Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Teachings of Ben Lo

Scott Meredith is a direct student of the late Ben Lo. Below is an excerpt from a post made by Scott, remembering some teachings of Master Lo. The full post may be read here.

Master Benjamín Lo: Teachings

Compiled by Scott Meredith

These teaching points have been compiled through decades of personal experience of Master Lo's teachings. They are not published per se in any other book or publication, either in Chinese or English to my knowledge, though any article or interview with Master Lo will naturally reflect similar content.

The Power of Zero

Ben told us, after demonstrating his usual total ease in moving, pushing, or throwing a much larger, stronger, and more physically more impressive opponent:

“Normally we think that if he has 100 pounds of force or power, I better have 150. But then if I get 150 pounds of force, he may have accumulated more himself. Or there’ll be somebody else with more. So next time it will be my 150 against his 200. Then I’ll need to go to 250... and still, there’s always going to be somebody with more than me. It's an arms race in that direction. So I need to reverse my approach. I need to take my own power down to 0. Then there’s no chasing or spiraling. Nothing can change. If he has 100, I have 0. If he has 150, I have 0. If he has 200, I still have 0, on and on, whatever he has, I’m always beneath it, it doesn’t change or affect me. I’m not chasing his attributes, or competing, or catching up, or exceeding him. That’s Taijiquan.” I’m not saying this idea and practice is easy for ordinary students, like ourselves, to grasp. But it is food for thought from the master, who could always demonstrate it on anybody - no matter how large or how tough or how experienced a fighter.

Finding your own Beautiful Lady's Hand (美人手)

This is the procedure Ben sometimes teaches to help us find 美人手 correct position:

Stand close to a wall. Place your entire forearm up against the wall, with your palm facing the wall, and with your fingertips together, pointing upwards, extended naturally along the wall's surface. Don't force your arm against the wall, but conform to the flatness of the wall in a relaxed way. The base of your palm is very lightly touching the wall surface. Let your forearm and straight hand and fingers align and rest naturally, let them be slightly heavy against the wall. This is approximately the shape and feeling of Beautiful Lady's Hand (mei ren shou 美人手 in Mandarin).

Which Taiji form posture is best for static holding practice?

People sometimes ask Ben whether one or another of the 37 postures of the Cheng form is especially good for "holding" practice (keeping the same position for many minutes to check your form and relaxation). When I asked him this, he said: "No posture is 'best', all are good. Same thing as going to a party, you can always find at least one friendly person to talk to, and you can eventually find a practice posture that suits you very well."

How can we practice Taiji in a very limited floor space?

Ben told us two main ways to handle a space-limited practice condition:

  • If you have room to stand up at all, you can probably stand in one of the Taiji form postures. This is actually one of the main practice methods taught by Ben for general usage, not only space-limited. It is called 'zhan zhuang' in Chinese (see Teaching #3), and it can be extremely arduous - particularly if you really try to maintain the full 5 Principles at each moment ... as time passes. Obviously this method is available to you wherever you have room to stand up.
  • But once when I pressed Ben with this question about doing the entire continuous form in a limited area, he surprisingly showed me that the entire Cheng Taiji set can be performed in just four square feet of space! I can't describe each adjustment here, but actually it was very intuitive, just stepping back or moving in place where you would have gone forward. You can maintain all the 5 Principles and complete the entire 37-posture sequence in just four square feet of space. So, no excuses for non-practice!

What is the best way to work on basic fixed step push hands practice?

When I first started with Ben, students would work mostly on fixed-step, double-hands tui-shou. It got extremely vigorous and, frankly, competitive at times. After I'd been there a few years, Ben came up with a new emphasis. More and more he emphasized an alternative practice format for fixed-step push hands, whereby one person would be the designated pusher and the other the designated yielder. The yielder should not actively push, but simply try to neutralize the incoming force of the designated pusher. Every 15 minutes or so, we'd switch roles. I think he felt that people were better able to control their inherent ego and aggression under this more controlled format. I certainly learned a lot from working in this way.

He also introduced me to another variation on that theme, which was that I was to stand in 70/30, using Left Wardoff shape (but on either side), and the designated ‘pusher’ was to have 3 individual chances to push me out (move my foot). This is not a continuous exercise, each attempt from the challenger is to consist of one integrated move, not devolve into a continuous tussle like normal push hands.

No comments: