I ran into another MA forum (Yes I'm Judas) where I found a topic that I've been thinking about for a while. The writer asks people that should one practice on both sides? The person asking is apparently doing taichichuan.
Now in many martial arts every single technique or move is practiced on both sides. Taichichuan is the second martial art to me where the question doesn't seem to have any absolute answer.
Here is the link to the topic:
And here I quote a few comments from the thread:
Q: Should one practice the form on the right and left sides? I've always wanted to know what people thought about that.
A: Why? If Sun wanted his students to practice both left and right, he would already have it in his TC set. If you practice long enough, the brain adjusts and you will discover that it really makes no difference if the move is done on the left or right. You learn to adjust.
Q: The reason I ask is that TT Liang, the long lived and famous Yang Style Teacher, practiced all his forms even weapons on both sides. It seems to make more sense to me that the form should be learned on one side and then on the other.
A: AFAIK, Sun did not advocate this practice. Would it be beneficial? I don't know anyone in the Sun line who has done it so your mileage may vary. On the otherhand, maybe it's better to just good with what is given. In the set, some things are done both sides, others are not. May be a reason.
A: I practice a lot of the techniques on both sides as individual line drills... So many techniques are practiced on both sides in the form though, that re-teaching yourself the entire form in reverse doesn't seem very productive to me.
So...In a former art I asked a couple of times different instructors, should techniques or katas (which were usually only practiced one-sidedly) be also trained from the other side? I never really got a clear answer...actually I got quite differing opinions from different instructors. Also there where techniques and katas which were always practiced both-sidedly, more basic ones. And it seemed more advanced ones were usually mostly practiced one-sidedly.
I'm pretty new to tai chi and I've learned the long form. But it still needs a lot of practice for me to learn to relax and bypass tensions. Now when I'm struggling with a move...and I'm "externally" doing it "right", but still feeling that I'm too tense...I might do the move a couple of times from the other side, it takes a short while to get it symmetrically correct. But once I can do it from the other side without having to put too much effort on concentration, I switch back to the "right" side and often suddenly notice that I'm doing the move much more relaxed and smoothly from the "right" side compared to how tense I was before I switched the sides in the first place!
I think it's basically the same thing that I sometimes do when cooking in the kitchen...if I have time. I start cutting vegetables, let's say onions. Blade on my right hand and naturally holding the onion still with my left hand. I can do it very fast and and move on to the next onion. So sometimes I start thinking how much tension does my body have while cutting the vegetables that I'm not aware of? How much unnecessary force am I putting on the cutting hand? Can I hold the onion still with less force? Being more relaxed?
And then I switch the blade to my left hand and keep on cutting from the other side. What happens then? I must slow down to the rate that it would take me 20 minutes per onion. Suddenly the same motoric move I've done forever has to be done with great awareness from left side (so I don't cut myself) and the slowness really forces me to focus on keeping my shoulders relaxed, keep on breathing etc. After that I switch again to right side, and usually at this point I notice how smoothly and fluidly I actually cut the onion and how much I actually did have tension when started to cook! It's cool to be relaxed before the dinner is ready.
I think this same feeling and method can be applied to martial arts training, or actually to any physical activity we do. I sometimes tend to do also other physical stuff other-sidedly, and I think it always pays off somehow. I believe the nervous system improves by this and mind-body is more balanced.
One teacher said that it's not necessary to do the moves of tai chi from the other side, if not for health reasons...then again, some say something like..."the more healthy and relaxed your tai chi is, the better the martial side." Contradiction or not?
Then I also wonder about those who immediately answer "No! One side is enough." Are they actually understanding the questioner right? Are they actually misunderstanding the question as: "Should I start to do the whole form also from the other side every single morning in addition to the 'right' side?"
I've studied the form a couple of times from the other side just for interest. But mostly my "other side training" consists of training individual moves which are difficult for me. Also it's fun to test a technique to a partner from the other side. I believe it's never bad, if you have to break something obvious to you into pieces and collect them again and then see how the pieces connect this time.
What do you think?