To me it pretty much comes down to our view of the legendary (and a few contemporary) old-timers and/or their legendary abilities. Do we believe in "that stuff" or do we think that the old tales are probably much exaggerated... and/or, with modern superior methods we should be able to surpass whatever they were [actually] capable of.
In other words, are traditional ways in martial arts worthy of veneration? Or is this just blindly following bygone generations, ignoring the bright promise of modern times?
If the old guys could really deliver the goods, how did they do it, what did they know? This is where mind cultivation enters the picture, leading both body and spirit into rarefied territory.
Our mind is not so different from their mind. To believe otherwise is to dispute the tenets of tao and zen. Therefore, it is wise to have faith in mind's ability. The question is can we find the keys of true practice, or does that good fortune elude us?
The issue is "don't worship blindly". Past greatness does not mean present greatness.
Also just because we can't do it does not mean that it is not true. Frequently we have to find the missing link in order to bring forth the principles.
Many times the knowledge is in plain sight, already listed out nicely in the classics. But to protect the tradition, the methods are kept hidden. To know the truth, the best way is to find the key.
Many of us modern practitioners like to scoff at secrets and hidden traditions because we think we know better. But the plain fact is that we don't know better.
Mind is mind. Find the faith in our mind to release the true intention. Study the principles as dictated by the methods of the mind. Maybe then we will find that there is truth to all this talk about intention after all. To each of us our chosen and fated path. Que sera, sera.
As I've tried to explore the "bows" principle in taiji over the past year or so, I usually would get somewhat hung up on how the bow model corresponds to my body's form and function.
One can perceive ways in which various bodily sections resemble or can mimic a bow... that is, a firm springy curve. But then we consider that an archery bow always has a bowstring, and that it is bow + string that makes possible the launching of arrows.
So I think OK, various bodily sections resemble or can mimic a bowstring.
But then what of the bow?
How can my body or any part of it be both bow and string? And if they can't, maybe the "bows" model is just a poetic expression and not meant too literally.
But today after some more work I thought about how the bow and the string are connected, and usually in close correspondence. But when it comes time to use the bow, the string can diverge or separate from the bow. Yet still connected.
Then I thought about that very intriguing expression I've heard, "Separate the intention and the shape".
Things suddenly seemed to make more sense, and the idea of holding the bow whilst being the bow suddenly felt more like a possibility. I don't think it's done by telling myself, "Be like a bow". And yet, on some level I do need to be like a bow. Instruct and don't instruct; think and don't think; do and don't do. Yin and yang working together. Or so I think. :-)
Ha, ha..............just telling yourself won't do the trick. You need to cultivate the principles that allows you to mimic the store/release functions of a bow + bowstring.
You would also need to cultivate the ability to neutralize and connect to your partner so that you can borrow his strength to enable you to load him onto your bowstring, bend the bow and then shoot him out. Hint-the posture of "bend bow, shoot tiger" trains the principle of using 3 bows to issue force!
Taiji neutralization is more than just moving off to neutralize - this works but every other non-taiji style does this also.
If you can neutralize and issue in the same instance using a simple movement, would this not be more optimal than moving off to neutralize and then coming back to issue force?
When you start to think along these lines, you will see taiji in a different light and also give you an inkling of why taiji is regarded as a high level MA.
I'd really like to continue this discussion. Here we are at the outset of the 21st century. We can dream of a technology-based utopia developing, assuming that the Four Horsemen of disaster are not loosed throughout the world in the meantime. Or perhaps more likely than either extreme, we'll just keep muddling along for the near term.
Some conditions will improve. But the past is being eroded. Often as young people we couldn't care less. But later in life one comes to appreciate more strongly: that which was good, and may not be around much longer.
Ways to improve and empower the mind are needed now as badly as ever. And also we need to look to health issues in general. Despite our expensive modern medical miracles, nothing beats not needing treatment in the first place. And one wants to be healthy and vigorous in any case.
So we come to taiji or "tai chi". Most well-known in its Yang Family Style format. Something halfway between an exercise and a martial art, it would seem. Hard to know more until we try it for ourselves. Then we get a dose of our teacher(s) slant on the exercise vs. MA question. The debate generally arises from the "slow, gentle" character of taiji practice.
"Mind" and/or "Intention" gets mentioned as an important method; qi or chi gets mentioned. Relaxation gets mentioned. Meanwhile there's all these movements to learn. Always the mantra is, don't worry too much about the complex principles underlying these fairly simple movements. Takes time, it'll soak in little by little. Well and good. (Well, not really. But who cares about principles?)
We say (or are told) that taiji reflects yin-yang principle of existence. In other words, the universe and life works by way of yin and yang, and we're wise to get on board with this with our training. Very good.
But the beauty of taiji (that I've begun to see) is that it's not just about getting acquainted with yin and yang, much the same way we can learn about physics in our boxing. It is our mind that creates yin and yang. I didn't create rocks or trees or even the New York Stock Exchange. But mind created "yin and yang". Through taiji training, my mind is invited to participate.
Through this method, with luck and hard work we can get to know things like qi and shen, gaining new tools that are more than tools, they are our selves; learning to use oneself as a surprisingly productive tool, while at the same time partaking of something greater than just "Me and what I accomplished".
It's a pity that so little is known, really, about Yang Lu-chan. Probably some know more than others; but overall, I've yet to encounter anything that really reveals the man behind the legend. I did read somewhere that the excesses of the Cultural Revolution served to destroy many records, much factual information.
But he was an exponent of the Asian Martial Arts and his personal legacy seems to fit well with the other threads that stand "high-level" in terms of sophistication and effectiveness. Now with global communications we can take a look at a rainbow of "tai chi" flavors and try to find what Yang Lu-chan found within himeself, with the help of the Chen family tradition.
It's 1:00 A.M. now and I'm not sure if I made a point or not. Perhaps this: those of us who get a look at mastery, will want to know something of Master's mind, if we're smart (and want to be smarter). It's a fork in the road. A little humility and a lot of persistence are very good things to possess at that moment...
Is an artist's "vision" primarily a product of experience or imagination? I don't want to pursue the simple answer that it's both. Is it primarily one or the other, of if it's just plain old both, how do they interact to create an imaginary world?
Is it true that some people have more artistic vision than others, or is this kind of seeing equally available to all?
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