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A lot of taijiquan practitioners begin by studying an external martial art for some years before switching to taijiquan.
Both Rachel & Sifu Waller did this.
The danger with training an external martial art first is that it encourages the student to see things in a certain way.
Conventional martial arts usually involve rigorous, punishing warm-up routines, challenging stretches, extended body postures, high repetitions...
Demanding exercise is pretty much standard.
Willpower and forceful behaviour drive the body into condition.
Qigong can be performed externally or internally.
Taijiquan is the same; although in the case of taijiquan... external training renders the Art inauthentic and martially non-viable.
External practice might be more accurately considered 'performance art tai chi'.
It is possible to perform taijiquan in an external manner that is aesthetically pleasing but not actually internal.
The way of the Tao
is like the bending of a bow:
As the bow is pulled,
the top lowers and the bottom rises.
Because the ends are connected,
the extremes are reduced.
Dancers often use their bodies in an extended manner.
They tense muscles.
They perform extreme stretches.
They stand on tip toe...
Taijiquan is not dance
A dancer is usually fit and strong, so their method seems appropriate for their practice.
But, a dancer is not engaged in combat.
Their way of moving is entirely different to taijiquan.
Applying dancing methodology and body use to a martial art is suicidal.
A different way
Taijiquan advocates moderation in all things.
e.g. over-training is as bad as under-training.
If you do not train enough, there will be very little health benefit and no martial development.
If you train too much, the body will become tired and there is an increased risk of injury.
It is so tempting to stretch, to extend, to reach.
To force, to push.
Don't do this.
Just do what you need to do to accomplish the result and nothing more.
Aim for this ratio: minimal effort achieves maximum results.
There is a point where something is weak, then it becomes strong, only to become weak again.
The human lifespan is like this: a baby, to adulthood, to decrepitude and death.
Seek to do only what is necessary to find that optimal point of strength.
Sometimes it requires just an inch of movement.
A key feature of taijiquan is the use of 4 ounces of pressure.
It prevents you from exerting, from getting tired, from doing too much.
Philip Maffetone maintains that harsh stretching is problematic; a balance must be found between too little and too much.
There must be play in the joints.
This enables folding.
Taijiquan is about relaxing and releasing rather than over-stretching.
Remember the 70% rule?
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Do your work, then step back.
27 June 1998
Last updated 24 February 2017