Taijiquan – The Art of Receiving

By Wee Kee Jin

Taijiquan is no different from any other exercise or martial art if it is practiced without understanding the principles and without putting the principles into the movements. Regardless of the various different Taiji styles or Taiji forms, they are all based on the same set of Taiji classical texts. They are: The Chang Sang Feng Taiji Classic, The Wang Ts’ung Yueh Taiji Classic, The Song of Thirteen Postures, The Understanding of the Thirteen Postures, The Song of Substance and Function, The Song of Push Hands and, in the case of the Yang style, The Ten Important Points of the Yang Family. Practitioners should put the principles into the movements, rather than going into the movements to look for the principles. To put the principles into the movements, the practitioner must constantly read and understand the classics and, when practicing, the mind must ‘ask’ and the body must ‘answer’ (respond).

The foundation of Tajijquan practice is in the Taiji Form. By neglecting the Taiji Form and only focusing on push hands, it is like working on the function (application) without the substance (body). By knowing yourself and knowing your opponent you will excel in push hands. Knowing yourself comes from the practice of the Taiji Form, where you learn to be relaxed, balanced, connected and synchronised without any external forces affecting you. The relaxed force of Taiji is cultivated and developed in the practice of the Taiji Form.

In the Chang Sang Feng classic it is stated, “At the moment of movement, the body should be light, agile and most importantly connected (synchronised)”. To achieve this, the central equilibrium must be maintained in position, in transition and in the release of the force, both in the Taiji Form and in push hands. To maintain the central equilibrium the practitioner has to keep in mind the following principles: The Song of Thirteen Postures”, Tuck in the tailbone and keep a consciousness on the crown of the head (pai hui meridian point),the body will be agile if the head is held as if suspended from the top. ”The Wang Tsúng Yueh Taiji Classic, “Do not tilt or lean. Stand like a level scale”. Only when the central equilibrium has been achieved, can one talk about changes and relaxation. The central equilibrium is the foundation of Taijiquan. It is one of Taiji’s ‘Thirteen Postures’ and all the other twelve postures must have the central equilibrium within them.

The practice of the Taiji Form is not about whether you know the whole Form, nor is it measured by the number of different Taiji Forms or styles you know. It is about putting the principles into the Form and understanding the movements in the Form. The Taiji Form is only a tool for you to transfer the principles from the Taiji Classics into your body, and eventually the Form should become Formless because any movement you make should have the principles within it.

Besides having the Taiji principles, the practitioner must also understand the movements in the Form. After learning the whole Form the practitioner must seek to understand the sequence of changes that creates the movements and get the sequences to change in relation to each other, and in so doing, achieving the principle that is stated in the Understanding of The Thirteen Postures, ”Remember, keep this in your heart, when you move every part of your body moves, when you settle every parts settles”. In different postures in the Taiji Form, the arms, the legs and the body might be in different positions and you might face different directions, but the sequence of changes and what happens in it is the same. That is why the great Taiji teachers of the past always say, ”when you understand one movement, you understand all the movements”. In fact the most effective way of practicing the Form is the single posture practice.

The changes within any movement always begin from the base (feet, ankles, knees and hips joints) and the letting go of excess tension from the calves and thighs muscles. The base creates the body (trunk) movements – the relaxation of the chest from within, the melting sensation of the body muscles and the letting go of excess tension from the upper, middle and lower back, creating movements in the back. The body creates the arm movements – the sinking of the shoulders and dropping of the elbows. The movement of the body comes from mind cultivation, so the mind awareness must be in the body to imagine and visualise the body’s movements happening. After prolonged cultivation the movements will materialise. The base and the arm movements will only be connected if there are movements in the body, otherwise they are only coordinated.

Relaxation in the Taiji Form: there is a difference between relaxation and being ‘soft and floppy’. “Fang Sung” (relaxation in Chinese) means to ‘let go’. To let go what?, to let go any unnecessary tension in the posture (body) and movements. In Taiji we use the minimum amount of tension to sustain postures and movements, anything more than is necessary we call it tension. As our awareness of our body increases so does our ability to let go of unnecessary tension. When the upper body becomes lighter and the base become heavier, it is the sign of relaxation taking place. In the end, the upper body becomes yin and the base become yang and, when the practitioner reaches the highest level, only the feet are yang the rest of the body is yin.

Sinking: Sinking is a mental process and it is very important in Taiji practice. It can only come after the practitioner is able to relax. Sinking develops the root in Taiji, to enable the practitioner to ‘borrow the energy from the earth’. Sinking is also a training to take any incoming forces into the ground (internal neutralising) in push hands. The sinking should start from the Pai Hui meridian point (crown of the head), and this is to ‘swallow the chi of the heaven’. It should go through the body, legs and feet, through the bubbling well into the ground.

To borrow the energy from the earth, the practitioner must visualise the sinking awareness rebounding from the ground, traveling through the bubbling well, up through the legs, the body and the arms, past the Lau Kung meridian point and to the fingertips. When the practitioners master the Taiji Form, then they will have a structure to receive the forces in push hands.

Push Hands: In the old days it was known as an exercise of ‘sensing and feeling’, but somehow it was later called push hands. Push hand s is a very misleading phrase because actually it has nothing to do with pushing and nothing to do with the hands. Most Taiji push hands we see is just like a wrestling match, or like two goats locking horns, using brute force and thus deviating from the Taiji principles. The reasons are that one person wants to push, the other doesn’t want to be pushed. The bigger one use his body weight and strength, while the smaller one tries to dig in to hold his ground. It always take two hands to clap!

We have to look into the principles, understand them and then proceed into the practice. One of the Ten Important points of the Yang family says, “Use your mind ,not your brute force”, as long as you use your mind the door to Taiji push hands is open for you to enter; if you still want to use brute force it is just like locking the door and try to get in again. If you still want to use brute force, don’t come to learn Taiji because even you have ten lifetimes you cannot achieve the essence of Taiji.

In the Song of Push Hands it says, “Let him use immense (brute) force to attack me” and “Lead his movements with only four tael to neutralise a thousand katty of force”. This clearly shows that a greater force will not stand a chance if it is dealt with using the Taiji principles.

The foundation of Taiji push hand is receiving, not pushing, and the highest form of Taiji force is the Receiving Force (jie jin), and so therefore the practice of receiving should start from the beginning. Professor Cheng Man Ching said that “If you are not prepared to receive (incoming force) do not come to learn Taiji because you will be wasting your time in your lifetime you will not get the essence of Taiji”. In the Wang Tsúng Yueh Taiji classic it is stated, “A feather cannot be added, a fly cannot settle” and in the Ten Important Points of Yang family it says, ”I am not a meat rack”. All of these points emphasise that you should receive and accept the forces, not resist against them.

In the practice of Push hands the body should have all the elements that are experienced in the Taiji Form. The key to receiving is to throw away self (ego) and invest in loss. “Invest in loss; small loss small gain, big loss, big gain”, what beautiful words spoken by professor Cheng Man Ching. It seems that by receiving (yielding) you are losing but that is not the case because the person pushing is actually giving you “Taiji money”. As he keeps pushing he gets poorer and as you keep receiving you get richer. When the day comes that he can no longer push you (that means he is Taiji bankrupt), then perhaps you could give him some interest on the “Taiji money” he gave you! In the beginning the practice of receiving can be very frustrating because you get pushed over all the time. As you progress you start to realise where you get stuck, and why, but you will still get pushed over because you can’t yet do anything about it. Gradually though, you learn how to ‘unstick’ yourself and take the force down into the ground. Receiving must be done with total acceptance, in the process of receiving if you have even the slightest intention or thought of countering, then it is receiving without total acceptance. When you master the art of receiving, you will able to perform the principle that is stated in The Song of Push Hands, “Draw him into emptiness, gather the force and send it out”.

