Thursday, February 25, 2010

Form and beyond...

[Path to Mastery 2/24/10 – Wk24 D3 (Str 9.12.09)(Ph2 11.15.09)]

Continuing our Tai-Chi Journey:

Now so far, we have been covering the structured part of the system.  Starting today, we will be covering the part of our system that is unstructured.  Today, I will give you an overview of the unstructured training.

One can argue that the unstructured free hand part of the system is the purest part of the system.  Tai-Chi is formless at its essence.  True Tai-Chi is a state of absolute harmony and uninhibited flow.  It is where things are absolutely natural.  

However, there is one catch.  In order to be free, one has to have discipline.  Let me illustrate with an example that I heard Steven Covey once use.  In order for you to have complete freedom at the piano, you must have put in endless hours of discipline before you can have the freedom of a master pianist.  

Going through the Tai-Chi system teaches you what it means to be natural.  By practicing the postures and movements, how to relax and how to breathe, one becomes more and more familiar what it means to be at an ideal state.  It is not unlike practicing to have the perfect free throw form in basket ball.  This familiarizes the player with what it feels like when he or she has a good shot.  

However, if the basketball player only practices free throw shooting, their game will not improve.  They need to practice how to interact and how to shoot while interacting, while being interrupted, while in mid-motion, or any other state they might encounter during a play.  

Using the same analogy, the structured part of Tai-Chi teaches you the ideal feeling of being natural.  The unstructured part of Tai-Chi teaches the chaotic side of things.  It teaches you how to guide yourself through the chaos.  I have come across a martial art called Guided Chaos.  The concept is the same.  

My coach Jeff would say, you get what you practice.  He was saying that when you practice the form, you get good form, but no more.  In order for you to get fighting qualities, you must experience the chaos of a fight.  It is one thing to have flow and peace when it is just you.  It is quite another when you have unpredictable movement coming in your direction and you are trying to have flow and peace.  

The unstructured part as a whole is called free hand.  In free hand training, you start by moving in slow gentle movements. During the slow, gentle interaction you learn how to respond in a relaxed and calm manner.  As you get better, the speed of the interaction naturally gets faster and more complex, but your mind will feel familiar with the feeling and speed of the movements and thus will stay calm and relaxed.    

We have to remember, no martial art started off as a form.  The fighting came first, and then the form.  As you train this simple and safe interaction, you start to realize why the form is the way it is.  You realize that the secrets of Tai-Chi is in pushing hands, but only if it is done correctly, of course.

Some more on this tomorrow.

History of Tai-Chi Journey up to this point:

Before the blog opened to the public, we covered the single person part of the system.
1. Qi-Gong (Taoist Longevity, White Crane Qi-Gong)
2. Standing Meditation
3. Stepping Mediation
4. 7 Basics
5. Basic Form
6. 30 Form
7. 108 Form

Interactive training after we went public with the blog.
1. 8 Type Pushing Hands (Covered from 2/2 ~ 2/11)
2. San-Shou (Covered from 2/12 ~ 2/15)
3. Ba-Gua.(Covering from 2/16 ~ 2/19)
4. Weapons (Covered on 2/23)
5. Healing System (Covered on 2/24)

Non-Structured System:
1.    Introduction (Covered today)
2.    Free moving - conditioning
3.    Free hand pushing hand
4.    Free hand (2 person drills and multiple person drills)
5.    Free hand weapon (2 person drills and multiple person drills)


  1. I love the irony, to have true freedom you need discipline, if you do not have discipline you have no freedom. Reading this blog makes me eager to rejoin the pushing hands portion of class after my last experience which was less than ideal.

  2. There is a dynamic in paired exercises that doesn't exist while doing the form alone. And each individual is unique so working with others is a great learning tool.
    And I also see that taking what you learn from the pushing hands into my imagination while doing the form by myself increases the power and clarity of my mind and helps me improve on the pushing hands. It is amazing how each method improves the other with concious practicing.