Train the Energies, Not the Apps

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

etc etc

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.

Source: Productivity for Programmers: Trusted Systems


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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9 Responses to Train the Energies, Not the Apps

  1. silkreeling says:

    Chen Zhao Kui’s student rightly describe the 4 energies, which can be manifested in many different applications as you have pointed out. So to me, understanding the energies take precedence over applications.

    The other energies will come only when peng energy is full and the criterias for peng are all the basic requirements in taiji!

  2. wujimon says:

    Hey Silkreeling.
    I believe the person responsible for writing the Jin Article is Marin Spivack (aka Mo Ling) disciple of Chen Yu (son of Chen Zhaokui).

    I must admit, I’m still working on peng.. I have A LONG WAY TO GO.. 🙂

  3. zenmindsword says:

    let’s put on my devil’s hat and play the unholy advocate 🙂

    sometimes i think all this argument about having peng, not having techniques is silly 🙂 consider the following :-

    you have a Magnum 44 but when you shoot it your aim goes off before the recoil sents you off balance. yet the Magnum can shoot a hole in an elephant.

    now your stance is balanced and your posture good but this elephant is faster than you estimated. before you have a chance to bring up the heavy gun and aim the elephant is too near. you jumped out of the way and take aim again but the elephant is not stupid and changes direction. again the elephant is faster than you can react.

    you have a Smith & Wesson 32 but an elephant rushes at you and you cannot run away nor retreat. you have 1 shot at the elephant and pray that your gun can stop it.

    now instead of not being able to move, you can actually jump out of the way of the elephant. so you do and as the elephant rushes pass you, you aim at its eyes and shoot. elephant drops.

    now as Tan Ah Teck would say what is the moral of the story?

    (don’t know who Tan Ah Teck is? he is the fat person in yellow at this link

  4. wujimon says:

    React accordingly to a given situation. Don’t bring along a sledgehammer when all you need is a screw driver. And finally, move to a place where elephants will not rush at you 😉

  5. zenmindsword says:

    As Tan Ah Teck would say “NO!” The moral of the story is stay at home where there are no elephants to rush at you! 🙂 In short, keep out of trouble by not being there in the first place – so you never need a Magnum nor Smith & Wesson

  6. zenmindsword says:

    Let you in on a little secret. One of the writers for Under One Roof is my student 🙂 – he actually wrote one episode which had something to do with martial arts and he played the role of the master

  7. wujimon says:

    On the flip side, if we happen to be in a situation where an elephant is rushing us and we notice a smith & wesson, it’d be nice to have the ability to use the gun if needed 🙂

    thanks for the story 😉

  8. Pingback: wujimon » Blog Archive » Learning the Apps

  9. hybr says:

    Hi Wuji: I think of the 8 methods or energies as skills to be developed. The techniques require these skills in order to be effective. All of the methods and counters can be found in basic push hands drills, or you can make your own exercises if you are able. Just a note: shoulder stroke is kao, not peng (meaning the method peng, not overall peng energy). CSTCC_Practical Method_Brazil.

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