It is common among martial artists to discuss their skills. The same is true of Tai Chi Chuan practitioners. We have seen a competition match where an older man defeated a younger man; we heard from our teachers and read from books how the Yang Family members’ kung-fu was so good that they defeated hard style practitioners without any difficulty. When a young man is defeated by an older man, we say that the young man’s kung-fu is not as good as an older man’s. You may wonder how to measure kung-fu skills in Tai Chi Chuan. The following is my understanding and interpretation of how to measure different levels of Tai Chi Chuan kung-fu with my sixty years of practical knowledge.
Tai Chi Chuan kung-fu is divided into ten levels. The first three levels are called lower level or what some people call the level of “entering the door” for this is the beginning of a journey of Tai Chi Chuan training. If a student has achieved the third level, he is considered to have entered the door of training. Fourth to sixth levels are called the middle level or what some people call “enter the door and go into the room”. It is so-called because the student is no longer a beginner and all his instructions are taught in a closed space. Seventh level is the level for a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner to master. Eight to tenth levels are the higher levels and are commonly referred to as “reaching the peak and summit.” Eighth level means one has reached the peak but not the summit. Throughout the history of Tai Chi Chuan, the number of people who achieve this level is very few, so few that we can count them without fingers. People who have achieved this level must have spent decades of diligent practice. For now, anyone who has achieved eighth level will be very famous not just in China but throughout the world if he wanted to show his skill to the public.
The following is a more detailed discussion on the ten levels of Tai Chi Chuan kung-fu. We all know that Tai Chi Chuan is an internal martial art and it is based on the philosophy of yin-yang (that is soft interacting with hard). The whole process of Tai Chi Chuan training is to break down the stiff and rigid body into a soft and relaxed body and then assemble this soft and hard body into a hard and solid body like steel. The Classics say that one should first seek the familiar and then try to understand the jing (internal power). From beginning to understand the jing, with practice the practitioner develops enlightenment. With the term “familiar” the Classics refer to the concept of transforming the hard and rigid body into soft and relaxed body through push hands and the knowledge of these concepts is also called “entering the door” kung-fu. Therefore, it is taught orally. Of course, if one practices Tai Chi Chuan just for health, one does not need to practice push hands. However, if one practices Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art, one must practice push hands. Otherwise one is never considered to have entered the door. From push hands exercise, one slowly understands the jing. These are the first three levels of Tai Chi Chuan kung-fu.
From push hands exercise standpoint, the first three levels of kung-fu are the yielding or neutralizing of the opponent’s energy. The Classic of Tai Chi Chuan Circle says that the retreat circle is easer to do than the advance circle. The first three levels are also called the retreat circle. In level one, most of the movements are composed of stiff and rigid energy, very little of yielding energy. In the second level, yielding energy increases and rigid energy decreases in all movements. This is the result of understanding the concepts of push hands exercises and getting familiar with the opponent’s energy and movements. In the third level, all the movements are controlled mainly by the yielding energy and one begins to understand the jing. At this time, one does not just understand and know the jing but is able to maneuver in a circular motion to neutralize the coming energy.
The first three levels is for a student not familiar with the concept of circle to become very familiar with the concept of circle and can use this circle principle to adhere and follow the coming energy. When one understands how and when to use this circle to retreat, one is beginning to understand jing.
Fourth to sixth level kung-fu is working with the advance circle. Therefore, it is also called the advance circle training. When I speak of advance circle, it is not simply a response after retreat. It is in the process of retreating that your yielding energy adheres to the opponent’s energy at all times and under this condition you are forced to advance. For in this situation, your advance maneuver threatens and can cause your opponent to lose balance and get defeated. Your offensive maneuver can be a strike or just fa jing (release energy) and can send the opponent flying. At this time, the student begins to develop fa jing or one inch fa jing techniques. Therefore, if a practitioner does not possess these fa jing or one inch jing techniques, one is considered not to have achieved the fourth level and has not entered the door.
In this fourth to sixth level kung-fu, training involves collecting all the limber body parts and beginning to form firm body parts and from one inch fa jing into even smaller unit of fa jing techniques. Common people generally withdraw their arms one or two feet to reserve power and then punch forward. This is called one foot fa jing technique. At the fourth level, one does not need to withdraw the arms and hands. At this level, a simple fa jing technique cause the opponent to fly. This is the sign that he has entered the door and begins to go into the room. At this time the practitioner should feel the legs and feet are much stronger and are rooted. After one has achieved the fourth level and higher, one is at a very delicate time. The classic calls this as one day’s worth of practice and one day’s worth of skill. This is also the time when the practitioner has entered the door and has gone into the room. The classic also calls this the time of “no rest and keep practicing.” The classic says that in order to learn correctly, one must begin by oral transmission. When a student has achieved level four, he has completed the oral transmission period. Although the student does not practice push hands exercises this time, practice of the solo form can improve Tai Chi Chuan kung-fu. Of course, with a teacher’s guidance, the student’s progress is much greater.
When a student has achieved level six, he has entered the room and understands the knowledge. Now he is beginning to understand how to let oneself go and follow the opponent’s energy and apply energy any way he likes. From my sixty years of practical experience, level seven is the key level in which one is going from middle kung-fu into higher kung-fu transition. It is the level of using the mind to control all movements any way one likes. When a student completes this level, the student has also completed the advance circle. The next step is no circle. It is also for the student to practice one inch fa jing technique to small units of fa jing techniques. At this time, one should find that part of the body is soft and every part of the body is solid. Every part of the body can yield and every part can fa jing. Therefore, depending on which part of the body is in contact with the opponent, that part of the body will strike the opponent.
From push hands application standpoint, the first three levels are outer circle yielding while fourth to fifth levels are inner circle yielding. The sixth level is yielding with the body. That means one leads the opponent’s energy close to the body and then maneuver the body for yielding. This technique is called “separation of the flesh.” Level seven is no circle strike. Besides the three ways of yielding as described above, one can lead the opponent’s energy to come close to the body and counter strike without yielding. This technique is called “point strike.” At this time, you cannot see the hands move because when the hands touch, it is a strike. When the hands stick, it is also a strike. In this point of contact, it is composed of strike and fa jing and it can be either soft or solid, it can be yield or fa jing. You can say that it is soft and you can say that it is solid.
Levels eight to ten are advanced Tai Chi Chuan kung-fu. Because I have not achieved this yet, I cannot define what it is. From what I heard from my teacher and sixty years of practical experience, anyone who has achieved this level can do wonderful things. This is what the classics commonly refer to when it says, “the opponent does not know me but I know the opponent.” The body is so sensitive and light that one cannot add one feather, fly and mosquito cannot land on the body. When an opponent punches the body, the opponent is already injured and is flying backward but you did not see my improvement. Any movement can cause the opponent injury and bleeding. Of course, in martial arts training, There is no such thing as the end state. The more you practice, the better the skill. Skill is infinite. Tai Chi Chuan practitioners past and present have achieved skill that most people do not believe was humanly possible.
Fang Ning On Tai Chi Chuan Kung-Fu by Fang Ning, translated by Master Vincent Chu.
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
What is Taiji pushing‐hands? What should one pay attention to when learning and practising pushing‐hands? The solo form sequence practice and duet form pushing-hands exercise are the two component parts of the art of Taijiquan. Doing sequence practice enables one to learn the substance of Taiiiquan, while doing pushing-hand exercise trains one to apply the art to actual self-defence. Therefore, after having learned how to do well a complete sequence of Taiiiquan, one should proceed to learn pushing-hands. Only when one has become proficient in both, can he be counted as being possessed of the substance as well as the application of the art of Taiiiquan.
Pushing-hands is a form of exercise to sharpen the sensitivity of one nerve endings to the degree as sensitive as that of the feelers of a cricket. The feelers are not only very quick in sensing out what the cricket is facing against, but are also very quick in directing the insect to dodge nimbly an attack with the slightest necessary shifting movement, or to be fully attentive in locating and taking advantage of any of the opponent’s weak points. Such kind of exercise will enhance one’s interest and arouse the spirit of enquiry and analysis in the process of learning Taiiiquan.
Pushing-hands is a technical term used in Taiiiquan, and it is sometimes called Joining-hands, or Closely-attached‐hands, or Kneading-hands. There are similar kinds of practice adopted by different schools of Chinese martial arts for practising the methods of getting into close contact with one’s opponent and making good use of some combative device and technique.
“Knowing how to interpret energy” is looked upon as the gist of mastering the art of Taiiiquan, and the primary step toward the knowing is to sharpen the sensitivity of the skin through pushing-hands practice. For that, the fundamental way is to let one’s elbow, wrist, palm or fingers get attached to a certain part of the opponent’s body while doing pushing, pulling, or other movements, to learn to sense out the forcefulness, direction, speed as well as the substantiality or insubstantiality of the opponent’s energy to be issued. After a long time of such kind of practice the sensitivity of nerve endings will be greatly sharpend, and the pair will know how to advance or retreat, and how to issue energy or neutralize it aptly. Then, at the opponent’s slightest stir, one will know instantly the direction, the forcefulness, the speed as well as the substantiality or insubstantiality of the energy he is to issue. Such ability is known as “knowing how to interpret energy.”
After one is capable of “knowing how to interpret energy”, one’s art will become more and more refined through further practice. In an encounter with an opponent, taking an accurate measure of him is of utmost importance, and the basis of an accurate measure is knowing oneself and one’s opponent. There is an old Chinese saying: “Knowing oneself and also one’s’ opponent will make one a hundred times victorious in a hundred battles.” Sensitive feeling is the meduim for knowing the self and the opponent. So the fundamental theory of pushing-hands is actually not very complicated. Of course, from the point of keeping one’s body centered and in equilibrium, it is harder to be so with the duet form pushing‐hands than with the solo form sequence practice, for the latter calls for keeping balanced in doing different sorts of movements by oneself only, while the former demands keeping balanced under an opponent’s every measure to set him off balance, and losing no opportunity to set the opponent off balance. The often cited saying “Seeking to know one’s own energy through the sequence practice, and the other’s energy through pushing-hands exercise” shows that the two actually serve the same purpose of knowing oneself and knowing one’s opponent.