Receiving (yielding and neutralising) is not to receive the oncoming force on to the body as the body has only a limited capacity to absorb the force, but to take it into the earth, which has a relatively limitless capacity. The process of receiving the force into the earth is similar to the sinking process in the Taiji Form except that it starts at the point of contact[, rather than the pai hui].

The upper body is yin and the base is yang, so any adjustment to incoming movements and forces must begin from the base and, as in the Taiji form, the body and arms follow the changes of the base. The hands are used only to stick to the opponent, and at any chance to release your force it should be released through the legs with the feet remaining firmly grounded to the earth. As it is stated in the Chang San Feng Taiji classic, “The root is in the feet, discharged through the legs (relaxed force), controlled by the waist (direction) and expressed into the fingers”. No matter how big or small the issuing is, the hands never extend more than a space of one inch (the extension is only the result of sinking the shoulders).

In push hands, you do not go into it to look for a push or plan to set up a chance to push, you just follow the changes of your opponent and let the push happen by itself. If there is a will to push, then there will be intention and desire. ‘In the principle everything is base on the principle of yin and yang. When the yin reaches its extreme it will become yang and vice versa. So whenever you think you are in the most advantageous position you are actually in the process of going into a disadvantaged position and whenever you are in a most disadvantaged position you are in the process of going to an advantageous position. It is always better to change from a disadvantage to an advantaged position, rather than the other way around. When you reach the highest level of push hands, there are no pushes

from you. Your body structure is an empty void and any force that comes into contact with it travels into the earth and rebounds back, returning to the person issuing the force. This is the highest level of Taiji force, the Receiving Force, where the practitioner neutralises without neutralising and issues without issuing. To attain this level one must be able to “Forget yourself and follow the other without your own opinion, follow the heart and mind and let it be natural”.

To borrow the words of professor Cheng Man Ching when speaking about push hands, “It is an idea without motives, an act without desire. What a wonderful art Taiji is; it has nothing to do with pushing, it is all about receiving”. As practitioners of Taijiquan we should be true to the art, not only preaching the principles, but also practicing and adhering to them. Taiji is not only an exercise for health or a martial art for self defence, it is most importantly the Dao (philosophy) of life.

Wee Kee Jin, 2006

Reference: www.taiji.org.uk

Wang Peisheng creative interpretation of some Taiji principles

Master Wang’s Creative Interpretation and Application of Some Taijiquan Principles in Self-defence

Master Wang makes it a point of emphasis and has set an example to his students of how one should use one’s mind and learn from experience of success and failure after having studied carefully the theories set in the Taijiquan classics, listened earnestly to his teacher’s or anyone else’s interpretations, and watched attentively their ways of applying these principles in practising or combating. The following are a few examples:

(I) There is a principle (a sentence of eight Chinese characters) set in the Taijiquan classics attributed to Wang Zongyue of Ming Dynasty, with a note that it had been handed down by Zhang ‘Sanfeng, a Taoist on the Wudang Mountain in the Song Dynasty. The first half in four characters may be translated into English as “No excess, no insufficiency”, and the generally accepted interpretation is ‐when doing Taijiquan, whether in solo practice or in pushing-hands exercise, or sparring with a partner, or in actual combating, you should use only the very necessary amount of force, not a bit more or less; and any movement you make should be just right in position. But the second half, also in four characters, are explainable in two ways: more generally as “stretch out as your opponent bends in ” , and some would also supply the natural reverse “and contract as your opponent expands”; and less generally as “follow the bending. adhere to (or follow) the stretching.” Which is correct, or more adequate? What is Wang’s opinion?

Basically, Master Wang prefers the second one, but he would add something to it, as summed up from his long years of experience: “follow your opponent’s bending without letting him have any chance to turn to stretching; and adhere to his stretching without giving him any. opportunity to turn to bending, he will then be found in an awkward position ready to be handled easily.”

(2) There is a sentence in a known Taijiquan treatise that may be rendered into English as: If you fail to catch a good opportunity or to gain an advantageous position, your body will be in a state of disorder and the cause of such a fault must be sought from the waist or legs.

Evidently this is a very important teaching, and as there is nothing abstruse with the language, we can just do according to the advice given. But why and how? The general view is that: to a human body the legs form the foundation of every posture taken and the waist acts like the axle of the moving parts, so if there is anything wrong, fundamentally there must first be something wrong with the waist or legs, or both, so the way to correct the fault is by adjusting the waist or legs. So far so good. But what if your waist itself senses some discomfort? Adjust the waist? And what if your legs sense some discomfort? Adjust the legs? Master Wang says no, and advises: if your waist senses some discomfort, forget the waist and adjust the legs; if your legs sense some discomfort, forget the legs and adjust the waist. Try it out yourself and see- if it works.

(3) In the “Chant of Pushing-hands”, there is a sentence with seven Chinese characters, the first four meaning ‐ entice (your opponent) to advance and fall into emptiness (failing to reach his target); the last three, meaning ‐ when all conditions are met, issue energy instantly. The principle is obviously sound and clear, but what are the necessary conditions, and how to catch that very moment instantly? To those who have had some basic knowledge and training in Taijiquan, the first part of the question is not difficult to answer, the following conditions are generally taken as the necessary conditions: your opponent’s slight loss of balance, the moment he gets into an awkward position, and his centre of gravity together with the most effective line through which to attack him all being sensed and located. But the second part presents real difficulty, many may have practised for years and have not yet found a sure way of catching that very right moment. If that is the case and energy is issued at the wrong moment, all the conditions may be instantly changed to your disadvantage. Now let me offer  you Master Wang’s simple and reliable way for your reference ‐ The moment your opponent comes into contact with you, you should apply the Taijiquan principle and technique of “adhering, joining, sticking to, and following” to his every move, with no letting go and no resistance, while keeping an acute awareness of what is sensed from the point in touch with ‘ your opponent. Should he refrain from making an initiative, you could expose a point of weakness purposefully and entice him to take advantage of it During the whole course of pushing-hands if a sense of heaviness is felt , at the point of contact with your opponent, do not issue energy or restrain yourself instantly if you are about to issue; but at the moment when that sense of heaviness turns into lightness, lose no time to issue energy. Of course, to be able to catch the very right moment instantly, you must first have developed a keen sense of touch and a quick reaction through years of pushing-hands practice. Nevertheless, Master Wang’s teaching offers a simple to follow rule in judging whether the right moment is there or not. That surely is a thing of importance, and I hope Master Wang’s advice will prove useful to you.

(4) As is generally known, the cardinal principle of Taijiquan is “using the mind (thought), not strength.” Actually, in doing any physical movement, it is impossible not to use strength at all. Thus, in so saying, it is but to emphasize that the art of Taijiquan relies more on the use of one’s mind than strength to overcome an opponent. Such a principle could be more easily apprehended and better appreciated today, for it is common sense now that whatever we do are controlled by our nerve system, with the cerebral cortax of our brain as the control centre. So the really important issue regarding this principle is not why it should be so, but how it should be done.

