Is 70% Enough?

The following is another essay by a student in my Taijiquan class at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, enjoy:

One concept in particular that I initially had trouble with was the idea of doing at 70%. Instead of using my full range of motion, use around 70% of my range, or less if injured. I also initially had some difficulty with the idea of emphasizing the middle not the ends. I was raised from a very young age on the concept of doing everything at 100% or not doing it at all; in essence do or don’t do. Because of this I have always lived my life according to this philosophy. When I do something I do it to my best ability, give it all I have, or I do not do it at all.

At first this concept of 70% and emphasize the middle not the ends seemed wrong, lazy, half assed, and noncommittal. But, I also decided to have an open mind and try to look at things from a different perspective. After allowing myself to consider that my preconceived perception of how to do things may not be the only way of doing things, I discovered that only going at 70% and emphasizing the middle not the ends was NOT weak, lazy, half assed, etc. but was in fact in its own way a strong, active, committed way of approaching something.

While I have opened up to the idea and see it in a much different and positive light, at times it can still be quite a challenge. The areas in which I noticed it the most was in paired exercises especially when I was following my partner. I had a very hard time following. I always wanted to lead, be in charge, be aggressive, attack or defend at maximum strength. In so doing I found it very hard to perform the exercise. For example, in push hands, I hard a very hard time reacting and following my partner because I was so aggressive, hard, rigid, unforgiving. I had a very hard time staying stuck to my partner because I was rigid not soft. It was only in softness and by not trying so hard that I could even get close to sticking to my partner.

In addition I also found learning and practicing the form to be much easier when I was not trying to be perfect from the get go. At first the idea that it did not need to be perfect and that you did not even want it to be perfect was very uncomfortable and disturbing. However, now I understand and to certain extend even enjoy the idea that it does not have to be precise or perfect or performed with everything I have to my maximum ability. Once I let go of the perfectionist ideology I found the form even more enjoyable and beneficial

In what to me seems a related issue, I never knew and would never have guessed that Taijiquan is a form of martial art. I had always thought of it as some kind of Taoist meditative exercise routine to promote good health and long life. I would never in a million years have thought that it had any martial aspects or applications. Again I saw it as weak, passive, non-aggressive and associated that with weakness, passivity, non-aggression, and allowing oneself to be pushed around. I could not have been more wrong. I now can at least see how weakness, reacting, following, etc. can be a in its own way very strong.

While I have allowed myself to see the world in a different light, I still have a long way to go. I look forward to continuing my Taijiquan practice and further pursuing this new way of thinking.
To me it seemed that you demonstrated many different aspects of Taijiquan, giving us an idea about the many aspects of the subject. Obviously, in 11 weeks or 22 hours of class time, there is no way we can become Taijiquan masters. While at times you definitely challenged my preconceived notions, I think that was in actuality the best aspect of the class – trying to get us to see things in a different light, from a different perspective, to be a little uncomfortable.

One example that comes to mind was when in class we performed the form very slowly. In one aspect I enjoyed doing the form very slowly but it also was very difficult. In doing it slowly I came to realize that I have a very strong issue with double weighting. I do not like at all having all my weight on one foot or the other. For some reason I perceive this as a weakness. During our class discussion on the topic of double weighting, you clearly demonstrated that in all actuality, the weakness is being double weighted. Having discovered this concept I now have something to explore further. After having experienced both sides I believe that less emphasis on double weighting in a number of aspects of my life will have a profound improvement for me. In conclusion, thank you for a different, challenging, and eye opening experience.