A phrase I have often heard repeated over and over: “Train the energies, not the applications”. What exactly does this mean? I think everyone understands the phrase, “Train the Applications” as it’s the most commonly used method in martial arts. This is basically taking a movement out of the form and then working on how it applies in a martial sense.
In a recent issue of Tai Chi Magazine, Chen Zhenglei on “The Study of Taijiquan”:
… Taijiquan beginners are often drawn to learning the applications of the postures. If we just use posture applications to explain and understand Taijiquan, then we will never grasp the essence of the art.
… The focus of taijiquan is to train the whole body such that when the need to use it arises, then, depending on the conditions and situation, it will adapt and change as needed and respond accordingly. We cannot be stuck in a “this technique for this attack” thinking.
For more, read the full article online at ChenWired (Registration Required)
Hmm… This reminds me a lot of a comment that Chong posted on my Experience with 6 Sealings 4 Closings article. In it, he basically noted how I should’ve maintained peng energy to effectively apply the rollback (lu energy). However, after reading Chen Zhenglei’s article, I couldn’t help but think about his phrase: “We cannot be stuck in a ‘this technique for this attack’ thinking'”.
HOWEVER, another point dawned on me. Taiji is all about change, it’s about adapting to change. When my rollback was not effective, why didn’t I adapt to the current scenario? Why not just step and apply another lu energy to counter my opponents shoulder stroke (peng energy)?
So.. what does train the energies mean? I’ve made references to various energies above. A lot of this stuff came out during push hands training for me. In double push hands training, the instructor guided us on identifying the various energies given and their associated counter energies.
Given Peng, counter with Lu
Given Lu, counter with Ji
Given Ji, counter with An
Given An, counter with Peng
Note, the above outlines just covers the 4 basic energies. All of these can be trained in the chen style basic double push hands pattern. For more details on the taiji energies read Chen Zhaokui Martial Arts Research: 8 Energies of Taijiquan.
Now the tough part is trying to identify the energies within our own training. When I do chen taiji’s buddha warrior pounds mortar, what energies am I employing? To identify the energies, we have to break down our postures into their core components. Once we do this, we can then mix and match various physical manifestations of taiji energies to our liking based upon conditions. The Lu energy could be done with either the rollback in 6 sealings 4 closings, or the double handed deflection in the buddha warrior pounds mortar, or even in the double fisted block before transitioning into ‘punch the ground’. The possibilities are endless if we break down movements like this!
Let us end with a quote linking my two favorite topics, GTD and taiji.
GTD has a lot of parallels with martial arts: the basic moves are simple, but the power comes from combining, integrating, internalizing those moves and the more you learn, the more you realize you can go deeper and learn more and gain more.