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.
[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 03-31-2005).]