An answer seems to have been provided in another well known classic entitled “The Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures”. However, owing to the terseness and abstruseness of the original text in classical Chinese, it has been interpreted in different ways, such as:

1st – When the mind directs the qi, the mind must be calm, so the qi could permeate the bones. When the qi circulates through the body, the qi must flow freely and naturally, so the qi could be dictated easily and efficiently by the mind;

2nd – when the mind directs the qi, the qi must sink deep and steadily, so as to premeate the bones. When the qi moves the body, the body must be submissive, so as to be dictated easily and efficiently by the mind;

3rd ‐ when the mind directs the qi, the directing must be calm and steady, so the qi could permeate the bones. When the qi circulates through the body, the circulating must be free and natural, so the body could be dictated easily and efficiently by the mind.

There might still be a 4th, 5th . . . From the above, we can see that in studying a Taijiquan doctrine, it is sometimes hard to catch its exact meaning by merely studying the wording in a classic; and in listening to the interpretations offered, there might be big differences of opinion that make it difficult to follow. So do not be disturbed if you find such difficulties and differences. Test what you have learned in your practice and application, sum up your experience of success and failure bit by bit, and form your own opinions one by one as Master Wang has done and advised.

Master Wang is highly praised for his subtle, varified, accurate, and effective movements employed in pushing‐hands practice and in free sparring. He often cites a well known old saying: “How to use one’s kungfu relies totally on one’s mind-intent.” I have particularly asked him about how he uses his mind to direct his movements, and have finally focused on “What to concentrate his mind on and how to shift his points of attention in directing his movements so as to perform a certain posture or to execute a certain combative technique accurately, efficiently, and effortlessly.” The following are the summerized points:

1 ‐ Just before making any movement, think first of uplifting your head lightly and loosening the joints, especially the shoulder ioint and the hip joint. This is a necessary prerequisite to make possible your facing the opponent with an attentive spirit and keeping the limbs in a fully relaxed state, so as to be able to respond quickly to any change and do the stretching or bending to the required extent.

2 ‐ When y0u are doing Taiiiquan in its solo form, you should have in mind a picture of meeting an opponent and that you should use a certain posture or Taiiiquan technique that deemed fit to neutralize his attack or to set him off balance while he is in a certain imagined position. Thus you must first have the knowledge of the combative use of every movement of every posture as told by Master Wang in this book, or by other competent Taiiiquan masters. Only by practising Taiiiquan with such a picture in mind could you have the possibility of making actual use of it in combat.

3‐ Whatever the form and number of movements used in a certain posture, there is a general principle, also a basic requirement, that your arms and legs should move, coordinately, that the shoulder should come into unison with the hipioint, the elbow with the knee, and the hand with the foot. To meet such a requirement, Master Wang’s way is to think of letting the three vital points on y0ur arm meet with or separate from the three corresponding vital points on the leg, those on the right arm in correspondence with those on the left leg and those on the left arm in correspondence with the right leg, one after another in succession in the course of the movement. Let them unite with each other when doing a “closing” movement, and separate from each other when doing an “opening” move‐ ment. All such uniting and separating should be led by the “insubstantial arm” and- one’s mind should chiefly be concentrated on it. The “insubstantial” arm is one on the same side, of your “substantial” leg (one that bears the greater part of your bodyweight). Between the arms and legs, their “insubstantiality and “substantiality” coincide with the opposite party on the other side of the body, i.e. if the right leg is “substantial”, the left arm is “substantial”; in this case the left leg is “insubstantial”, as is the right arm. The three vital points on the arm are: the Jianiing point at the indented part of the shoulder girdle, near the neck; the Quchi point at the outer side of the elbow; and the Laogong point at the centre of palm; the three vital points on the leg‘are: the Huantiao point at the outer side of the hipioint; the Yangling point at the outer side of the knee; and the Yongquan point at the arch of foot. (See Appendix I I I : Diagram of Vital Points Mentioned in this Book) .

Thinking (focusing and shifting your points of attention) in such a manner achieves two things: one is to let the mind direct the movement of the body via the movement of “qi”, since the “qi” moves through a path along which are spread the vital points (as already known and made use of in acupuncture); another is to bring about a unison of the respective parts in a more precise and quicker manner, and to reach a stronger state, since a point on a limb is much finer than a part of the limb, a thought of unison comes quicker than the act of unison, and an external unison actuated by an attentive thought in the mind is stronger than a merely superficial external expression of unison.

4 – As the point of your opponent’s weakness is shown, his being in a disadvantageous position or his slight loss of balance is sensed, and you are to send him off his feet, issue the energy from the bottom up by pressing the heel of your rear foot with a snap against the ground and at the same time think of the palm of the hand that is placed in the rear and is in line with the centre of gravity of your opponent. Do not place your focus of attention on the contacting point (or the fore contacting point, if there are two or more points contacted), nor on the object or the direction your eyes are looking at. Some may raise a question or have a doubt of whether this is in harmony with the general principle “at the instant the mind thinks of something, the eyes should be looking there, and the hands and feet should have reached there.” Still some others may find that on this point Master Wang’s way is even somewhat different from his teacher, Yang Yuting’s. Yes, they are different asMaster Wang has told me, and not without reason. According to Master Wang, in actual application, at the point of issuing energy, your eyes are looking at the direction toward which you are to issue your energy, and you yourself and your opponent should be linked together into one, so the contacting point should not be shifted at all, and therefore needs no more attention. But to enhance the effectiveness or to multiply the forcefulness of your energy sent out upon your opponent, no energy should be sent forth from the contacting point by you, but energy should be sent from bottom up and from the rear end to the foremost end, and that requires your full attention to ensure its being correctly done. And only when you and your opponent have been formed into one at the moment of operation, the energy you are sending out could then reach the target you have set on your opponent’s body instantly.

Try out Master Wang’s way, see if it works, at least he has offered us’something that has made his art of Taiiiquan outstanding in combative use.

Reference: Wu Style Taijiquan by Wang Peisheng & Zeng Weiqi p. 3-8.

On the Value of Yi Quan 

By Han Jing Chen

As soon as it emerged Yi Quan rose to fame for its instant and huge explosion of energy in combat. This power is traditionally named as the “Whole Power” or the “Hunyuan Power” – the power of integrating all the elements.

The theories and effectiveness of Yi Quan soon interested the entire circle of martial arts, as a number of people began to study and explore the unique features of Yi Quan. This trend has continued and become even stronger today. There have been many works written about Yi Quan, however most are stuck in the superficial, the partial or even the working of the mind.

There have been no works so far that provide a complete and systematic explanation of Yi Quan. Not surprisingly, Master Wang Xiang Zhai, the founder of Yi Quan, said that “My way will not be truly understood until after 100 years.”

As a late comer, I dare not spare any efforts in learning the art. Despite my shallowness, I would like to present to you all that I have gained from practicing and exploring Yi Quan and what I consider to be the most valuable aspects of it. As the theoretical system of Yi Quan is intimately connected to traditional Chinese culture, I must define a few terms so that they can be better understood later.

Definitions
Nature
1) Pure Nature: It means the objective world that is true with its own laws of evolution. It can otherwise be called Natural Ecology.

