Thursday, August 7, 2014

The importance of training objectives in the internal arts

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)

It is true about Alice and more true about practitioners of the internal arts.

A few years ago, a prominent Taoist/tai chi/martial arts (including Muay Thai) master affiliated with a major Taoist temple in Hong Kong gave video-taped public lectures on tai chi chi kung for health. On passing, he made fun of practitioners who did like "one zhan zhuang stance for an hour and another zhan zhuang stance for another hour, tiring themselves out". "There are much easier ways" and he demonstrated his, primarily through activating ones' pelvic floor muscles (including or initiated by anus contraction and relaxation), vocalization and some shaking. Zhan zhuang was included but not "the one hour this and then that" type.

So, is it "the one hour this and then that" type of zhan zhuang no good? Accordingly to our master (and your author's view) the answer is no. For most people doing chi kung or nei kung for health, that is simply not an effective and efficient method. The choice of method should depend on one's training objectives. Thanks to the proliferation of training methods made public nowadays (through Youtube and the like, plus publications, and.... personal blogs of course), a practitioner or his teacher can choose whatever are suitable to one's training objective (assuming good understanding and sound coaching).

This is progress. In contrast, those who still hang on to "their own" traditional methods regardless of objectives, no matter which lineage their claim to have, in my view, have unnecessarily limited themselves to less than the best method(s) for specific training objectives (I have assumed that they indeed have genuine training objectives other than the "objective" of "learning a certain lineage").

Sometimes I was appalled seeing some of these practitioners even refusing to acknowledge the "correctness" an advanced form of a practice (e.g isometric contraction, isokinetic movement or nano-movement). Why? Because their teachers never taught them! I'm not joking, a few days ago, a student of mine told me that he discussed with a few tai chi practitioners the other day, and a sifu vehemently argued that Sink your breath to the Dan Tian  氣沉丹田 is an incorrect concept in tai chi!

Where you want to get to?

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