Train What You Know

There’s this age old saying:

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

I often think about this quote as it relates to my own situation. Basically, I like to hop and try to look for ‘the next big thing’. Over the past year, I’ve considered hopping within the Chen Style framework, thought about Wu Style, and proceeded to relearn Yang style on my own.

A buddy of mine once told me that most people will hit a plateau in taiji training. The first time I hit one hard was during my training of single handed silk reeling. I was really getting into silk reeling training when suddenly, my single handed methods just didn’t feel right. I got pretty frustrated with pushing myself over and over that I basically stopped doing single handed silk reeling all together. I would still do the double handed silk reeling and dantien rotation stuff, but totally skipped the single handed.

It wasn’t until I attended a workshop with Chen Xiaowang and got a good dose of pizza, that I finally was able to break through the barrier of the plateau. Once again, I saw progress, there was a clear path and goal in my training. But once again, the test of solitude has taken it’s toll and I began seeking other routes and methods.

Last time, it was single handed silk reeling connection, the current time, it was the integration of Chen Xiaowang’s ‘one posture, two movement principle’:

You have the one posture, two movement principle:The first principle the dantien moves side to side, turning, spiraling,and changing. Connection as above (standing post), maintained in moving, dantien moves the body responds. The second principle the dantien moves forward and backward. The movement corresponds to the dantien movement to another — transition from one movement to another — fundamental. Not spiraling. Once you understand the posture and the movement principles you understand all forms, applications, or any weapon. If you don’t understand these principles, you are like a tree without roots and you can’t grow.The two movement principles can combine into one because of the similarity.The chest/waist change the move, opening and closing.

— Source: Tai Chi Chuan Pedagogic Center – Discussions with Chen Xiaowang

Basically, it can be said that all movement within the form can be broken down into either a side-to-side movement of the dantien or a forward-backward movement of the dantien. Each physical movement stems from the rotation of the dantien. Each physical movement is a manifestation of dantien rotation.

Okay, that sounds easy enough, so why is this so hard to integrate into form training?  Within the silk reeling context, there is a mind component in conjunction to the dantien rotational thought. Basically, the mind or ‘yi’ (intent) travels around the body during the execution of the movement [for more see: Where is the Mind?]

To take the analogy one step further, each posture of the form can be broken down into their silk reeling components. The simplest example is to take ‘wave hands like clouds’ and view that as two alternating single handed silk reeling motions. After identifying the silk reeling component, tack on the mind intent path and then mix in the dantien rotation while keeping 50% of the mind empty. Doh!

It’s easy to see now that I was often violating the last part above about keeping 50% of the mind empty and relaxed. As quoted from the above linked article, “Half the mind concentrates on the movement itself, the other half of the mind is empty or open”.

So, taking things full circle, I believe after taking a break for a while, I am now able to come back and tackle the integration of taiji concepts into my forms training again. I’ve been doing Chen taiji for the past couple of weeks and must admit, it feels good. I really like the standing meditation, silk reeling is making me feel good and alert and forms training is fun again. I no longer cringe like I used to.

When people ask me for advice on whether they should go buy a book or DVD to learn a new style, I often tell them just to practice what they already know and have received formal training in. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  Sounds like good advice.


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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One Response to Train What You Know

  1. Rick Matz says:

    One of the reasons I chose the school I’m training at now, is that it’s a complete system. I hope to explore the depth of it.

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