Peter's own perceptions and preferences reflected his own tastes, his own body and his own interpretation.
By guiding his student without overt intrusion, Peter allowed Sifu Waller to discover what worked for himself.
If Peter had emphasised his own approach, this may hamper Sifu Waller in combat.
You cannot wear another person's shoes.
The Chinese internal arts value spontaneity, innovation, adaptation, change, versatility.
But if you cannot find
Friend or master to go with you,
Travel on alone –
Like a king who has given away his kingdom,
Like an elephant in the forest.
The king has given away his kingdom. Why is this?
Picture the elephant in the forest... huge, strong, powerful, noble. Yet concealed.
Instead of revealing its power, the elephant prefers solitude and obscurity.
Does responsibility/authority limit you? Does it curtail your freedom?
Is a ruler a prisoner of their own office?
This theme is echoed throughout taoism and is central to the art of taijiquan.
Position and power are regarded as being weak and needy.
True strength is found in other things. It does not rely upon approval or support.
It is found within.
Clinging to a position of so-called 'power and authority' binds you, and blinds you.
Holding onto status requires effort.
Taoism is about letting-go.
What pleases them.
What meets their expectations.
Very few members of an audience would be capable of watching with a discerning eye.
Not many spectators would understand the nature of what they are being shown.
No specific guidance was provided.
The internal principles had been taught already and Sifu Waller was a seasoned martial artist in other arts.
Peter simply left Sifu Waller to figure things out for himself.
Sifu Waller returned with a variety of applications and these were corrected.
Over time, the way in which the arts should be applied was suggested by the form(s) themselves, the underlying principles and the physics.
The master admonished his student, "If I had known you were going to perform a miracle, I'd have broken both your legs!"
The aim of self defence is to avoid injury, not sustain it.
The internal martial arts of tai chi and baguazhang aim to incapacitate the opponent without sustaining any injury to yourself.
We teach the entire workings of tai chi to everyone but only the most dedicated people penetrate the syllabus.
It is like telling someone a secret.
The secret only has meaning and value if that person understands the context and application.
If you tell it to the wrong person, they simply will not care. It means nothing to them.
Hence, students who work hard 'get it' and learn the teachings.
It may be that the internal arts are more sophisticated than your typical martial art.
A militaristic, routine method of teaching may not work so well.
In a Japanese art the student is encouraged to replicate the teachings of the art perfectly.
Like a carbon copy.
The internal arts encourage students to find their own way, recognising that some lessons simply cannot be taught.
It entails changing in response to what is happening, moving around an obstacle, flowing and adapting to the situation.
At the heart of yielding is the principle of making space; allowing and returning.
Although yielding may sound passive to the outsider, in application it is very deceptive and unexpected; often unnoticed.
The results are startling and effective.
There is a clear syllabus, steps of progress, grades and some degree of ongoing continuity.
Chinese internal arts are nothing like this.
By comparison there can seem to be no discernable syllabus, no continuity and a generally haphazard approach to teaching the syllabus.
If indeed a syllabus actually exists.
Is this the age we are living in?
Instead of a healthy exercise and diet regime, people expect to walk into a shop and be magically transformed into somebody else?
As if superficial changes to the outer body/skin are going to genuinely change anything?
- on-line media training
- how to promote the class
- class management methodology
- weekly teaching practice in class
- lengthy debates/discussions with Sifu Waller
- designing your own personal teaching notes/scheme of work
Instructor training is free of charge.
- Shifting the weight and turning the waist
- Bowing the back and tucking in at the middle
Option 3 is a last ditch choice.
In tai chi, option 2 is favoured, with option 2 used as well.
Option 3 is not the preferred choice for tai chi.
This is not how the internal arts operate.
Commitment is limited.
Over-commitment is a major fault.
All movements are performed in a manner that ensures the greatest effect for the least amount of effort.
With practice you will hardly look to be moving at all.
That is part of what makes the art 'internal'.
Yet each lesson is different.
And each student is different.
What you take from the classes depends on how frequently you attend, what you do between classes and how smart you are.
If keen you should set this time aside.
If very serious, you should repeat the palm changes 3-5 times a day.
