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Deriving trial advocacy inspiration from trial battles and taijiquan sparring

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Nothing beats quality, relevant practice to perform well on any particular stage or platform, whether it be the courtroom, public speaking forum, athletic field, or anything else.

In that regard, by now I have defended around three thousand clients in criminal court over two decades, with over two hundred-fifty trials, with five trials alone in the last two and one-half weeks. Some of the details are here.

My high comfort level in court and all other public speaking settings is enhanced by my experience onstage since the age of nine playing the trumpet in school bands and smaller groups, followed by performing magic shows for children’s birthday parties, and appearing weekly with my former law partner for two years on our then-sponsored call-in show “Legally Speaking” on Spanish-language radio, and on television and radio providing legal commentary.

Optimum physical health continues to be critical for trial lawyers, and everyone else.

I derive ongoing trial advocacy inspiration from my trial battles and taijiquan sparring.

Here is what I learned and recalled yesterday through the weekly, always-well-attended taijiquan practice led by megamaster Julian Chu:

    • Taijiquan emphasizes to me: Lose the ego. There is mainly no self. Engage without attaching. Be unattached without disengaging. Harmonize.
    • Taijiquan push hands emphasizes: Quiet the mind. Relax and include a focus on the tailbone during push hands. Give into the opponent to a point. Expand into the opponent.
  • Taijiquan push hands also teaches: Sense the opponent. Put your mind into your hands and everything you do. Make minor adjustments to win.

Yesterday, one of Julian’s students mentioned what he had learned about the interplay between the tailbone and taijiquan practice. Julian then engaged everyone in further discussion of the tailbone, including having one of his two medical doctor students confirm where the tailbone/coccyx is in the first place. He then demonstrated the difference between being easily pushed without adjusting the tailbone, and the greater difficulty in being pushed when properly adjusting the tailbone and being in a sitting posture.

We then broke into pairs to practice this tailbone focus. My sparring partner and I each saw a tremendous difference between not focusing on the tailbone and then focusing on the tailbone.

My sparring partner, who has been practicing longer than I, asked how I was able to withstand his pushes, which was followed by his doing much better withstanding my pushes. I said that I incorporate what I have learned from Julian and his students, including quieting my mind, relaxing when pushed, giving into the opponent to a point as part of neutralizing him, turning from the waist to reduce the power of my opponent’s push, making slight body adjustments to throw the opponent off balance, and expanding myself into my opponent to throw him off.

I will now compare the last paragraph to parts of my focus during trial battle:

  • Quiet the mind- This is essential to eliminate the mind clutter that has nothing to do with the battle at hand. Quieting the mind also makes one better able to sense the opponent’s current and upcoming actions, and the fighter’s surroundings.
  • Relax when pushed- A fighter is strongest when actively relaxed, with the mind fully active and ready as needed, which is much different than being collapsed and lethargic. – Give into the opponent to a point- Doing otherwise is being rigid, and rigidity is easily pushed. Also, by partly giving into the opponent, the fighter can better sense where the opponent is going and intends to go.
  • Neutralize the opponent- Before succeeding against the opponent, it is best to neutralize him or her.
  • Turn from the waist to reduce the power of my opponent’s push – The waist provides a natural and powerful way of moving. Similarly, successful trial battle does not involve struggle, but being harmonized with one’s natural surroundings. – Make slight body adjustments to throw my opponent off balance-Trial battle and taijiquan are not about brute force, and slight adjustments often win the day over heavy force.
  • Expand myself into the opponent to throw him or her off- The courtroom is my home, including the area where my opponent sits and moves.
  • Also, it is critical to be in the moment. To do otherwise is akin to the samurai fighter fixated on his next move, only to have his head lopped off in the process.