It is to be found in the comprehensive nature of the practice.
The thoroughness of the understanding. The simplicity, sensitivity, softness and ease of ability.
Every action should contain the taijiquan principles.
Advanced skill is versatile and complex - demonstrating a broad degree of insight.
It is also remarkably understated.
An advanced-level practitioner should have at least 10,000 hours of practice behind them.
Dr. K. Anders Ericsson found that this was true of any art; whether taijiquan, dancing or playing the piano.
Do the maths: if you trained taijiquan for 2 hours a day (every single day) for a year, that would mean 730 hours a year.
At that rate, 10,000 hours would take you 13 years of practice.
They must work hard at simple principles and themes.
Everything is unfamiliar.
Each of the 3 beginners belts adds another layer of skill and comprehension.
A beginner is expected to attend weekly lessons and the occasional workshop.
- training takes place during the 3rd dan syllabus
- training takes place during the 4th dan syllabus
- 10,000 hours of practice required
- training takes place during the 5th dan syllabus
Does a student suddenly leap from intermediate-level to advanced?
The divide between these two levels of standard seems huge.
Surely there must be a period of development in-between these two levels?
A time to become seasoned, practiced, familiar?
This is the outcome of naivety.
Lacking an understanding of what is to come, how can they conceivably gauge what is important, and what is not?
In order to advance through the syllabus, some degree of quality must be demonstrated.
Learning is broken down into steps, or stages.
This enables the student to focus on a particular level of skill, and take the time to gain confidence before addressing something new.
Familiarity encourages relaxation, and the student is not under pressure.
The less able student should really train harder, because they are struggling and need to put in the practice.
How much you train is up to you, not us.
In this way, the syllabus is self-differentiating.
Students are welcome to progress at whatever pace best suits their level of commitment, and competence.
You only get out of taijiquan what you put into it.
Understanding requires context.
Lacking the necessary foundation, a student would dismiss the insight as irrelevant.
Because it means nothing to that person at their current level of progress.
Usually, a student has no real idea what is important in the greater context of their taijiquan study.
They pick and choose based upon their own opinions, expectations and limited experience.
Pearls before swine?
It is martially imperative for your movements to be small.
You must move without alerting the attacker's nervous system.
Like a shadow. Like a thought.
Every movement produces a more significant effect.
The external movement decreases as the internal work increases.
Neigong and intent enable greater effect with markedly less effort.
Instead of sweeping arcs, the student uses twisting, coiling, spiralling action to generate internal pressure in the soft tissues of the body.
These are movements-within-movements.
Smooth, fluid, small, hidden, unnoticed.
This framework enables the student to express groundpath without effort.
It is a medium for the delivery of kinetic energy.
As the student's skill improves, the physicality of the taijiquan diminishes.
The frame serves to supplement the mind.
A more subtle physical expression is now possible.
It is important to consider every single form movement and partner drill to ensure that the optimal peng framework is maintained.
Once peng is present, the student can consider the pathway of force.
Unless the framework has peng, groundpath cannot be transmitted using the wave-like undulation of the spine, waist turn and weight shift.
Tension is encouraged.
Disconnected body movement.
In order to cultivate peng, you must discard anything that impedes neigong.
This is a failing on two counts:
- elbows are not kept open and the 90° angle is lost
- the kwa are closed too far
- framework is not rounded
- never allow the opponent to apply more than 4 ounces of pressure to your body
- never employ more than 4 ounces of pressure
- to accomplish this requirement, yielding is necessary
- when a student fails to yield to force, tension occurs and it becomes a battle of strength
This is accomplished by:
- Stretching slightly
- Keeping the muscles as relaxed as possible
A large, rounded framework is established in order to create a network of connected body parts.
Unfortunately, a beginner has no idea what relaxation means and will use an unnecessary degree of tension.
There is also potentially a likelihood of postural exaggeration; which may limit joint movement and again produce tension.
Read about jing, play with it in class and ultimately manifest it.
How do you know if its jing?
Simple: it works. It feels easy. There is absolutely no adverse feedback because all of your energy is outward; affecting the opponent.
This is not tai chi chuan.
4 ounces is just what is necessary.
Not too much and not too little.
This cannot be verbalised. It must be felt, practiced and understood.
45° to the left or to the right.
Unless you tai chi is led by the legs and torso - not the arms - it simply will not work, and you will rely once again upon arms for power (or lack of).
Most students are not skilled enough for subtlety. Make the turn 45°, and coordinate it with the weight shift.
By rushing, you fail to feel.
An exercise like monkey paws is so utterly simplistic, yet watching the class, I saw it devolve into something worthless.
Instead of maintaining range/proximity, staying sticky, turning the waist distinctly left or right, rolling the arms... it becomes an arm rotating exercise, featuring token waist joggles.
Monkey paws can teach you how to effortlessly evade close contact strikes, chin na and grapples.
But only if you slow down and observe the features of the drill.
Apply these insights to every drill you practice.
- reliance on tension/muscular contraction
- force on force
- disconnecting shoulders & elbows
- stances too large
- irregular foot placement: too long, too wide
- knees too deeply bent