To each their own", personified.
As I never really got comfortable in the Small Frame, Small Circle techniques, as I'm not entirely comfortable with the Large Frame, Large Circle techniques, I find myself becoming more and more fascinated with Medium Frame and Circle. I tend to fall into what could only be considered Medium Circle naturally. I can perform at either end of the spectrum, but find my comfort zone right in the middle.
I practice Large and Small, depending on my mood, but when I set up for PH's I tend to fall most naturally in a stance in between the two.
That's me. Others will have their own prefereance. I don't think any of them are more or less correct or martially more appropriate. Let's face it, some people are just going to be more comfortable in one place or another along the scale from Large to Medium to Small.
My only point was to try and express my feeling that in the beginning most people would probably learn faster if they are learning things as large, even exagerated, as possible and let their body find it's own optimum range of functionality as they progress.

Bob
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Mar 31, 2005 2:50 am

Hiya Brit,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> … I found that time went really slowly. I saw every punch and kick coming and countered without really trying. … You mentioned going on autopilot in your post, and the feeling was something like that, but in a good way. I felt disconnected from what was going on, like an observer rather than a participant, but was still able to act effectively. </font>


That sounds exactly like the state I was in (although the circumstances were very different!). I mentioned panic, but actually, that came afterwards. At the time, there was no fear, no panic. I was disconnected from the action, which seemed to be taking place independently and effortlessly, and yet I was there as an observer thinking to myself, “Hmm, this will work, but I also could have done that instead.”

In retrospect, it seemed like a really good place to fight from—easy, not stressful, didn’t have to “do” anything…but let me talk a little more about that last paragraph and why I no longer think that’s what’s meant by wu wei or “no mind” in a tai chi context. (Here’s the paragraph: “Yet, as I understand Taijiquan, we’re training to be completely calm so that we are never operating on autopilot—there’s a union of reason with the animal responses of the body and somehow, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and it’s more than both together.”)

I think this altered state that we experienced IS natural and extremely useful for fighting and survival—but I believe it means that the “reptilian mind” has kicked in (I dislike this popular oversimplification of brain structure, but it is evocative and I can’t remember the actual anatomy). I’m talking about the oldest part of the brain, evolutionarily speaking. This part governs the fight or flight response. IIRC, when the reptilian brain is stimulated to respond, the synaptic response time is so much faster that it short-circuits the more logical functions of the neo-cortex. Thus, there is a disconnection between what our body is doing, and what we are _aware_ of _deciding_ to do. We can still observe what we’re doing and think about it. But I think there’s an aspect that’s out of conscious control. It’s a kind of dissociation.

But the disconnection between action, control, and awareness violates Taijiquan principles. We aim to “unify inner and outer” but fighting as an “observer” immediately denotes a separation between observer and observed—between inner mental processes and outer physical movements. There’s no cycling between yin and yang, or unification of yin and yang. The fighting is all yang (external, active, maybe charged with adrenaline), and the mind is all yin (internal, passively observing). We want an awareness that combines the physical with the mental and spiritual.

You said that you came out of that altered time state in your match when you noticed you felt some pressure and came back to being a participant instead of an observer. That’s the rub: in Taijiquan we’re after full participation, full awareness, compete presence of body and mind. Not the kind of participation that says, “I have to control everything; wait, I have to think this through,” but the kind of participation what says, “I am completely present, all of me is here, and I am fully aware of what is happening right now.” Actually, this sounds exactly like part of what you said happened: “I started trying to 'do' things rather than just to 'be' in the situation,” so maybe that’s what happened.

What do you think? Is any of this making sense? I hope it hasn’t seemed like I’ve been insulting your fighting skills or the styles you’ve studied! I’m really just trying to get a better understanding of what might be possible down the road a bit in terms of what I ought to be aiming for and what’s to be expected.

I suspect that really participating—really being present and not in a dissociated observer state—would have allowed us greater flexibility. Perhaps you wouldn’t have KO’d the guy in the match; maybe I would have fought with more restraint and gauged the situation better in the fight I was in ten years ago. Of course hindsight is 20-20! Maybe it’s a yin-yang thing: when we can combine the internal observer with the external actor/fighter we become participants instead of reactionaries. I’ll bet this sort of relaxed union of opposites—this flexible control—that allows tai chi masters to choose their response accordingly when challenged.

Best,
Kal
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Thu Mar 31, 2005 11:11 am

Hi Kal,

Thanks for elaborating on that final paragraph; what you've put above verbalises the sort of thing I had floating around in my head after reading your initial post.

For what it's worth I think you're right - the state that I had thought desirable and something to aspire to was actually the opposite of what we want to achieve in Tai Chi. If anything we want to be more present than we are usually, if that makes any sense - totally attuned to ourselves, our opponent and everything around us. A real one-ness, as opposed to the separation of an observational state. Ultimately, I guess the aim is to be in that state at all times. That would seem to be to be as good a description of enlightenment as any.

