TAIJIQUAN SPARRING

Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:10 pm

Anderzander,
I have to agree with you both.
My observation comes from a different angle altogether though. I've had some.... how do I say this without it sounding snarky?... less than stellar instruction in the past. Unfortunately for me, I thought it was very good instruction, but time and effort have proven otherwise.
My foundation in the principles was nearly ignored and we worked instead on what I see now as second rate push hands and applications training in a rush to learn "more and faster".
I say second rate because there was no foundation in the principles, only hands on training with little time spent on correct usage of the foundations of TCC.
Without a clear understanding of the principles of Tai Chi Chuan the gyrations we were doing aren't worth very much. I feel the instructor might have caved in to the demand of a lot of his students to teach them applications quickly and so the underlying concepts that make those applications into real Tai Chi Chuan were sort of glossed over in the rush.
We did a lot of push hands, a lot of sparring, a lot of tumbling and leaping and rolling and training to fall without harm, but we didn't get the education in principles to match it. We were moving around a lot, but we weren't very truly effective.
Most of us were as hard style as we were soft style, probably even more actually, with minimal rooting. It worked in a way and it seemed to be very high level, but now that I have begun to understand the importance of correct posture, correct footwork, correct employment of all Ten Essentials in my form, I can clearly see that what we did was too much too soon.
You got lucky, your first teacher took the time to really make sure you were well founded in the basics and were able to utilize them with accuracy. My first teacher was not so thorough, so while I thought I was quite the player, I was deluding myself.
Now that I am beginning to understand the real underlying foundation of what Tai Chi is about, I can clearly see that I would have been better served by a teacher who would take the time to be certain I was doing the basics well before we moved on to bigger, better, faster or more.

Glad I have such a teacher now.
He insists on adhering to the principles and did not allow us to begin push hands training until we had them correct at a beginner level. Working on the push hands showed us clearly that we had a long way to go. What we learn during our push hands comes directly back into our form work, improving it, which then comes back into our push hands, improving it.
The correct utilization of the Ten Essentials in our form work is what leads us to correctly utilize them in push hands and gives a greater understanding of how to push hands correctly. Getting the feel of utilizing the Ten Essentials correctly in push hands then teaches you to do the form more accurately....
And on and on and on.
The basics is where it's all at. I'm living proof that you can learn a lot of forms, you can learn a lot of fancy movements and how to jump around, but unless you're employing the principles correctly it's all window dressing with little substance.
Learn the basics. That's where the good stuff is. That's where the real deal comes from.
Learn the basics, learn them well. The rest is just prettying the basics up, really.
If I knew then what I know now....
Ah, well.
Onward.

Bob
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Postby Anderzander » Fri Apr 08, 2005 10:05 pm

Bob - I dropped you a mail.

Steve
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Postby Audi » Sat Apr 09, 2005 2:00 am

Hi everyone,

Great discussion.

Bob, I do not have enough knowledge to comment intelligently about your past experiences, but agree with your sentiments about the type of Taijiquan taught in the Association.

In my view, the type of Taijiquan we aspire to simply does not come "naturally," but requires long study of various things. I do not think it is merely a matter of using sparring knowledge gained elsewhere while "observing Taiji principles."

I have met some practitioners who view Taiji sparring basically the same as other types of sparring, except with certain added features that they believe are more emphasized in Taijiquan, such as "relaxation," "softness," "qi flow," or "mind before body." In my mind, this is a very different approach from what the Yangs currently teach. From what I understand, they themselves were not taught in this way, but had very systematic and progressive training.

For what the association does, I think that sparring early in one's study is likely to be detrimental. It will train different skills that may well be valuable, but will not be the set of skills we aspire too. It will not be sparring that is based on sticking, adhering, connecting, and following. It will not embody subtle changes of full and empty, knowing the other while hiding oneself, stillness in movement, and firmness inside softness.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Kalamondin » Sat Apr 09, 2005 8:07 am

Hi Audi,

You've hit the nail on the head. When we are training and it gets a little rough, Master Yang always requires us to slow down. Although he's concerned about our physical welfare and always steps in if the situation might be getting out of hand, his intervention is always followed by an explanation of why what we're doing isn't what he wants us to work on. Usually, his correction is that we’re not sticking, adhering, connecting, or following properly.

I’ll share what I remember of those corrections that I’ve heard him give our class when the pushing practice comes closer to sparring, competition, or fighting. These aren’t direct quotes.

People can go overboard sometimes when the situation has the “flavor of gunpowder.” At that time the most common error lies in thinking that one has to win. Just remember that it’s only practice. No one is winning. No one is losing. We are just all helping each other to learn. It’s important to give up yourself and follow your opponent. Even if someone gets me 100 times, on the 101st time I will get him. Every time you are pushed out you have an opportunity to learn. Study how it happens, over and over, until you understand how to do it. Then you too will have mastered that technique. It takes time, so be patient.

If you tense up too much because you want to win, then you can’t stick. If you can’t stick, you can’t follow and your opponent can take advantage of the separation to strike you.

