Saturday 29 December 2018

Why slow training wins the race...

What makes Taijiquan training different from  that of other arts? I've been asked this question many times and usually answer that the most obvious difference is its use of slowness and looseness as the core method to bring out necessary martial qualities like speed, strength, accuracy etc... 

To reach an advanced level we need to practice slowly, taking care to self-correct all the time. Using slowness to achieve detail. What details are we talking about? Here's a few to be going on with:

1.    Accuracy - in terms of posture and function

2.    Intention and how it matches to movements 

3.    Maintenance of the correct energetic state (of different parts simultaneously to enhance the "whole")

Chen Yu: "Never do an approximation of a movement"
People often either over-complicate or completely misunderstand Taijiquan's training process. In a hurried effort to access higher levels of skill, making the critical error of ignoring necessary stages such as laying down the correct physical shape. Completing this stage naturally opens the door to the internal aspects. Simply put, if the learners hips are not level or the shoulders are lifted, if the chest sticks out or the body is leaning - there's no need to be too concerned with dantian qi.  If training is approached logically it is obvious that at this stage they'd get more bang for their training buck by correcting the visible mistakes rather than losing themselves in some fanciful esoteric wandering. 

Chen Yu, in "Chen Taijiquan: Masters & Methods" cautions that haste makes it more likely for movements to be cut short and in the process important details missed out. He advises practitioners to never do an approximation of a movement: "In every movement, the spirit must be guiding the energy, and the intention driving the power" - training in this way enables the practitioners to develop vital martial qualities including stability, accuracy, speed and ferocity. To ensure not to make the mistake of cutting short and approximating he suggests that  "every movement should take 3-5 seconds to complete so that the Jin in every action is brought out".

Chen Xiaowang: "Every part does what it is supposed to do without obstruction
A central goal of Taijiquan is for movements to become natural, to rid every action of any awkwardness and not telegraphing within an action. Chen Xiaowang often repeats the phrase "natural is the first principle". In this context natural means that every part and each section of the body do what they are meant to do without obstruction. Practitioners are often able to (correctly) repeat the requirement that one must be loose and relaxed in order to enter the door of Taijiquan. However, relaxing is not a simple process. For a start,  if the body's position is not correct, it cannot relax properly.  The process of adjusting and "fixing" the posture, undoing fixed habits and embedding new ones that conform to the system's detailed requirements can only be done in meticulously and mindfully. 

Bringing out the skills of Taijiquan require the ability to move with precision and focus towards an intended direction. In practical term every movement must be finished carefully and exactly, as the end of one movement represents the starting point of the next. During a particular workshop Wang Xian stressed that only by starting from the correct position can the next movement be done correctly. He said with humour (I'm paraphrasing here): "if you start from the wrong position it's 100 percent certain your movement will be incorrect... If you start from the correct position, there's a small chance you might do it correctly".
Wang Xian: "Only by starting from the correct position can the next movement be done correctly"


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