Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Simple is beautiful

The practice of zhan zhuang, tai-chi, tai-chi nei gung or meditation can be dauntingly mythical. When I was a kid first learning the art, I had my fair share of initial frustration. After I did my best to manage my Jing (tai-chi internal power), my father would always frustrated me by saying: "You're too hard". In all frustrations, I tried again and be as relaxed as I could, my father would say: :"Are you sleeping, be more alert!". Now that I am teaching the stuff (not my bread-and-butter trade), I will try my best to make it simple for my students. In my case, I guess I have no choice. People come to me with problem(s), given a right attitude on their part, most of the time I will be willing to give some advice. Being not in the trade, I have to make sure that they can at least get some benefit from my advice within the first lesson (because some never have the opportunity to come for a second lesson!)  In other words, I don't have the luxury (or the financial pressure :)) to have a group of students hanging on to my side for a year or more.

As a result, in my practice, I have been trying to make things as simple as possible. And most of the time, it can be done. Having said that, sometimes I will displease certain practitioners who have taken a long time (perhaps a life time) to perfect their act. Their usual comment will be "It's not that simple" (which I agree, but things can be learned better from simplicity) with a subtext like "you're degrading the art", or worse with the subtext "you don't know the real thing yourself". Actually I don't mind them revealing their sub-text to me, although I can also understand that being polite they are too kind to cross me directly.

The most powerful simple tool is visualization. Like "holding a ball" or "embracing a tree" in zhan zhuang. It's not like really holding a ball or embracing a tree, but to fool our mind-body into believing such, and with our non-critical mind (therefore the zhan zhuang mold has to be between wake-up and asleep) guiding our mind-body to react likewise or "to do their job" now that it is needed like for real.

And like doing the 24 styles tai-chi nei gung for power building, I have come up with some novel visualizations, including weight lifting in Golden Turtle, and discus throwing in Sheep.

Recently I came across a book by a famous tai-chi master in Mainland China who praised the mythical power of non-contact combat (!). Most of his text rambled on mythical, historical and irrelevant narratives. And all of a sudden, I noticed a line in his chapter on Kua (跨 pelvic joints) opening. And he said something like this, "I am going to reveal a secret in my training method, try visualizing yourself swinging back and forth in a kid's swing".

I smiled to his good insight, "After all Simplicity is his secret!"

PS: My dear reader, can you tell me which master used similar technique (without mentioning the concept of Swing) in an English book on tai-chi nei gung?

The beauty of a simple swing


  1. For those who are sustaining higher depression, this martial art form is a good way to treat or deal with it. The multiple body movements that are somehow likened to dances could be alleviated or even controlled and halted with this.

    tai chi exercises

  2. Comments are valuable, thanks.


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