Don’t use speed to get your opponent. That misses the point of the training exercise: stay with your partner, no matter what. If you get ahead of them then you create a small gap that a more skilled opponent could use to get you. Also, you want to act according to what your opponent is doing in the moment. If you’ve moved so fast that you’re ahead, then you’re not really listening to what they’re doing—you’re reacting to what they’ve done in the past. You’re no longer sticking so you’re no longer aware of what’s happening in the moment.

Be nice. Be gentle. Don’t hurt each other. These are not your enemies.

Even if your opponent is getting you over and over you still have the opportunity to study. You can study the movement that they are doing, but you can also study what they like to do and what they are comfortable with so that you may have the advantage after you figure out what wasn’t working.
---------------
IMO, slowing down lets you learn a much greater technical range. At sparring speeds, people have a tendency to stick to the handful of counters that work well for them. But acquiring new ones, at speed, is much more difficult than working through them super slowly so that when the body learns them, it feels safe and relaxed. I think this sets the energetic template for being able to use them later at high speed in a relaxed way.

Best,
Kal
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Postby CheeFattTaichi » Sat Apr 09, 2005 10:20 am

You guys are right about the importance of solid foundation. I've practised TCC for more than 12 years and I would say my skills is better than most if not all of the people I knew (in my country) who had practised TCC, many of them have more than decades of practising time ahead of me. Why? Because I adhered to the internal principle right from the beginning. Most people are too engrossed with external forms and applications. When performing the form, they concern about how to apply the form, when push hands they concern about external techniques and how to win. I was like that to in the beginning years until I decided to delay gratification and pay more emphasis to internal principles. I have to admit the training of zhanzhuang help me the most in understanding internal principles and I have been sticking to that for more than 7 years now. Zhanzhuang helps one to understand TCC internal principles doubly fast. No wonder Wang Zian Zhai (founder of Yiquan) called it the short-cut to internal mastery.

The different in IMA versus EMA is that in the former, one must have internal kungfu first and external skills will come very very fast. People who use external sparring method to gain entry to TCC fighting principles will end-up with an externalized TCC. I am not saying it will be less effecxtive etc but it will not be the same of authentic TCC. Yang Cheng Fu once quoted, when someone is pushed by a real TCC master, the different is that it feels comfortably powerful. long
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Postby bamboo leaf » Sat Apr 09, 2005 12:55 pm

(what we're doing isn't what he wants us to work on. Usually, his correction is that we’re not sticking, adhering, connecting, or following properly.)

Reading this brought a smile to my face with many happy recent memories.
My teacher in china at 86 is always smiling, and radiates a very happy and serene demeanor.

Many of his students used to practice other IMA / CMA styles for quite some time before comeing to him. I think that at times the perception of what taiji is gets clouded with past experiences and expectations. As most of us have found taiji really is very different when meeting someone who truly has it, even a small part.

At times when the pushing got rough, he would step in and say this is not shuaijiao (Chinese wrestling) this is the power of taiji. With little to no movement he would toss each away. He would laugh and invite us to use what ever we liked on him, softness and emptiness can be truly scary at times. I was tossed to, he did this so we could feel what he was talking about.

My Chinese is not really good but I did note that even if one could understand and communicate well in Chinese it helped but really not that much.

This is how I understand things at this time, shen is shen, yi is yi and qi is qi. I know what it is, and how it feels but could not tell another what it is as in explaining it. But I could make them feel it as he did to me.


In talking to me he did mention that certain skill sets, would take a while to develop, 5,10, 20 yrs. He said that in time with correct practice one would get it but that many seem to get tired and rush it after some small improvement thinking they have the real skill.

This leads to stagnation and limited development, unfortunately it also seems that some people who are very vocal reaching a partial understanding declaring it as a full understanding. People who are quite good tend to be quite about it for the most part.

Taiji is alive and well, softly and quietly practiced in the mornings all over the world.


funny thing he also mentioned that at age 60 most people achive a major break through in skill level. imagine that at 60! I should mention that many of his older students 50--70yrs are quite good, not some one you would want to mess with in the street. Image


[This message has been edited by bamboo leaf (edited 04-09-2005).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Sat Apr 09, 2005 11:25 pm

Wonderful! Now I have a reason to look forward to my 60th birthday. Image

Kal
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Postby Anderzander » Sun Apr 10, 2005 1:09 am

This reminds me of one of my favourite quote in Martial Arts. It is from Moriji Mochida who was born in 1885 - he was awarded a tenth dan for his unparalelled ability as a Kendoist.

He said (When I think he was 89):

"It took me 50 years to learn the basics of Kendo using my body.

After I turned 50 I started the real discipline.

I wanted to perform Kendo using my mind and spirit.

When you reach 60 - your lower body weakens. I used my mind to try to reverse the draw backs.

When you are 70 - your whole body weakens. Thats when I trained my mind to be imperturbable.

With a still mind the mirror inside you reflects the opponents mind."


That interview always blow me away. I have some footage of him fighting when he was 76 - and just like the leaf said, it's frightening.
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