Three topics in this, and my responses may have exploded a bit.
Apologies for the length, but I hope I’ve made some statements that will provoke discussion.
1) Doing other martial arts classes;
2) Recognising applications in our form; and
3) Wanting more emphasis on application.
Topic (1), or rather, that it has arisen, is explainable as a by-product of modern Western permissiveness, eroding boundaries of respect – and awareness that such boundaries exist in the first place – towards one’s teacher of an art. It still exists (maybe largely in the West has only mainly existed?) in niches, often regarding music or the visual arts.
This is one thing where in martial arts the Japanese rigidity has served well, where it is enforced, albeit it is too harsh to be Tai Chi.
As I understand it, tradition would have it that students of one school would attend other schools only under the direction or with the explicit permission of the head of the school, typically with the cooperation and knowledge of both heads. To attend two schools at once without permission/direction is an act of disloyalty and a sign of ambition and lack of belief/trust in one’s original school, and, even, arguably the second (hedging your bets either way).
It is also a sign of a level of ambition towards power that is anathema to Tai Chi, hence part of my vehemence above.
I have been a student of Lum Sifu for coming up to thirteen years.
Application is interesting to me – it’s part, perhaps, of being young and male, and it’s part also of the fact that application is intentionally closed off as a subject (aside from incidental – arbitrary – moments) until certain levels are reached (the curiosity of the “known unknown”). Even then, Push Hands (as a first layer) is totally different from learning to fight and learning the specific applications of the styles; it’s definitely related, and you’ll see the latter spontaneously as you come to imbibe Push Hands, but it’s all foundational in more than just the external application (even externally following Tai Chi principles). It’s about character.
Tai Chi is totally inclusive but totally exclusive. The former because there is something of benefit to everyone, but the latter because it is ultimately self-selecting. Secrets are withheld from beginners for many reasons, not least of which is that those who seek power are those least qualified to hold it; either the “slow” nature of the curriculum drives out those who are too impatient, or else it allows time for changes to accrue and change the nature of the student – or for the teacher to observe the student’s readiness for each step and topic. This also prevents/reduces the inadvertent slippage of secrets to those who could make use of them but are not following the Way.
The teacher is the gatekeeper and the guide. Those on the path to Mastery seek not power and are thus not brought low by it.
(One of the most disliked elements of the Lord of the Rings is the sequence involving Tom Bombadil. He is an acknowledged anomaly, but he is in some ways the *most* important character, because he has Mastery, seeks no power, and the Ring can not affect him; he is the moral beacon who stands astride the worries of the world, to which the rest of us are, one way or another, subject, which makes us vulnerable to the power and allure of the Ring.)
13th Feb. 2015