As someone who has only been training Tai Chi for just over a year I may be way off the mark, but it seems to me that if one correctly applies the principles of sticking and listening then it's impossible to not have enough time to deal with the opponent, as you are simply following his/her agenda - and they cannot possibly be faster than themslves, if you see what I mean. Maybe that's what your teacher means when he says he always has enough time...logically, how could he not? Or is that gibberish?!

And as for insulting me or one of the styles I used to train in - absolutely not! It would take an awful lot to offend me in the real life, and if I ever take offence at something that's said on an internet message board I've resolved to give up using the web as it would be proof positive that I'm taking myself way too seriously...

;> )
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Mar 31, 2005 7:49 pm

Brit,

Yes, a state of intensified presence…you said it well.

I found a relevant section of Nigel Sutton’s 2nd Interview with master Koh Ah Tee and have quoted it below. The link to the full article is on this page above in Bamboo Leaf’s post of 3-25-05.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
KAT: If you can't use taijiquan for fighting then you can't call it taijiquan. When an opponent's fist is coming towards you, you must feel happy. Taijiquan as a martial art must be the opposite of what other martial arts are.

This means that you don't want to know what your opponent is going to do to you, and you don't want to have any idea of your own response.

The skills your need for real taijiquan application all come from the form.

What is real application? It means that there is no shape and no form. You needn't think what you are going to do. Instead it automatically comes out. If you have to think your reactions are slow; you are not "song".

In taijiquan, fighting is waiting relaxed for the opponent to come, not knowing what you are going to do, just letting it happen.

Real taijiquan in application is like lightning, not like thunder which makes a loud noise and arrives late. I'm always going to be faster than my opponent because I am where he wants to be. He has to cross a distance to get to me, I am already here. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

When Master Koh Ah Tee says, “you must feel happy” when a fist is coming at you, this reminds me of Joseph Campbell saying, “Follow your bliss.” I have never met this Master Koh Ah Tee, and I am not certain that I understand his meaning, but I believe there is a connection between advanced Taijiquan, enlightenment, and bliss.

I see it as well when watching Master Yang Zhen Duo. When he was still touring in the summers he and Yang Jun kept a grueling travel schedule, jumping time zones every week, teaching week-long seminars. And yet he demonstrated radiant happiness for most of every day. I think it’s more than just a happy side-effect of Taijiquan practice. I think it's a significant part of the curriculum. A few years ago, one of his corrections for me at a hand form seminar was that I should radiate this happiness. The instruction was all non-verbal because I don’t speak Mandarin, but this is what he did: he hunched down a bit, like a turtle retreating into its shell, and put on a serious-sad-droopy face. Then lifted his hand, palm up, up the front of his chest to indicate raising up, and then allowed his aspect to lift. His eyes were bright and alert, there was a little Buddha smile on his face, and his whole being seemed alive and lit with joy.

I believe this is the instruction usually rendered as, “Lift up your spirit,” or “Allow your spirit to rise to the top of the head.” But in his demonstration, there was an unmistakable element of joy, of bliss, if you will. Not the blissed-out disconnection from the body (“transcendence” of the physical) that many spiritual seekers seem to go for, but a bliss that seemed was completely rooted in the body and the physical world.

In fact, one of the common instructions in Taijiquan is to practice with a slight smile on your face. The biologists tell us that when we smile deliberately, even when we don’t feel like it, the activity of the muscles required to smile releases endorphins in the brain and thus, we feel happier. When I smile a little, I feel an upward rush of chi towards the top of my head—so it seems like there’s a very practical reason for this instruction. Not only does it raise the spirit, but I think it prepares us and teaches us how to be happy when there are fists coming at us. Through training it as part of our forms practice, we learn the happy calm that allows us to stick and be present with our opponent, no matter what.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As someone who has only been training Tai Chi for just over a year I may be way off the mark, but it seems to me that if one correctly applies the principles of sticking and listening then it's impossible to not have enough time to deal with the opponent, as you are simply following his/her agenda - and they cannot possibly be faster than themselves, if you see what I mean. Maybe that's what your teacher means when he says he always has enough time...logically, how could he not? Or is that gibberish?! </font>


It’s not gibberish. I think that’s definitely an aspect of what my teacher meant. I think that’s also what Master Koh Ah Tee was talking about above when he said, “This means that you don't want to know what your opponent is going to do to you, and you don't want to have any idea of your own response.” If I understand him correctly, he’s saying: Never anticipate anything. This puts you ahead of your opponent and he could use the gap between where he is and where you think he’s going to be to wreak havoc in the interim. It sounds like we must be present in the Now, completely right there with the opponent, and that’s where safety lies.

Now that I think of it, I’ve had a couple experiences that are something like this. While in that state, I was perfectly aware of what was happening and what needed to happen at each precise moment, but I wasn’t ahead of myself. The internal observer was quiet enough that when my practice partner said, “How did you DO that?” I had no idea what I’d done when I “came to.” I couldn’t remember the action, only that I was happy and it was what had to happen.

