Wai Bu Li Shi Kang -by Gordon Muir

In the learning of Chen Style Taijiquan, my teacher, Chen Zhonghua, always advocates the idea that one has to go through fundamental changes of the body in order to accomplish real Taiji acquisition.

However, to cause real changes to occur is not easy. For instance, in the learning of Taiji one has to switch from external power to internal power. This is a fundamental shift in body mechanics, not a superficial one. Those who cannot make the shift are often frustrated or thrown into despair. To escape their frustration many of these people created applications that were based on external or hard power.

Master Chen told us a story about his first attempts to learn English. In his village of Wulian, Shandong province there were no English teachers and no books available. The only English anyone in the village had heard was in foreign movies.

Being a creative sort Master Chen decided that he would slow down his Chinese, mix up the words, change the rhythm and add a non-Chinese accent; thinking that this might be English. “Wai Bu Li Shi Kang” means the outside is cloth and the inside is husk. It was Chen Zhonghua’s childhood version of the English word “pillow”. Soon he was going around the village talking like this. He was only a kid and did this practical joke for fun. However, all the villagers that heard him marveled at the speed with which he had learned to speak English so fluently.

Of course we know that he had not learned English and that you cannot simply slow down a language, change its rhythm and accent and call it something else. Chinese and English are very different and it takes years of study to speak and write them fluently.

In the same way one cannot simply slow down external movement and call it Taiji. Taiji and the hard martial arts are completely different and require learning completely different ways of moving.

Having spent many years practicing karate and kickboxing, and 25 years practicing Taiji, I have seen many people doing slow karate and calling it Taiji. Well, “Wai Bu Li Shi Kang” does not mean “pillow”. I hope that learners of Taiji will start sleeping on “pillows”, not “Wai Bu Li Shi Kang”.

Explore posts in the same categories: Chen Zhonghua, Dimensional Thinking, Learning Method, Life Experiences

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