The Science of the Essence

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Pattern recognition

The Science of the Essence can be applied to all manner of things, especially fashion and design.
Most designs are adapted from an earlier model.
It can be fascinating the seek out the 'classic' example.


Often it is easy to see how derivative designs have lost the essence and become unnecessarily encumbered and lack the substance of the original.
The raw immediacy and sheer functionality of the original is often evident.
Adaptations often look weak, shabby and lacking.


Think of the Science of the Essence in terms of art.
Art begins with innovation.
The new idea is then explored until the most robust, working example is produced: the classical phase of development.
Afterwards comes the collapse of the idea: baroque.
Baroque design features pointless ornamentation, convolution and can lead to a loss of functionality and purpose.

The strongest example

The Science of the Essence is concerned with both the innovative stage and the classical.
The raw new idea can often be crude and not quite developed.
Different styles, options, choices and preferences may be considered until the design reaches its strongest example: the classic.
The strongest example can be seen to most exemplify the characteristics/nature/essence of the object.
This is what the Science of the Essence seeks.
For example: a duffle coat that looks the most like a duffle coat.
The Montgomery may be the original duffle coat manufacturer but the Gloverall 'original monty' looks and functions better than the real thing.

Expand your horizons

The Science of the Essence need not be about consumer goods.
It can be applied to virtually everything e.g. movies:

  1. Sean Connery as James Bond

  2. William Shatner as Captain Kirk

  3. Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock

  4. Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau

  5. Alec Guinness as Obi-wan Kenobi

  6. John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn

Hitting the nail

Examples from films:

  1. Kung Fu TV pilot: Grasshopper

  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Tea

  3. Bulletproof Monk: Training

  4. The Empire Strikes Back: The force is my ally

  5. The Empire Strikes Back: I am your father

  6. The Matrix: The One

  7. Kingsman: Bar fight

  8. The Legend of Bagger Vance: Authentic swing

  9. The Legend of Bagger Vance: Seeing the field

  10. Strictly Ballroom: Pasodoble

  11. Rocky 3: Training

  12. The Wrath of Khan: The Death of Spock

  13. 47 Ronin trailer

  14. Kick Ass: Big Daddy warehouse scene

  15. Star Wars Episode 1 trailer: Fear is my ally  

  16. Rushmore: Extracurricular activities

  17. Blade: First appearance

  18. Avengers Assemble: Puny god

  19. Troy: Achilles first appearance

  20. Last Action Hero: Schwarzenegger as Hamlet

  21. Matrix Reloaded trailer

  22. Rocky 3: There is no tomorrow

  23. El Cid: Final victory

  24. Raiders of the Lost Ark: Sword vs gun

  25. Batman Begins: First appearance

  26. Chronicles of Riddick: I'll kill you with my tea cup

  27. Fantastic Mr Fox: The wolf

  28. Dark Knight: Bat pod

  29. Jesus of Nazareth: The beatitudes

  30. Jesus of Nazareth: Do onto others

  31. Jesus of Nazareth: Pontius Pilate

  32. High Fidelity: Ray/Ian

  33. Leon: Swat team

  34. Iron Giant: Superman

  35. The Matrix: Helicopter crash

  36. The Twin Towers: Gandalf versus Balrog

  37. The Return of the King: Lighting the beacons

  38. The Return of the King: That still only counts as one

  39. The Fifth Element: Love is worth saving

  40. John Carter: Worth fighting for

  41. Into the Woods: Agony

  42. Edge of Tomorrow: Beach battle

Undoubtedly you will have your own preferences and perfect film moments.
That is OK.
We are all different.

Even better than the real thing

A Taoist or Zen-adept aims to live life fully and passionately.
They seek out the essence of things.
Instead of being fashion-led or caught in the flighty winds of fads, they hunt for the inspiration for things.

What was the original like?
What influences led to its creation?
What were the design elements?
What function/purpose do they serve?
Why was it built this way?

Which characteristics are intrinsic?
Why are these characteristics significant, meaningful and necessary?
What should you value?

By answering these questions, the exponent gains a more in-depth understanding and can discover some surprising insights.
With practice, a person becomes skilled at seek out uniqueness.
They learn to see past the derivations and hunt for the source, the inspiration, the essence.

A seeker of the real

Cultivating an eye for pragmatism, functionality, purpose, along with an understanding of the underlying design features enables the individual to seek out the really real.
In our phoney, fake, derivative culture it can be refreshing to find things that are more than just a brand, a label or a price tag.
Become a cautious consumer.
Rather than buy the first thing that takes your fancy, why not dig deeper?

The essence of taijiquan

When applied to taijiquan, The Science of the Essence causes the student 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.

By studying Taoism, The Tai Chi Classics, biomechanics and combat applications (featuring a wide variety of scenarios) a more informed, in-depth, discerning eye is cultivated.
Opinions, expectations and hearsay are replaced by a growing insight into the nature of the art.

Ultimately a student can learn what the essence of taijiquan is.
Their training can be honed to accentuate these factors and draw them out.
The taijiquan can become something that Yang Lu-chan would not be embarrassed by.


In some martial arts, the forms are practiced rigorously yet often discarded in application.
This seems odd.
Many taijiquan classes adopt the same attitude.
Sifu Waller's approach to taijiquan does not treat form in this way - if the form cannot be used in self defence, there would seem little point in practicing it.
Yet, the form is stylised and as such not suitable for self defence... so how do we use it?
Seek out the essence.
Every taijiquan form movement has an intrinsic quality.
You must determine what it is for each individual movement.


The essence of taijiquan is the 13 postures.
13 postures are not addressed in detail until later in the syllabus, but the foundation is laid earlier.
Form represents a medium for the manifestation of 13 postures; 13 combinations of power (jing).
The movements are designed to generate energy release.
To use the taijiquan form in combat, you must find the unique physical signature for each movement.


Every movement has its own characteristic and this is not just the placement of the hands.
By moving the torso, shifting the weight, spiralling the body, flexing the spine and adjusting the limbs - you create a movement.
What is the essence of 'single whip'?
To produce the movement, you must move the body in a certain way.
Once you can feel the essence of each movement, you can generate the jing and this is what you use in combat.


For every form movement you must consider what it can be used to counter.
Imagine attacks: what angle of approach is your opponent using and which limb?
Employ the physics; see the arc of the attacking limb relative to the movement of the movement.
Ensure that the two are in accord.
Make no assumptions about the attacker.
Do not distort the essence of the movement to accommodate an attack.
If the movement is unsuitable, use another rather than change its essence to fit the application.
You should feel comfortable applying the movement; it should be easy and natural, and adhere to the taijiquan principles.

Zen was often opposed to the precepts of orthodox Buddhism. To the transcendental insight of the zen, words were but an encumbrance to thought; the whole sway of Buddhist scriptures only commentaries on personal speculation. The followers of zen aimed at direct communication with the inner nature of things, regarding their outward accessories only as impediments to a clear perception of truth.

(Kakuzo Okakura)


Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 03 April 2017