2) Habitual Nature: It means self-conscious speeches and behaviors that we human beings develop by regulating, continuously practicing and intensifying such speeches or behaviors using our subjective ideas. The Habitual Nature becomes even more natural over time, as to another who just comes out of the toilet, one may naturally ask ‘Did you eat?’

3) The Applied Nature of Perfect Combination between the Objective Conditions of a Subject and the Objective Needs of an Object:
As the name clearly states it becomes unnecessary for me to explain it any further.

Wholeness
1) Representative Wholeness:
It means the wholeness of the body that is visible as shown by body shapes.

2) Intentional Wholeness:
It means the wholeness of the body that human beings design, create and believe to be whole by using their subjective ideas.

3) Wholeness formed through Organic Integration, with Unison and Harmonization between the Internal Mechanism and the External Mechanism with Clear Purposes.
This is the highest and the best state of wholeness that the Chinese nation values.

Hunyuan-Integration:
It is the idealistic ultimate objective of perfection for human beings.
From Hunyuan things develop their varied natures. If it has to be described in scientific terms, Hunyuan includes any and all crystallizations of the human knowledge. It is also where the saying originates that “To discourse in a way that one deems appropriate” in Buddhism.
For the same sake, it occurs that a given thing has to be explained in overly complicated ways.

The Value of Yi Quan
Huanjin – Jin Transformation
The concept of Huanjin or Jin Transformation has been in the field of traditional martial arts for a long period of time. When and by whom first raised the term cannot be verified. So, the questions have to be left to historians. Hereby I will only talk about what the Jin Transformation really is.

The so-called Jin Transformation means to change the habitual usage of strength or moving mechanism that is formed in the physical labor of human beings (which is known as the “muddy Jin”) into the habitual usage of strength or moving mechanism that is needed by the martial art or any other special sport through special training methods and processes.

In Yi Quan the Jin Transformation is done through posts, which is an extremely important part of the practice. Yi Quan does not stay at such representations as the framework of Kung Fu, stamina or Kung Fu, but goes on to study extensively the essence in depth, intending to perfect both the internal and the external moving mechanisms. Thus, it adds new and more varied contents to the traditional concept of Jin Transformation.

So, on many occasions, I expressly tell everybody that the posts appeared a long time ago and were not unique to Yi Quan. However, it was Master Wang Xiang Zhai who rediscovered the posts and gave new, varied and particular contents. Moreover, it was also he who elevated the posts into the primary place and throughout the entire training process.

The Value of Posts
Body Frame Preparation:
The so-called “Body Frame Preparation” means to develop the optimal structure of the human body according to the modern knowledge system.

In the understanding of the body structure, Yi Quan was the first to establish the three-combination rules
The combination between the physical structure of organs and their physical functions;
The combination between the need to protect our life and the need to advance;
The combination of the structures formed from the above two combinations.

This optimal martial structure is consistent with the physiology of the human beings, which helps improve the health and treat illnesses, and meets the needs for one to protect himself and when necessary attack others. In the field of Yi Quan, this optimal structure is named as Hunyuan Posts that help people to find the Hunyuan Power.

Testing:
In the testing practice of Yi Quan the elementary structure that one obtains is put into one’s own movements or when there is any resistance. After being tested constantly, it is corrected by feedbacks that one receives. As the saying goes, “Find it inside you and then go to rediscover it outside your body.” In this way, the structure is gradually improved to form a good moving mechanism. The process is called Shili – the testing of the power. The power originates from the standing post, is known to you when you test it, and becomes owned by you when you use it.

The Understanding of Strength
Yi Quan develops such views about strength as “You are wrong as soon as you try to use any strength” or “You are powerful when you feel comfortable with yourself,” which run counter to the preexisting ideas of practitioners. These views are unimaginable or unacceptable to common people, not to mention martial art practitioners. So, there are people who raise quite objective oppositions – “How can I beat without any strength” or “You do not have the power if you feel comfortable, and you have the power only when you feel uncomfortable.”

The non-use of strength view of Yi Quan has been put forward to oppose to the power that one produces by tensioning or loosening his muscles, to people who always play the tensioning or loosening game, and to the “muddy Jin” as mentioned above.

On the basis of the traditional view that “Those who have longer sinews are more powerful,” Yi Quan goes deeper and develops understandings or methods that are more effective in a shorter period of time. It expressly raised the pithy guiding principle that the “The power exists in the sinews and the spirit in the bones.” Compared with the power from the tensioning or loosening of the muscles, the power of Yi Quan is more penetrating, more destructive and more consistent with the moving needs of the human body. The saying that “You are powerful when you feel comfortable with yourself” means to establish a good and smooth moving mechanism that provides no obstructions to the whole and complete release of the power, so that the hitting force is effectively improved.

The Holistic View:
It is known by all that wholeness is of the utmost importance in Yi Quan. Common people usually tend to replace the Wholeness with the Power of Wholeness. They cannot be more mistaken.

The Power of Wholeness is nothing more than an external representation that Yi Quan appears to one in an instant. In fact, the Wholeness of Yi Quan means the holistic view – the overarching principle or measurement for one’s judgments and practicing – which is the essence of the Chinese national culture. It runs through one’s understanding and practicing processes, meaning to never let go any detail however minute it may be. It extends the connotation of Body Realization. It is the one and the only way to the upper level that “The spirit becomes more complete when the movement is more minute”, or “Respond to it at the time you feel it.”

The Connection Between Theory and Practice:
In studying the activities of ideas and the body, Yi Quan follows the traditional doctrine that “Knowledge and action are one.”

It raised a pragmatic rule – “Whether or not you get the feel about abstract theories in your body.” It opposes empty talks, or any fantastic exaggeration of the role of the mind, or any training methods that try to force any ideas on one’s body. As far as I can see it, one who practices such methods may feel quite good during exercise, but will loose all of them in a true fight. Moreover, the blind practice should be opposed to. The blindness means that if he fails to achieve the expected result, one often blames himself for not working hard enough, other than reconsidering if there is any problem in what he has practiced. There are also many other phenomenon that seem reasonable but are wrong, which I will not discuss at this time.

The Unity of Opposites:
In Yi Quan the traditional Yi Yang view is adopted in the study of the opposite elements, commonly known as contradictions in the martial movement. In the traditional culture, the relationships between the opposite elements are classified into: the unity of opposites; the mutual rooting and dependence; and the waxing/waning and conversion between yin and yang.

It inspires Yi Quan to start with the particularity and the generality of things, proceed to study the organic connections between opposite elements, and finally find solutions to solve the contradictions. It makes it a truly feasible process or a natural result for one to feel no resistance and beat the opponent in the combat, as is always dreamed about by martial art practitioners. In this way, one enters the supreme realm where he expresses himself fully and independently and fills his movements with rich contents.

As Master Wang Xiang Zhai said, “The basic and fixed rules are that the internal should flexible and agile, the external should be tall and straight, and you are powerful when you feel comfortable with yourself. The references should also be found in such pairs as the firm and the soft, the void and the solid, the active and the inactive, the tense and the loose.”

The Entry into the Realm of Necessity:
In the true Yi Quan combat it often ends with just one punch. This spectacular phenomenon is understood by many as “a strike with all one’s might” or “a desperate strike” or even “the mad dog’s move.” How ignorant they are!