Only through constant practice can one obtain true knowledge. Whether in doing pushing-hands exercise or sequence practice, one must observe the prescribed way of doing them, and must try one’s best to do every posture and to apply any method as correctly as possible. In pushing-hands, the insubstantiality and the substantiality of the two legs must be clearly differentiated. For instance, the foreleg must bend to the required degree when taking the “archer stance”, and one must sit back firmly on the rear leg when assuming the “sitting stance.” Also, one’s trunk must be kept centered and in equilibrium as in doing the sequence practice. The. eight forms of hand‐ methods: warding, rolling, pushing, pressing, pulling, splitting, elbow‐striking and shoulder‐striking should be practised one by one again and again, to obtain accuracy. Therefore, a beginner is asked to devote his full time and attention to “rotation-practice” which is a system of exercise done cooperatively by two persons. When A does warding, B counters it with rolling aside then A changes to pressing, B overcomes it with pushing, or vice‘versa.‘ Going on this way in rotation round after round till tired, it is not unusual to do up to a few hundred rounds at a practice session. In the older days, some had done up to a few thousand rounds, and even to ten tho‘usand rounds! When the above four forms of hand‐methods are mastered, the pair should proceed to four more forms: pulling, splitting, elbow-striking and shoulder-striking in the training system called Da Lu. Only after one has become proficient in the use of these eight hand-methods, should one start to make enquiry (to test) the opposite party’s energy. In pushing-hands, the movement of eyesight generally follows that of the hands.
Form a habit of doing all these in a correct way. When a good foundation is laid, it will be easier to reach the advanced stage of development. It is necessary to observe the rule of gradual progression. Avoid any hasty desire for success. Kungfu (skill developed through a long time of hard training) is an accumulation of improvement day by day and bit by bit.
There are quite a number of diferent forms of pushing-hands exercise. The basic four hand-methods practice on fixed stance, the same practice with moving steps, and Da Lu are the chief ones; while the so‐called “Rib-reaching”, “Folding up” and “Old Cattle Energy” are more advanced auxiliary exercises designed to develop a certain skill or power; and finally there is “Free-flower-picking” as a form of free sparring. However, pushing-hands on fixed steps is fundamental to all. Therefore, it is necessary to start with it in learning the art of pushing-hands.
When starting to do rotation practice, all the movements should be done to the required degree and it is advisable to gradually enlarge the movements and make them more and more rounded, avoiding any appearance of bumps and holes in one’s posture, any severance and discontinuity in one’s movement, and any defectiveness in the methods employed. Pushing-hands on fixed stance allows no moving of the rear foot, and any such moving is usually counted a loss of one point in a contest. Therefore, in the practice one should increase his reach only by extending the movements of his arms and trunk and his Counterpart should evade the closing in by sitting back on his rear foot as far as needed, and then neutralise the on-coming force at the apt moment. It is not allowed to resist or to ward off it with force. Only when one is so closely pressed by the on-coming force that any neutralising movement is no more possible, will he be allowed in practice to move a step backward, and if only half a step is needed, then just retreat half a step, not any more. Whether advancing or retreating, the two should maintain attachment to each other. Practising in such a manner, a kind of adhering and sticking energy will be gradually developed as time goes by.
The next step is to take up folding up practice and Da Lu to develop further the flexibility and tenacity of the waist and legs, and for the training of advanced skills. One important thing to remember is not to let your self go into inquiring (testing) your opponent’s energy too early. The common saying “Practice makes perfect” is most suitably applied to pushing-hands. Just concentrate your effort and attention on doing your daily practice, by and by, there will develop in you the sense of knowing how to “interpret energy.” When you really knows this you will be able to make use of the technique of overcoming hardness with pliability, and to use “four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds”
The sentence “Use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds” in the “Song of Pushing-hands” denotes a method with the highest efficiency employed in pushing‐hands. To achieve this, the primary demand after getting into contact with the opponent is “no letting go and no resistance”. Though the phrase “no letting go” surely denotes not getting separated from each other, but in fact it is not that simple. One should let some part of his arm, by his keen sense of touch, get adhered to the opponents. And in this state of adherance, one should follow the opponents movement, at the same time, issue a very slight amount of energy to try to drive the opponent into a disadvantageous or unstable position. At this juncture, if no counter-acting energy is felt (that is, at the moment when a sense of lightness appears from a sense of heaviness), one could use any hand-method that deemed fit to send the opponent off his feet. And if a sense of heaviness is felt at the attached point, one should slightly loosen the attachment to let opponent have a sudden feeling of emptiness, and follow with an attack immediately. That will send the opponent away much farther. Such is the effect of first making use of the principle of “no resistance”, to leave ones opponent in a state of being suddenly lifted from his root, and then immediately followed with the technique of “no letting go” to set him of balance. The phrase “no resistance” may be understood from the wording as not to use any strength and let oneself be handled in any way by the opponent, however, it is not entirely so. To be handled in any way by, the opponent will place oneself in a passive position, while “no resistance” embodies an active spirit in making one’s movement suited to any of the opponents. Therefore, in pushing‐hands, while it is necessary to be able to receive whatever comes from the opponent, it is also imperative to use ones keen sense of touch to find out the substantial and the insubstantial part of the opponent’s body, and to discriminate the real and the fake of his offensive or defensive movements so as to be able to adapt ones own movements to that of the opponent’s.
To counter an opponents forceful attack with forceful resistance is a commitment of the most serious fault in Taiiiquan, the double-weighting (this term will be explained in detail later). To hit back at any on-comming stroke right away is but a kind of natural reaction and not the way of Taijiquan. The way adopted by Taiii pushing‐hands is “to neutralise the oncoming force first, then to follow with a counter attack”. And its also necessary to get oneself into a superior position, and one’s opponent, an awkward position before making the counter attack. Thus, one will be able to gain victory without spending much effort. This is in accordance with what is said in the Taijiquan treaties: “To meet hardness with softness is termed getting away”; “to get oneself into a superior position, and one’s opponent, an awkward position, is called adhering to.” One should take any on-coming force, big or small, as a hard one, and not to resist it with force, but to meet it softly while evading from the attack. This is what is meant by “getting away.” To create a superior position before making the counter attack, one must catch the right opportunity and make use of the advantageous situation, or try to get out from an awkward and disadvantageous position in time.
It is naturally uncomfortable in an awkward position, and to transfer from being uncomfortable to comfortable, one must also do as pointed out in a Taijiquan classic: “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.” That is: in pushing-hands, if the waist senses some discomfort, adjust the legs and the trouble will be gone; and when the legs are not properly placed, hard to bare one’s weight and feeling uncomfortable, adjust the waist, and the problem will be solved. We must also see that when one‘s own body is in a comfortable state, there is no question that the other party is in a state of discomfort, and vice versa. And when one is in a superior position, this is the time to issue energy to upset the opponent. And remember: not a split‐second’s delay; any delay, the opportunity is lost and the situation is changed. Thus the aim of pushing-hands training is not to improve our natural reaction, to make it quicker and more forceful, but to inhibit and remould it. And it does not mean “not to use any force”, but to use a necessary amount of force at the right moment and with much greater effects.
The principle “no letting go and no resistance” is one of prime importance in pushing‐hands practice. The relationship between advance and retreat could be made more interrelated. The two persons engaged in this practice should neither stick together too closely, nor get separated, but to be linked into one in the continuous rotation practice. The procedure of practice is to let one party take up the role of an attacker, the other the defender, and then have the two changed around later. If the attacker advances one inch, the defender yeilds one inch, if one foot, also one foot, not a bit more or a bit less. Yielding less will result in resisting, while yeilding more will result in letting go. And one must remember that all advancing or retreating most take a curved path, not a straight one. Another important point is that to practise “no resisting”, it is necessary not only to yield with the hands, but to turn the waist and sit back at the same time. Otherwise, because of lack of coordination between one’s own hands and the trunk, should the trunk stay unmoved while the hands are already retreated, it will offer the opponent an opportunity of discarding the hands and reach directly for the trunk. That is why in pushing-hands, it relies chiefly on one’s waist and leg-work. To train the waist and legs, aside from laying emphasis on fundamental training, such as the practice of the various forms of foot stance: the archer stance, the riding stance, the insubstantial stance, the resting stance and the sitting stance, etc., as well as the various forms of turning and twisting the trunk, one must take note of the training procedure of “seeking first for extending and opening; seeking later for closing and compacting.”
Formerly, speaking of pushing-hands, there is one way called “getting the gate tightly closed”, and another, “leaving the gate wide open”. The idea of “getting the gate tightly closed” is that as a defensive measure against any offensive move, one should block the entrance leading toward one’s own body. It is generally correct but not always so. If one has in his command good waist and leg-work, it is all right for him to leave the gate wide open, enticing the opponent to come in. On the contrary, if one only pays attention to closing the gate in his daily practice, and has no experience in leaving the gate wide open, then, at the instance of actual encounter, should the gate be opened by his opponent, he will find himself in great alarm and not knowing what to do. Therefore, in daily practice, one should first seek to make one’s postures more and more open and extended, and later on, more and more close and compacted. It is quite the same as in learning calligraphy.
To be good at writing small size characters, one generally starts with writing big size charcters to build up a strong foundation of penmanship. When one is already good at writing big size characters, one can achieve success in writing small size characters after a comparatively short time of practice. As it is harder to extend one’s movement when one is already accustomed to compacting, the training of Taiiiquan demands extending one’s movements first to increase the reach in applying the techniques of “adhering, connencting, sticking and following, without letting go and with no resistance”, so as to make possible “With the upper and lower parts acting in unison, it will be difficult for the opponent to come in”, no matter how far-reaching is the opponent’s movement. It is required that one’s movements be more and more compacted later, so one can be quicken,and nimbler in making any change of movements which will be harder to be sensed by the opponent. This is the training method designed for reaching a higher level of accomplishment: to make one’s sense of touch more sensitive one’s “hearing” (sensing) of the on-coming energy more precise, one’s “answer” (response) to an “inquiry” (the opponent’s testing move) more adequate and to discriminate the insubstantial and substantial more clearly.
Finally, a detailed exeplanation of “double-weighting” and the way to avoid it is given below.
Generally speaking, double-weighting means that substantiality and insubstantiality are not clearly differentiated. It is said in the Taiiiquan classics, “The Insubstantial and the substantial should be clearly discriminated. Each single part of the body has both an insubstantial and a substantial aspect at any given time, as does the body in its entirety.” Therefore, in every posture taken, and in the way of issuing energy, there should be differentiated aspects of the substantial and the insubstantial. In pushing‐hands one must first seek to find out the insubstantial and the substantial aspects of the opponent’s postures and movements, as well as in his way of applying a defensive or offensive technique and in issuing energy. Then one should make good use of the opponent’s insubstantiality and substantiality found by attacking the insubstantial and evading from the substantial, and at the same time, one should make subtle and varified changes of the insubstantial and substantial aspects of his own, so as not to let them be found out by his opponent, or to puzzle and mislead the opponent by feinting. If one could not have the insubstantiality and the substantiality either of his own or of his opponent clearly discriminated, or to meet substantiality with substantiality, he is bound to be defeated in the pushing‐hands. Therefore double‐weighting is the most serious fault that must beavoided in pushing-hands. It is said in the Taiiiquan treaties: “Many people have spent years in practising Taijiquan, yet are often seen unable to apply it for practical use but to be generally subdued by others as the result of not having perceived the serious fault of double-weighting.” This shows that double-weighting is not only like an unnoticeable pitfall that one is liable to fall into at any time th is also like a sickness that could not be easily diagnosed and got rid of.
