Tai chi and external arts combined?

Tai chi and external arts combined?

Postby Sugelanren » Thu Apr 10, 2014 4:59 pm

Hi guys. First let me apologise for posting so many questions. This is the only place i know where i can get Tai chi instructors to bounce things off, so if i have a question this is the place (outside of class) i turn to.

I recently saw this on facebook...

"Li Ya Xuan was one of the top students of Yang Cheng Fu. He had 5 things that should be avoided when studying Tai Chi Chuan.

1. Don't study with the wrong teacher.
2. Don't doubt the teacher you choose.
3. Don't indulge in bad habits like gambling.
4. Don't practice hard Kung Fu styles at the same time.
5. Don't leave your teacher too soon, before you have the true transmission."

What is the common rule on external arts being learned alongside Tai Chi? I only ask because i just watched an excellent video of GGM Hu Yuen Chou doing long form, and if yous saw my thread on books, you will know i've been reading books by Yang Jwing Ming. It seems that a lot of "Masters" and "Grand masters" have trained in external arts, and i know of at least one club in my small city that teaches Yang style alongside Northern Praying Mantis.

I'm always being taught to let go of my external side, but these guys seem to be proof that opinions differ, and that some embrace external arts alongside their Tai Chi. As i've only trained in Yang and Cheng man Ching, i can talk for what i know of these. I know Chen Uses both external and internal, but is there room for external in Yang style?
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Re: Tai chi and external arts combined?

Postby T » Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:52 pm

I'm not a teacher but I have been at this for over 20 years.

Learning taijiquan and learning a hard style, say Changquan, is ok. But if you do not understand taijiquan, how it works, what it does and how it is applied you end up with Changquan applications in taijiquan. They will work, but they are not taijiquan. Thought I understood taiji many years ago with my first shifu, I had just come form Jiujutsu and TKD. This taiji stuff was easy, he was also my first Xingyiquan, BAguazhang and Changquan teacher and I was pretty sure I had this whole taiji thing figured out.

Fast forward a bit and I went to study with my second Shifu who had taiji and only taiji his entire life. He should me pretty darn quick that I did not have a clue what taijiquan was....and I'm still learning
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Re: Tai chi and external arts combined?

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:12 pm

Sugelanren,

There are many paths one can take to reach the understanding of Tai Chi Chuan.
Not all of them are suitable for everyone and opinions will vary as to which is the "correct" path.
However, I believe the correct path is always going to be the one you're on as long as you remain determined to get there.

My very first teacher said it so well at my first class, at least in my opinion, that it has stuck with me all this time.
As I recall his words:
"Your path to understanding Tai Chi Chuan will be different than the one that anyone else takes. For all of you there will be many bumps in the road as well as many detours and you will all lose your way many times. However, as long as you are determined to reach your goal you will always, eventually, find your way back to the correct path.
So all that is required of you to reach an understanding of Tai Chi Chuan is the unflagging determination to do so.
Oh, and of course practice. Lots and lots of practice."

My only personal advice on the subject boils down to:
Be determined.

Bob

"For myself, I want you to be better than me. Practice harder." - Grand Master Yang Zhen Duo
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Re: Tai chi and external arts combined?

Postby DPasek » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:41 pm

You might want to read this thread on the Rum Soaked Fist forum:
http://rumsoakedfist.org/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=21371

While the subject of the thread is ‘tendons’ versus ‘muscles’, the discussion seems relevant to different methods of training (Taijiquan vs. ‘external’ styles). If you can distinguish one type of training from the other such that one does not interfere with the other, then training both (probably at different times) may be OK. It seems that training them simultaneously may be problematic.

However, not having personally trained both styles, I cannot say for certain.
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Re: Tai chi and external arts combined?

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Apr 11, 2014 6:14 pm

Dpasek,

As my Si Kung likes to say, "Everyone's an expert and they can all talk theory with you for days."
I'm not denigrating you in any way, I'm talking about the "talking heads" on the link you posted who all feel that their own views on this are the only ones that matter.
They are wrong.
I did not delve into specifics of "internal vs. external type training" strictly because those kind of things are 'situational' and, quite frankly, no one requires the same training as anyone else.
In other words, and as I stated, each of us will require a different path to reach our understanding of TCC.

Let's go about this from the opposite side...
Everyone starts from a different place, right?
We don't all start out because we're sickly and we don't all start out because we want to be the next Yang Lu Chan.
Everyone has a different reason for starting down their path to understanding this crazy art.
Because we all start from a different place it's simply impossible for us all to take the same path to reaching an understanding of this, or any other, art.
As individuals we have different needs and different desires, so we all require our own path.
Hence the one thing that everyone seems to be able to agree upon when this kind of thing comes up:
Find a qualified instructor and listen to them.

That is the only way I know to find your own personal path to understanding.
It may be that you need some strength training to reach your understanding.
Others may need to lose some muscle instead.
Let's not even mention that those are only TWO of the things that may be required from people to reach their understanding!
A qualified instructor is one who is going to work with you directly and then give you his best advice on how to reach your goal.
Not the other guys goal, yours.
Isn't that the important one?

There are no shortcuts.

Bob
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Re: Tai chi and external arts combined?

Postby Audi » Mon Apr 14, 2014 3:55 am

Greetings all,

My own experience is that training hard and soft styles at the same time will be counterproductive, since they tend to work in opposite directions. However, my understanding is that our Tai Chi is not just soft, but also hard, and that hard styles also contain soft. The ultimate difference is not so much content as emphasis, which is actually quite important.

We also say that our Tai Chi is not just internal, but also external. It is just that we focus on the internal first and generally get the external along the way as a byproduct. The ultimate endpoint is comparable to what most hard or external styles want, but the journey is very different.

I personally like much of the dialog around ‘tendons’ versus ‘muscles’; however, we must be careful how we use terms. Even things as simple as body parts have different ranges of meaning across languages (e.g., 腰 yao1 vs "waist") or across disciplines (e.g., everyday meaning of blood or 血 xue4 vs. TCM meaning of blood or 血 xue4). Even more importantly, I believe that the Tai Chi classics generally attempt to speak from the deep experience of masters and to call to the burgeoning experience of dedicated students, rather than directly from philosopher to philosopher.

I am far from a master, but recently spent a couple of hours teaching the rudiments of Fajin and had to touch on many of these issues. I repeatedly explained and repeatedly demonstrated. I made numerous citations to the classics as well as my own understanding of the principles from a more modern viewpoint. I made extensive analogies and even made use of inanimate objects to explain what I wanted. One of my touchstones in teaching is that I generally prefer to be clear and wrong than vague and right and so I tried to be excruciatingly specific in terms of what I wanted. If what I say is wrong, a student can very quickly see through what I am saying and make his own judgement. If what I say is vague, a student cannot be sure he fully understands and can remain frustratingly in the dark about what is correct.

After a couple of hours, I think the students began both to understand and to execute the movements somewhat appropriately. I even had a couple perform a medium-force palm strike to my chest, just to feel how much power could be generated by not focusing on the local power in the arms. Even though I wanted the students to feel the impact and so did not want to counter, I had to soften my chest and step back a few paces to avoid coming close to injury. Just to be clear, we generally have very relaxed practices and are closer to considerations of retirement homes than fighting matches.

In trying to explain what I wanted, there were three analogies that seemed to resonate more than others. One was to imagine a spring made of rope (Yin) and a spring made of stone (Yang). Neither has the resilience of a spring made of steel (Taiji). Even a spring made partly of rope and partly of spring (Yin and Yang or 两仪 liang3 yi2, but not Taiji: ) does not work. Nor does steel in the form of a straight wire (No Yin and Yang at all). Envisioning the limbs as generating power with muscles and bones is like focusing on generating power with stone and rope. Focusing on the network of tendons and structure enables the natural spring-like power of Peng energy.

Another analogy I used was to focus on shooting an arrow with a bow. At the moment you fire, you do not try to push the arrow or really add any more energy, you merely release the energy that is already naturally there from drawing the bow. When you Fajin with your arms in a push, you do not actually "push" at the end, you merely release the power your legs have already stored in your arms. If your arms are either like a rope or a stone, no energy can be stored or transmitted. You cannot focus on muscle or bone, but rather must focus on tendons and structure.

This does not mean you do not use any muscle or bone, however. If there is none of yourself in the energy of your arms, your arms will be like ropes and cannot store energy. If there is only yourself in the energy of your arms, your arms will be like stone and cannot transmit energy. If you can figure out how to combine your own energy with the energy naturally present, you can have a resilient energy.

The last analogy I used was that of a whip. I recall Master Yang using this. When you hit something with a whip, you send energy into it with a final flick of the wrist and know from experience where the tip will go; however, you do not directly control the whip, the wave of energy does. When you strike with internal energy, you do not directly control the energy at the target, but rather just know from experience what will happen if you set up the right conditions.

Since I knew all this could sound like a lot of mere talk, I grabbed a Pilates ball and made it leap up from the floor without applying any upward energy myself. I used the nature of the ball. If you strike down into it just right, it will rebound up into the air. This is somewhat how I understand the basics of Fajin: add the right energy and let nature take its course.

If you try to train hard arts at the same time as soft arts, you will focus very much on training your own energy and hardening yourself. This is generally in the exact opposite direction you need to go for Tai Chi, where we want more to be aware of natural energy and to make ourselves as soft as possible. I think it is hard to train how to go from hard to hard and from soft to hard at the same time.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Tai chi and external arts combined?

Postby meghdad » Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:26 pm

Dear Audi,
Thanks for sharing the analogies you used to explain your point to your students. I very much liked the whip analogy:

The last analogy I used was that of a whip. I recall Master Yang using this. When you hit something with a whip, you send energy into it with a final flick of the wrist and know from experience where the tip will go; however, you do not directly control the whip, the wave of energy does. When you strike with internal energy, you do not directly control the energy at the target, but rather just know from experience what will happen if you set up the right conditions.


It reminded me of a story from the book "Zhuang Zi" about an exchange between a millipede and a Kui (one-legged creature):

The Kui said to the millipede, "I have this one leg that I hop along on it, though I make little progress. Now how in the world do you manage to work all those ten thousand legs of yours?"

The millipede said, "You don't understand. Haven't you ever watched a man spit? He just gives a hawk and out it comes, some drops as big as pearls, some as fine as mist, raining down in a jumble of countless particles. Now all I do is put in motion the natural mechanism in me ‑ I'm not aware of how the thing works."


Take Care,
Meghdad
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