Thursday 7 February 2019

Reducing tell-tale signals…

Today many people train Taijiquan for enjoyment, sports performance, artistic expression etc. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but the mindset is very different from that advocated in traditional Taijiquan where we are told to train using intention without revealing our purpose externally. An often quoted saying from famous military strategist Sunzi’s “Art of War” advises that: “If one knows the enemy and oneself, one can fight a hundred battles without defeat”. How is this relevant to Taijiquan practice? It’s generally said that a person trains form to know themselves and that they train push hands to know an opponent. But this isn’t quite sufficient. For sure push hands training sensitises us to the movements of an opponent. However, it is critical to realise that this is not a one way interaction. Learning to read the movements of an opponent has to be tempered by an awareness that one’s own movements may be read by the same opponent.  Even as an exponent is feeling for the tell-tale signals giving away the intention of another, he must learn to recognise his own anticipatory movement.  This is one of the reasons why the form is practiced so slowly and meticulously. By carefully and meticulously examining each movement one can begin the step-by-step process of rooting out any “telegraphing” of our own intention. By uncovering all the places where movement is inefficient or lacking the necessary smooth and spiralling quality, one gradually reaches the point where it can be said that we “know ourselves.”   

An early shot of Chen Zhenglei and Chen Xiaowang


  1. Are you sure that is CXW in the picture? I have many videos/films from that era and I've never seen him look like that. Of course, it's a minor point, hardly worth mentioning.

  2. Just to stay on topic, rather than deflect onto who is whom in photographs:

    If someone really moves from the dantian, using jin, it is very difficult for the other person to read you. For example, if a push comes from the mingmen/dantian and the arms are just conveyors of that push, most people have trouble interpreting where the force came from. Someone who has jin skills can read/listen (ting jin) to the source of forces and balance, of course, but that is a different case.


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