Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Tai Chi Chuan Fighting Form: A Work In Progress
This last weekend I went to train with my instructor Michael Gilman, the focus was on the 88-movement fighting form. Michael always goes into great detail and the form evolves in efficiant and dynamic ways. It was also a great three-hour workout. Later, back at the Dojo we made another video, this time with a different partner who is learning the form from us. This is the most difficult form I have ever tried to learn, and it is very difficult to teach. Each partner has 44 movements and you have to learn both sides - 88 movements.
In these videos, done over a year apart, I am doing the "B" side in both so I can compare more carefully. It's a different partner, and everybody moves differently and has a different body type and energy.
In the recent version, we are doing the form slightly faster. The faster you go the less deep, pendulum-type movement is possible. Things shorten up and are not as clean. When you do this at top speed, it is incredibly aerobic and you can get pretty winded after doing both sides back-to-back - (we just show one side in these versions).
Looking at both versions, I see we have quite a lot to work on. When the form is performed at this speed or even slower, we have to try harder to have deeper movement, in "Parting wild horses mane" for example. A little closer and more accurate contact. Each technique should be clearly apparent, where some of our moves here tend to blur together. I'm sure my instructor will have lots of criticizm, but to be fair, the partner in the recent version has only learned the form from us, not from our instructor.
All-in-all, I still feel pretty good about where we are at on this form, there is still much work to do, but we're on the right path.
-- On a side note; My instructor Michael Gilman learned this form years ago at a retreat camp on the Island where we live. The teacher was none other than Jou Tsung Hwa, a world-famous Taiji instructor. The years rolled by, and my friend and I started training with Michael, eventually learning this fighting form. Now the form has come full-circle, back to the island and is being kept alive here by our current practice.
That really makes me feel connected to a long lineage of great Tai Chi Chuan, and this form is truely an example of the "Art" in "Martial Art".