Thursday 3 March 2011

A form of symmetry

Balance is an important component of the internal arts and a natural extension of that (in a mathematical context) is symmetry. So how important is it to be symmetrical? I spent lots of time trying to "balance" my body, most obviously by recognising everyday tasks that I do that are asymmetrical. I am right-handed, and therefore there are a lot. I find it fascinating how amazingly difficult it is to use a knife and fork in the wrong hands for example. Try cleaning your teeth with your other hand, or putting your coat on with the other arm first - I think you'll find it surprisingly complex.

But how important is this really? Clearly on the outside humans look symmetrical, with a line of symmetry running down the centre line. So it is probably only natural to want my left arm just to be as strong as my right arm. Indeed there are strong indications that we subconsciously judge attractiveness by how symmetrical people, especially their faces, appear. But if we delve below the skin we find that all the internal organs are asymmetrical, the heart and liver being obvious examples that are only on one side of the body. The Chen form that I do it is asymmetrical as well, for example only punching with the right-hand, and one of the reasons for this dilberate choice is due to the underlying asymmetry of the internal organs.

But then again, I asked my teacher whether I should practice a mirror image of my form to balance my body, and he replied that I should. My feeling therefore is that symmetry is important, but it is a second-order concern. It is far better to get proficient on one side before trying to bring the other side up to scratch. So what that means is that as I'm pretty proficient at brushing my teeth in my right hand, it is time to start practising with my left, but I don't think I'm quite ready for a regular mirror form just yet...

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