I recently had the opportunity to learn the Chen Taijiquan Practical Method Yilu from Internal Arts IA (aka JB). We have known each other for quite some time now, so it was great to catch up with an old friend while receiving instruction and correction on my form.
Below is a critical principle that I received correction on. Intellectual understanding is very different than physical manifestation.
Eyes ALWAYS on the Opponent
One of the first corrections I received from JB was to always keep my eyes on the opponent. By always, he meant ALWAYS at ALL TIMES. I have the tendency to look around before an execution of the movement. Additionally, I was often caught following my hand as it moved. The idea of “eyes follow hand” is common in other taiji styles, but it’s a very big NO-NO in the Chen Practical Method.
Why? The body tends to follow the eyes. In taiji, we often hear about the term: Yin-Yang separation. I’ve come to realize that this separation not only applies to physical actions, but also to non-physical components. During the execution of a movement, if I look down to check my stance, my whole structure collapses. If I look around, the structure breaks. I have previously written about the impact of looking down to check stances, and now realize that looking around can also impact one’s structure.
To assist in the correction, JB would stand in front of me and tell me to focus on him. Think as if I am attacking him. When I did this, JB noted that my structure was MUCH better. He said it was like “night and day” in terms of alignment.
If you think about this concept martially, then of course it makes sense. Never take your eyes off the opponent. We did a bit of application work and I noticed that during the whole thing, I NEVER took my eyes off JB. We often hear the term “shadow boxing”, but does that mean take your eyes off the opponent? I think not. If we claim to practice a martial art, shouldn’t we train martially?