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The application of taijiquan involves 'stealth'. You must learn to disguise your intentions and attack indirectly rather than head-on.
Soft, yielding tactics (such as seizing) are subtle and very difficult to anticipate and counter. Rather than club your assailant, you metaphorically insert a very fine needle.
This attitude lies at the heart of stealth.
Miyamoto Musashi, Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu advocate a very careful approach to combat. Rather than rush into battle, you tread warily and cautiously.
They argued the value of patience, deceit, unpredictability and surprise.
When you are potentially dealing with more than one opponent, it is necessary to be economical. Going head-to-head with one person at a time/duelling is unrealistic.
If you commit to combat with just one person - what are his associates doing in the meantime? Most likely hitting you...
Form teaches you how to change from one movement to the next without hesitation or doubt.
We also practice partnered drills that develop this same ability. Most taijiquan students can escape from a hold without undue thought or effort. They simply change.
If something fails, they do something else and if that fails, something else.
We teach taijiquan in a way that seeks to emulate the flowing nature of water. Water is always soft, loose, relaxed and yielding. It never resists or becomes tense.
Water is only strong because it can combine mass, gravity and momentum.
Learning to act without revealing your intentions is a difficult skill to develop.
You should be capable of standing perfectly normally and slap your partner gently on the cheek before they can counter you.
This is a game, not a martial application, but serves to illustrate how present you are and how relaxed. It is part of 'cold jing'. Avoid being obvious or showy.
What does it mean? Why are they doing it? Ambiguity lies at the heart of our study - we never want to broadcast our intentions. Creating uncertainty and doubt is very important.
When something is unclear, it leads to thinking. Thinking is the enemy of action; it clouds your ability to do.
Taijiquan never does just one thing. Every lesson, every move, every nuance can and does mean more than its seems. The art is a labyrinth of hidden understanding and concealed intentions.
Taoism embraces all sides of our character; recognising that people are both good/bad, strong/weak and so on.
We cannot be one without the other. The key is to find balance. A harmony of apparent opposites. You can cultivate stealth:
- practice being immobile
- sit without twitching or moving for as long as you can
- ignore any urge to move
- let your own mind become quiet and just listen; you will hear more
- walk silently
- consider how noisy your clothing is
- your body should be capable of spontaneous movement in any direction
- sustain balance at all times
- upon entering your home, move from room to room as though you may have been burgled
- open the door, watch the shadows and listen for noise
- pause before entering a room
- play a game in which you picture somebody attacking you without warning
- imagine where you might move and what your options are
- learn to see possibilities
These 5 ideas may seem corny or silly, but they
will help to tune your
awareness. Stealth is a useful skill to develop.
Remember to keep it real - you are not a ninja.
Be stealthy in your partner work. Deliberately allow yourself to lose, so that you can practice escaping from the compromised position. Constantly 'winning' is pointless.
What will you do if you find yourself suddenly losing? Appearing weak is a classic strategy from The Art of War.
As time goes on, your form should look less showy. This is part of 'formlessness'. Your martial intent is hidden within the movements.
When the movements themselves are no longer really so obvious, you are getting somewhere.
Favour is given to the left
hand of gentleness rather than the right hand of force.
18 September 1995
Last updated 13 January 2020