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We all hear a lot about 'Ting Jing', listening energy, but I became aware recently with the advent of my branching into teaching, that I (and many others) have also developed a large amount of 'Shuo Jing'. Talking energy. Before this gets offensive, I'll point out that I believe this is a natural development of good martial arts and a willingness to pass on one's knowledge. How this first manifests itself, however, seems to be in the form of some rather peculiar 'visualisations'. For instance, I've heard such things as "Imagine you're in a car crash, the feeling you want is the same as the motion of going through the wind screen.", "Imagine there are two car jacks inside your pelvis pushing in opposite directions", "Sink here, and then …….BA!" Ba? Visualisations are kind of like cyber-pets. When they do work, they die very quickly, until all you do is try and kill them deliberately (if you've never had one, substitute 'cyber-pet' for 'plumber'). This probably isn't entirely fair, but they do work on a statistical basis, or the concept:
"If you throw enough shit at a wall, some of it is going to stick." By this, I mean that there are so many, that eventually you will hear one that works for you, and you'll invariably go "WOW!" and your Taiji advances dramatically. I think this is why they are so popular and also, so valuable.
I've only just branched into teaching. Nothing dramatic, just working with beginners on their form, or filling in when Craig's off working in a strip club (that's a half truth), and lo-and-behold, what's the first thing I say to them? "Imagine……" Imagine what? 'Imagine you're really, really good at Taiji and then do the form just like the Masters.' Very helpful, I'm sure. So how better to begin? There are two options, I suppose;
1) Set them off on the right path, and get them to repeat your every move and twitch so they learn the form in your own image. This way they don't develop too many bad habits.
2) Roughly guide them through each move without filling their heads with details. They'll get going faster, and will already be making it their own form.
When Ian Gillespie taught me the form, he operated with the latter system. I now think this is a preferable method, but at the time, I wanted someone to say "Yes, you're doing that correctly" or "No, do it like this." I realise now, there is no definite right or wrong, which is why Ian never pressured anyone to do the form his way.
I recently watched an Erle Montaigue video, in which he was teaching how to internalise forms. His approach was very effective for me. He did each move very exaggerated, and explained that the large movements were done internally and this external over- emphasis was the feeling one should gain. He then shows what the form looks like done 'correctly' (that's in inverted comma's as we've already established about right and wrong), and he practically stood still for fifteen minutes between explosions!
"Begin doing the large movements and gradually internalise them until you find your not moving very much on the outside." When I read this, it seems a very obvious statement and is probably what most people would do anyway. But it's unusual to hear in such plain terms, and I suspect that Erle was tempted to try and explain what was going on inside him and fall into visualisation territory, but it would only really make sense to someone who had also experienced it, and they would have their own way of explaining it themselves. It made the video a highly condensed, intensive education, and Erle explained himself better with less words.
Of course, shuo jing is not just in use by instructors with their visualisations, but, for instance, this newsletter would never have come into being without a lot of shuo jing, and neither would have the Tao Te Ching, Roots and Branches or The Cat in the Hat. All philosophy is a form of carefully condensed shuo jing. The little snippets of peoples lives and thoughts that shows profound wisdom is in the unlikeliest of places. Children, drunks, asylums (yes, I've worked in more than I care to!) or prisons are all vast libraries of wisdom and advice if one is open to it. I wish I could print one of the captions an inmate had written next to his cell door in Armley Prison, but he did say something else that made me smile. By the way, I was in there fitting TV sockets in the cells, no other reason.
"The lights are low voltage, the sheets tear, I haven't got any shoe laces and even the paint's lead free so you can't lick the walls to death!" Wonderful that someone can keep such a focused mind and a sense of jovial wisdom in the face of such a morbid existence. I don't sympathise too much with the criminal, I believe if you commit the crime, don't complain when you get caught, but I do admire that man. His crime may have been horrific for all I know, but it's not for me to condemn him. My sister believes in corporal punishment, and so would I, but for meeting this man, and I also recall a golden nugget of shuo jing in the Lord of the Rings. Frodo tells Gandalf how he wishes he'd killed Smeagol last time he saw him. Gandalf replied:
"Do you indeed! Tell me, do you have the power to give him life?"
"Then you shouldn't be so quick to take it!"
I collect these one-liners of philosophy, such that our computer monitor now looks more like a fat, fluffy chicken it's got so many post-it notes stuck to it! It's from these that I gleam my philosophies, and the reason that my philosophies change so much! I also find myself quoting them at people all the time. I think I do this because the ones I remember are the ones that make sense to me, my 'philosophical visualisations'. This form of shuo jing is no different in it's capacity to bewilder and confuse whoever is receiving it, yet on hearing one that helps explains one of life's quirks, it sticks with you and alters your psyche that bit more. So where do these inspired guides to living come from? I suspect it isn't from the enlightened mind that it appears to be when it's nicely laid out in the Doing the Tao pages. It's my firm belief that Socrates was laid out drunk in the streets when a copper asked him who he was and where he lived.
"My only knowledge is of how little I know, Oshiffer."
The police man returns to the station with a soused toga-bloke under his arm, writes that little snippet of shuo jing on a post-it note and sticks on his computer monitor. Thousands of years later, Socrates is the father of modern philosophy and we never hear about his drinking problem! I bet Plato was just the bartender!
Fortunately, I have witnessed shuo jing taken to a very internal level and become a most powerful tool. One such person to have internalised their shuo jing is Master Liang. He came to Huddersfield and taught us that 'happy and relaxed straight walking stick form' in two hours, after three pints and all without speaking English! It just seemed as though he didn't need to!
Another time was when I've spoken to a deaf and dumb bloke. It wasn't so much as I was able to get my point across, but more a case of how he was used to dealing with people who can hear. He couldn't speak and I couldn't sign, but he told me how he was a teacher at a local college and I told him how to operate the door entry system I was there to install. He even started telling me jokes!
So I guess that although we hear a lot of shuo jing and a lot of it doesn't make sense at the time, we need to develop our ting jing to a point where we are able to follow it. From there, we may be able to develop our own shuo jing and know when it's required.
Alas, my pages run out, like so many ferrets up a trouser leg, and I grasp for some way to conclude.
I think all I can say is that shuo jing is much harder to master than ting jing because we try to develop it by finding more, rather than getting the best from what we already have!
P.S. Please ignore the irony of rabitting on for ages about not talking so much