Training: Tai Chi Everywhere

Tai Chi and Kung Fu at plumpub.comThere is a treasure house of practice methods hidden in Kung Fu styles and many of them use the slow, focused and reflective approach of Tai Chi. Tai Chi takes slow training as an overall basic approach, and this has fooled people into thinking of it as a major theme of that particular art. Yet, when we really look at Tai Chi, we see some steps that are fast, some kicks that are agile and snappy, some bursts of overt power.

Tai Chi and Kung Fu at plumpub.comThere is a pretty good argument that there is absolutely no difference between Tai Chi practice methods and those of any classical Kung Fu style. The main distinction exists only in specialization. Take Lost Track style as an example. It stresses quick changes of direction, clever distractions, misleading signals. You might think Lost Track spends 100% of the time being “lost.” Yet there are plenty of forceful, determines actions with not a hint of uncertainty about them. In other words, drunken style doesn’t ALWAYS look wobbly, Lost Track isn’t always confused and —contrary to some thinking—Bagua isn’t always round. Styles are like people. No one is entirely this or that. Wing Chun has Long Arm Blocking and the 18 Flowery Legs just hauls off and punches the guy once in a while.

Some training methods are useful—once—and then can be gratefully forgotten. On the other hand there are some methods you can return to over and over again like a pond filled with refrTai Chi and Kung Fu at plumppub.comeshing spring water. The Tai Chi idea of moving slowly is hardly exclusive to that style. You can slow dance and you can do push ups slow. True, it’s a trial to jump kick slowly but, besides that, there isn’t much in martial practice that can’t benefit from a little retardation of speed.

Tai Chi and Kung Fu at plumpub.comThe slow motion Tai Chi strategy has many levels. The first reason for the slowness is precision. The idea is like watching a ballistic representation of a bullet traveling. You strain to note every alteration and aberration in the flight of the projectile. You want to slow everything down to create a perfect flight. You want to stretch time itself and reveal its tiny rips and currents. You can use speed as a monitor. At a lower speed you are constantly to do something that takes a lifetime to perfect, attempting to occupy the middle ground between complete relaxation and total preparedness to act. This is without a doubt one of the real challenges in Chinese martial arts and it definitely takes slowing down at first…you attempt to inhabit that indescribable place where the ligaments, tendons and even muscles are held in a sort of synergistic suspended acceleration. You move your limbs while holding your body just a shade from complete explosion, an inch to this side of total relaxation.

Tai Chi and Kung Fu at plumpub.comWhen most people start learning Tai Chi they are very tense. This is, of course, to be avoided. But then, at a somewhat higher level, far too many people “droop” or slacken their bodies to the point of limpness. The shoulders drop too much, the elbows are too bent, most of all, the wrists flop. The so-called guitar string is too slack and real movement could only occur if the practitioner woke himself up enough to actually execute. Tai Chi takes the student to the very brink of this problem and escorts him a step further. Then the slowness comes. But inside it’s a separate story. You are balancing relaxation and hair trigger anticipation so closely that you can ONLY move slowly. This state of practice is an active, experimental, experiential approach to the lively energy of martial arts and every artist should thread it into his or her workouts.

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