Saturday, January 23, 2010

Advanced Training Tool - Taiji Pole

This is a traditional "White-Wax Pole" and is about 10 feet in length.

The long pole is a tool for advanced training in the Taiji Martial Art System.

One most common training method is the shaking of the pole. You can find a lot of published material on this subject and there are many related videos circulating on the internet.

I do not intend to analyse the published training methods here but it seems to me that without knowing how to handle the pole; and without knowing the role of the pole in the Taiji Martial Art System, a practitioner will easily fall into the trap of the "Strong Man Principle".

If you wish to develop strong muscles, shaking the pole with all your strength may produce the desired results. But what additional benefit can you obtain by shaking a pole instead of doing weight lifting in a gym?

The Taiji Pole is a high level training tool. Before you take up the pole, you should already have a clear understanding of the fundamental principles in taiji, knowing which part(s) of your body is the focus of the pole training; and anticipating how the pole training could assist you to improve your skill.

One rationale behind the shaking is to acquire the skill of applying the force to a destinated part of the opponent's body through body contact.

Apart from shaking, there is also the training of sending out the pole through the opening and closing of the "Kua".

10 feet is the minimun length. A shorter pole cannot provide the flexibility required.

The long pole is for those who have completed the "Know you ownself" stage. Leave the pole alone if you are not yet ready for it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Abandoning Oneself and Following the Other

[Note: this article was originally Part VII of "Occupying the Centre". A substantive part of it has been re-written. ]

A bridge is a structure that allows things to cross from one side to the other.

In order to control an opponent and to take over his centre in close quarter combat, a connection between the two bodies has to be established.

One of the "know others" techniques is the setting up of a "bridge" between oneself and the opponent through body contact. Once a connection is made, the opponent loses his centre. The two bodies merge as one and the centre of the opponent dissolves. He who occupies the centre takes charge of the next step.

Bridging is an application of the technique of connecting. A continuous connection is necessary to maintain the control. If the connection is not established, the condition amounts to the defect of "detach", the centres cannot be merged and you will be in danger of being hit.

In an ideal situation, you take over the opponent's centre once you cross the bridge. Your centre becomes the centre of the two bodies. You then unbalanced him in any way you like. It is, however, difficult to achieve this in reality. In case your opponent is alerted of your intention and retreats, a connection is difficult to establish. Your opponent will not cooperate with you to let you make the connection at will in a real confrontation. Once he feels he is in the verge of being controlled, he will move instinctively and break the bridging.

To overcome this undesirable condition, the technique of connection should be supplemented by the techniques of adhering, sticking and following. Instead of letting your opponent get away, you stick to him even if it will end up losing your center - a skillful practitioner will abandon his centre and "hang" himself on the retreating opponent and use the opponent's centre as the centre of the merged bodies. Whilst the centre appears to be staying outside of one's "own body", the connection enables extension of control from one's body to the opponent's body. This ensure continuous connection notwithstanding the opponent moves his body and tries to escape. In a continuous connection, the more the opponent moves, the more difficult it will be for him to maintain his balance as he has to support the weigh of two bodies - you and he sharing the same centre with you controlling it.

The practitioner abandons his own centre with a view to controlling the opponent's centre.This is an example of how the principle of "abandoning oneself and following the other" is put into practice.