The occurrence is because Yi Quan has moved from the realm of judgments and contingencies to the realm of perfection and necessity. As Master Wang Xiang Zhai said, “You feel like a great furnace that melts whatever that comes to you. You have the endless power of the universe. You feel like walking on the water and move like the mountain moving.” In this, he has passed the stage that “Bodhisattvas Fear Causes, Sentient Beings Fear Effects.”

Conclusion
Generally speaking, Yi Quan builds on the traditional Chinese culture and studies the martial practice. It inherits the traditional martial arts, as well as introduces new human knowledge. After being rediscovered, re-practiced and re-verified repeatedly in a complete and profound way, it has established its own principles and rules to guide one’s martial behaviors. It comes to be an independent system that covers brand-new theories and unique training programs centered on practice. Here ends this article, which I have written with whatever comes to my mind. I will go on to discuss further details in another article.

By Han Jing Chen in my apartment in Zhuhai, deep into the night of September 2, 1998

Reference: History of Yiquan and the han family Facebook

Song of the Real Meaning

真義歌

No shape, no shadow. Entire body transparent and empty. Forget your surroundings and be natural. Like a stone chime suspended from West Mountain. Tigers roaring, monkeys screeching. Clear fountain, peaceful water. Turbulent river, stormy ocean. With your whole being, develop your life.

 無形無象。全身透空。
 忘物自然。西山懸磬。
 虎吼猿鳴。泉清水靜。
 翻江鬧海。盡性立命。

When practicing taijiquan you must let go of everything. Your mind must be clear and centered. No concepts (preconceptions) should cloud your vision, and no thoughts should hinder your action. The body must be relaxed and stable so that you can be light and agile. Forget your surroundings and just do what needs to be done. West Mountain is a famous mountain. “Like a stone chime suspended from West Mountain” means your mind must be clear, your head held as if suspended from above, and your body as stable and rooted as a great mountain. Sound is important in taijiquan because it is linked to your qi and the emission of power. Your sound must be as powerful as a tiger’s roar and as penetrating as a monkey’s screech. If you lift your spirit (shen) and guide your qi throughout your body, your mind will be as clear and pure as a fountain full of spring water. If you practice taijiquan for a long time, cultivating your qi, your qi will fill your body and circulate peacefully. But, like water, it can move powerfully and quickly so that nothing can stand before it.

“No shape, no shadow.” This means that when you have approached the higher levels of taiji meditation, you find your physical body seems not to exist—you feel that you are a ball of energy, part of the natural world and inseparable from it. Your actions and self are part of the natural order of things, fitting in smoothly and unobtrusively, seeming to have no independent shape of their own, cast- ing no shadow;

“Entire body transparent and empty.” When you feel you are only a ball of energy, there is nothing in your mind, no desire or intention. Since your mind and ego are not there to interfere, you can see clearly and respond correctly.

“Forget your surroundings and be natural.” Once you are transparent, you will easily forget your surroundings and your energy flow will be smooth and natural.

“Like a stone chime suspended from West Mountain.” This implies that your mind is wide open, free, and unrestricted. Like a stone chime suspended from the mountain, all things are clear under you, while your mind is still controlled by you just as the thread suspends the stone chime.

“Tigers roaring, monkeys screeching.” When you move the energy you have cultivated, it can be as strong as a tiger’s roar and reach as far as a monkey’s screech.

“Clear fountain, peaceful water.” Even when your energy is strong, your mind is clear, still, and peaceful.

“Turbulent river, stormy ocean.” In taiji, if you have to use your energy, it can be strong and continuous like a turbulent river or the stormy ocean.

“With your whole being, develop your life.” During all your practice and meditation, you must concentrate your whole attention in order to develop the highest level of the art.

Reference: Tai Chi Chuan Martial Power: Advanced Yang Style by Yang Jwing Ming 2015

The True Teachings of Yang Jianhou’s Secret Yang Style Taijiquan

Historical background of Yang style Taijiquan as passed down by late Wang Yongquan

For more than half a century people in China and other countries have learnt about and to a certain degree understood Taijiquan, while health aspects of Yang style Taijiquan attracted special attention all over the world.

However very few people know that during the transmission of Yang style Taijiquan, its true essence has almost been lost and forgotten because old masters kept it secret.

Happily, the lineage that has been secretly passed down from Yang Jianhou in Beijing, has fairly completely preserved the practice methods and Kneading Hands (Rou Shou, i.e. Pushing Hands) techniques of original Yang family boxing. This is because of all the energy and efforts that Mr.Wang Chonglu and my teacher Wang Yongquan poured into as well as subtle inspiration that cannot be forgotten.

The origins of this art should be traced back to the end of Qing dynasty (1644-1911). At that time Mr.Yang Jianhou was summoned to the residence of Bei Lei and Bei Zi to teach Taijiquan to the members of the imperial family. Since at that time the Qing dynasty imperial family members and aristocrats enjoyed high positions and lived in comfort, it became fashionable to pay attention to good health. Most “bigwigs” learnt Taijiquan only because of fashion and considered it just another entertainment to divert themselves from boredom and did not really practice hard.

Only the oldest grandson of emperor Xuanzong, Pu Lun Bei Zi had become extremely interested in the skill that Mr.Yang Jianhou was occasionally revealing during the classes, and was often inviting Mr.Jianhou to his residence asking for guidance, paying very high salary and showing special favor to him. Because of dept of gratitude for Pu Bei Lun Zi’s  recognition and appreciation as well as special treatment, Mr.Jianhou gradually passed to him secret art of Yang family Taijiquan.

WANG CHONGLU
At that time there was a servant at Pu Bei Lun Zi’s residence called Wang Chonglu, who was very interested in martial arts. Wang was receiving waiting upon Mr.Jianhou when he was coming to Pu Bei Lun Zi’s residence to teach boxing. Wang, already skilled in boxing, when listening to Mr.Jianhou’s very clear explanations of boxing principles, realized this art was out of ordinary and contained the ultimate principles of all times, heaven and earth, all things of creation; moreover, Wang noticed that the practice method taught by Mr.Jianhou was utterly different from everything he had seen before, and truly was the best martial art he had been yearning for day and night. For this reason he was particularly venerating Mr.Jianhou, very careful in all respects all the time, showing him every consideration.

After some time Mr.Jianhou was moved by Mr.Chonglu’s sincerity and often taught him one or two boxing postures in free time. After few years Chonglu became very skilful at Taiji, and since he was honest, sincere and kind-hearted, Mr.Jianhou thought high about him and gladly accepted him as indoor disciple.

WANG YONGQUAN
Wang Yongquan, Chonglu’s son, was interested in martial arts since childhood and when seven started to study Buku (“wrestling” in Manchu language) and became very sturdy and his movements were strong and vigorous. At the age of eight he often accompanied father to Yang’s house. Mr.Jianhou liked Yongquan as he was a very bright kid and allowed him to learn martial art of yang family. Mr.Jianhou ordered him to accept Yang Chengfu, Jianhou’s third son, as his master. Since then father and son often went to Yang’s house in the western part of the capital to study martial art.