A tai chi sifu is not:
- a celebrity
- a coach
- a counsellor
- a guru
- a keep fit instructor
- a medical practitioner
- a monk/priest
- an on-line chatroom buddy
- a performance artist
- a personal trainer
- a therapist
- your mate
If you are training to be a tai chi instructor, you need to understand what that means.
If a person needs counselling, they should see a counsellor.
If a person has medical problems, they should see a doctor.
Wearing someone else's shoes may deny the student the proper treatment/help they require.
You would never use an isolated body part to strike or lever an attacker.
You would never force an outcome.
When striking, there is no adverse feedback.
In combat, there is no tension.
Particular attention is placed upon moving in a natural, safe, comfortable manner.
The joints are allowed to move freely.
We are not all the same. We do not share the same priorities and concerns.
People value different things:
A man of Sung did business
In silk ceremonial hats.
He travelled with a load of hats
To the wild men of the South.
The wild men had shaved heads,
What did they want
Yao had wisely governed
He had brought the entire world
To a state of rest.
After that, he went to visit
The four Perfect Ones
In the distant mountains
Of Ku Shih.
When he came back
Across the border
Into his own city
His lost gaze
Saw no throne.
To them, hats are irrelevant. Unimportant.
In the second stanza, Yao has position and power.
He leaves his city in search of further insight and wisdom.
Upon finding it, he no longer sees his former life as having worth and significance.
The aim of self defence is to avoid injury, not sustain it.
The internal martial arts of tai chi and baguazhang aim to incapacitate the opponent without sustaining any injury to yourself.
Darth Vader: Together we will rule the universe, as father and son.
(The Empire Strikes Back)
The quote listed here presents the idea of 'ruling'... but what exactly does this entail?
Being in charge?
Ordering people around?
Is this something worth having? Is it something you would want to do? What purpose does it serve?
Why would anyone choose to be in charge?
What is power? What is position? What does a ruler do?
Prospective instructors start in the beginners class and work their way through the syllabus.
With patience, commitment and practice, they reach the black belt level.
(Optional) instructor training begins once you pass 3rd dan.
They fuel their responses with aggression and adrenaline.
This may prove effective, but it puts the body under duress.
Anger actually makes the mind stupid.
This is a medical fact.
It narrows the vision, limits coherent thought and causes the body to tense-up.
The internal arts favour emotional composure.
Anger is regarded as being an impediment, not a tool.
Themes, patterns and insights.
Even the most basic of exercises teaches countless layers of valuable knowledge.
As a student becomes more experienced, they come to regard the syllabus as a spiral.
Deeper insight stems from a reconsideration of the most basic precepts, and applying fundamental principles to even the most mundane of exercises.
Woven into the syllabus are lessons-within-lessons.
They are capable of engaging in fruitful discourse with their teacher, and the relationship is mutually beneficial.
Discovery usually occurs after 3rd dan.
But at what price?
Blocking, struggling, forcing, striking a balanced opponent... these are also harmful to your own body.
In defeating your opponent you may also harm yourself.
If defending your own body results in injury to your body, is this success?
Have you not failed in your intention?
Bruises, sprains, stiffness, soreness, cuts and damage are all bad for you.
The use of angles is extremely subtle and not really evident until Sifu explains it as you might to a young child. Then it makes sense. Explanations aside, the effect is undeniable and extremely powerful.
For the defender, the application of 70/30 is mild in terms of effort but amazing in terms of effect.
Sifu always says that if it feels easy and works, then you may well be performing it correctly.
Every time we moved house he'd have to box them up. Eventually he gave away two bookcases worth in order to make it easier when moving house.
Occasionally Sifu thinks about replacing one of the books he used to own and looks it up on Amazon only to find that it is now out of print and a new copy will cost £50 - £100. I've found books on his remaining bookshelves that are worth hundreds of pounds. No idea why they are worth so much.
However, to the teacher, these questions are not to the point.
The inquiries reflect a lack of fundamental understand.
The student is yet to gain perspective, and is actually still at stage 1.
Consider 200 years ago?
No leisure time, no 4 x 4 car, no holidays, no luxuries.
Unless of course you were one of the elite.
This dissatisaction is a marketing ploy.
It makes you spend money.
It causes you to want for things that you probably will never have, and really do not even need.
Many people in the world lack the quality of life you take for granted.
