Training Like a Cat

I’ve often heard that we should have eyes like a tiger and walk like a cat. In addition, I’ve heard it expand even further that we should “be like a cat, ready to pounce”. Am I in that state when I train? Sometimes … I’ve seen every end of the spectrum, from people looking really tense, to people practicing with eyes glazed over in some sort of trance. What’s the best way?

In general, I’ve heard training equated to 2 cat-like faculties. The first one being the eyes, the intention, the concentration, the mind of a cat. The second one being the movement, the agility, the quick, no-hesitation-nature of a cat. How do these faculties correlate back into our own training?

I think this all relates back to the goal of training. If one’s goal is meditative, then I guess doing the form in a trance is not really that bad??? However, if one’s goal is martial then it makes sense to keep the eyes open so one can be aware of the environment. Personally, I prefer to keep my eyes open yet not really focusing on a specific point but sending my gaze “outward”.

While I am able to keep my eyes open, I must admit I am still working on the concentration aspect. Sometimes, my mind will wander a bit and think about the day or what I have to do. To combat this, I tend to keep my mind focused on elements of the form. I think about posture, alignment, qi paths, creating the shape of movement. I really have a long way to go, because if you’ve ever seen a cat “stalk”, then you’ll know how fully concentrated they are in each and every single step. The subtle weight shifts, the deliberate pauses, the total control over the body.

This leads us to the characterizes of movement. Do I move like cat? No.. Can I fully step out into my stance with complete control of the weight transition? No. Am I able to stop my movement at ANY given point and withdraw? No. Can I pounce like a cat? No, more like a fish out of water 🙂 Ok.. so I guess I answered my own questions on what I need to work on during my forms.

However, since I’ve started training on uneven grounds, this whole notion of stepping and control has been amplified. At lunch, I head to a nearby church and practice in their backyard. In the back corner is this slightly wooded area that’s pleasantly shaded. However, while there is shade, there are also sometimes rocks and uneven little plateaus that can do a number on my balance if I don’t pay attention. Just to mix things up, I’ll head over to a nearby parking lot that filled with gravel and do my form there. That’s a whole other story.. 🙂

Anyhoo.. props go to Thomas of for sparking my entry via his post of Cat Walk Benefits.



About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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7 Responses to Training Like a Cat

  1. Cindy says:

    Good thinking! Thanks for sharing the article. I agree with you that how to get trained depends on your goal (or motivation) of learning Taiji. In addition, I think training for relaxation and training for alertness should be achieved one step at a time. Only when you can fully relaxed and focused, then you can feel the total control of your intention, movements and breathing. You will feel your body and mind move as a whole.

  2. wujimon says:

    This reminds me of a comedy movie called “Drunken Tai Chi” aka Taiji Master with Donnie Yen. In it, the teacher tells him to just “Relax”, repeating the phrase over and over until all of a sudden Donnie collapses to the ground and takes a nap 🙂

  3. Cindy says:

    That’s funny:-) A few years ago, I started practicing abdominal breathing. I fell into sleep every time I did it.

  4. Andy says:

    By a funny co-incidence we had one of our occasional ‘guest instructors’ down for the session yesterday. His focus was on how to prevent Tai Chi becomming boring by focussing on different aspects. He talked us through the 8 energies, where they can be found in the first few movements, and how to apply them in combat situations. But his point was that unlike other exercise regimes, in Tai Chi you really can’t allow your concenttration to wander

  5. wujimon says:

    Hi Andy.
    In Chen Xiaowang’s silk reeling method, he places heavy emphasis on the qi path and how it flows through the body via certain physical movements. Like what you noted, this requires a great deal of mental concentration to stay focused. This is a prime example of how taiji can train both the body and the mind! 🙂

  6. Scott says:

    “If one’s goal is meditative, then I guess doing the form in a trance is not really that bad???”

    I beg to differ. Many (but not all) forms of meditation are meant to heighten the connection to the “outside” environment, but ensuring it’s not done in a myopic way. For example, in shikantaza, one is merely sitting, with no intent, and yet fully aware of what’s going on both inside and out. It’s not a topic I’d really like to debate, and I realize that I’m taking a simplistic view, but just my 2 cents (it’s probably not exactly the way I say it is, but probably not exactly the other way either).

  7. wujimon says:

    Hi Scott. I agree with you. I believe I came to the wrong conclusion in my logic. You’re spot on with

    “heighten the connection to the outside environment”

    To me, this goes hand in hand with training like a cat. To appear relaxed and calm, yet able to react in an instant. This is the kind of thing I try to do in my own training.

    I’ve just seen too many instances where I see folks and they look they are sleeping with eyes glazed over, not being in the slightest aware with what’s going on around them.

    Thanks for the comment!

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