May 26, 2011

Yin and Yang of Chinese Martial Arts: Tai Qi and Kung Fu

Tai Qi and Kung Fu are the Yin and Yang of Chinese martial arts.  They are both physically challenging disciplines and the fundamentals that they require, develop and refine are the same - balance, coordination, suppleness and strength.  They differ only in the particular approach each employs.  Tai Qi focuses on slow, steady movements and a soft or relaxed outer posture as the primary teaching tool to develop inner strength (bones, muscles, tendons) while Kung Fu employs fast, dynamic, energetic movements as the means to develop inner softness and suppleness.

As a practical matter, the pace of all of your forms (Tai Qi or Kung Fu) will initially be the same (or very close to it) - relatively slow for Kung Fu and relatively fast for Tai Qi.  As you practice, the pace of your Kung Fu will increase as your inner core relaxes and the pace of your Tai Qi will decrease as your inner core is strengthened.

Give some thought to practicing both of these styles as a single element - practicing both of them at fast and slow pace in order to gain a full appreciation of your body and its movements.

May 15, 2011

Through The Action

Just a thought to keep in mind as you practice your form - move through the action not to the action.  I "learned" most of the forms I practice through a step-by-step process.  I was shown several actions which I practiced, slowly adding actions until I was able to complete the entire pattern of the form.  I then practiced the pattern over and over until I was thoroughly familar with it.  Unfortunately, my practice habits reinforced a station-to-station pattern of movement that emphasized specific actions and destroyed the flow, beauty and (potential) power of the form.  I was (and still am) moving to the action instead of moving through the action.

Moving to-the action is like accelerating your car, slamming the brakes to a full stop and re-accelerating over and over - as if your driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  There is plenty of power once you reach full speed - but what about the rest of the time?  You are either de-celerating or you are at a full stop.  Its not aesthetically pleasing, its inefficient and it is very hard on the car.

Moving through the action is like accelerating your car and maintaining your speed throughout your trip - as if driving on a highway (certain highways in large metropolitan areas excepted!).  Your speed may vary as needed to navigate turns, hills etc. but the variations are subtle, interconnected and in accordance with the terrain so that the aesthetics and efficiency are actually enhanced while the power (or momentum of the form) is permitted to flow to the next action (as if accelerating out of a curve).

So...think about how your form is connected and practice "driving" through it rather than to it.