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Everyone over-uses their muscles. It stems from poor control of the nervous system.
The perfect nervous system and muscle balance entails just enough strength to perform the required task - applied as required and ceasing when no longer needed. The last part is very important.
If you are getting ready for an action, then you are already acting.
Does this make sense?
Getting ready fires up the muscles, so your body is already in a condition of doing. If you want better control, you must wait.
And when the task has been completed, you must stop - and your muscles will return to a neutral state.
Getting ready is actually not ready at all. It is anticipation - the expectancy of events or circumstances - and this is a kind of anxiety.
With Sifu Waller we want the body to remain in a neutral state at all times and for the required muscles to fire at the instant that they are needed. Not before and not after.
This is spontaneity, and it will provide you with an edge.
Blind to your choices?
At any given moment you may perform a number of actions. For the sake of simplicity, we apply the I Ching principle of eight potential actions at any point in time.
If you are getting ready for one action, you are precluding the other seven.
The clouded mind sees nothing
This focus on the one thing prevents your mind and body from responding instantaneously to new stimuli.
Only a relaxed, neutral state will afford you the luxury of moving when and how you want, or perhaps not moving at all. This neutrality is 'wu chi' - the undivided.
It is represented in tai chi through 'central equilibrium'. Unattached, you are free.
If you have a preconceived notion of what you are going to do to an opponent then you are not doing taijiquan.
(Cheng Man Ching)
When practicing form, combat, drills or even walking around the house, you can remain neutral. At any point it is necessary to feel that you are neutral.
Taking the next step forward or performing a strike need to be mere options in your mind - none of which hold any especial attraction to you.
It could be one or it could be the other; and you must not prepare your body for any preference. Stop, and allow your mind and body to settle. Now, be aware of the possibility but do not act.
Only when there is no physical preparation can you make the movement. This will not be easy. The greatest skills are always the most subtle.
18 April 1995
Last updated 17 September 2019