Yongquan was also often sent by his father to Yang’s house to help manage household affairs and could often hear Jianhou’s and Shaohou’s (father and son) discussions on boxing techniques. Sometimes in the height of his enthusiasm Shaouhou would call Yongquan to come and cross hands to feel his strength hence prove his point; since Yongquan had good basics in “Buku” and knew how to fall and was not afraid of it, every time he was hit by his gongfu uncle’s (i.e. Shaohou’s; since Yang Chengfu was Wang Yongquan’s master – Shifu, gongfu father – and Shaohou was Chengfu’s older brother, then Shaohou was Wang’s Shibo – gongfu uncle; word “uncle” used later in the translations should read as Shibo – gongfu uncle; note from translator) swift and fierce power and tumbled several times on the ground, he would immediately stand up and move close to Shaohou waiting for another show of uncle’s skill; for this reason Shaohou liked him a lot.

Wang Yongquan (1904-1987)

At that time Shaohou, also called “Mr. Big”, used to strike showing the opponent no mercy and became famous for his fierce and malicious power. People who had a taste of this power and were flung by him high up would tremble with fear and not dear to come close to him again. However Yongquan would do what he could to cross hands with uncle Shaohou to feel the direction of his strength (Jin), the power and timing, although hit and thrown on the ground. He could only feel the strength and would not dare to ask uncle what power he used. During several years Yongquan was imperceptibly influenced by what he saw and heard and was able to comprehend it. For this reason, and because of instructions he received earlier from Mr.Jianhou and later from his father, Mr.Yongquan received true transmission of Yang family Internal Skill (Nei Gong) and Power Methods (Jin Fa), and had high attainments in Kneading Hands (Rou Shou). After that for the next decades all along he kept practicing the original early methods of Old Six Routines (Lao Liu Lu) that he had learnt together with his father from Mr.Jianhou; the movements he taught were different from the postures and methods his teacher Yang Chengfu taught when he (i.e. Yang Chengfu) went south to Shanghai and other places. (…)

Explanations of Neigong (Internal Skill) Principles

Taijiquan practice must be conducted internally and externally, Yin and Yang must melt together into one. If one wants to achieve Internal Skill (Nei Gong) of Taiji, one must first grasp practice methods conforming with Taijiquan principles. Principles and methods of Internal Skill are the only way to cultivate Spirit (Shen), Intent (Yi) and Qi; that’s why practice methods in traditional Taijiquan not only pay attention to movements of body and hands, but even more stress principles and methods of Internal Skill. Under any circumstances they cannot be separated.

Many students of Taijiquan practice incorrectly – first learn the routine, and only after they are skilled at it they explore the principles; what they do not understand is that through this empty practice without principles their bodies already get used to the incorrect way of practice, stiff, inflexible, with physical strength. Once the students want to explore the principles, the way they move (with stiff and inflexible strength) already becomes habitual and the problems are very difficult to get rid of; and although they practice correctly for a long time later, Internal Strength (Nei Jin) is out of their grasp and there is no way that they can reach deep understanding of high skill levels.

My teacher handed down a correct method of teaching martial arts – from the beginning both movements and principles are explained clearly, with stress put on using principles to guide the movements correctly. The principles of movements have very explicit guiding meaning, and only by following the correct order of practice handed down by old generations of masters one can quickly enter the correct path and pursue more advanced study.

Yang Style Taijiquan emphasizes internal and external practice, every movement and every posture should contain a Method (Shu) within, and the Method must come out of the movements and postures. Movements and Method depend on each other and complement each other. One must not first practice movements and then learn the principles, as well as one must not first learn the principles and then practice movements. The beginner by imitating (the teacher) will first grasp the external movements, but since the principles of Internal Skill (Nei Gong) cannot be seen, it is not easy to understand their essentials. Since on the elementary level Spirit (Shen), Intent (Yi) and Qi are not ready to accept assignments coming from the mind (consciousness), it is impossible to merge movements and Methods in one step. For this reason students should first of all attach importance to the careful study of the principles.

Every movement and posture of the boxing routine practice should have, as the boxing classics say, “Intent in first place” (Yi Zai Xian), Intention should guide the form from the beginning to the end, one should not practice “empty movements” even for a short moment. For example in the Commencing Form, before the hands raise and the movement is born from utmost stillness, Intention has already started to control the whole body so that all its parts one by one have been adjusted according to the Internal Skill principles.

When the practice reaches the intermediary level, there are many principles, every movement and posture have one kind of fixed principles, and the principles between two movements may mutually alternate and derive from each other. On the high level the accumulation and changes of principles appear naturally, without thinking. My teacher once said, during routine practice, when movements and Methods are harmoniously combined so that they strictly follow ones Intent, at that moment a subtle and profound (phenomena) may develop. The whole body is transparent and empty, one forgets about oneself and is non-active – this high level starts from learning to soften hands and wrists. Every step and every move should be completely guided by the principles of boxing movements, and only later one can gradually attain the level of complete relaxation, transparency and emptiness.

For this reason all those who want to learn Taijiquan should be warned to seriously explore and understand the principles of boxing movements. Following are chosen explanations of the principles of boxing movements; for the sake of better explanation (deeper impression), the pictures show both correct and incorrect movements so that Taijiquan practitioner will not go astray.

1.CROWN OF THE HEAD SUSPENDED (XUAN DING)
Concerning “Crown of the head suspended”, boxing manuals say “Emptiness guides propping up strength” (Xu Ling Ding Jin), “Top of the head suspended” (Ding Tou Xuan), “Baihui pushes up” (Baihui Shang Ding), etc.

My teacher never mentioned the above sayings; he only explained secretly transmitted essential “Back of the neck rubs against the collar”. “Rub against” means that back of the neck is relaxed and straight, and is lightly kept close to the collar when slightly turning. During the process when the back of the neck rubs against the collar, cervical vertebra gradually tends to become upright and straight, and the posture of the body will also become centered and upright; when one attains the state when it is centered and upright, in that short moment all of a sudden whole body will get “fixed” – head will be centered, Spirit clear and Qi refreshed, relaxed and comfortable as if nothing existed. The feeling of relaxed head can make one happy and free of worry, and this state of mind will naturally influence the facial expression showing a slight smile; in this way both the inside and outside of the body will be in peaceful, gentle mood. Paying constant attention to slightly rub against the collar with the back of the neck will keep the Ren and Du channels clear of obstructions, and since when Qi flows than blood moves, chronic illnesses of insufficient supply of blood to the brain, neck aches and blocked Yuzhen will be eliminated. (Ill.1)

Ill.1: CORRECT – back of the neck kept close to the collar    Ill.2: WRONG – withdrawing the chin on purpose    Ill.3: WRONG – lifting the head on purpose

If one does not correctly understand the relation between relaxed, straight neck and upright head, and does not realize how harmful it is for the postures and the body when head is not upright, then one will allow the head to bend and lift and this may turn into a bad habit.

When chin is withdrawn too much, head bends down, the front of the neck is suppressed, breathing is difficult, blood circulation is not smooth, and as a result one becomes apathetic and dispirited. (Ill.2)

When head is lifted then back of the neck is suppressed, Internal Qi can only circulate between Jiabei and Weil and cannot pass through Yuzhen. When Three Gates (San Guan) are not opened, then one gets neck and head aches, head swells, which may even result in vertigo. (Ill.3)

Only when neck is relaxed and straight, then head is centered and upright, at ease and comfortable, which is a very important part of the (Internal Skill) principles.

