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Imagine that you are studying taijiquan and you have a friend studying judo? Your friend will most likely pass belts frequently and gain martial skills quite quickly.
By contrast, the tai chi student is progressing quite slowly and doing very little actual combat practice... This can be confusing.
Why isn't the student gaining fighting skills as quickly as the judo student?
The answer is simple. The arts are very different. In mainstream martial arts the students existing physical, psychological and emotional habits are adapted to fit the given art.
In taijiquan all of these habits are scrapped completely.
I was admitted to a select special research program in karate... here the innermost secrets of karate are introduced to future teachers. After a few months, it became obvious that many of the most 'secret' techniques were ones I had already learned in my first 2 years of basic training in the internal arts.
Many karate people had to wait 5-20 years before being taught the same material.
See the problem?
A tai chi student must completely re-learn how to use their body. They must unlearn and this takes time. Tension must be lost. Exaggerated movements are not permitted. Aggression is pointless.
Life after 40...
Most martial artists retire at 40. Taijiquan is a lifelong art, so it will take longer to gain martial aptitude but (providing you practice) the skills may last a lifetime.
Taijiquan is about changing our internal environment so that life becomes a
joy to live and not a burden to drag into old age and death. It is about
helping your body to let go of the past and your mind to slow down and cease
churning. Taijiquan encourages your internal focus to shift toward
cherishing and remembering all that is wonderful in your life. It
predisposes you to look forward to ways to make life better, rather than
remembering how unsatisfying it has been.
Most importantly, taijiquan gives us the ability to realise a greater human potential in ourselves and to have genuine compassion for others. Taijiquan, with its gentle strength, moves us closer to feeling more truly alive.
Teachers can only teach you
to the level that the strength of your basics will allow them to. They can't
do anything more, it's impossible.
Your judo friend...
Let's imagine that your judo friend has a blue belt. You are a taijiquan blue belt. When it comes to fighting, what would your judo friend expect from you? The same. You may disappoint them...
Judo health studies?
When it comes to the external martial arts you won't find a lot of articles published by doctors proving that karate or judo are good for your body. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
If you searched the web, you'd find many people complaining about how their chosen art wrecked their knees, shoulders etc. Bruce Frantzis: A lot of martial arts will basically destroy your body.
How many tai chi health studies have been performed?
Quite a lot. With old people doing tai chi for health. They weren't even doing the complete art and it did them a lot of good. Taijiquan was designed for long-term practice.
These neigong practices can
transform the ordinarily tense human nervous system into a very fluid one in
which there is virtually no time lag between conscious will and the body
moving swiftly or delivering power.
Ultimately, a great deal of the fighting prowess of internal martial arts derives from the absence of central nervous system lag time. With reaction time virtually nonexistent, the internal martial artist is able to change fighting techniques faster than an opponent can, and is able also to combine the normally separated areas of the body into one integrated, unified and powerful whole.
The taijiquan martial skills must be refined many, many times before they are truly 'combat' ready.
The nuance of each movement, the possible ramifications, applications, variations, off-shoots and follow-ups must be examined thoroughly. How the body moves. How the power is being generated.
As your overall skill in taijiquan grows, your body and mind change considerably, and these training methods will change with you. Layers of meaning, purpose and application will unfold.
How do you measure up?
Think about your blue belt judo friend... If you apply your black belt level taijiquan skills against your friend, they will be most impressed. You will not be weak or apologetic.
Nor will you start talking about qi. Instead, you will kick ass.
One interesting thing to keep in mind is that all the good stuff in the syllabus is still to come. And by definition it has to be more powerful and effective than anything you've encountered to date.
Upon reaching what is perceived as an ideal goal, the artist
discovers something entirely different. The artist is suddenly confronted
with the fact that what was thought of as perfection of technique was merely
the introduction to it.
An entirely new vista has opened. The artist must be prepared to turn his
gaze from the heights that have so recently been gained, and prepare for the
ascent of the peak suddenly found beyond them.
18 April 2005
Last updated 19 August 2021