Martial arts: the basics

In our tai chi class, we’ve been focusing on our short form.  We’ve done it several times each class since I started in August.

Last night, we had our first “observation.”  Mr. Aldus didn’t want to present it as a test, instead asking for volunteers to perform their version of the form.  Four of us went – Judy, me, Mrs. Aldus, and Pat.

I liked watching each of them because as Mr. Aldus and Judy were whispering to each other, he said he liked how each person brought their own personality to the form.  I can only imagine myself and Mrs. Aldus looked a little more “hard,” while the other two – especially Judy – had a great flow to theirs.  I wish I had the fluidity that Judy displayed last night.

He asked each of us if we knew a martial application.  That’s right.  One.

This is typical of what I’ve come to understand about the way Steve Aldus teaches hsing-i tai chi chuan.  It’s basics, basics, basics.

For starters, we’re only learning one section of the form at a time.  This is to avoid confusion and get the body mechanics down.  He’ll focus on other aspects like kicking and turning later, but is more focused now on gaining balance.  From there, we’ll learn more applications and more advanced techniques.

I thought Maggie, a grandmother, posed an interesting question when she jokingly asked why I was able to do the form in this setting after being there less time than her.  Mr. and Mrs. Aldus did a great job of explaining that I already have experience moving in these ways but not actually doing the techniques as outlined in the form.  I know how to turn my body and keep my balance.  I know the basics of flow.

This feeling of knowing the basics reminds me of learning XMA, or Extreme Martial Arts, back in 2003 and 2004.  As a 14-year-old white belt, I’d been exposed to three months of karate before taking some of those moves to another level.  Mr. Chianakas always pounded in our heads that we needed the basics down to achieve success in XMA.  I always feel like I’d gotten decent at being an intermediate XMA practitioner, but always felt I could benefit from a basic-level class at any time.

The way Mr. Aldus teaches his form seems almost like the way somebody would teach a form “back in the day.”  I read in books a lot about how martial arts students would only do one form for years at a time.  And the learning process for us is slow because while we are learning a short form, it is only a ninth of the long form.

Even though a lot of the material I’m learning is similar to other techniques I’ve worked, I still love this new adventure I’m on.

Speaking of taking a long time to learn a form, I would still love to read the book, “5 Years, 1 Kata.”  Has anybody read this?

If you have questions or comments on karate, tai chi, cross-training in both, or anything else related to the martial arts, leave a comment.  And please retweet if you liked this article!

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a black belt martial arts instructor, DDP Yoga instructor, and a personal trainer.