Sometimes, unbeknownst to you…..
Or you simply may not want to accept it….. but there can come a time to stop what you are training
I have been doing Taijiquan for a little over 27 years, and 24 years of that has been in Traditional Yang. But in those first 3 years, with my first Shifu, I learned the Beijing 24 form, Wu competition form, Chen Laojia Yilu and another Chen Form I only know as Shandong Province old style Chen. Also, various Jain, Dao and Staff forms form assorted styles as well, also throw in Bagua, Xingyi and Shaolin Long Fist too. And in the 24 years that followed I learned traditional Yang style. the Chen 18 form and worked on 2 versions of the Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ch'ing) form, one from Zheng Manqing and the other from William CC Chen and lastly a short Sun style form. And of course, there was my obsession with all thing Xingyiquan, liking of JKD and short pursuit of Baguazhang, but I will not go there, this is about Taijiquan.
My first 3 years, the second to last empty hand form I learned was the Wu competition form and I truly enjoyed it. However, when I started learning Laojia Yilu I realized that every form I did any other form, be it Yang or Chen, if I was not paying attention started to look like Wu, so I had to stop Wu to continue learning the new form and to keep training the older forms. I just could not shut Wu off, so I stopped it. (long after stopping the Wu style I discovered it was the same as the Wu Competition form taught by Li Bing Ci, which says Northern Wu)
When I knew I was going to leave my first Shifu to get deeper into Chinese Martial Arts I looked first for Xingyiquan and I found no one in my area that taught it. Then I looked for Chen, and then Wu and found no one in my area either. Then one day I ran into my Shixiong (to me; senior student, older brother, of my first Shifu, basically he trained with my first shifu before I did) who had left previously, and he told me about a Yang Style teacher he was currently training with who was “the real deal” so I went and checked him out and trained Yang style, in the Tung Ying Chieh lineage” for the next 24 years. However, recently I realized that probably the last 5 or so years, I recently realized, it has been more of a love hate relationship with Yang style and for likely the last 10 years I kept myself going and training for 2 reasons, one the health benefits, second, just because I had done it for so many years, and I knew much of the martial arts of it too, so I just couldn’t stop, it would be wrong and disrespectful. As to the health benefits; I have arthritis in both knees, both hips and both shoulders and it was not getting better so that did not seem to be the case with me. But I do not fault Yang style for this, there are many people out there getting a lot of health benefits form training Yang style. As for the martial arts, not many know it, or even care to know it, but I am glad I learned it.
The fault lies in me. I chalk my health issues up to lack of dedicated focus of the last 5 to 10 years. For the last ten years I do not think I was truly invested in the forms and the last 5 years I really tried to force myself to go deeper and at times, with varying degrees of success, but much of the time I was on autopilot when doing the form. And the result is kind of like lifting weights and you get to 30-pound dumbbell curls, and that is all you do to get stronger. Rather quickly your body figures out the minimum it must do to curl 30 pounds and you get no more gains and you can, in some case lose strength, same with my Yang forms, nothing seemed to be getting better, balance issues began to appear and I was starting to have problems doing Rooster stands on one leg and the kicks. None of the forms excited me any longer, I was not present, and I was on autopilot much of the time. Even with what was my favorite forms, the Dao forms. Like I said there were times of depth, but they were getting fewer and further between as time went on. It got to the point where the only thing that excites me about Yang style was push hands. Over the years I have taught Yang style forms and push hands and I have worked on the weapons forms and taught them as well. Also taught the associated qigong training, this left me totally convinced I needed to continue working on Yang style, too much time in, too much effort, no matter what I needed to get over this bump in the road and get back to serious, focused, training. The harder I tried the less success I appeared to be having.
About 2 years ago I had a chance to learn a short Sun form, so I started learning it from Jesse Tsao. It was the one taiji style my first Shifu taught that I never tried. Something about Sun style really drew me in. It was quicker, and the stepping was very similar to JKD and it also had aspects of Xingyiquan, Baguazhang too, and it was taijiquan as well. So, I plodded along with Yang style, even started meeting with my Yang Shifu again to energize my training, and it worked the first few times, but then even that started to fade. I started looking to the form from Zheng Manqing to re-energize my Yang training. But I was still doing traditional Yang less and the Sun short form more. Same thing happened with Baduanjin (Qigong) by the way, it was no longer of any interest to me, so I stopped it, but I kept forcing Yang style.
I have quit Yang style before for Xingyiquan and Wu style and Chen style, even talked about it here on MT. But I always got to the same place; “I shouldn’t stop Yang style, I have been doing it for so long, and the health benefits”, or “Why am I learning another form of Taijiquan when I already know Yang style”. So, I’d return to Yang, let the other styles go and moved on. The only style that usually hung on, do to my obsession, was Xingyiquan.
About a month ago I had a thought “Why am I forcing myself to do Yang style.” And “Zheng Manqing is just an offshoot of Yang so why am I forcing this as well”, so I stopped all things Yang and did only the Sun style. I stopped Baduanjin about two weeks before and was doing no qigong at all. However, when I stopped Yang style I had this overwhelming desire to return to the Taiji Qigong I learned from Yang Jwing Ming, so I started working on it again and I am back to the standing form and the first moving set. As for taijiquan, I was happy with Sun and the old Xingyi addiction seemed to be fading. However, I did still like stance training and there is a qigong set I modified where I now include Santi Shi, but it is not exclusively Santi Shi and Santi is optional, and it depending on how I feel after the first posture of the set.
About a week ago, I was doing the Sun Short form, and I had this feeling, that I have had before, that something was missing, this is the point where, when I was doing Yang, I would bring Xingyiquan back, or a few times went to JKD. However, I did not want to stop Sun style, as a matter of fact I have plans to get deeper into it. There is a traditional Sun style guy in New England I am hoping to train with in the Spring or Summer, fingers crossed. But this feeling was; there was something missing, and I never once thought Yang style or Xingyiquan, and as I thought about it what popped into my head was “Wu style”. This was followed immediately with the thought that maybe someone was trying to tell me something, but I was not listening, way back with my first Shifu when everything was becoming Wu style in the other non-Wu forms I was doing.
So, I started to retrain the Wu competition form again, I’m long way from finishing it, I am only at form 11 or 12 now and I’m taking my time. But combining that with the Sun has fixed that feeling that there was something missing. And for the first time in a long time I am feeling the benefits of Taiji again, Rooster stands on one leg is not a problem. Last Sunday, I had little to do and I had this feeling I needed to do Taijiquan, so I did the Sun style short form about 6 times and the Wu style form 4 or 5 times and did the Taiji qigong form twice and Wuji standing. I have not been driven to train any forms like that in a very long time, and it has been a long time since I spent over 2 hours training taiji and qigong on my own.
The next day, I was very stiff in the morning, but when I got going my legs felt great and I found myself in my basement once again doing Sun Short Form and the Wu Competition form again. Same last night and same this morning. So, it appears that I now train Sun style and I hope to expand that training in the spring or summer to Traditional Sun. And I also train Northern Wu and I hope to expand that training soon into traditional as well, found a teacher, in the Li Bing Ci line about an hour south of me. And of course, push hands on weekends and when and wherever possible.
So sometimes it may be the right choice to stop training and move on to something else, at least I believe it is in my case. I can't help it if I'm a little slow on the uptake...
Note: made a mistake in the first posting of this and combined 2 form names so I corrected the error. It is a Wu Competition form and I was referring to that as 56. 56 is a reference to a Chen competition form, I fixed my error, sorry for the mix-up
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