2.EYES EXPRESSION (EYE SPIRIT, YAN SHEN)
Once the principle of relaxed and straight neck is correctly understood, head will be absolutely empty and eyes expression will naturally attain (the state) of looking and not seeing, which will integrate with (the state of) ears listening but not hearing. The feeling of relaxation of the head will make one’s spirit happy and influence the facial expression, showing a slight smile.

One must not misunderstand the eyes expression of “looking and not seeing” as dull staring, like a pond with still water, without movement and changes. Going out and entering of eyes expression (Eye Spirit) is naturally interlinked with the mind and intention, which give rise to the changes of Opening/Closing of expression. When eyes expression is merged into the movements of boxing routine one should only keep the eyes open, when Eye Spirit goes out, it is for sure accompanied by the Spirit entering; entering of Eye Spirit is surely followed by the Spirit going out; only when going out and entering alternate and circulate, one can truly use eye expression in such a way that there is Yin within Yang, Yang within Yin and Yin and Yang are combined together. (Ill.4)
When Eyes Spirit is held back and looks towards the inside, it does not mean that eyelids drop and eyes are closed or one narrows the eyes and does not look ahead; when Eye Spirit is fixed on a point, it is not using strength and straining the eyes. If the Eyes Spirit is not correctly used, then eyes may hurt because of strain, and it is not only not healthy but very harmful.

Ill.4: Natural Opening and Closing of Eye Spirit

3.EMPTY ARMPITS
During boxing practice people often only pay attention to sinking the shoulders and often overlook to empty the armpits. They often incorrectly believe that sinking and dropping is the correct movement of the shoulders. Actually deliberately sinking the shoulders, which are pulled down with strength, may result in the feeling of heavy and tired shoulders.

Concerning empty armpits, the secret method passed down by my teacher is “practicing boxing with two hot steamed buns carried under the armpits”. My teacher used to give an example from a daily life to explain this: when you pick steamed buns from the steaming hot food steamer, the movement and posture at this short moment are vivid explanation of the essentials for empty armpits. At that moment the strength you use to grasp the bun is extremely precise, because you may scald your hand when you grasp the bun too tightly, and drop it when the strength is not sufficient; at the same time it forces you to use your hand in such a way that it is neither too close nor too distant (from the surface of the bun), in a state of holding with just right strength. “Practicing boxing with two hot steamed buns carried under the armpits” in a plain and easy to understand way illustrates that the armpits should be relaxed and at the same time one should combine a very intriguing, slight strength that is both antagonistic and united. When one practices boxing keeping in mind the hot buns kept under the armpits, then Internal Qi in shoulders and arms will pass smoothly and flow swiftly. After a long time of practice the habit will become natural and emptying the armpits will not have to be intentionally conducted. (Ill.5)

Ill.5: CORRECT – Both armpits empty    Ill.6: WRONG – Armpits empty, arms close to the torso
If one keeps two armpits empty incorrectly, the elbows raise and shoulders becomes stiffened and tensed; the flow of Internal Qi will be obstructed. When armpits are not empty, the arms are kept close to the torso, shoulders can’t relax and hence Internal Qi is suppressed and does not flow. (Ill.6)

Reference: Explanations of Nei Gong (Internal Skill) Principles Excerpts from the book “The True Teachings of Yang Jianhou’s Secret Yang Style Taijiquan” by Wei Shuren chinafrominside.com

