|Form is movement
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If your movements feel like stances/postures then you are way too tense. You need to be free to move in any direction without difficulty or hesitation. Remain natural, free and agile at all times.
Movements are not stances. Form is not a series of postures. Tai chi is not yoga. A posture is fixed and tai chi is too mobile to be fixed.
Chang San-feng said: Tai chi is like a great river rolling on unceasingly.
Facing off to somebody - held in a stance - is not the tai chi way. What will you do when a second opponent appears to your side?
Footwork and body must flow freely from counter to counter without fixity or tension, and nothing can be held.
we move conveys energy and
youth – not how buff we are.
If you practice tai chi as though it were yoga, karate, wing chun or boxing, you will go astray. The tai chi body shape is protean; adapting to the ongoing change of circumstance.
How do you move?
Form reflects the way in which you personally move in tai chi. If your form is clumsy, then you are clumsy and that is useless for combat. Your tai chi must be fast, sensitive, alert, powerful and lively.
Move like a cat
The cat-like grace of tai chi encourages slow, agile, strong movement, excellent poise, high energy levels and a feeling of vigour.
Wing chun combat looks like wing chun, judo combat looks like judo, aikido combat looks like aikido... You get the idea?
Your form should look and feel like tai chi combat. Your combat should look and feel like tai chi form. If this is not the case, what exactly are you training and why?
The title 'bugeisha' is inclusive. It refers to all those adherents now and from
the past who have sought to discover through a serious pursuit of these noble
arts a more worthwhile way of life.
Dave Lowry has written several books concerning the martial arts. His Sword and Brush is perhaps the most interesting. It is a consideration of calligraphy.
The book examines significant Japanese words (characters) in an attempt to unravel a deeper root significance.
This is what Dave Lowry had to say about movement:
The bugei (feudal martial arts) of Japan are a panopoly of movement.
Exponents jostle and clash... Weapons of steel, bamboo or wood, twitching and
flashing... Fists and feet flicking, lashing out... The jolt and lunge of sumo
or judo grapplers in their efforts to topple one another... The arc of the
blade's draw, the thrust of the staff, the flight of the arrow...
The key to all these motions, from the perspective of the calligrapher's brush is found in cutting a bolt of silk for the making of a kimono. If a kimono maker cuts with judicious care, he will get every piece he needs from one length of silk without any of the precious cloth being squandered.
The character 'sabaku' is literally "to judge decisively a cut."
The movements of the bugeisha (martial artists) are imaginatively described with this word.
Sabaku is not random motion.
The bugeisha does not engage in the kind of nervous fidgeting or displacement observed in untrained men or animals when faced with the stress of aggression.
All his movements are calculated.
Energy is conserved.
Sabaku is the the movement of the predator.
Tigers never posture or roar when attacking; hawks in the act of taking their quarry do not flutter or scream.
The actions of the predator are the essence of economy.
In the midst of chaos, fear, and mortal danger, they appear to be almost relaxed.
Perhaps it is this ability to relax, to move without superfluity, to release a burst of power only at the very instant it is needed that allows the expert bugeisha to continue his practice long after an age when athletes have retired from their activities. Indeed, the senior exponent of the martial ways moves with a grace that is almost leisurely. While younger, 'stronger' practitioners are exerting all their power throughout every movement or exhausting themselves in unessential motions, the senior bugeisha's actions seem in comparison sedate and almost parsimonious. Even so, his attacks always find their target; his parries materialise languidly yet with stunning effectiveness. Always he is in exactly the correct place he needs to be, never a moment too soon or too late.
It is no coincidence that the lives of most master bugeisha have been ones full of activity, even in old age. When death comes, it is rarely at the end of a long and debilitating illness. Instead, they are engaged in a physical pursuit of the way almost until the moment of their demise. They live completely, not an hour dissipated, until finally, like a candle burnt to the very end, their flame is quietly extinguished. In training, as in life, the sabaku of the bugeisha, cutting with complete and absolute precision, wastes not a shred of cloth.
18 April 1998
Last updated 16 June 2023