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Sam's update: October 30, 2013
How much of our taiji practice should should focus on avoiding errors?
The Deep Sticking Passages
The three passages that follow, appear in various forms throughout classical taijiquan literature. From a technical standpoint, they address the all-important issues of ‘deep-sticking’ and ‘perceptual-movement’ (zhījué yùndòng 知覺運動)—ideas at the very heart of the art in terms of both martial art and self-cultivation. While the message contained within is simple and clear, undertaking the advice is difficult.
The first passage describes four Chinese characters: ‘sticking’, ‘adhering’, ‘connecting’, ‘following’ (zhān nián lián suí 粘黏連隨). There are sometimes known as the ‘four do’s’—and have to do with establishing and maintaining connection with a practice partner (or opponent/enemy) so as to cultivate and employ ‘perceptual-movement’, an ability which leads to martial advantage and furthers the self-cultivation endeavour.
The second passage describes the ‘four don’ts’: ‘reaching’, ‘skewing’, ‘losing’, ‘resisting’ (dǐng piān diū kàng 頂偏丟抗). These behaviours spoil any chances for development that might arise from good sticking practices. The passage makes clear that these errors are related, not only to an inability to stick well but also to basic confusion about the concept of perceptual-movement. It highlights the fact that dependence on flawed tactics will guarantee substandard results and deny practitioners their full potential in the art.
The third passage drives the point home, leaving no question as to the importance of the admonishments given before. It goes a step further in reminding the reader that how players behave toward each other is important. The piece ends on a promising note, suggesting that if one practices according to the advice given, he or she will naturally acquire 'comprehending energy' (dong jin 懂勁) which in turns opens the door to 'spiritual illumination' (shen ming 神明).
Sticking, Adhering, Connecting, Following
zhān nián lián suí 粘黏連隨
‘Sticking’ is raising-upward to ‘uproot’. ‘Adhering’ is unshakable clinging. ‘Connecting’ means abandoning ego so as to not separate. ‘Following’ means, if 'there' moves 'here' responds. Simply put, it is impossible for a person to perceive through movement without being clear about ‘sticking, adhering, connecting and following’. This is therefore, the kungfu of zhan, nian, lian, sui—'sticking, adhering, connecting and following'—and extremely refined.
Reaching, Skewing, Losing, Resisting
dǐng piān diū kàng 頂偏丟抗
‘Reaching’ means, so to speak, ‘poking-head-out’. ‘Skewing’ is the so-called ‘missing-the-mark’. ‘Losing’ is called ‘separating-from’. 'Resisting’ refers to what is commonly called ‘the excessive’. Wishing to understand the defects described by these four words; it is not only a failure to understand 'sticking, adhering, connecting and following' but also ignorance regarding ‘perceptual-movement’. When beginning to study partner work, one must know about this, and, moreover, be aware of these defective practices. Thus, the great challenge in mastering 'sticking, adhering, connecting and following' is not giving into 'reaching, skewing, separating or resisting'—and this is truly not easy.
Partner Interaction Without Errors
duìdài wúbìng 對待無病
'Reaching, skewing, separating or resisting' are errors in partner work. They are called errors because, having failed at 'sticking, adhering, connecting and following' how could one consciously perceive through movement? If one does not know oneself, how can he or she understand others? What is known as 'partner interaction' does not rely on 'reaching, skewing, separating and resisting' in exchanges; rather, one employs 'sticking, adhering, connecting and following' when engaging with other people. If you can accomplish this, not only will your partner interaction be without defect, but conscious movement will arrive naturally and you will come closer to success in 'comprehending energy'.
Apparently, a lot!
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