This capacity to pull things apart to see how they work is a skill worth having. It really shakes apart our complacency and challenges the depth of our comprehension.
Since nobody who inquiries by phone ever attends class, he's decided to change his number and not publicise the new one.
At this experienced-level, the student begins to question the teaching, recognising that there are other choices and possibilities.
This is not a time of challenge; it is a time of more earnest and thoughtful inquiry.
The student is beginning to think for themselves.
To see within the art.
At least a decade has now passed.
New baguazhang students will be taught the single palm change over several sessions.
If you do not show aptitude and evidence of home training, Sifu will not teach you the art.
If you go away, practice and ask to be re-considered, Sifu will assess your palm change again.
These represent the knowledge, wisdom and experience of the founder, previous teachers and the current instructor.
Each successive generation adds something new.
These teachings were embedded in the very fabric of what is taught in class; available to everyone from the first class they take.
But only those with the benefit of distant hindsight are capable of seeing.
This is naive.
Traditionally, the secret workings of an art were passed on to family members first.
After family members, lineage students were the next consideration.
Everyone else was taught relative to their degree of commitment, and this seldom entailed the secret material.
The students were using tension.
They were forcing a result.
Cheng Man Ching wanted the students to push hands in a different way.
However, he was not prepared to explicitly tell the students what to do.
Years of fruitless practice bore no result.
After Cheng Man Ching's death, the author was watching a video of the instructor pushing hands when he suddenly saw how to push hands correctly.
In hindsight it seemed obvious.
Cheng Man Ching was not keeping secrets. In fact, he was showing the very skill all the time. But his students were just not ready to see it.
Some people are weak-willed and will crumple if you badger them or pressure them enough. They will give-in and agree to your demands.
My husband is not one of these people.
The student is privy to the innermost thoughts of the master; the preferences, considerations, choices, questions and options.
It is relationship that deepens over decades, and is uncommon in modern tai chi.
Each new layer of knowledge is contingent upon an understanding of what comes before.
Premature tuition is pointless.
The material would lack context and be wasted on the student.
Unless you affect the attacker in the required manner, the set will fail to work.
Every counter-attack must be executed properly.
If you can defend correctly, then each counter will finish-off the attacker.
You should also have compromised their structure and balance to an extent that forces the attacker to withdraw fully in order to re-attack.
Your aim is to be thorough and convincing against a full-power assault.
A student is not defined by their teacher.
They can exceed the teacher.
Consider people such as Einstein or Mozart.
Clearly Einstein exceeded the sum of his teacher's expertise; he is considered to be one of the most powerful thinkers of all time...
What was his physics teacher called?
Every good teacher wants the student to exceed their own limitations.
This comment reveals a level of naivety in the student.
Unless you are an 8th dan student (and have covered the bulk of the syllabus) you are unlikely to have see very much of the material.
Additionally, tai chi instructors are notorious for keeping their teachings secret.
The elegance and dignity of Japanese uniforms are incredibly inspiring and artistic.
Each page includes many pieces of information.
Which parts are the most important?
How should you direct you energy, your time, your resources?
What should you emphasise?
Are you capable of deciding?
Students make decisions based upon their own standpoint.
Imagine if somebody were to tell you which parts to read... would it not enable you to focus your training?
In tai chi it suggests an unbroken chain of teaching from the creation of tai chi to the present day.
For many people, lineage is a critical concern: who taught your teacher and who taught their teacher?
And is the tai chi 'authentic'?
Lineage depicts the tai chi system as a jewel passed reverently from master to master, unchanged by time or temperament.
We are all like this; containing many aspects and qualities. I found my husband to be nothing like I anticipated. I'm sure he'd say the same of me.
There is a distinct difference.
Real skill comes from sublimating your 'self' and becoming one with the art.
Follow the essence of the art. Keep your training relevant and in context. Be contemporary.
Tai chi was designed to be used in the here and now, in the present era.
A warrior will have many opponents in a lifetime, but the ultimate opponent is the warrior's own self. Within a fighter's personality are a wide array of demons to be conquered: fear, laziness, ignorance, selfishness, egotism, and so many more. To talk of overpowering other people is inconsequential. To actually overcome one's own defects is the true nature of victory. That is why so many religions depict warriors in their iconography. These images are not symbols for dominating others. Rather, they are symbols of the ferocity and determination that we need to overcome the demons within ourselves.
