Tuesday

Visit other classes

It is easy to assume that your martial art is 'the best' and to dismiss all other arts.
This is also naive.
Have you been to other classes?
What are they teaching? How are they teaching it? How skilled are the students? Is their technical knowledge advanced or simplistic?

Go find out for yourself.

Saturday

Katz: How do you know all this stuff?

Bryson: Well, there's these things called books. They're like TV for smart people.
(A Walk in the Woods)

Friday

Mental framework

Imagine a bookshelf in your mind filled with books, folders, resources and information about taijiquan...
The more densely filled your bookshelf is, the more relevant and useful new information will seem.
You will be able to cross-reference, discern, add to existing knowledge and challenge any preconceptions or misconceptions.
Ideally, your bookshelf wants to be filled with anything and everything that might conceivably have a bearing on taijiquan.

Thursday

Yielding

Last nights 'yielding' workshop was terrific. Sifu Waller neatly illustrated the scope and value of understanding what yielding constitutes and applying it skilfully.

Everyone felt great.

The session also served to debunk the idea of 'pushing hands competitions' - as we discovered that the adequate degree of physical flexibility on the part of the defender made it impossible for the aggressor to actually push anyone. It was like pushing against water.

We ended with seeking to apply holds, locks and various attacks. All to no avail. Even when the attacker did their level best to mess you up and be non-cooperative and awkward.

Our only enemy proved to be our own physical tension.

Wednesday

Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him?
(Blaise Pascal)

Take an interest

Instead of just doing what your teacher tells you to do in class, invest in the Art.
Take a much deeper interest in how the human body operates, Asian history, culture, martial arts in general, biomechanics, fitness, strength, health, nutrition, meditation...
The list is endless.
Don't assume anything. Continually question what you know and find out more.



Context

If you read an article about taijiquan but have no interest in taijiquan - and no foundation knowledge - then your ability to make sense of what you read would be limited.
Most likely you'd quickly lose interest and you wouldn't remember much.
In order to make sense of what you read, you need context.

Monday

Consider this: Most people live lives that are not particularly physically challenging. They sit at a desk, or if they move around, it's not a lot. They aren't performing manoeuvres that require tremendous balance and coordination. Thus they settle into a low level of physical capabilities - enough for day-to-day activities or maybe even hiking or biking or playing golf or tennis on the weekends, but far from the level of physical capabilities that a highly trained athlete possesses.

The reason that most people don't possess extraordinary physical capabilities isn't because they don't have the capacity for them, but rather because they're satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it. The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in. We learn enough to get by but once we reach that point we seldom push to go beyond.
(Anders Ericsson)

Wednesday

Sick or hypochondriac?

If you are genuinely unhealthy, then don't go to a martial arts class. It is stupid and naive in the extreme. 
If you are a hypochondriac, this is the wrong attitude for martial arts.

The outcome

The quality of your taijiquan is directly proportionate to the degree to which you invest in the Art.
If you are a 'toe dipper' - a tourist - then you will never get very far.
Only by plunging fully into the training can you hope to gain real skill
.
An understanding of taijiquan requires commitment, sincerity, humility and a lifetime of practice.

Tuesday

Sickness society

We live in a world where people really enjoy complaining about ailments or comparing medical histories.
Many people engage in this kind of conversation with competitive fervour: eagerly listing their medication and seeking to one-up each other.
Such an attitude has no place in a martial arts class.

Monday

Martial arts are dangerous

The British Medical Association Guide To Sports Injuries states:
 
Combat sports such as kung fu make tough demands on the body; training is intense, and participation requires all-round fitness. Regardless of the fitness of the participants, however, the aggressive blows traded between opponents means that these sports always carry a serious risk of injury.

Saturday

Using a sword

If you chose to use a sword to defend yourself in the 21st Century, you will most likely go to prison.
This is a simple, unequivocal fact.
Yet, people spend hours training with swords, and many even practice cutting things with a sword, as though they may one day come to use the weapon in martial contest.
What is the point?

You could spend those same hours on some more relevant.

Training a sword may enhance your self defence skills in some vague, indirect fashion, but practicing shuai jiaochin na and jing with a partner would do so much more.

Thursday

Aesthetics

Sword forms may well be beautiful to watch and entertaining. This is fine.
As such, they represent an art form. In much the same way as dance.
However, it is quite another matter to train a sword as though it represented some measure of self defence.
We are not living in the past.
Modern times require modern methods of combat.
A sword is not a viable means of defending yourself in the 21st Century.

Common

Virtually every tai chi school in the UK is teaching 'tai chi for health'.
Usually there is no real syllabus and the material is simplistic.
Some classes may advertise themselves as 'taijiquan' but are in fact teaching tai chi for health.

Wednesday

Contemporaneous

Sword forms were invented to address the needs of the 16th Century not the 21st.
Your modern urban opponent carries a baseball bat, knife, screwdriver or gun. Not a sword. 
You will not be carrying a sword either.
Swords were once the favoured combat weapon.
The martial arts which grew around swordplay were a necessary and relevant area of study.
The sword skills were literally a matter of life and death.
Not any more.

Tuesday

Finding a class

When a new starter scours the web looking for the Art they are faced with an array of approaches that are all called 'tai chi' but are often quite dissimilar.
In truth, there is often little consensus
.
It is important to find out for yourself what taijiquan really means.