Letting both feet exert force against the ground to bear the weight of the body equally is certainly double-weighting. If both feet are exerting force but letting a greater part or the whole of one’s body weight be borne by one foot, with the other foot bearing a lesser part of body weight or just for the sake of balancing the body, that is not double-weighting. This is the generally accepted view. However, in actual practice, many Taiiiquan lear‐ ners are not quite clear about how to be in the state of non-double-weighting.
More often than not, they will think that it is not necessary for the insubstantial foot (leg) to exert any force. They fail to see that only when it is also exerting some force, can the body be kept in equilibrium and the centre of gravity stabilized. However, the force of the insubstantial foot should not be exerted against the ground, but in the emptiness just for balancing. If the insubstantial foot exerts force against the ground, one’s centre of gravity will tend to move out of the base; or if the insubstantial foot does not exert any force, he will be easily set off balance by the opponent’s slight push or pull. This is why we find such a statement in the Taijiquan classics “To be insubstantial is not a state of totally devoid of effort.” And we must also study and make good use of its counterpart, “To be substantial is not a state of being totally fixed onto the ground”, the gist of being in such a state is rather simple: think of your head as if being lifted upward by a string suspended from above.
If one has no understanding of both sides of the same issue, he may have no more trouble with double-weighting, but he may be again involved with a new fault of letting all the weight dropped down and all the force exerted at one side.
In all, double-weighting denotes the stereo-form of not having the insubstantial and the substantial differentiated. To avoid double-weighting, one must be capable of making rapid and subtle changes from being insubstantial to being substantial, or vice versa, related to any part of his body or to what is on his mind. At the moment when any of the substantial part on his body is about to be shaken, one should think of letting it become insubstantial immediately and vice versa. The training procedure is to make such changes going along from a bigger part to a smaller and smaller part of one’s body, up to the size of one square inch or a single finger. Of course, such kind of refined training and high level of achievement is beyond the reach of beginners. The beginners should only follow a course of gradual progression. They should, in their rotation exercise, try to make their movements more and more open, extended and rounded at first, and more and more closed and compact, but still rounded later on. The circular form is the ideal form for smoothly neutralizing any on‐coming force at any point of contact and for quick change of movements at any time. And having one’s movements well rounded is a prerequisite for attaining a high degree of harmony and continuity. There could be in one’s outer movements, many different forms of circles: the regular, the semi, the vertical, the horizontal and the oblique circles, as well as the ovals for one assortment; and the hand, elbow, shoulder, chest, abdomen, hip, knee and foot circles for another assortment. As to one’s inner activities, there should also be some sort of circular movements, one should think of his internal organs making some slight turning and inter-massage with the assistance of deep abdominal breathing. This will aid the sending out of inner spiralling energy from Dantian (a point about two inches below navel). This will also help making ones Circulation system, ones main and collateral channels (a network of passages, through which vital energy circulates and along which the acupuncture points are distributed) unimpeded. With proper guidance and ceaseless endeavour, the beginners will eventually become masters of the art of pushing-hands.
Reference: Wu Style Taijiquan by Wang Peisheng & Zeng Weiqi p. 188-196.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
Master Han xing Qiao was born in Shanghai, China in 1909.
Master Han Qiaos’ father,(Han you Sun), was a member of the imperial guards in the forbidden city. He was the personal bodyguard of Teng Hou Zhang. His Kung Fu background was diverse, but he was noted as a Ba Ji Quan stylist. The elder Han was also a doctor of medicine. Master Han You taught his son Xing Yi Quan, Ba Gua Quan, and Ba Ji Quan.
Master Han Qiao was an adept student of martial art and began a life in the martial arts with some of the best teachers in all of China. His instructors in Kung Fu included
Wang Lao De – Shuai Jiao
Yao Xin – shuai Jiao
Deng Yun Feng – Xing Yi Quan
Wang Zhang Heng – Xing Yi Quan
Liu Cai Chen – Xing Yi Chen / small frame Tai Chi Quan
Lin (Liu) Jing Qinq – Ba Gua Quan
Yiao Fu Chun – large frame Tai Chi Quan, Xing Yi Quan
Shang Yun Xing – Xing Yi Quan
Wu You Wei – founder of Liu He Ba Fa… (water boxing) who was also a student of Qieu Xian Tan in Shanghai
Qieu Xian Tan – Tui Na, one finger / chinese medicine … helped master Wang research many things and introduced Master Han to Wang
Wang Xiang Zai – founder of Yiquan, disciple of Guo You Sheng…Internal Kung Fu
Master Han Qiao was the disciple of Yiquan master Wang Xiang Zai at the Zenith of his life. In 1931 master Han was introduced to master Wang by master Hans teacher of internal medicine, Master Qieu Xian Tan in Shanghai.
Master Qieu Xian Tan in Shanghai. It was there and then that Master Wangs Yiquan was coalescing. Master Wang was exchanging many ideas with master Qieu, including the concept of zhong ,( pile standing, or keeping), one of the structural foundations of modern Yiquan. Master Qieu had an extensive library that held all of the classics, and in them Wang rersearched the ancient health dance, and the Yi ji Jing, (the shaolin book of tendon changing and bone marrow cleansing). All of these concepts where decoded by master Wangs real ability and feeling. In this sense they were not added on to his Yiquan, but instead instructed him in what Yiquan might be.
In 1931 Master Han instantly became an ardent student of Master Wangs , ( Master Wang adopted master Han as his real son and brought him into his home), for the next 15 years, until fate and politics took them to different parts of the country.
In 1938 Masters Wang and Han moved to beijing. In the northern Capital Master wang began teaching students at Beijing Si Cun Academy. Master Han assisted Master Wang and the art of Yiquan was spread and developed further. Both Masters never ceased to find something new in their understanding of what Yiquan is. The method and curriculum changed over time. One example is seen in Master Wang’s Fa Li practice. The 1930s is the only time we see Master Wang give instruction in Fa Li as a separate practice. By 1939 he stopped this distinction stating “All of the Zhong are Fa Li” . To Master Wang’s understanding this seemed clear. Some of the older students took this superficially and began a new invention of making Zhongs first imaginarily soft ,(Song), and then imaginarily hard,(Jing). The first principle of Yi Quan is natural of course. Neither soft nor hard actually exist in Nature. It is only once we make a statement of mind that these things come into comparative distinction. For Master Wang, Yi Quan became simple, and more so over time. In the later days of his life, he taught only the main three Zhong.
In 1973, Then premier Zhou Enlai personally appointed Master Han to introduce Yi quan theory into the state sports commission. The expression of Yiquan in modern sports was an honor. Master Hans ability to teach Yiquan principles translates to other aspects of life.
Later Master Han was appointed the president of Xinjiang Wushu Association.
Master Han can also be noted for his skill as a doctor, having been trained by numerous teachers, especially the instruction of Qieu Xian Tan. Master Qieu taught Master Han the Tui Na art of one finger treatment,(as well as chinese medicine). Master Han Qiao was an associate professor of Xinjiang traditional chinese medical collage and the traditional chinese medicine association, Chairman of the Xinjiang province division.
After retirement from medicine Master Han still focused on Yiquan development and research. He never stopped teaching Yi Quan. In 1985 with the support of the Hong Kong Yi Quan Association, Master Han opened the Zhuhai Yi Quan training center, in the city of Zhuhai. In 1990 Master Han was appointed Chairman of the Yi Quan Research Association.
Master Han Xing Qiao deeply felt that martial arts is within the Spirit of the Chinese Nation, culturally and philosophically , deep and profound. After more than Sixty years of practice and research, in 1993 Cosmos Books of Hong Kong published “YI Quan Xue”. This book includes Yi quan main theories and outlines the methods of practice, including the aspects of health preservation and real combat technique.
Master Han Qiao had five boys and one girl child who succeed him. All of the boys are doctors and a few are noted as Yi Quan instructors. One son, Han Chen Jen asked to rename Yi Quan as Han Shi Yiquan, (Han family Yi Quan). This permission was given upon Master Han Qiaos’ passing in october of 2004 at the age of 95. The reason the name was given is simple, this Yi Quan method is the understanding of the essence that Master Han Xing Qiao transmitted to Master Han Chen Jen. The name distinguishes the art from other schools of Yi Quan who may have a different concept of how the principles of Yi Quan translate into practice.
Reference: History of Yiquan and the han family Facebook
The body is like the movements of a swimming dragon, a wild goose ascending the emptiness, a tiger crashing, a turtle diving, or a snake slithering, turning the circle at will in connected and united postures, angled or crossing, advancing or retreating while talking and laughing.
Dong Haichuan (The founder of Bagua on walking the Circle)
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
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.
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, 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
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)
EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES
attributed to Yang Banhou
[translation by Paul Brennan, Sep, 2013]
 The Eight Gates & Five Steps
 On the Training Method for the Eight Gates & Five Steps
 Our Innate Ability to Distinguish
 Stick, Adhere, Connect, and Follow
 Crashing In, Collapsing, Coming Away, and Resistance
 Fighting Without Mistakes
 Practicing Maintaining the Central Ground in Fighting
 The Body’s Posture – The Waist & Headtop
 Taiji’s Circling
 Taiji’s Skill of Advancing & Retreating Ceaselessly
 Taiji’s Above & Below, or “Sky & Ground”
 Taiji’s Eight Techniques in the Realm of Mankind
 Taiji’s Substance & Application
 Taiji’s Civil & Martial Qualities
 Taiji’s Identifying of Energies
 On the Thirteen Dynamics Long Boxing Set
 Taiji’s Inversion of the Passive & Active Aspects
 The Taiji-ness of the Human Body
 Taiji’s Separation of the Civil & Martial Qualities into Three Accomplishments
 Taiji’s Lesser Accomplishment – Its Martial Quality
 Correctness of Skill in Taiji
 Taiji’s Lightness & Heaviness, Floating & Sinking
 Taiji’s Four Secondary Techniques
 The Proper Alignment of Waist & Headtop in Taiji
 A Taiji Map of the Four Seasons & Five Energies
 The Essence of Blood & Energy in Taiji
 Strength & Energy in Taiji
 Taiji’s Reducing Measurements
 Vessels, Channels, Sinews, and Acupoints in Taiji
 Some of the Terms in Taiji
 Taiji’s Reducing of Measurements in the Context of Controlling, Seizing, Capturing, or Sealing
 Taiji’s Boosting or Dissipating Energy & Strength
(Thirty-Two Sections in Total)
(i) Taiji’s Emptying, Tying Up, Filing, and Kneading
(ii) Before Identifying Energies and After
(iii) Reducing Measurements After Identifying Energies
(iv) The Fingers, Palm, Fist, and Hand in Taiji
(v) On Personal Instruction in the Acupoints that Save or Kill
(vi) What Zhang Sanfeng Inherited
(vii) The Teachings of Zhang Sanfeng
(viii) Zhang Sanfeng on Using Martial Arts to Achieve the Way]
 THE EIGHT GATES & FIVE STEPS
position / gate:
掤 南 坎
warding off – S / ☵
捋 西 離
rolling back – W / ☲
擠 東 兑
pressing – E / ☱
按 北 震
pushing – N / ☳
採 西北 巽
plucking – NW / ☴
挒 東南 乾
rending – SE / ☰
肘 東北 坤
elbowing – NE / ☷
靠 西南 艮
bumping – SW / ☶
The positions of the eight gates are based on the principle of the passive and active aspects inverting each other, cycling round and round, following each other in their process. All of the four primary techniques [corresponding to the cardinal directions] and four secondary techniques [corresponding to the corner directions] must be understood. Warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing are the four primary techniques. Plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping are the four secondary techniques. The combining of these cardinals and corners thus positions the trigrams.
