I recent comment on chessman’s entry got me thinking, it was his post on an IMA view of BJJ, and in it he wrote:
Wuji and sword,
That’s why I like you guys. You have varied backgrounds like me that show you some fo the IMA weaknesses I love to discuss. That’s probably why you put up with me too.
This reminded me of something I felt and realized early on. My first wushu teacher commented that he thought it was great that I had a wushu background coming to taiji b/c it gave me the first-hand-experience of sparring that most taiji folks don’t encounter. If the goal of taiji is to remain centered and relaxed in any situation, how can this be fully achieved without putting oneself in varied situations.
In relating back to chessman’s thoughts on Brazilian Jujitus (BJJ), I think most people will become quite shocked and surprised how much energy it takes to grapple on the ground for just 5 mins. Not only that, but how much patience and planning it takes to survive. To me, BJJ is really a lot like a game of chess in that you have to try and plan 3-4 steps ahead in order to get you in that effective position.
Is taiji the same? I believe most advocates of taiji feel the goal is to react spontaneously thru conditioned training, but really, where/when is this conditioned training? In this regard, I think taiji could be slightly different in that you don’t necessarily have to train the specific applications/counters. For instance, I was showing a former coworker once my form and he asked about applications and such, so I showed him that taiji helps to develop sensitivity and showed him the one-handed push hands sequence. While we were doing this, he decided to test me, without my knowledge, and tried to perform a qinna he learned from aikido on me, but luckily due to my sensitivity, I was able to neutralize it using some of the silk reeling found in chen taiji. Did I specifically train for this type of attack, no.
While I did not train for this type of attack in any of my previous external arts, I feel that my exposure to sparring in the other arts prepared my mind to not lose centering. I did not get excited or scared, I was calm enough to just react accordingly. I guess what I’m thinking about is, would’ve I behaved the same way without my previous experience in “high stress” sparring situations? Would’ve doing the taiji form alone produced similar results?
I feel we really need to vary things around. In my own training, I do this by varying the way I face when I do the form. Sometimes closing my eyes, sometimes going faster, slower, higher, lower during the set. One of the things that has really helped is doing the form on non-flat surfaces like a backyard with rocks, grass, bumps, etc. This really exposes your body to potential circumstance and scenarios that may not be idea. Like my first wushu teacher noted,
True martial artists can do their whole form in the space of a cow sleeping.
What was his point? Learn how to react and behave in non-ideal conditions. Work the corners, train the footwork, don’t get locked in patterns, learn how to react when you don’t know what to do.