PICTURE-PERFECT FORM IN TAIJIQUAN
AND OTHER STYLES OF KUNGFU
I have noticed that you do not pay attention to picture-perfect form when teaching chi kung, but you pay a lot of attention to picture-perfect from when teaching Taijiquan. Is there any difference between teaching chi kung and Taijiquan.
— Sifu Andrea Lombardi, Shaolin Wahnam Italy
Yes, there is some difference. For this question we can leave aside other aspects of the difference, and focus on picture-perfect form.
When teaching chi kung, my main concern is to help students to generate an energy flow. It is the energy flow, not the techniques where picture-perfect form is important, that gives chi kung benefits like good health, vitality and longevity.
When students focus too much on attaining picture-perfect form, they tend to perform gentle physical exercise rather than chi kung, which is energy exercise. This is especially so in other schools. I need to clarify that what and how other schools practice is their right, but it is good that students in our school know this fact. Indeed, in other schools students perform the form of their chi kung techniques beautifully and in synchronization.
In our school one way to prevent or overcome over-training is to focus on form. When a student focuses on the form of the chi kung technique he is performing, he does not pay so much attention to energy and mind, hence the benefits he gets from his practice are less. On the other hand, if all other things were equal, by improving his form a practitioner would get more benefit.
Quantification can clear the confusion over this matter of form decreasing or increasing benefits. Any chi kung exercise has three components, namely form, energy and mind. Suppose a practitioner performs at level 5 for all the three components, i.e. 5 for form, 5 for energy and 5 for mind.
If he tries to improve his form, he will neglect energy and mind. Suppose he improves his form to 6, but decreases his energy and mind to 4. In other words, he now performs his chi kung at 6 for form, 4 for energy and 4 for mind. He will have less benefits although he raises his form to 6 because energy and mind are more crucial in giving him benefits.
If all other things were equal, the practitioner does not lower his level for energy and mind to 4, but he raise his level of form to 6. He now performs his chi kung exercise at 6 for form, 5 for energy and 5 for mind. He will then have more benefits.
Here we are talking about genuine chi kung. Most other schools, however, perform gentle physical exercise and not chi kung although they use chi kung techniques. They do not generate energy flow and do not enter into a chi kung state of mind. Even if they raise the level of form to 10, the maximum, they only perform beautiful form using chi kung techniques, without any benefits of energy and mind.
When teaching kungfu, which of course includes Taijiquan, I pay much attention to attaining picture-perfect form, because form is very important. If a practitioner does not have picture-perfect form, he will not have the best advantages for which the form is meant for that particular combat situation.
Energy and mind are also important in kungfu, but it is form that makes kungfu an art of attack and defence. A kungfu practitioner can apply kungfu without energy and mind if he just knows only form. If someone punches or kicks him, he can defend himself. But if he has force and is calm and relaxed, his kungfu will be better. Developing force and being calm and relax are aspects of energy and mind.
Hence, when teaching Taijiquan and other styles of kungfu, I pay much attention to picture-perfect form.
However, just learning the form without learning skills for combat is not kungfu. At best it is just kungfu form. Unfortunately that is what more than 90% of kungfu practitioners all over the world are doing today. They can perform kungfu forms beautifully, but they cannot fight. Kungfu is meant for fighting, though good kungfu fighters may not want to fight.
When people practice Taijiquan today, often shortened to Taiji, they only practice form. They do not have the skills to use their kungfu form for combat or to develop internal force. If they practice other styles of kungfu, they also only practice form. When they have to spar, they borrow techniques from other martial systems and generously exchange blows.
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