The body makes its steps according to the five elements, bracing in all directions. The five elements are: advance (fire), retreat (water), step to the left (wood), step to the right (metal), and stay in the center (earth). Advancing and retreating are the steppings of water and fire, left and right are the steppings of metal and wood, and the central earth is the axis for all of them.
Embrace the eight trigrams as you step through the five elements. Techniques plus steps equals eight plus five, amounting to thirteen, naturally expressed as the Thirteen Dynamics, known as the Eight Gates & Five Steps.
 ON THE TRAINING METHOD FOR THE EIGHT GATES & FIVE STEPS
The eight trigrams and five elements are innate within us. You must first understand that they are based in these four terms: perception, realization, activation, action. [These four terms amount to “moving with awareness”. This is a breakdown of four words – 知, 覺, 運, 動 – which would typically, and especially so for modern Chinese speakers, only be considered as two terms: 知覺 and 運動. To break movement (運動) and awareness (知覺) into their component parts results in: moving = the activation (運) of movement + the act (動) of moving, and awareness = the perception (覺) that something is + the realization (知) of what it is. In short, moving with awareness. This idea is further elaborated upon in the next section, where the purpose of breaking down the two terms into four becomes more clear.]
Once you have achieved moving with awareness, then you will be able to identify energies.
Once you can identify energies, then you will be able to be miraculous. But in the beginning of training, you should understand moving with awareness. Although it is innate, it is nevertheless hard to achieve within oneself.
 OUR INNATE ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH
From birth, our eyes can see, ears can hear, nose can smell, mouth can taste. Sights and sounds, smells and tastes – all innate senses. Dance of hands, prance of feet – the abilities of our limbs are all innate forms of movement. Pondering upon this, we find it is our random experience – “Our natures make us the same, but our experiences make us unique.” [Lun Yu, 17.2] – that makes us lose touch with what is innate. If we want to return to our innate qualities, there will be no martial aspect unless we seek the source of movement, and there will be no civil aspect unless we grasp the basis of awareness. With these things, then there will be moving with awareness.
If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky.
First strive to move with awareness for yourself, grasping it within your own body, then naturally you will be able to spot it in the opponent. If on the other hand you try to find it in opponents first, you will probably never find it in yourself. You have to be able to understand this concept in order to be able to identify energies.
 STICK, ADHERE, CONNECT, AND FOLLOW
Sticking means to lift up high.
Adhering means to stay and be attached.
Connecting means to let go of yourself and not separate from the opponent.
Following means to follow him wherever he goes.
If you want to move with awareness and yet you do not understand sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, it will be beyond your reach, for it is a very subtle skill.
 CRASHING IN, COLLAPSING, COMING AWAY, AND RESISTANCE
Crashing in means sticking your head out.
Collapsing means not enough pressure.
Coming away means separating.
Resistance means too much pressure.
You should understand that these four mistakes will not merely interfere with sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, but will also prevent you from moving with awareness. When beginning to work with a partner, you must understand and especially prevent these errors. The difficulty in sticking, adhering, connecting, and following is in not allowing yourself to crash in, collapse, come away, or resist. This is not at all easy.
 FIGHTING WITHOUT MISTAKES
Crashing in, collapsing, coming away, and resistance will lose in a fight, and so they are called mistakes. If you neglect sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, you will not be able to achieve moving with awareness. And if you are not aware of yourself, how will you be able to know your opponent? Therefore when fighting, do not use crashing in, collapsing, coming away, or resistance, thereby opposing the opponent, instead use sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, thereby awaiting the opponent. If you can do it in this way, then not only will you be without mistakes, but moving with awareness will be automatically accomplished, and you can then progress to the skill of identifying energies.
 PRACTICING MAINTAINING THE CENTRAL GROUND IN FIGHTING (COMMONLY CALLED STANDING LIKE A POST)
When standing centered, your feet should be rooted.
Start by understanding the four primary techniques, then advancing and retreating.
The four techniques are ward-off, rollback, press, and push.
You have to do a lot of work to get them to be real.
For the body posture, your waist and headtop should both be correct.
When sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, your intention and energy are to be uniform throughout.
Movement and awareness respond to each other.
Mind is sovereign and body is subject.
When you get the degree just right,
you will naturally have both the civil quality and the martial. [i.e. If the “degree” is not right, there is “overcooking” or “undercooking”, in which case too civil would be undercooked and too martial would be overcooked.]
 THE BODY’S POSTURE – THE WAIST & HEADTOP
For your body’s posture, how could your waist and headtop be ignored?
Neglecting either, all your work would be in vain.
Waist and headtop are to be exhaustively studied for your whole life.
When your body’s posture is natural, it will naturally be loosened and comfortable.
If you dismiss this truth, how will you end up
but that after ten years you will still be confused?
 TAIJI’S CIRCLING [as in the circles of the pushing hands exercise]
Circling while retreating is easy, but circling while advancing is difficult,
so do not get sloppy with your waist and headtop when going forward or back.
It is hard to stay in the central position,
so the ease of retreat and difficulty of advance are to be carefully studied.
As this is a matter of movement rather than stance,
stay close to the opponent while advancing or retreating.
Circling can be like a watermill as it speeds up or slows down,
or like the dragon-like clouds or tiger-like winds winding all around.
If you use the sky as a model to help you seek this,
then after a long time it will be expressed instinctively.
 TAIJI’S SKILL OF ADVANCING & RETREATING CEASELESSLY
It is natural to ward off while advancing and roll back while retreating,
since passive and active, like water and fire, exchange roles with each other.
First understand the four primary techniques and get them to be authentic,
then you may move on to plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping,
performing the four secondary techniques on the basis of the primary.
Then there is the Thirteen Postures solo set, which goes on and on ceaselessly,
and hence is called Long Boxing. [“It is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean…”]
You may spread out and gather in as you will,
but by no means allow yourself to stray from the taiji concept.
 TAIJI’S ABOVE & BELOW, OR “SKY & GROUND”
Four techniques divide into above and below, sky and ground:
plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping each having their source [pluck & rend based in sky, elbow & bump based in ground].
When plucking and bumping are coordinated with each other,
there is no worry of above and below coming out of joint.
But if rending and elbowing are not coordinated with each other,
you will lose the relationship between sky and ground and be left with only sighs of regret.
As this explanation is clearly about the realms of sky and ground,
when advancing using elbowing or rending, return to the condition of mankind [i.e. the proper range, the balanced position, man being the middle zone between sky and ground].
 TAIJI’S EIGHT TECHNIQUES IN THE REALM OF MANKIND
This eight technique song concerns the eight trigrams with its four primary and four secondary techniques.
A mere thirteen dynamics is not a lot.
But however many there might be, if their standard is not maintained
and if the position of your waist and headtop is misplaced, you will end up sighing with woe.
The key to their being no division lies in but two words:
the “sovereign” and “subject” roles of the mind and body – ponder them carefully.
Your skill should have no division between internal and external,
and then there will be not any mistakes however many contenders you fight.
What comes out of you during a fight should be natural,
coming from such interactions as between the realms of ground and sky.
When you no longer have a problem with letting go of yourself,
there will never be hesitation as you go upward or downward, forward or back.
 TAIJI’S SUBSTANCE & APPLICATION
Principle is the substance of essence, energy, and spirit. Essence, energy, and spirit are the substance of the body. Body is mind applied. Power is the applying of body. Mind and body have a specific controller: principle. Essence, energy, and spirit also have a specific controller: heartfelt sincerity. Sincerity is the way of nature and to be sincere is the way of mankind, and neither of these ways leaves the mind for an instant.
If you understand the principle that nature and mankind are of the same substance, you will naturally grasp the solar and lunar [i.e. active and passive] flow of energy, that the energy is the flow of intention, and that spirit lies naturally hidden within principle. Then you will obtain the martial and civil aspects, and the qualities of wisdom and spirituality. In order to make use of martial arts as a means to discuss mind and body or to develop power and strength, keep it based in the Way, for this art is not only for developing skill.
Power comes from the sinews. Strength comes from the bones. Looking at it purely physically, one who has great strength is able to carry many hundreds of pounds, but this is an externally showy action of bones and joints, a stiff strength. If on the other hand the power of your whole body is used, it may appear you are unable to lift hardly any weight at all, yet there is an internal robustness of essence and energy, and once you have achieved skill, you will seem to have something more wonderful than one who has the stiff sort of strength. Thus runs the method of physical training for self-cultivation.
 TAIJI’S CIVIL & MARTIAL QUALITIES
The civil quality is the substance. The martial quality is the application. The civil training within the martial application is a matter of the essence, energy, and spirit. It is the physical cultivation. The martial training of the civil substance is a matter of mind and body. It is the martial reality. The civil and martial qualities in the training process are a matter of when to coil and when to release. This is the basis of physical cultivation. The civil and martial qualities in a fighting situation are a matter of when best to store and when best to issue. This is the foundation of martial reality.
It is said that a dose of civil in the martial makes it a softened physical exercise, the sinewy power of essence, energy, and spirit, while adding more martial to the martial would make it a hardened fighting drill, a solid effort of mind and body. The civil quality without the martial quality at the ready would be just application without substance. The martial quality without the civil quality in tandem would be substance without application. Since one piece of wood will not support a whole building, and since you cannot clap your hands with just one hand, this is not just a matter of health and fighting, but is a principle that applies to everything.
The civil quality is the inner principle. The martial quality is the outward skill. Those who have the outward skill but lack the civil principle will be consumed by reckless glory. Discarding the original purpose of the art, they will try to overpower opponents and inevitably lose. Those on the other hand who have the civil principle but lack the outward skill will be distracted by meditative expectation. They will have no idea what to do in a fight, and they will be destroyed the moment it turns chaotic. To apply this art upon an opponent, you must understand both the civil and martial qualities.
