Thursday, July 30, 2015

Square form also has continuity of movement (Not)

Happy birthday from all your students Master Stephen Hwa, July 2015

Note that you can get this link and more if it does not come through by searching James Roach Classical Tai Chi on Youtube. I worked very hard to learn square form correctly but I hope this does not come across as too strong in my analysis and commentary.  A criticism of Classical Tai Chi by some in the Tai Chi community is that there is no "continuity" in the Square Form. I received this comment on the Youtube video of Square Form at Master Hwa's workshop:  The comment simply said "Square form also have continuity".  This is relatively easy to address to others but I do not think they will understand because they do not do "square", contrary to what they think they do. Nor will even many students of Classical Tai Chi, even after many years understand the difference between round and square. 

"Continuity" of movement is important in Classical Tai Chi Round Form where there is a steady flow of internal energy. Continuity of movement in square form is not an important consideration since each of the moves should have a PAUSE between them. However, although the very nature of the square form with its PAUSES seems almost antithetical to Round it serves an indispensable purpose to learning and practicing the Round. The purpose of square form is NOT to learn to move continuously, the purpose is to learn to CLEARLY DELINEATE postures and to CLEARLY DELINEATE the separation of Yin and Yang. DELINEATE in Merriam Webster refers to "LINES" used to indicate something. In this case where the yin-yang pair, that delineation, those delineations  of yin-yang is/are located.

One cannot learn to do round correctly unless they have learned where the yin-yang pairs are to be located in each of the postures...those "pairs" do not imbed themselves in the correct locations simply because one does "continuous" movement. On the other hand through correct practice of square the yin-yang pairs will imbed at the correct locations. Once this is achieved we can talk about "continuous" movement. We then have the dynamics of Tai Chi in play as one yin-yang pair transforms to the other and so on, thus giving the effect of constant motion and CONTINUITY.
I even get comments from long time students who tell me they are doing square form.  What I see to some extent is how I learned the "old" way with "continuity" in mind.  I learned this "old" way but my student Tom and I found out the hard way that we did not have the "pairs" at the right spots. Like those videos I receive, we both have too much extraneous movement at the joints, no pauses between movements or compromised pausing if any, fluorishes of arms, fluorishes of the wrist (wrists flexing extraneously), head cocked to the side during postures, arms too far back or chicken wing out to the side. We had both been exposed to a square form that was too "round" and did not have said delineation and is not easy learning to be crisp and resolute, I really had to work hard. 

Becoming more "robotic" is better, the more the better as Master Hwa says.  There has been way too much laughing about this being "robotic" but this is simply because people do not understand.  Isn't that the convoluted way of things to laugh where we don't understand.  Master Hwa learned this way right from the start so I encouraged my student Jason to learn square form footwork first. He took it so much to heart that he learned just the foot movements of the entire square form for a year before adding in the hands and upper body. Now I feel gratified as a Sifu because Master Hwa said  when he certified him as a teacher, "Jason's square form is very good", very good indeed.

Jim R.

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