Glad no offense was taken! Sounds like you’re well on your way with levity raising the spirit. Image

Best wishes,
Kal

[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 03-31-2005).]
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Postby Bamenwubu » Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:03 pm

Kal,
What a great post.
I have never met the GM, but Bill W. spends a lot of time talking about "lifting the spirit".
He got me to lift my spirit quite easily just this past week. He taught me where my mistake was in my PH practice. I was collapsing my neck for some strange reason (well, not that strange really, I have some serious medical problems with my neck) and this was causing a blockage of chi to my headtop. As soon as he managed to correct the alignment of my head I suddenly felt VERY happy.
I've been in a non-stop good mood ever since.
I hadn't attributed it to that before, but I see it now.
I walk every day, I go twice as far now in the same amount of time. I practice more and longer now than I was last week and I seem to have endless energy.
All that from simply "lifting the spirit", and that came about from lifting my headtop properly.
"Light and agile above". That's the feeling he told me to strive for.
This is the whole formulae he taught me:
"Light and agile above, flexible in the middle, solid, but not stiff, below".
Since I've been working on that I feel like I have all the energy anyone could ever ask for and more.
Thanks for clearing that up for me. I'd not really made the correlation.
Think I'll tell Bill what an awesome thing he's done. I'm sure he knew, but it might be nice to get some verification.

Bob
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Apr 01, 2005 12:24 am

Hi Bob,

Great, glad that the head correction is having such a good effect! I too have problems with my neck and I've learned that suspending the headtop creates a very slight lengthening of the spaces between the vertebrae. This leads to increased chi flow and more relaxed muscles as well.

Chiropractic care helped too. I was unable to turn my head straight in single whip without pain until I visited the chiropractor. That was just a little whiplash though. I remember your event was more catastrophic than that.

Best,
Kal
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Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Apr 01, 2005 6:25 pm

Yes, it was. Years of working with my arms up over my head and my head craned back to watch my hands while installing security cameras weakend the cartiledge in my neck and eventually it eroded away almost completely, then an auto accident in which I was rear ended by a 40 foot, fully loaded, moving van going approx. twenty miles an hour while I was sitting at a dead stop at a red light finished the job.
It took about three months of physical therapy before I could even stand up straight, much less practice TCC. My orthopedic surgeon is amazed I can stand up straight at all, still to this day and it's been three years now.
He had to attribute my ongoing recovery to TCC practice, because he knows that nothing he's done or the PT's have done could have done it so well or so quickly. I'm not a candidate for surgery at either, to make my recovery faster. He says it would hurt more than help.
So while I have paid particular attention to my neck, I was either unable to hold it correctly until now, or I simply was unaware of the correct placement.
Either way, I wasn't doing it right.
Now that I'm closer, only closer, to correct I feel MUCH better all the time, as I said.
It gets better.
Last night Bill worked with me on "sinking the chest, rounding the back". I was "sinking" my chest, but not correctly. Actually I was doing it too much so I was also over rounding my back. Bill has started correcting that, but it will take me time to do so correctly.
However just with the little he was able to do last night I feel better.

SO much to learn and remember. And then when you do, you find that you've only got some of the story and have to delve deeper for more and clearer understanding.
Bill is fond of saying that learning TCC is like peeling an onion. After you have peeled back one layer you find there is another, then another, then another.
I'll just keep on peeling layers and hopefully one day I'll find the center.
In the meantime I'm learning more and getting healthier every day.
Now if I could just find and hold my center consistenly.
Or clearly define full and empty.
Or move with continuity.
Or...
Well, there's more items on the list than I could ever type out in one posting.

Look!
Another layer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob
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Postby Anderzander » Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:05 pm

sorry - double posted

[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 04-08-2005).]
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Postby Anderzander » Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:07 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by bamboo leaf:
Everything comes from form; your form represents what you have learnt and trained. If your form is not correct then your pushing hands and fighting will not be effective. </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Just to hark back to what the venerable leaf cited...

This fits completely with my experience.

My first teacher was a consumate exponent and taught me a lot - or rather he taught my body a lot. He explained almost nothing.

We did very little 'push hands with strategy' but a huge amount on breaking down patterns of tension in the body and developing taiji principles with and without partners.

He taught the body - which I used to think was only half the art, I thought the use of it was the other half.

At this stage in my training I had a few self defense incidents - and I was always suprised that what came out was Taiji considering that I was an instructor in Wing Chun (with a lot of intensive and hard training behind me) I was also several years into Goju Ryu - so it was beyond me why in the heat of the moment it was Taiji that came out when I hadn't even trained push hands sequences.

It became clearer later - when I moved and came into contact with my next teacher. With little teaching he was able to reveal the use of what I had developed in very short order. It was like taking great leaps in development.

So it became clear that the form was the greater part.
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