 TAIJI’S IDENTIFYING OF ENERGIES
Once you are identifying your own energies, you will be working your way toward something miraculous. Succeed at the civil aspect and then delve into the martial. There are at all times in the body seventy-two channels for passive energy [as well as seventy-two channels for active energy]. When the active aspect is balanced by the passive, water and fire are in a state of mutual benefit, skyness and groundness are at peace with each other, and the genuineness of one’s life essence is preserved.
Once you are identifying the opponent’s energies, in a state of seeing them and hearing them, you are adapting to everything you encounter, and will naturally obtain the subtlety of falseness and trueness [i.e. the manipulating of emptiness and fullness]. The postures will be performed with effortless precision and your movements will be conducted with awareness. Once at this degree of skill, everything you do will be appropriate and you will not have to put thought into what you are doing.
 ON THE THIRTEEN DYNAMICS LONG BOXING SET
In your own training of each posture, once you have learned them all, they are joined together to make a long routine, flowing on and on without interruption, one posture after another, and thus it is called Long Boxing. It is crucial for the set of postures to be performed consistently, otherwise it may after a while turn instead into either “slippery boxing” or “stiff boxing”. You assuredly must not lose your pliability, and the movement of your whole body should be grounded upon mind and spirit. After practicing over a long period of time, you will naturally have a breakthrough and attain everything you have been working toward, and nothing will be strong enough to stand up against you.
When working with a partner, the four techniques of ward-off, rollback, press, and push are the first of the thirteen dynamics to work on. Stand in one place and do the four techniques rolling in circles, then do them advancing and retreating, doing them at a middle height. Then do them higher and lower as well, practicing at all three heights. Starting with the basics, work your way through the solo set. Then begin working with the four techniques, larger gross movements at first, then focusing on the finer details until the skill of extending and contracting is fluent, and you will have ascended through the midway of attainment, and then will continue to the top.
 TAIJI’S INVERSION OF THE PASSIVE & ACTIVE ASPECTS
Examples of the active / passive:
☰ / ☷
sky / ground
sun / moon
fire / water
☲ / ☵
releasing / coiling
exiting / entering
issuing / storing
offense / defense
opening / closing
subject / sovereign
muscle / bone
the practice / the theory
the energy / the principle
body / mind
martial / civil
dedicated to / absorbed in
square / round
exhale / inhale
up / down
advance / retreat
oblique / direct
The inversion principle can be explained with water and fire. Left to their own devices, fire rises and water sinks, but if water is placed above fire then they are in an inverted state. Of course, if not done properly there would be no inverted state, [just a fire put out and some water made into steam,] and so it has to be a situation of water being put in a pot which is then positioned over a fire. When the water in the pot receives the fire’s heat, not only will it not be able to sink away, it will also absorb the fire’s heat and inevitably become warm, and although the fire is rising to the pot, it is stopped there and goes no further. By not allowing the fire to rise freely or the water to sink away, this is water and fire as in After Completion [hexagram 63 – made of water ☵ on top of fire ☲], and is the principle of inversion. If the fire is allowed to rise freely and the water to sink away, the result will of course be that the water and fire will go their separate ways as two entities, and this is water and fire as in Before Completion [hexagram 64 – made of fire ☲ on top of water ☵]. So goes the principle that in separating they become two and in joining they become one, and thus it is said that one becomes two, then two becomes one, which totals three, namely sky, ground, and mankind.
Once you understand this principle of passive and active inverting, then the Way can be discussed. Once you understand that the Way cannot be departed from for a moment, then human beings can be discussed, and it is through human beings that the Way can be glorified. Once you understand that the Way is not far away from human beings, then the universe can be discussed. It is all one entity of sky above, ground below, and mankind in the middle. If you can examine the world, and be one with the shine of the sun and moon, with the grandeur and erosion of the landscape, with the wax and wane of the seasons, with the growth and decay of plants, and come to terms with the favors and frownings of spirits, and understand the rising and declining of human affairs, then can be discussed the larger universe of skyness and groundness, and the smaller universe that is a human being.
To understand the human body and mind, study the awareness and abilities of things in Nature. Then the human awareness and abilities that come from Nature can be discussed. If you do not forget your innate talents, nor your noble energy, constantly nurturing it and never harming it, you will survive indefinitely. And so it is said that a human being is a small universe. The sky represents your nature, the ground represents your life, and your naturalness represents your spirit. If you do not understand this, how will you be a blending of sky and ground to make a third? Unless you express your nature and sustain your life, the work of spiritual enlightenment and transformation has nothing to build on and cannot come to fruition.
 THE TAIJI-NESS OF THE HUMAN BODY
The heart is in charge of the whole body, the body’s taiji [the body’s “grand polarity”, the body’s “1”].
 The eyes are the solar and lunar aspects, the “two polarities”.
 The head represents the sky and the feet represent the ground. The Renzhong acupoint [between lip and nose] represents mankind, along with the Zhongwan acupoint [solar plexus]. The three combined are the “three substances”.
 The four limbs are the “four manifestations”.
 The passive [or more solid organ] correspondences [to the five elements] within the body are: kidneys – water, heart – fire, liver – wood, lungs – metal, spleen – earth. The active [or more bag-like organ] correspondences within the body are: bladder – water, small intestine – fire, gallbladder – wood, large intestine – metal, stomach – earth. The external correspondences are: headtop – fire, jowls and Chengjiang acupoint [below the lower lip] – water, left ear – metal, right ear – wood, both sides of the “life gate” [earth]. Spirit is expressed from the heart. The eyes are the sprouts of the heart [similar to “windows to the soul”]. Essence is expressed from the kidneys. The brain and kidneys are the source of the essence. Energy is expressed from the lungs. The gallbladder energy has its source in the lungs. When the eyes see clearly, the actions of the heart make the spirit flow. When the ears hear clearly, the actions of the brain make the kidneys smooth. As breath goes in and out, what is perceived by the senses of smell and taste are: salty – water, sour – wood, spice [sweet] – earth, bitter – fire, sweet [spice] – metal. And the sounds they produce are: clear – wood, fire – hoarse, congested – metal, breathy – earth, distracted – water. The scent and taste of the air as the lungs pump it in and out, and as the wind (☴) and thunder (☳) of liver and gallbladder produce the five manners of voice, comes and goes as the five fragrances/flavors.
 Mouth, eye, nose, tongue, spirit, and intent make the six internal unions by which the six desires will be overcome. Hand, foot, shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip make the six external unions by which the six paths [front, back, left, right, up, down] will be straightened [i.e. moved toward efficiently].
 The seven external apertures are: eye, ear, nose, mouth, anus, urethra, navel. The seven internal emotions, which are governed by the heart, are: joy, rage, worry, obsessiveness, grief, fear, shock. Inside, joy is in the heart, rage is in the liver, worry is in the spleen, grief is in the lungs, fear is in the kidneys, shock is in the gallbladder, obsessiveness is in the small intestine, terror is in the bladder, anxiety is in the stomach, and pensiveness is in the large intestine.
 The internal qualities of the eight trigrams:
☲: S / Wu [noon] / fire / heart meridian
☵: N / Zi [midnight] / water / kidney meridian
☳: E / Mao [dawn] / wood / liver meridian
☱: W / You [sunset] / metal / lung meridian
☰: NW / metal / large intestine / transforming of water
☷: SW / earth / spleen / transforming of earth
☴: SE / wood / gallbladder / transforming of earth
☶: NE / earth / stomach / transforming of fire
 Externally, ☵ is 1, ☷ is 2, ☳ is 3, ☴ is 4, the center is 5, ☰ is 6, ☱ is 7, ☶ is 8, and ☲ is 9. 2 and 4 are the shoulders, 6 and 8 are the feet, at the top is 9, at the bottom is 1, on the left is 3, on the right is 7 [producing a “magic square” in which every line of three numbers – horizontal, vertical, diagonal – adds up to the same number]:
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6
These are the “nine palaces” [eight trigrams plus the center]. The internal quality of the nine palaces is the same.
 The inner and outer [alignment with the ten Celestial Stems (the names of the days of the ancient ten-day week, a poetic microcosm of the agricultural process: 甲 Jia – “Seed”, 乙 Yi – “Sprout”, 丙 Bing – “Shoot”, 丁 Ding – “Ear”, 戊 Wu – “Sickle”, 己 Ji – “Bundle”, 庚 Geng – “Pestle”, 辛 Xin – “Sack”, 壬 Ren – “Haul”, 癸 Gui – “Store”. The pulse of the days is: active, passive, active, passive, the odd-numbered active days intended as being more work-oriented days and the even-numbered passive days intended as being more rest-oriented days. The order is twisted below because the pairings are presented passive/active rather than active/passive.)] runs thus:
Yi: liver and left ribs / transformed by the metal of the lungs
Jia: gallbladder / transforms the earth of the spleen
Ding: heart / transformed by the wood of the gallbladder and liver
Bing: small intestine / transforms the water of the kidneys
Ji: spleen / transformed by the earth of the stomach
Wu: stomach / transforms the fire of the heart, energy coursing through the mountain and valley of back and chest
Xin: lungs and right ribs / transformed by the water of the kidneys
Geng: large intestine / transforms the metal of the lungs
Gui: kidneys and lower body / transformed by the fire of the heart
Ren: bladder / transforms the wood of the liver
These are the internal and external qualities of the ten Celestial Stems.
The twelve Terrestrial Branches also have internal and external qualities [which for some reason are not delved into here. The Terrestrial Branches are the names of the ancient “hours” of the day: 子 Zi (11pm-1am – “Conception” – picture of a baby, representing also the new day beginning at midnight), 丑 Chou (1am-3am – “Curled Up” – in sleep), 寅 Yin (3am-5am – “Contortion” – curled up further in sleep), 卯 Mao (5am-7am – “Shutters Opening” – i.e. dawn), 辰 Chen (7am-9am – “Slight Bowing” – looking down away from the sun above the horizon), 巳 Si (9am-11am – “Deep Bowing” – slouching over in response to rising sun), 午 Wu (11am-1pm – “Oppression” – sun directly above), 未 Wei (1pm-3pm – “Short Shadow” – shadow finally moving off center), 申 Shen (3pm-5pm – “Long Shadow”), 酉 You (5pm-7pm – “Wine Withdrawn” – the wine going back into the bottle, i.e. sunset), 戌 Xu (7pm-9pm – “Depression” – woundingly missing the daylight), 亥 Hai (9pm-11pm – “Bliss” – picture of a man and woman in bed together). As a further side note, since the Celestial Stems describe an agricultural process and the Terrestrial Branches are based on the progress of the sun through the sky, the 天干地支 Celestial Stems and Terrestrial Branches probably should have been called the 地干天支 Terrestrial Stems and Celestial Branches.]
