A beginner forever...
   
     

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Starting block

In tai chi is quite common for a student to reach a rudimentary level of skill and simply remain there.
They may learn many new forms and exercises.
But everything is performed in a simplistic manner.


Simplistic

The problem with training long-term at a simplistic level is that
the training is intrinsically incorrect.
Provably so.
Tai chi is a refined, subtle, complex, sophisticated Art.
If your progress halted at level 1 and there are (for arguments sake) 10 levels; this is hardly impressive.


Crude


When a beginner learns a taijiquan form they cannot conceivably start with an advanced rendition of the form.
They learn a crude, introductory version: the slow form, the square form.
This is the version usually shown to the public.

 

Nothing can substitute for serious practice. Practice seriously, correctly and patiently. Use your brain, not just your body. Don't hide weaknesses in your training. Don't lie to yourself. If you cheat, you only cheat yourself.

(Adam Hsu)

 

Quantity

Learning more and more material is pointless when it is all practiced in a very basic manner.
It would be wiser to learn less and focus on depth.
If you are acquisitive - yet unskilled - then the more you know, the less you actually understand
.


Plateau


Imagine doing 15 minutes of qigong every day... You want to get better so you do 20 minutes a day.
There may well be an improvement in qigong skill at first and then you will plateau once again.
In terms of your overall tai chi skill there will not be much change at all.
More of the same does not lead to progress.


Pie chart

A tai chi syllabus is akin to a pie chart.
All 13 areas of study fit together to form the whole.
Deficiency in any area would leave the overall understanding incomplete
.
As your practice develops you focus on different things, so the emphasis alters.
This cannot happen if you remain at level 1.


Beginner

Imagine that you're a taijiquan beginner... What do train?
Your training would entail:

  1. Qigong

  2. Leg stretches

  3. Psoas exercises

  4. Cardio work

  5. Core strength

  6. Partner work

  7. Pushing hands

  8. Martial concepts

  9. Form

  10. Taoist Yoga

These topics would provide the adequate, necessary foundation for later practice.



Form collecting


Now let's imagine that a beginner acquired many new forms... which is quite common in tai chi schools.
Can you see the problem?
The student is not training anything deep. Their knowledge and experience is primarily fitness and health oriented. Not martial.
Taijiquan is a martial art.
Everything they see, do and understand is from the standpoint of a beginner, not an internal martial artist.


Intermediate

In contrast with a beginner, an intermediate student is concerned with attaining a comprehensive introduction to martial practice:

  1. Form applications

  2. Chin na applications

  3. Shuai jiao applications

  4. Introductory neigong

  5. Countering punches, kicks & grapples

  6. Penetrating defences

  7. Martial sets

  8. Sword drills

  9. Stick drills

  10. Knife drills

  11. Practical yielding

  12. 3-D

The emphasis is very different to that of a beginner.
There is nothing in the intermediate syllabus suited to a tai chi for health student or a dilettante.
The training is decidedly martial.
 

The technically learnable part of it must be practiced to the point of repletion.

(Eugen Herrigel)


Experienced

The taijiquan fighting method
is now explored:

  1. 5 bows

  2. 5 centres

  3. 8 powers striking

  4. 13 postures

  5. Being hit

  6. Countering a knife

  7. Da lu

  8. Elbow

  9. Fa jing

  10. Folding

  11. Gravity striking

  12. Groundpath

  13. Holding down the pillow

  14. Improvised weaponry/knife

  15. Jing

  16. Kicking

  17. Loose striking

  18. Moving with kwa

  19. Newton’s Laws of Motion

  20. Obvious power (ming jing)

  21. Speed striking

  22. Wallbag

The experienced student learns increasingly complex material designed specifically to extend their abilities.
Every new form is a further step up the ladder; challenging the student to alter their perceptions and use their body differently.
The students must also continually augment existing material with new insights, skills and strengths.
Nothing is arbitrary.


Having and using

It is not enough to learn skills... you must also know what to do with them.
And then apply those skills in combat.
A beginner doesn't have a clue.
By definition, a beginner knows nothing. If they did, they wouldn't be a beginner.


Stagnation

Remaining a beginner forever is pointless.
No matter how much you learn it is still at the first level of skill. Years of practice don't mean anything if you're still a beginner.
There's been no progress.
Your beginner's misconceptions remain.
At best, your practice is merely crude and inept. At worst, it is potentially injurous.


In theory?

Beginners often have all manner of notions concerning taijiquan but not much in the way of actual practical skill.
This may be fine in casual conversation (with friends) but falls short in a martial arts class.
Martial arts are physical.
They require tangible concrete proof of skill. Talking is just not enough.


The essence of taijiquan

If your martial expression of taijiquan does not look like taijiquan, it is probably not taijiquan.
The student needs to really examine, contemplate and research the design elements that led to the creation of taijiquan.
Understanding these factors enables the student to recognise the differences in taijiquan styles, systems and approaches; why certain schools emphasise particular qualities which others discard.
This will aid you in making your taijiquan combat look like taijiquan rather than karate.
No beginner can do this.

 

Kung Yi-tsu was famous for his strength.
King Hsuan of Chou went to call on him with full ceremony,
but when he got there, he found that Kung was a weakling.
The king asked, "How strong are you?"
Kung replied, "I can break the waist of a spring insect,
I can bear the wing of an autumn cicada."
The king flushed and said,
"I'm strong enough to tear apart rhinoceros hide and drag nine oxen by the tail
- yet I still lament my weakness.
How can it be that you are so famous for strength?"
Kung replied, "My fame is not for having such strength,
it is for being able to use such strength."

(Zen story/David Schiller)
 


Page created 21 May 2001
Last updated
18 January 2003