|Are you a martial artist (2)?|
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If you went to a dojo to study aikido then in all cases you should encounter a martial arts class.
Naturally, there may be significant differences in teaching and style, but all classes should be teaching combat. Now, consider this in reference to taijiquan.
When you go to a taijiquan class what exactly will you encounter?
What is taijiquan?
Unlike other arts, the words 'taijiquan' encompass a wide variety of approaches. To make matters even more confusing, some people teach slow-motion movement and call it 'taijiquan'.
Explaining the art
Explaining the martial art of taijiquan is problematic. A verbal description will not capture the nature of the art, its complexity, nuances, skills and subtlety. You will probably be faced with incredulity.
So, why bother to explain what you do? The menu is not the food.
You don't want to be fighting biceps against biceps, the best techniques are the ones that the opponent gives you.
Peter Southwood lets students determine how they study. This is not as kind as it sounds. There is a Chinese curse: May your wishes be granted. Why is it a curse?
People seldom consider the consequences of getting what they want. And when they finally get their way, their desire may have shifted to something new.
Getting what you want may also prove to be far more than you can handle.
Sifu Waller treats students according to how they behave. If you joined his class and told him that you wanted to learn taijiquan, then he would not say anything at all.
Instead, he would let Rachel teach you tai chi for health and see whether or not you behaved remotely like a taijiquan student. Your own conduct would determine what you were taught.
Calling yourself a taijiquan student and behaving like one are two different things entirely. The difference can easily be seen in combat. A talker will be defeated immediately.
Taijiquan behaviour can also be seen without resorting to combat...
One face for giving and one face for taking
This Chinese saying means that people often perform the right actions and say the right things when they want something. They are pleasant and polite.
Yet, when asked for something in return, they are aloof and distant. Such behaviour is common in modern society but is not a taijiquan attitude.
The biggest obstacle facing a student is themselves.
The challenge of learning taijiquan as a martial art means that you will inevitably come up against things that you do not like (or necessarily agree with). This is to be expected.
We are all different to one another. The question is: how do you behave in the face of this challenge?
Do you eat humble pie, accept where you are in the syllabus (relative to your instructor) and carry-on training in the hope that your perspective broadens? Or do your demons consume you?
Combat involves adversity
It is easy to be happy and enjoy class when things are going your way. But how do you handle adversity? Your instructor needs to find out.
Even if your teacher sought to imbue you with his taijiquan skills, he could not. It simply doesn't work that way. You must gain the skills through hard work, time and patience. Your body and mind re-grow.
Now, consider the Confucian quote:
do not enlighten those who are not eager to learn, nor arouse those who are not
quick to give an explanation themselves.
If I have presented one corner of the square and they cannot come back to me with the other three, I should not go over the points again.
Confucius is saying that the student is responsible for the learning, the practice, the insights and the degree of progress.
Taijiquan students should look at themselves and ask the question; are you a martial artist? The answer is very simple: You are only a martial artist if you behave like one.
1 August 1998
Last updated 27 April 2020