Once you are clear about this theory [that there is a taiji quality of passives and actives inherent in the body], you will then be able to talk of the methods of self-cultivation.
 TAIJI’S SEPARATION OF THE CIVIL & MARTIAL QUALITIES INTO THREE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
As far as the Way goes, without cultivating the self, there is no source from which to obtain it. It is separated into three vehicles for cultivation, “vehicle” meaning accomplishment. The greater vehicle takes you all the way to the top. The lesser vehicle gets you at least to the bottom. The middle vehicle is to succeed via sincerity. The methods are separated into three kinds of cultivation, but are working towards the same accomplishment.
Cultivation of the civil quality is internal. Cultivation of the martial quality is external. Physical training is internal. Martial affairs are external. When the cultivation methods, both internal and external, surface and interior, are merged and achieved together, this is a grand accomplishment, the top.
When one obtains the martial quality by way of the civil training or obtains the civil quality by way of the martial training, this is the middle.
When one knows only the civil training but knows nothing of the martial part of it or focuses on only the martial part of it but does not do the civil training, this is the bottom.
 TAIJI’S LESSER ACCOMPLISHMENT – ITS MARTIAL QUALITY
Taiji’s martial quality is to be outwardly soft while inwardly hard, always seeking softness. By being outwardly soft over a longer and longer period, you will naturally obtain inner hardness, so long as your mind is focused on the softness rather than the hardness. The difficulty lies in containing hardness within and not letting it expose itself, outwardly only engaging the opponent with softness. By using softness to respond to hardness, his hardness is made to dissipate until it is spent.
How is such a skill to be obtained? Once your sticking, adhering, connecting, and following are complete, you will naturally have achieved moving with awareness, and from there you will move on to identifying energies, then gain a miraculous understanding, and ultimately you will have been transformed.
As for the subtlety of four ounces moving a thousand pounds – how could you have such an ability if your skill has not reached a transformative state? Thus it is said that you are to recognize when you are connected to the opponent, and thereby obtain the art of keenly observing and listening.
 CORRECTNESS OF SKILL IN TAIJI
Taiji is round, never abandoning its roundness whether going in or out, up or down, left or right. And Taiji is square, never abandoning its squareness whether going in or out, up or down, left or right. As you roundly exit and enter, or squarely advance and retreat, follow squareness with roundness, and vice versa. Squareness has to do with expanding, roundness with contracting. [Squareness means a directional focus along which you can express your power. Roundness means an all-around buoyancy with which you can receive and neutralize the opponent’s power.]
The main rule is that you be squared and rounded. After all, could there be anything beyond these things? By means of this you will become proficient at the skill. But “gazing up, it grows higher, and drilling in, it gets harder…” [i.e. there is always more to it], so magical it is. When you look upon it at last, it hides again, revealing there is yet more subtlety to it, illumination upon illumination. It generates new features infinitely, rendering you “unable to quit even if there were the desire to do so.” [Lun Yu, 9.11]
 TAIJI’S LIGHTNESS & HEAVINESS, FLOATING & SINKING
– [1a] Both sides fully heavy [“double pressure”] is wrong. It is too full. It is different from sinking.
– [1b] Both sides fully sinking is okay. It has to do with being ready to move. It is different from heaviness.
– [1c] Both sides fully floating [“double vacuum”] is wrong. It is too empty. It is different from lightness.
– [1d] Both sides fully light is okay. It has to do with natural nimbleness. It is different from floating.
– [2a] One side under-light and one side under-heavy is okay. To underdo means one side is stable. Therefore it is okay. Since to underdo is stable, it will not lose squareness and roundness.
– [2b] One side over-light and one side over-heavy is wrong. To overdo means neither side is stable. Therefore it is wrong. Since to overdo is unstable, it will lose squareness and roundness.
– [2c] One side under-floating and one side under-sinking is wrong, for it is not enough.
– [2d] One side over-floating and one side over-sinking [is wrong, for it] is too much.
– [3a] One side under-heavy and one side over-heavy, you will be not only sluggish but also unsquared.
– [3b] One side under-light and one side over-light, you will still be nimble but you will be unrounded.
– [3c] One side under-sinking and one side over-sinking, you will still be balanced but you will be unsquared.
– [3d] One side under-floating and one side over-floating, you will be not only scattered but also unrounded.
Both sides fully light [1d] is not a matter of floating, and thus it is nimbleness. Both sides fully sinking [1b] is not a matter of heaviness, and thus it is alertness. Thus it is said: “The best technique is both light and heavy [2a], half and half, thus you will have a balanced technique.” Anything beyond these three [1b, 1d, 2a] would be wrong.
When your inner naturalness is not obscured, it can be sent outward as purified energy, flowing into your limbs. If you do not exhaustively study these aspects of technique – lightness, heaviness, floating, sinking – it would be like digging a dry well. But if you possess squareness and roundness, then warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing will all be there inside and out down to their smallest detail, and you will have attained a great achievement, and then plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping will also be squared and rounded. And so it is said: “Square but round, round but square.” Going beyond the shape [squareness OR roundness] takes you to the highest level [squareness AND roundness].
 TAIJI’S FOUR SECONDARY TECHNIQUES
The four primary techniques, aligned with the four cardinal compass points, are ward-off, rollback, press, and push. In the beginning, there will be a lack of understanding of the principle that squareness can lead to roundness and that they may alternate. Thus ability will emerge in the four secondary techniques of pluck, rend, elbow, and bump. Due to your outer limbs and inner spirit not maintaining nimbleness of squareness/roundness in the primary techniques, the mistakes of lightness, heaviness, floating, or sinking will start to manifest, and with them the secondary techniques.
For example [3a]: “One side under-heavy and one side over-heavy, you will be not only sluggish but also unsquared.” This situation will naturally lead to the secondary techniques. Or [1a]: “Both sides fully heavy… is too full.” Again the secondaries will emerge. If your technique has many flaws, you will be compelled to use the secondary techniques to make up for them in order to regain a roundness that is centered and a squareness that is squared. Even a beginner can achieve this with the techniques of elbow or bump. But one whose skill has risen to a higher level still has to maintain the techniques of pluck and rend to regain a position that is centered and squared. Therefore the purpose of the four secondary techniques is to troubleshoot the mistakes you make in those moments when your technique is performed contrary to the theory.
 THE PROPER ALIGNMENT OF WAIST & HEADTOP IN TAIJI
Your head is like a centered pole, as in “your headtop is suspended”, and with your hands making the trays to each side, your waist being the platform base, you are “standing like a scale”. Whether you receive the slightest bit of lightness or heaviness, floating or sinking, the tipping of the trays to either side will reveal all to you. With your headtop suspended and waist rooted below, you are connected from tailbone to skullbone.
Standing in a vertical line,
all depends on a horizontal rotation.
My adaptations can catch the smallest change,
and I can distinguish all measurements.
Rotating my waist,
the great flag is waved.
My mind sends the command, the energy carries the directing banners,
and I naturally move with facility.
My whole body is activated
like a toughened arhat warrior.
one will be either early or late.
Joining with the opponent, I send him away,
but it is not necessary for me to try to launch him into the stratosphere.
With an amount of power contained,
I need only express a “ha!” and he goes far enough.
But this is something that must be taught personally
in order for the door to be opened and the view to be seen.
 A TAIJI MAP OF THE FOUR SEASONS & FIVE ENERGIES [meaning the five elements]
春木噓東 ☯ 西呬金秋
S: summer / fire / “he” [scolding]
E: spring / wood / “xu” [shushing] (taiji) W: autumn / metal / “xi” [sighing]
N: winter / water / “chui” [boasting]
Center: earth / “hu-xi” [breathing]
 THE ESSENCE OF BLOOD & ENERGY IN TAIJI
Blood is for nourishment. Energy is for defense. Blood flows through muscles, tissues, and limbs. Energy flows through bones, sinews, and vessels. Healthy sinews and nails are a sign of healthy bone. Healthy scalp hair and body hair is a sign of healthy blood. When the blood is vigorous, the scalp and body hair is lush. When the energy is full, the sinews and nails are robust.
Thus the boldness and strength of the blood and energy when the blood is emphasized manifests outwardly in the robustness of the bones, skin, and hair, while the form and function of the energy and blood when the energy is emphasized manifests inwardly in the robustness of the muscles, sinews, and nails. The energy relies on the blood’s burgeoning or depleting. The blood relies on the energy’s decreasing or increasing. Decreasing then increasing, burgeoning then depleting, the cycle goes on endlessly. Make use of this your whole life and you will never be worn out.
 STRENGTH & ENERGY IN TAIJI
Energy courses through the tissues, limbs, sinews, and vessels. Strength emerges from the blood, muscles, skin, and bones. Therefore a strong person has an outer robustness to their skin and bones, a matter of posture, while an energized person has an inner robustness to their sinews and vessels, a matter of presence. Training the energy and blood with emphasis on the energy will empower the internal. Training the blood and energy with emphasis on the blood will enhance the external.
If you awaken to the functions of these two things, both the energy and the blood, you will naturally come to understand the basis of strength and energy. Understanding what strength and energy are all about, you will naturally be able to distinguish between the using of strength and the moving of energy: the moving of energy will be felt in your sinews and vessels, while the using of strength will be felt in your skin and bones – extremely different things indeed.
 TAIJI’S REDUCING MEASUREMENTS
Work first at training gross movements, then finer details. When the gross movements are obtained, then the finer movements can be talked of. When the finer movements are obtained, then measures of a foot and below can be talked of. When your skill has progressed to the level of a foot, then you can progress to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. This is what is meant by the principle of reducing measurements.
A foot has ten “inches”. An inch has ten tenths. A tenth has ten hairs. These are the measurements. It was long ago said: “Fighting is a matter of measuring.” Understanding the measurements, you can achieve the reducing of measurements. But if you want to understand the measuring, you will not be able to without the deeper teachings.
 VESSELS, CHANNELS, SINEWS, AND ACUPOINTS IN TAIJI
Controlling his vessels, seizing his channels, capturing his sinews, and sealing his acupoints – these four skills are to be worked toward after you are able to measure down from the level of a foot to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. When his vessels are controlled, his blood will not circulate. When his channels are seized, his energy will not move. When his sinews are captured, his body will have no control. When his acupoints are sealed, he will lose consciousness.
By controlling certain vessels, he will seem half dead. By seizing certain channels, he will seem fully dead. By capturing certain sinews, his power will be cut off. By sealing the lethal acupoints, he will not survive. Basically, if he is without energy, blood, or spirit, how will he have any control over his body? However, even if you have ability in the skills of control, seize, capture, and seal, these particular effects will not work without specific instruction in them.
