If you chose to use a sword to defend yourself in the 21st Century, you will most likely go to prison. This is a simple, unequivocal fact. Yet, people spend hours training with swords, and many even practice cutting things with a sword, as though they may one day come to use the weapon in martial contest. What is the point? You could spend those same hours on some more relevant. Training a sword may enhance your self defence skills in some vague, indirect fashion, but practicing shuai jiao, chin na and jing with a partner would do so much more.
Instead of just doing what your teacher tells you to do in class, invest in the Art. Take a much deeper interest in how the human body operates, Asian history, culture, martial arts in general, biomechanics, fitness, strength, health, nutrition, meditation... The list is endless. Don't assume anything. Continually question what you know and find out more.
Every gesture is important.
How we eat, how we put on our clothes, how we wash ourselves, how we go to the
toilet, how we put things away, how we act with other people, family, wife, how
we work - how we are: totally, in every single gesture. You must do not dream
your life away. You must be, completely, in whatever you do.
Last nights 'yielding' workshop was terrific. Sifu Waller neatly illustrated the scope and value of understanding what yielding constitutes and applying it skilfully.
Everyone felt great.
The session also served to debunk the idea of 'pushing hands competitions' - as we discovered that the adequate degree of physical flexibility on the part of the defender made it impossible for the aggressor to actually push anyone. It was like pushing against water.
We ended with seeking to apply holds, locks and various attacks. All to no avail. Even when the attacker did their level best to mess you up and be non-cooperative and awkward.
Our only enemy proved to be our own physical tension.
If you read an article about taijiquan but have no interest in taijiquan - and no foundation knowledge - then your ability to make sense of what you read would be limited. Most likely you'd quickly lose interest and you wouldn't remember much. In order to make sense of what you read, you need context.
Consider this: Most people live lives that are not particularly physically challenging. They sit at a desk, or if they move around, it's not a lot. They aren't performing manoeuvres that require tremendous balance and coordination. Thus they settle into a low level of physical capabilities - enough for day-to-day activities or maybe even hiking or biking or playing golf or tennis on the weekends, but far from the level of physical capabilities that a highly trained athlete possesses.
The reason that most people don't possess extraordinary physical capabilities isn't because they don't have the capacity for them, but rather because they're satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it. The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in. We learn enough to get by but once we reach that point we seldom push to go beyond. (Anders Ericsson)
Imagine a bookshelf in your mind filled with books, folders, resources and information about taijiquan... The more densely filled your bookshelf is, the more relevant and useful new information will seem. You will be able to cross-reference, discern, add to existing knowledge and challenge any preconceptions or misconceptions. Ideally, your bookshelf wants to be filled with anything and everything that might conceivably have a bearing on taijiquan.
Ask yourself honestly why you want to train with a sword... Because it looks cool? You have some romantic notion of being a samurai? You've watched a lot of Highlander, The Last Samurai, Braveheart or Gladiator? Or are you preserving the heritage?
We live in a world where people really enjoy complaining about ailments or comparing medical histories. Many people engage in this kind of conversation with competitive fervour: eagerly listing their medication and seeking to one-up each other. Such an attitude has no place in a martial arts class.
The British Medical Association Guide To Sports Injuries states:
Combat sports such as kung fu make tough demands on the body; training is intense, and participation requires all-round fitness. Regardless of the fitness of the participants, however, the aggressive blows traded between opponents means that these sports always carry a serious risk of injury.