As is common with Japanese culture, they were inspired by a foreign innovation and transformed it into something uniquely Japanese.
Instead of copying the gaudy fashions of China, the Japanese costume went the same way as the tea ceremony.
The emphasis was placed upon a different aesthetic:
- Get rid of all that is unnecessary
- Focus on the intrinsic
- Natural process
Much of his day is spent studying, training or working.
Talking to my husband can be frustrating for students. He is on another plain. The students asks a question, and the explanation is often more comprehensive than the inquirer was expecting.
Sifu will not pander to the ego or resort to sarcasm or put downs.
Several hours of working with my husband has produced a new home page on the new starter website. The web editing tool 'Frontpage' was very twitchy to work with. Refused to upload layers. Initially none worked. Then some did. Finally all did. No idea why.
What do you think?
Peter is considered in terms of John.
Can you see the problem with this?
Taoism advocates considering things in terms of itself, not in terms of something else.
Hence, tai chi is not like karate, nor is it different to karate.
In fact, tai chi and karate have no bearing on one another at all. No comparison is appropriate or necessary.
The comparison exists in your own consciousness.
You create the connection. In reality, there is no connection.
Similarities and differences will not lead to greater understanding.
Japanese martial arts uniforms are made from plain cotton fabric.
The colours are subdued and the stitching robust.
There is a simple elegance and beauty in their understated rustic style.
He is not being deliberately rude or playing a game. I don't think he really notices it. He is not interested and doesn't pretend otherwise.
His humour has a tendency to be incisive and direct; striking to the heart of the issue without being sarcastic, snyde or mean.
He has a tendency to play with meaning; often turning things inside out; exploring nuances of interpretation and ambiguity. He manages this without being patronising or even appearing to be joking. His comments mean different things to different people. It all depends on context and background relevance.
How can you tell if he is joking or not? You can't really.
The aim of the set is to gain practical combat knowledge and experience.
If the attack is weak it trains nothing.
Playing the attacker is a skill and it must be cultivated earnestly in class.
Failure to attack well also means that you will fail to counter-attack well.
If the defence is weak, your counters will not work.
Use intention rather than tension.
Make your responses accurate, effective and sincere.
Again, this is a fragmented approach.
Our memories, opinions, expectations and bias are all relative to what we encounter in life and how we reacted to what occurred.
Memory is fundamentally unreliable.
Students explore the human body, physics, biomechanics and taijiquan principles.
Pragmatism and effectiveness are emphasised.
The syllabus is lengthy and thorough, but you can study it at your own pace.
It also identifies the danger with thinking...
Invariably when seeking to solve a problem, we lack sufficient information to make an informed determination.
Lacking context and perspective, we aim to understand regardless.
This is clearly foolish and cannot lead to any real insights.
They look better suited to Beijing Opera or the Chinese State Circus.
There is nothing taoist to be found in flamboyant costumes.
They practiced in seclusion.
It is improbable that they wore anything eye-catching or grandiose.
Zen is an offshoot of taoism, so it may be useful to consider the design considerations of zen-influenced attire.
What function does it serve?
Do you wear it for comfort, ease of movement, tradition?
If your intention is showmanship, then wear a shiny, bright suit. But do not think of this as being 'traditional'.
Gaudy, theatrical outfits were not traditional martial arts wear in China.
Such costumes are for performance art, not combat.
Address the main material as often as you can, and then stagger the rest over a few days.
- Avatar (extended version)
- The Big Lebowski
- The Chronicles of Riddick
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Fight Club
- The Fountain
- The Game
- The Illusionist
- The Iron Giant
- The Life Aquatic
- Solaris (remake)
- Spirited Away
- To Catch A Thief
- The Trouble With Harry
- Watchmen (Ultimate Cut)
The oil seller sold the good oil to the regular, loyal customers who treated the oil seller well.
The bad oil was given to everybody else.
We do not apply this maxim literally, because we seek to ensure that everyone makes progress.
However, students with a bad attitude - irregular, rude or needy - do receive less attention than other students.
A Chinese teacher will give the best instruction to members of their own family, then to lineage students, then to regular students, and so on...
People who attend public workshops and infrequent lessons simply get the leftovers.