 SOME OF THE TERMS IN TAIJI
Applying to either yourself or the opponent: file, knead, punch, strike, push down, rub in, push out, seize, spread, merge, ascend, descend. These twelve terms are all techniques.
Applying to either yourself or the opponent: bending, extending, movement, stillness, rising, falling, quick, leisurely, evade, counter, incite, conclude. These twelve terms apply to your own energy in relation to the opponent’s techniques.
Applying to your own body in relation to the opponent’s stepping: turn, switch, advance, retreat. Applying to your own gaze in relation to the opponent’s techniques: look left, look right, look forward, look behind. These eight terms have to do with your spirit.
These four terms have to with intention and power: disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, yawning backward. Disconnecting and connecting have to do with your spirit and energy. Bowing forward and yawning back have to do with your hands and feet. The power may disconnect, but the intention does not. If the intention disconnects, the spirit can stay connected. If the power, intention, and spirit disconnect together, there will be bowing forward or yawning back, your hands and feet not touching or landing where they would have. To bow forward is to end up cracking your head. To yawn backward is to end up toppling over. To keep yourself from cracking your head or toppling over, you must disconnect then reconnect. Bowing forward and yawning backward are important things to consider in fighting. At no moment allow there to be in mind, body, hand, or foot a disconnection without reconnecting, and then you will prevent bowing forward or yawning back.
Seeking for the skills of disconnecting and connecting will not work without seeing what is concealed and revealing what is subtle. With concealment and subtlety, it is like you have disconnected but not disconnected. With seeing and revealing, it is like you have connected but not connected. By connecting and disconnecting, disconnecting and connecting, in mind, body, and spirit, you will ultimately be concealing and revealing, and then you will have no worry that you are not sticking, adhering, connecting, and following.
 TAIJI’S REDUCING OF MEASUREMENTS IN THE CONTEXT OF CONTROLLING, SEIZING, CAPTURING, OR SEALING
When in your fighting skill you have obtained the sense of a foot, an inch, a tenth of an inch, and the width of a hair, you can then estimate the opponent. Regardless of any ease you may have with the techniques of controlling, seizing, capturing, and sealing, in order to control his vessels, seize his channels, capture his sinews, and seal his acupoints, you must make estimations of a foot, an inch, a tenth of an inch, and the width of a hair.
To control without estimation, his vessels can be obtained through pushing down. To seize without estimation, his channels can be obtained through rubbing in. To capture without estimation, his sinews can be obtained through pushing out. But as for sealing, without estimation his acupoints cannot be reached, because [to get to his acupoints] you have to work your way down from the level of a foot to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. For these four skills, even if you receive instruction from an expert, you will not be able to master them unless you personally put a lot of work into them over a long period.
 TAIJI’S BOOSTING OR DISSIPATING ENERGY & STRENGTH
There is difficulty in boosting or dissipating your own energy and strength. There is also difficulty in boosting or dissipating the energy and strength of the opponent. When your awareness is insufficient, boost [your energy]. When your movement is overdone, dissipate [your strength]. These are things that are not easy matters when it comes to yourself.
When the opponent has too much energy, boost it. When he has too much strength, dissipate it. By this means, you will win and he will lose. Or you may when he has too much energy, dissipate it, or when he has too much strength, boost it. The principle is the same in either case, and yet to elaborate further: if he has too much [of either], add more so that he is overdoing, or if he has too little [of either], dissipate it further so that in his insufficiency he adds more and again ends up overdoing. Both boosting his energy and dissipating his strength induce him to overdo it. Boosting his energy is called the method of “tying up his energy”. Dissipating his strength is called the method of “emptying his strength”.
[i] TAIJI’S EMPTYING, TYING UP, FILING, AND KNEADING
To empty or tie up by way of filing is different from emptying or tying up by way of kneading. Emptying by way of filing, the opponent’s strength is boxed in. Tying up by way of filing, his energy is interrupted. Emptying by way of kneading, his strength is spread out. Tying up by way of kneading, his energy is boxed in.
If you apply the tying & kneading filing, then his energy and strength will be reversed. If you apply the emptying & kneading filing, then his energy and strength will fail. If you apply the tying & filing kneading, his strength will build up from his energy until his strength is greater than his energy. If you apply the emptying & filing kneading, his energy will build up from his strength, making his energy overloaded and his strength insufficient.
The filing & tying kneading and the kneading & tying filing will both result in his energy getting sealed off by his strength. The filing & emptying kneading and the kneading & emptying filing will both result in his strength being chiseled away by his energy. Basically, methods such as tying up by way of filing or emptying by way of kneading all require that you work your way down from measurements of a foot, to an inch, to a tenth of an inch, to the width of a hair. If not, there will be no occasion of filing or kneading and a flattened out void for emptying or tying, for they will not be gotten from anywhere.
[ii] BEFORE IDENTIFYING ENERGIES AND AFTER
Before you are identifying energies, you will typically be making the mistakes of crashing in, collapsing, coming away, and resistance. Once you are identifying energies, you will perhaps still make the mistakes of disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, and yawning back. Before you are indentifying energies, it is natural to be making mistakes, but even after you are identifying energies, there are reasons as to why there are still mistakes to be made. When in that vague zone of almost but not quite indentifying energies, there is a lack of precision in disconnecting and connecting, hence there will be mistakes. And then when almost but not quite at the level of the miraculous, bowing forward and yawning back may still not be entirely under control, again resulting in mistakes.
As long as you are not making the mistakes of disconnecting, connecting, bowing forward, or yawning back, you are doing it right, for if your identifying of energies is not genuine, you would not able to prevent such mistakes. What does it mean for it to be genuine? Simply that a sensory foundation must be laid to build it up into a reality. Be aware through observing: there is looking forward, looking behind, looking left, looking right. Be aware through listening: there is rising, falling, quickness, leisure. Be aware through feeling: there is evading, countering, inciting, concluding. Be aware through acting: there is turning, switching, advancing, retreating. In this way, your identifying of energies will be genuine.
You will then be able to reach the level of the miraculous, and this is because there is a foundation, the foundation being the identifying of energies. The subtleties of bending, extending, movement, and stillness are automatically built upon that foundation. Then spreading, merging, ascending, and descending are in turn built upon bending, extending, movement, and stillness. By way of bending and extending, movement and stillness, spread his attack aside when you see him enter, then merge with him as he tries to exit. Descend when you see his attack come in, then ascend as he withdraws.
Once your genuineness in identifying energies reaches all the way to the point of the miraculous, at such a level you will thereafter be mindful in every activity – whether it be walking, sitting, lying down, running, eating, drinking, or even going to the bathroom. By this means, your achievement will go from middling to great.
[iii] REDUCING MEASUREMENTS AFTER IDENTIFYING ENERGIES
If you strive for the reducing of measurements before identifying energies, yours will amount to a small achievement and be but a smattering of martial skill. You will not be able to estimate the opponent even at the level of a foot before you are identifying energies. After you have achieved identifying energies, you will have a miraculous understanding, and you will automatically have the ability to reduce measurements. From there you will then be able to control, seize, capture, and seal.
To understand the theory of vessels, channels, sinews, and acupoints, it is necessary to be clear about which techniques will save or kill. To understand the techniques that will save or kill, it is necessary to be clear about the acupoints for life and death. In the acupoint art, how could you go without knowing them [seeing as not knowing them might result in killing someone by mistake]? To know how to activate the life and death acupoints, it is necessary to be clear about the technique of sealing. Sealing is what determines both life and death.
[iv] THE FINGERS, PALM, FIST, AND HAND IN TAIJI
The “palm” is the area of the hand below the fingers and above the wrist. The “hand” refers to the whole thing up to the fingertips. A “finger” refers to any of the five fingers. A “fist” is when the five fingers are clasped inward to emphasize the back of the hand. Palm techniques are matters of pushing down and pushing out. Finger techniques are matters of seizing, kneading, capturing, and sealing. Hand techniques are matters of filing and rubbing. Fist techniques are matters of striking.
Fist techniques: Parry & Block, Punch to the Crotch, Under the Elbow, Torso-Flung Punch, and beyond these four there is also the Overturned Punch. Palm techniques: Brush the Knee, Exchanging Palms, Single Whip, Through the Back, and beyond these four there is also the Threading Palm. Hand techniques: Clouding Hands, Raising Hand, Seizing Hand, Crossed Hands, and beyond these four there is also the Reversing Hand. Finger techniques: bending, extending, pinching, sealing, and beyond these four there is also estimating, which is also called “reducing measurements” or “seeking acupoints”. The five fingers also have five-fingered functions, operating as a whole hand as well as individual fingers, and so these can be termed as either hand or finger techniques: corkscrewing, planting, curling, or closing inward, and beyond these four hand/finger techniques, there is also “standing alone”.
The forefinger is the impatient finger, sword finger, assisting finger, or sticking finger. The middle finger is the central finger, closing finger, hooking finger, or smearing finger. The ring finger is the completing finger, surrounding finger, exchanging finger, or covering finger. The little finger is the helping finger, healing finger, enticing finger, or hanging finger. Though the names of these techniques are easy to comprehend, they are difficult to apply, even with personal instruction in the deeper methods.
Supplementary palm techniques: Palms Facing Each Other, Push the Mountain, Shoot the Goose, Spreading Wings. Supplementary finger techniques: Sealing Shut, Jab in a Crossed Stance, Bending the Bow, Working the Shuttles. Supplementary hand techniques: Reaching Out to the Horse, Bending the Bow, Capturing the Tiger, Maiden’s Hands, Sitting Tiger Hands. Supplementary fist techniques: Punch Through the Mountain, Punch Under the Leaf, Turning Behind Punch, Momentum-Splitting Punch, Wrap & File Punch.
A further supplementary layer is that your steps are to go along with your body’s changes and are never to perform a step unassociated with the five elements, and thus you will be free from making mistakes. Because of the principle of sticking, connecting, adhering, and following, as well as letting go of yourself to follow the opponent, your body in turn will go along with your stepping, and as long as you remain true to the five elements, there will be such a naturalness to your posture and steps that it will not matter even if you do make some mistakes here and there.
[v] ON PERSONAL INSTRUCTION IN THE ACUPOINTS THAT SAVE OR KILL
There are acupoints that save and acupoints that kill. They cannot be learned without personal instruction. Here are three reasons why: because of how difficult they are to learn, the fact that they are a matter of life and death, and the degree of a person’s talent. There are eight kinds of people not to be taught:
1. the disloyal and unfilial,
2. those who are fundamentally unkind,
3. those with crooked intentions,
4. those who are rude and reckless,
5. those who think themselves superior to others,
6. those who care more about rules than they do about people,
7. those who are fickle,
8. those who will have an easy time picking it up and then just as easily discard it.
