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Even pace

The convention in taijiquan is usually to practice the form movements at an even pace.
Many schools encourage the pace to be tied into the breathing directly.
This creates a certain rhythm. It is also a questionable practice.


Natural breathing

If you consider your breathing, it happens all by itself. You do not breath. You are breathed.
The breath emerges spontaneously. You do not need to think about it, control it, force it or change it. The process is involuntary and unconscious.
When you practice taijiquan, it is very important not to interfere with the natural working of the body.
Your breath should be allowed to do as it likes.

 

Rhythm and pace

People confuse 'rhythm' and 'pace'.
Pace is the rate of progress. It pertains to timing. It is about speed.
Rhythm is more complicated than pace. It is the coalescence of a variety of concerns to create a certain flow.


Complications

Confusing rhythm and pace can cause complications in your taijiquan.
Yes, the training should have a slow, even pace.
But this pace must be performed relative to rhythm.


Form rhythm

Are the form movements actually uniform in length? Consider this carefully. 
Some movements take longer to perform than others. The movement may be more intricate, more involved.
If we try to marry the posture to the breath, we run the risk of distorting the form.
The form does not have a uniform, even rhythm. It has large movements, small movements. Drawing in, sending away. Opening and closing.
We cannot practice all movements using the same rhythm. We also cannot breath them the same way.


Rhythm

Everyone has their own rhythm. They move according to it and strike using it.
Your job is to find your own rhythm, and work with it.
If you allow the taijiquan to harmonise with how your body and mind want to move, you will be more effective and natural.
If you fall into a predictable rhythm of moving or striking, this is not so good.


Your rhythm

You need to be spontaneous and fresh; responding to what is happening rather than following a plan or your own breath.
Find your own rhythm and use it.
Find your opponents rhythm and exploit it.
Draw them into a predictable pattern but do not allow complacency to leave you exposed; remember that the appearance of a pattern may only be a ruse.


Broken rhythm

In self defence, your aim is to avoid falling into a predictable pattern.
If you are accustomed to moving at an even pace, with a clear breathing/movement rhythm, you will be defeated.
Patterns are often very easy to discern.


Taking turns?

A set pattern of movement in self defence creates a 'my turn, your turn' mentality which is totally at odds with what is happening.
Your aim is to evade and incapacitate. Not fight.
This is best accomplished by being spontaneous and unorthodox. Do not offer patterns. Do not conform to the expected.
Be fresh and instantaneous.


Pace is not rhythm

The form movements may all be performed slowly. This is the pace.
But the pace cannot be allowed to distort the movements and affect the rhythm.
Some movements are quicker than others. They take less time to perform. You do not have to speed up or slow down.
The posture itself is longer in character, or more abrupt.
It is important to keep this in mind.


Don't interfere

If you seek to make every movement take as long as every other movement by changing the pace to suit the breath, you are changing the form.
You are also missing the point.
Your breathing should be allowed to occur naturally. It will find harmony with the form if you leave it alone.
Do not change the rhythm of the form to suit the breath.
 

The correct rhythm not only gives you maximum power, it helps you conserve energy so you know when to use force and when not to.

 (Tim Cartmell) 
 


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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 29 August 2019