The Dantian of Xingyi

THE ELIXIR FIELD
The elixir field is the source of the active aspect, the mansion of energy and power. If you want to be proficient in the art, you must first strengthen your elixir field, and if you want to strengthen your elixir field, you must first practice the art. The back-and-forth of the two will solidify each other.
     My art comes down to understanding the importance of the elixir field. When we consider past teachers, there was oral instruction passed down but few writings, and so for later generations of students it has been quite difficult to understand their reasoning. What I solemnly learned from my father and have practiced for twenty years I will describe briefly.
     “If you want to be proficient in the art, you must first strengthen your elixir field.” This is because if your elixir field is deficient, your energy will not be full. If your energy is not full, your power will not be sufficient, and those five elements and twelve animals will be but empty postures. In your defensive techniques, it would be like you are guarding a city wall against emptiness, and in your offensive techniques, it would be like you are an army defeating weaklings. Therefore, when facing an enemy and frustrating his formations, you must always be as if there is a ball of resolute energy within your lower abdomen. Energy suddenly goes from your waist, through your back and neck, and courses through straight to your headtop. At that moment, your eyes become a vanguard observing and your mind becomes a general strategizing. Drilling and overturning, horizontal and vertical, lifting and dropping – they are applied according to the situation. Dragon or tiger, monkey or horse, eagle & bear – they are transformed into as is appropriate. In a moment of the opponent’s slightest inattention, victory or defeat can be firmly discerned. This is the fullness of the elixir field resulting in the refining of skill.
     “If you want to strengthen your elixir field, you must first practice the art.” Why is this so? I will explain. Some say the elixir field receives what is innate and inherent in the body, that there is enough within the self and nothing to wait for from outside [meaning specific practices or rituals are not required, not that there is no need for obvious requirements such as air, water, food]. You can still be good at sufficiently taking care of yourself, so why put it off until there is something to practice? Personally, I disagree with this. Sure, when people do not overindulge in sex, thereby not wasting their kidney essence, and take care of themselves properly, then vitality will be abundant. In this way you can promote longevity, but you will not actually be able to get energy from the elixir field to be expressed skillfully. If you want it to express skillfully, that is the point where practice must be begun.
     The method of practice is half gathering [energy], half wielding [energy]. Gathering has to do with methods within the “eight requirements” [explained in the following chapter], such as: your tongue should prop up, your teeth should be closed together, your anus should be tucked in, and your “three centers” should be combined [The center of your headtop goes downward, the center of your foot goes upward, and the center of your hand withdraws.], and also you must send out your diaphragm. If energy can course through all of the five organs – heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys – one after another without obstruction, then it will be fulfilling what is said within the eight requirements that “the five elements should be smooth”.
     After doing this for a long time, the energy will begin to be able to fully collect in your elixir field. Although you are gathering, if you are not good at wielding, you will still not be able to express it skillfully. You must send energy collected in your elixir field upward from your lower back to dwell in your chest, fill your abdomen and organs, be concentrated at your ribs, and flush your brain. Additionally, in your ordinary practice, your body will be unusually upright and your hands and feet will be unusually maneuverable. When dealing with an opponent’s attack, your posture will be adaptive. Responding to the changes of your posture, the energy will go along with it and arrive in an instant. When your adaptiveness is beyond description, this is what it means to be good at wielding. And so gathering and wielding should be part of your hard work on a daily basis.
     This art is not like those who sit in silent meditation to cultivate an elixir of immortality. Past experts in this art faced large groups of opponents alone. While we do not know how abundant was the energy in their elixir fields, surely they had it in mind and there was not one who did not diligently practice this art by training the elixir field from the start. Once we are discussing the elixir field with a good understanding, then we can gain access to the martial path.
TRAINING THE ENERGY
In martial techniques, what has shape is the postures and what has no shape is the energy and power. What the postures wield is energy and power, for without energy and power, the postures have no use. Therefore the energy and power is the foundation of the posture. But if you want the power to be sufficient, you must first seek for the energy to be full. Thus the energy is the basis of the power.
     In the previous chapter, I mentioned gathering and wielding, which I have already gone over, but the secrets of my method of training the energy I have not yet discussed fully, so I will now describe the rest of it in detail.
     The practitioner uses the “eight requirements” as the starting point. They are the beginning of the Xingyi boxing art. While internally training the energy and externally performing the posture, whether it be the five elements or twelve animals, the alternating between empty and full, lifting and dropping, drilling and overturning, you must never depart from the eight for an instant.
     What are the eight requirements? 1. The inside should be lifted. 2. The three centers should combine. 3. The three intentions should be linked. 4. The five elements should be smooth. 5. The four tips should work in unison. 6. The mind should be leisurely. 7. The three structure points should align. 8. The eyes should be venomous. These will be individually explained below:
[1] The inside should be lifted:
     Tuck in your anus to lift its energy up into the elixir field. The energy gathered there then goes from the spine straight to the headtop, then returns and then goes up again, circulating round and round endlessly. As it says in the Manual: “By tucking in the anus, the inside is lifted [energetically].”
[2] The three centers should combine:
     The center of the headtop goes downward, the center of the foot goes upward, and the center of the hand withdraws. The three therefore make the energy gather into one place [i.e. the elixir field, which is the center between the three centers]. If the center of the headtop does not go downward, then the energy goes upward and cannot enter the elixir field. If the center of the foot does not go upward, then the energy goes downward and cannot gather in the elixir field. If the center of the hand does not withdraw, then the energy goes outward and cannot contract into the elixir field. Therefore the three centers must combine together, for only then can their energies return to being one.
[3] The three intentions should be linked:
     The intentions of mind, energy, and power are linked into one. They are the three internal unions. These three use mind as the planner, energy as the commander, and power as the soldiers. If the energy is not abundant, the power will be insufficient, and even though the mind is scheming, nothing will be of any use. Therefore when the energy intention is trained well, then you can externally command the power intention, corresponding internally with the mind intention. I would also say that the linking of the three intentions begins with the energy.
[4] The five elements should be smooth:
     Externally the five elements are the five boxing techniques: chopping, crashing, drilling, blasting, and crossing. Internally the five elements are the five organs: heart, liver, stomach, lungs, and kidneys. The external five elements techniques change from one to another according to a smooth sequence. There is a pattern to the whole and rules for the changes. Where the energy and power goes, the posture follows, and where the posture goes, the energy and power concentrate. Therefore when the energy and power are full, the posture is useful, and by practicing the posture, the energy and power can be increased.
     The Manual has this to say about the internal five element organs: “The five elements are basically five key pathways. If left unguarded, they will get blocked up.” When I began to learn these skills, I was inclined toward learning ways of moving energy around, such as the shoulders hanging, the neck straightening, the teeth being closed together, the tongue pressing up, the inside lifting, and so on. I practiced in this way doing a single posture for several days, and gradually the energy was able to reach to my solar plexus. I had tired my body out until my limbs were drained of strength. After training hard for several days, I gradually felt the energy slightly travelling downward, and again I was exhausted. After practicing like this several times, I started to be able to get the energy to go straight to my elixir field as soon as I got into a posture. This has to do with the five elements as five key junctures. [It seemed after the last passage from “the Manual” that he was going to discuss the five organs, but instead he seems to be saying he went through the above process with each of the five element boxing techniques as if they were five stages of an energy-training ordeal.]
     By not ardently practicing, progress will be broken and impeded, and you will be unable to gather energy into the elixir field or wield energy in the four limbs. For the energy to be adequate for a martial artist, the five elements should be smooth, and you will thereby have smoothed energy.
[5] The four tips should work in unison:
     The tongue should prop up, the teeth should be closed together, the fingers and toes should curl in, and the pores should be tight. If the tongue presses up to the palate, then the saliva is concentrated and there is better circulation of energy. If the teeth are tightly closed together, the energy penetrates to the marrow. If the fingers and toes are curling inward, the energy is concentrated in the sinews. If the pores are tight, the energy of the whole body is gathered and strong. By “unison” is meant that when in each posture, if all of these four are working together in this way, there will be no parts [of the body] getting ahead of or falling behind any other parts, none going slower or faster. If any of these four is missing, the energy will be scattered and the power will be slackened, and then there will be little purpose in talking about technique.
[6] The mind should be leisurely:
     When practicing, there is to be no panic or haste within the mind. Panic leads to fear. Haste leads to stress. Scared, the energy will be discouraged. Stressed, the energy will be disorganized. When discouraged and disorganized, the hands and feet will be out of arrangement. If you are generally not practicing, then internally you will be deficient and empty, and when encountering opponents, you will be timid and recoiling. When facing an opponent, never be scared or stressed, but have instead a mind at ease. Therefore the leisurely mind and the training of the energy are the outer and inner aspects of each other.
[7] The three structure points should align:
     The nose, hands, and feet are to align with each other. If the hands are not aligned with the nose, then if you incline to the left, the right side will be empty, and if you incline to the right, the left side will be empty. If the hands with the feet or the feet with the nose are not aligned, the error is the same. If the three seem very aligned with each other, but when you incline diagonally the strength is not evenly placed throughout the body, they will surely be unable to be united into one and the energy will be scattered as a result. Even if the center of the headtop goes downward, the energy will not easily move downward. Even if the center of the foot goes upward, the energy will not easily gather upward. Even if the center of the hand withdraws, the energy will not easily contract inward. This is a natural principle. Therefore if the three structure points do not align, it will be a big obstruction to the training of the energy.
[8] The eyes should be venomous:
     If the eyes do not seem to be very connected to the training of energy, you do not understand that venomousness has an intention of quick perception. One without abundant vitality will not be able to have this. Experience dictates that our skills are not something only soldiers should practice, civilians also should practice them. By training your strength everyday, you can invigorate your body, and by training your energy, you can develop your spirit. The elixir field will be concentrated and the five organs will be comfortable. For such a person, his spirit is sure to be nimble and his mind is sure to be quick. The orifice senses of hearing, tasting, and smelling will surely be able to be fully sensitive, but the eyes especially will surely be shining and bright, having a sharpness that shoots at the opponent. Who says the venom of the eyes is not energy?
In such law-of-the-jungle moments, all creatures and countries emphasize their skills. The distance an archer can shoot depends entirely on the quality of the bow, but hitting the target depends entirely on the archer’s strength of mind, hand, and eye. Thus for one whose energy and power are insufficient, he may have spied the target with precision, yet when the moment comes to shoot, his mind shivers and his hand shakes, and he is unable to hit the mark. It is then therefore crucial to give eager attention to your daily practice. When your body is strengthened, your vitality abundant, and inside and out are as one, you can then rectify your errors.
     You may say: “So energy moves inside and power manifests outside. You have discussed the energy. What about the power?” To which I say: “From the outside a person observes me and my power is easy to see, and because of my training, my energy is easy to understand. Furthermore, energy and power are basically one thing. When the energy is sufficient, the power can be known.”
     You may also say: “You have been talking purely of energy and power. Can you not talk some about the postures?” To which I say: “When training the postures, you must first seek to make the energy full, but when training the energy, you must first discuss postures. This is because the energy and postures are applied together. Because the posture forms on the outside, it has signs which can be seen. Because the energy moves on the inside, it is profound, subtle, unobservable. Thus the student who consistently pays attention to the postures often neglects the moving of energy. Our outward posture lies solely in the energy and power, and that is why attention is to be continually devoted there.”