It must be understood that these eight people are not to be taught. Criminals of course do not deserve to be considered at all. As for those who may be taught, they are eligible to be given personal instruction in its secrets. There are five kinds who may be taught:
 those who are loyal, filial, and gracious,
 those with a mild temperament,
 those who will hold to the method and not discard it,
 those who will be true to the teacher,
 those who will complete the study as ardent as when they started.
These types will be resolved to complete the study without having doubts and can be shown the whole thing, and what will be given to the pupil is illumination. It goes from those who already know it to those who will know it, the torch being passed down through generations, always by this process. But what a shame it is that of those who know martial arts, some turn out to be criminals.
[vi] WHAT ZHANG SANFENG INHERITED
“The sky and the ground made the world.
Fu Xi was the progenitor of mankind.
He drew the trigrams and declared the Way
for Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun, and for sixteen generations on.
The most mysterious of pinnacles have consented access
to the most dedicated, such as Confucius and Mengzi.
The skill of spirit transmuting the life-force
went down through seventy-two sages to King Wen and King Wu.
“Instruction has come to me
by way of the writings of Xu Xuanping.
The medicine to bring about longevity lies within ourselves,
in the perfection of our original state being revived. [Basically, live every day as though it’s your first, a lesson that could have been learned from pretty much any Daoist poet.]
Your natural self can empower and enlighten.
The truth when expressed can fulfill you in spirit and body.
With countless repetitions, chant of lengthening the springtime.
Heartfelt sincerity will have a real effect.
“The three doctrines [Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism] are not different schools,
for all that each of them discuss is a matter of the Grand Polarity
which runs through everything,
centered and everlasting.
The ancient wisdom is always with us,
constantly inspiring new students to learn.
When water and fire cooperate [as in hexagram 63 – water above, fire below, leading to a heated cooking pot, as opposed to hexagram 64 – fire above, water below, an absence of interaction which produces nothing],
our goals are able to come to fruition.” [The metaphor in this last statement is that ancient knowledge is the fire and the act of learning from it is the water being brought to a boil.]
[vii] THE TEACHINGS OF ZHANG SANFENG
“I understand the idea that the three doctrines are basically the same: they are each a study of life, each take the mind to be controller of the body, and are purposed to maintain mind and body, to bring longevity to essence, energy, and spirit. With essence, energy, and spirit, we can be calmly civil and boldly martial. Calm and bold, civil and martial – as these things are expanded and have a transformative effect, there will come wisdom and spirituality. The earliest discoverers of this found their way into truth and then took it to another level. Later students then imitate what they did in order to achieve their awareness. Such awareness is innate in everyone, but to get at what they were doing, it is nevertheless necessary to follow in their footsteps. Civil and martial are inherent to human ability. The seeing of eyes and hearing of ears are inherently civil while the dancing of hands and prancing of feet are inherently martial, and so both aspects are clearly inherent. Having achieved the layers of civil, martial, wisdom, and spirituality, the forefathers advanced the teaching of self-cultivation by way of physical training, though not by way of martial arts.
“When the teachings reached me, I grasped the receive/oppose [counterbalancing] nature of the dancing prancing, in which the passive aspect of the other person’s body is borrowed to build up the active aspect in one’s own. The active aspect is the masculine quality. The passive aspect is the feminine quality. The body has both qualities. While the maleness is active and the femaleness is passive, the femaleness receives the active aspect to counter her own passive aspect [as the maleness receives the passive aspect to counter his own active aspect]. Thereby the active [or passive] returns to its initial state [of being in balance with the other]. The passive feminine aspect within the body means more than a young woman being developed enough to become pregnant. There are countless ways in which a woman may enact counterbalancing, and this is not about the bodies of men and women being somehow corrected. It is said that taking advantage of the skyness and groundness in one’s own body is what makes the counterbalancing of the passive and active aspects. This means that a man may make use of the passive aspect of his masculine side as a way to counter his own feminine quality. [However, this work of balancing the masculine and feminine qualities within oneself] is not as efficient as the self-cultivation of two partners making use of their masculine quality to work at balancing their passive and active aspects [through the constant exchanging of passive and active roles during the pushing hands exercises].
“Seeing as I have placed these teachings into a martial context, martial arts must not be viewed as something trivial, but as a part of physical education, a method of self-cultivation, a practice of life-enhancement, a category of wisdom and spirituality. The work of counterbalancing between two partners is no different in principle from the counterbalancing within your own body, but when working with a partner, it is like counterbalancing between mercury and lead. [In the context of two partners pushing hands, the role of the attacker is solid and heavy, like lead, while the defender is fluid and yielding, like mercury.] When fighting, the four primary techniques are a matter of active opposing passive, while the four secondary techniques are a matter of passive receiving active. The eight trigrams supply the eight techniques. The body and feet stand centered. To advance is to oppose actively. To retreat is to receive passively. To step to the left is to receive actively. To step to the right is to oppose passively. The five elements supply the five steps. Combined, they are the eight techniques and five steps.
“These teachings of mine you may make use of for your entire life and yet never be able to use them up. What I have gained and am passing down is to be taught as a martial art of self-cultivation. As to the method of cultivating the self, it does not matter if it is approached by martial or civil means, for the achievement is the same. The three doctrines, at any of the three levels [greater, middle, lesser], are all inescapably based in the concept of the grand polarity. I wish for the next generation of students to examine the theory in the Book of Changes within themselves and that it be continued by succeeding generations. That would be a good thing.”
[viii] ZHANG SANFENG ON USING MARTIAL ARTS TO ACHIEVE THE WAY
“Before there was the universe, there was the principle which governs the passive and active energies. This governing principle by which the universe exists is the core of the Way, and the way these energies flow is in the manner of complementary opposites. For passive and active to oppose and yet complement each other is a mathematical principle: to be [zeroed out in a half-and-half state of] one part passive and one part active is the Way. ‘The Way that cannot be described is the origin of the universe itself. The Way that can be described is the source of all things within the universe. [Daodejing, chapter 1]’ Before the universe existed, there was merely nothingness, and thus nothing to be described. Once the universe existed, there was finally somethingness, and thus things to be described. Before the universe existed, there awaited the principle of existence. Once the universe came into being, there was then the creative principle.
“Pre-beginning, it was the principle of existence that brought about the balanced passive and active energies. Post-beginning, the creative principle then gave rise to the ways of coming into being: gestation in a womb, hatching from an egg, spontaneous generation from water, and metamorphosis. The Way is the way of neutrality, nourishing all things by being in a balanced position between skyness and groundness. The sky and ground are your greater parents, of the pre-beginning. Your mother and father are your lesser parents, of the post-beginning. When we are born, we are the recipients of the energies of passive and active, of pre-beginning and post-beginning, and on such a basis we begin. When we are born, we are given by our greater parents our life-force and disposition, and are endowed with reason. From our lesser parents come our physical essence, blood, and bones. By the merging of the life-force and body of the pre-beginning and post-beginning, we each then become a person. For us to align with the sky and ground, taking our place as one of the three substances, we cannot ignore our fundamental origin [as a product of both].
“As long as we are able to follow our nature, we will not lose touch with our origin. By not forgetting where we come from, we will not lose touch with where we are headed, for if you want to know where you are going, you must first know where you are coming from. With our origin mapped out, our way ahead is a clear route that will be traversed by way of instinct. We all, whether smart or stupid, worthy or worthless, have an instinctive awareness that will point us to the Way. If we cultivate the Way, we will be able to know our origin and can fulfill our destiny. To know our origin and fulfill our destiny lies in being able to cultivate the self. Thus it is said [in the Da Xue]: ‘From king to commoner, it all comes down to self-cultivation.’ The way to cultivate the self is through instinctive understanding and ability: eyes keenly seeing and ears acutely hearing, hands dancing and feet prancing, martiality and civility. ‘Broaden your understanding by studying things deeply, thereby improving your intellect and smoothing your emotions.’
“Since mind is in charge of body, the intellect should be improved and the emotions smoothed in order for the feet to perform the five steps and the hands to perform the eight techniques. The hands and feet amount to four, and they can be used in such a variety of ways, but instinct is able to retrieve their basic state [of unity]. The eyes see as a union of three [what the left eye sees, what the right eye sees, what both eyes see by triangulating together] and the ears hear along the six paths. The eyes and ears amount to four, but within they function as one, instinct again regaining the basic state. Ears, eyes, hands, and feet – they each are divided into two, making two polarities, but each functioning as a unity, totaling a grand polarity.
“Gathering inward from without, expressing outward from within, all of it in this way can be reached, inside and out, specifically and in general, all understood thoroughly, and we will naturally attain the hoped-for achievements of the worthies and sages, their vision and knowledge, their wisdom and spirituality. This is what they meant by fulfilling one’s nature and facing one’s destiny, taking spirit as far as it will go and thereby causing transformation. The way of both Nature and mankind is sincerity and nothing more.”
– – –
[*Survey of Textual Variations (Wu document left side / Yang document right side):
Harmless character variants:
section 5 – 斷 / 断
7 – 淂 / 得
10 – 淂 / 得
13 – 淂 / 得
15 – 得 / 淂
21 – 顕 / 顯
23 – 缉 / 緝
24 – 憑 / 凴
30 – 顯 / 顕
ii – 淂 / 得 ; 也 / 矣
iv – 淂 / 得
vii – 淂 / 得 ; 淂 / 得 ; 淂 / 得 ; 之 / 者 ; 淂 / 得
Flipped words (one occasion in each document):
24 – 絲毫 / 毫絲
vi – 濟既 / 既濟
Missing words (one occasion in Wu document, seven occasions in Yang document):
1 – 五行者 / 五行
2 – 淂之 / 淂
13 – 淂矣 / 得
19 – 得成 / 得
22 – 半重偏 / 半重偏重
ii – 緣勁 / 勁
iv – 如對掌 / 對掌
vii – 補助身 / 補助
There are also two occasions in Yang document of missing character components:
17 – 悠久 / 攸久
25 – 呬 / 四
As for accidentally added words, there is one occasion in Wu document:
22 – 除除 / 除
In section 30, 於己人 is expanded in Yang document to 於己於人 five times, indicating deliberate addition in Yang document rather than absent-mindedness in this section of Wu document.
Mistaken words (one occasion in Wu document, ten occasions in Yang document):
3 – 知 / 覺
5 – 匾 / 區
18 – 亮 / 毫
23 – 使 / 始
24 – 囟門 / 匃門 ; 云 / 去
32 – 一然 / 亦然
iii – 末 / 未
vi – 戌 / 戍
viii – 壹 / 一 ; 手 / 乎 ]
Reference: EXPLAINING TAIJI PRINCIPLES (TAIJI FA SHUO) with an introduction and pictures of the original manuscript.
In honor of the late Chu Shong Tin – a legend and true master of Wing Chun
You are able to find more of Chu Shong Tin’s teachings here: Sung Wing Chun youtube.com