Years of experience
by Discover Taiji
I seem to make it pretty clear that there isn't a single aspect of standing post practice that I enjoy. I would say that perhaps I enjoy the end of standing, but that's not true. I'm merely relieved at the end, there is no joy. But Sifu says I have to do it... so I have to do it. The reason I have to do it is because Sifu says that this is where the power is created, or at least, the power generator is made. So I stand.
There are some things that must always be present according to Sifu regarding not only standing but anything we do in our training: structure, shape, song, and release to name a few. Some of these things feed some of the others. And I’m finding that when done correctly (my version of what my idea of ‘correctly’ is) they all seem to feed and encourage each other.
BUT, a big problem I have had in my training is taking one of those things and fixating on it. For example, song. Sifu has told us time and again that most of the skills, qualities and characteristics of the TCC ideals that we are trying to manifest are directly a result of proper song and release.
So I decide (completely on my own) to put the majority of my focus and efforts on song. Now, this isn’t to suggest that I completely disregard the others, they are still being attempted, but not quite with the same effort as is put into songing. And over some time I begin to experience some of the qualities and skills being born from my increased ability to song deeply. And this is very encouraging to me.
Some of the other things seem to come along as well with the deepening song. For instance I notice that if I song enough the structure and alignment tends to move more toward correctness, also the shape seems to naturally get closer to correct, etc. For these reasons I decide that I’m on the right track.
During one training session in the Sala, Sifu reminded me “do not rely on song alone to get you there, you will hit a wall that you can’t get through”. I trust that he’s telling me the truth, but I’m too infatuated with my increasing abilities due to my primary focus on my increasing skill of song. I’m able to toss people around in push hands that I shouldn’t be able to toss, I’m experiencing things I’ve heard and read about from the classics, and as mentioned before the other things are coming along and seem to be naturally adjusting themselves toward correct.
After some time, I begin to notice some things that weren’t present prior. The deepening level of song in the body seems to be reaching a stale point in some places in the body. The shape and structure and alignment also seem to be reaching a plateau. And my ability to deepen the song I’ve acquired seems to be hitting a stalemate as well.
After dealing with this I notice some more things. The other things that were coming along toward correctness were in fact coming along, but what i realized was that there is a very marked difference between correct and “toward correct”. The main thing I realized is that regardless of how “coming along toward correct” some of the things were, they weren’t actually correct. If they’re not correct, then they are incorrect. Which of course means I was training incorrectly. I was training incorrectly because I was relying more on my analysis of Sifu’s teachings than I was on Sifu’s teachings.
So in revamping my training to begin on a whole new program that I affectionately refer to as “the actual training” I realize that all of the skills and deepening qualities I was acquiring weren’t actually acquired. They were kind of “coming along toward acquisition”. When I make the correct shape with the correct structure and alignment I don’t have the deep levels of song I thought I had, because my body wasn’t training to song in that shape, alignment, etc. I find myself beginning again, almost as if I had ‘hit a wall’, if only someone had told me about this I would have saved so much time, lol.
I remember going to visit my grandfather as often as possible, especially when I had made any sort of decision concerning anything, he was the person to discuss it with. I’d tell him my plan and why it was a good one and what I was to do.
On one occasion, he waited till I finished telling him whatever it was and he began telling me about his time as a millwright. He talked about a certain job in a certain town he had been on. Apparently they were to set up some machine and ensure its proper function. He talked about the guys who poured the concrete foundation and how they hadn’t gotten it quite to his liking as far as the specifications (he’s a super stickler about detail), then about another group who came along to set the gear box before the concrete guys had quite trimmed out everything….and another group and another group.
By about the middle of what he was describing he stopped talking about the job (of which I knew nothing obviously) and stared me in the face and said Patrick, what I’m trying to tell you is that things have an order and a way to be done. When people only care about finishing the job you end up with a machine that doesn’t quite work properly, and maybe it's only a little off. But after a while it becomes a lot off, and you have to scrap the whole damn thing and start over. Which doesn’t make sense… you mean to tell me that you didn’t have time to do it right the first time but you’ve got the time to do it over again when its messed up? Things have to be done in a certain way and in a certain order. I’ve worked with many so called journeymen that I was told had "25 years experience"...WRONG! Those people had 1 year of experience 25 times...
In my three or so years of training the internal arts, I wonder how many years experience I have now...
This post was authored by Patrick Reece