Monday, December 27, 2010

Classical Tai Chi is minimalist


The above characters stand for simplicity and simplicity defines minimalism in Classical Tai Chi. For any style of Tai Chi to be done correctly it has to fulfill the Yin/Yang requirement.  One part of the body is moving (Yang) while the stationary part of the body (Yin) supports the moving part and provides the majority of the power.
We do not always see this requirement being fulfilled in Tai Chi.  More often than not what we see is a form of “externalism” where the entire body is moving with momentum. “Externalism” as in a jumping forward type of attack that is mostly seen in external martial arts. Where minimalism comes in is when the Yin/Yang requirement “minimizes” any movement of the body which normally would move with momentum.
As it is said in The Art of War: ”bait him with easy gains. Set out after he does, yet arrive before him.”  The “sit back” posture is yielding  and yielding gives him the “easy gain”. When the opponent commits his attack with momentum the Yin is the prime facet that allows you to give him an “empty” reception and “bait” him. So as you see, we can respond with internal power to the opponents momentum force because one part of us is connected to the ground.  We are also powerful because of our “intent” and lack of tension in the muscles.  Classical Tai Chi does not tense up muscles and becoming proficient at being still or Yin frees up muscles to simply relax.
Minimalism in movement eschews exhausting one’s energy.  The internal discipline inherent in Classical Tai Chi keeps us moving but  with a minimal range of motion.  Turning at the waist rather than at the hips, lifting the legs using back and abdominal muscles rather than purely leg muscles, strictly using the core of the body to power all movements, etc.,  are typical minimalist concepts. Our power is enhanced because we do not waste our movement by using an extreme range of motion.  Our power can be economized because of this allowing us to direct more energy onto the opponent when it calls for it (fa jin).
If I do not move by adhering to these minimalist concepts it is more difficult for my opponent to induce me to momentum or to upset my balance.  I cannot be pulled or maneuvered by the opponent.  My overall energy remains intact, I do not run out of breath nor do the muscles tire.  With minimal movement I can remain calm which enhances my ability to sense (ting jin) my opponents movements. If I am not waving my arms, kicking my feet high, etc., my movements are minimalized to the core until I can lightning strike…the opponent cannot know my intentions.  Giving no “telegraph” of what I am going to do, makes any counter of mine very surprising besides being loaded with additional power.
The minimalist credo:   “If my opponent does not move, I do not move. If he moves, I arrive first.” – The Tai Chi Classics.

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