General knowledge

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Sun Tzu pointed out that vagueness is easy to dispel. He indicated that focussing was the optimal approach to combat. Let others spread themselves thinly.
The more widespread something becomes, the less potency and depth it has. The less strength. In combat, you must be very intense. You cannot be vague and flamboyant.
There will be no slack, no second chances.


Knowledge is merely information. Facts, figures, memories, experiences, perceptions. Possessing data does not make you wise. It does not guarantee insight.

Earthquake in Sumatra. Plane crash in Russia. Man holds daughter captive in cellar for thirty years. Heidi Klum separates from Seal. Record salaries at Bank of America. Attack in Pakistan. Resignation of Mali's president. New world record in shot-put. Do you really need to know all these things?

We are incredibly well informed yet we know incredibly little. Why? Because two centuries ago we invented a toxic form of knowledge called 'news'. News is to the mind what
sugar is to the body: appetising, easy to digest - and highly destructive in the long run.

(Rolf Dobelli)


General knowledge is about having a little bit of knowledge concerning a lot of different topics. This may sound alright in theory, but in practice it is largely useless.
To be functional in any given area of focus, you need specialism. You need a lot of knowledge about a single thing. This is the polar opposite of general knowledge.

Form collectors

A lot of beginners seek to collect forms. Is it possible to possess great insights concerning a wide spectrum of different topics?
People are limited by how far afield they stretch their knowledge. Consider also how much time is being committed to the study and practice of each art, form or system.


If a beginner claims to be studying tai chi, bagua and xingyiquan - it is important to ask how much an individual can know about three separate disciplines.
The arts are not the same, and treating them as if they were the same is only going to blur the unique arts and create a mulch. Some amateurs claim to be learning tai chi and kickboxing. Why?


An external stylist cannot conceivably train internal and external simultaneously. The tension and attitude of the external art will pollute the exponent's
mind and body.
It is impossible to achieve the level of softness and sensitivity required for the correct practice of tai chi unless you cease to train the external art.
Although the student may attend both tai chi and kickboxing classes, it is the habits of kickboxing that will predominate.


Thoroughness is the key to understanding. Only by knowing something through and through can you really comes to terms with it.
To comprehend tai chi you must explore not only the form and the drills, but also Taoism, Zen, combat and the physics of movement.


Partial understanding is no understanding. You need to make connections and associations, see patterns and themes, strategies, variations, similarities and differences.
This will not be possible unless you commit considerable long-term effort to this enterprise.

Time factor

The more forms, arts and systems you undertake, the less you can study them. And therefore, the less you know. The more you do, the less you know. Can you appreciate the irony?

Most people are on a path with a dead end. They train ten years and they end up with nothing.

(Paul Gale)

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Page created 18 March 1997
Last updated 16 June 2023