Asking the wrong questions

Following my last article "The woo way of taijiquan" I have received a lot of feedback in various places (Facebook, forums, etc.) .  Most of it has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive.  This is heartening.

Some of it has been very negative.  I suppose that is to be expected when your write polemics as I do.  In relation to the latter, I've had a number of consistent questions and I thought I'd address them here:

"How can you say you're being 'scientific' when you haven't done any kind of proper study?"

This argument suggests that I haven't really done enough to claim that "science backs me up".

Well it's true that I haven't done a scientific study.  What I have done is point out that basic physics doesn't support the woo merchants - ie. that their claims are extraordinary.

And, despite any initial sophist protestations, I think they would have to agree:

If basic physics did support their claims, they wouldn't be explaining them using terms like "jin" and "qi".

No one would be "amazed" at Chen Man Ching's pushing power, etc.

Yet people are.

As much as some "woo" merchants might profess otherwise, their claims that "there's nothing magical/mystical" are just a kind of "doublespeak". They know only too well they are implying some sort of "power" beyond our "current understanding".  It wouldn't be "impressive" otherwise. But they don't care to admit that. It's easier to assert something "safe" - if clearly inconsistent.

This is just a game of semantics.

So I've done no scientific study - that's true.  But I have observed what is basic common sense:
  • You wouldn't expect to push people with enough force to move them 4 metres or more without knocking them over.
  • You wouldn't expect to push people so hard that both feet lift off the ground, yet have them land on their feet in a balanced way.
  • You wouldn't expect to "bounce" people with nothing more than a little shrug.
These observations don't require a university-level study - they are common sense and everyday experience, based on fairly straightforward Newtonian physics.  If this wasn't the case, no one would be "amazed" at the "power" of the "masters of woo".

Yet people are.

In other words, extra-ordinary claims being made.  And as Carl Sagan famously said:
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
Accordingly it isn't up to me to do some sort of grand scientific study to disprove "special power" taiji pushing.  The onus is on those who maintain they are doing something extraordinary to prove that it isn't bogus.

So far they haven't.

If you're one of those people who criticises my (fairly detailed) analysis, here's a challenge: you don't have to provide me with any kind of "study" (although that would be nice).  How about just a cogent argument with some kind of evidence other than a bunch of compliant students well-accustomed to "teacher chi"?

"Why are you doing this?"

I've heard this a number of times.  It amounts to "What is your motive behind questioning our martial methodology?  It must be because you have some agenda!"

To me, that sounds an awful lot like "I hear you don't believe in my god.  Why do you hate him/her?"

The question is all wrong.

You shouldn't be asking why I am questioning your martial methodology.

You should be asking yourselves why you aren't doing so.

"You started in karate - how can you possibly expect to see 'internal things' clearly like we do?"

Sorry, but having the experience of an additional, quite different, perspective actually helps clarity - it doesn't impede it.

You need to start asking the right questions - not the wrong ones...

[I've included pictures of my student Rob competing at a full-contact (modified kyokushin rules) tournament last night - using some of the "throwing" or "projection" principles of taijiquan in against real resistance - not some compliant fellow students in a studio (there was lots of striking too).]

Copyright © 2014 Dejan Djurdjevic