Song of Substance and Function

1. Taijiquan. Thirteen postures.
The marvel lies in the nature of qi; yin and yang.

2. It changes into infinity and returns to the one.
Returns to the one, taijiquan.

3. The two primary principles (yin and yang) and four manifestations are without boundary.

To ride the wind, the head is suspended at the crown, from above.

4. I have words for those who can understand:
“If the yonquan (bubbling well) has no root, or the yao (waist) has no control, life long practise will be in vain”.

5. There is no secret about the substance and function, they interrelate.
The only way is to let wide and flowing qi extend into the fingers.

6. Always remain in central equilibrium during peng (ward off), lu (roll-back), ji (press), an (push), cai (pluck), lie (split), zhou (elbow strike) and kao (lean-on), and also when steeping forward, sitting backward, looking left, looking right, and staying centered.

7. Neutralizing without neutralizing, yielding without yielding.
Sit back before you move forward.

8. When the body is like a cloud, the whole body functions as the hands.
The hands are not [only] the hands.

9. The mind must always remain aware.

Reference:
The Song of Substance translated by Wee Kee Jin
Taijiquan Wuwei: A Natural Process
ISBN 9780473097813

p. 123

Songs of the eight postures

Attributed to T’an Meng-hsien
(as researched by Lee N. Scheele)

The Song of Peng

What is the meaning of Peng energy?
It is like the water supporting a moving boat.
First sink the ch’i to the tan-t’ien,
then hold the head as if suspended from above.
The entire body is filled with springlike energy,
opening and closing in a very quick moment. 
Even if the opponent uses a thousand pounds of force,
he can be uprooted and made to float without difficulty.

The Song of Lu

What is the meaning of Lu energy?
Entice the opponent toward you by allowing him to advance, 
lightly and nimbly follow his incoming force
without disconnecting and without resisting. 
When his force reaches its farthest extent,
it will naturally become empty. 
The opponent can then be let go or countered at will.
Maintain your central equilibrium 
and your opponent cannot gain an advantage.

The Song of Chi

What is the meaning of Chi energy? 
There are two aspects to its functional use: 
The direct way is to go to meet the opponent 
and attach gently in one movement. 
The indirect way is to use the reaction force
like the rebound of a ball bouncing off a wall, or 
a coin thrown on a drumhead, 
bouncing off with a ringing sound.

The Song of An

What is the meaning of An energy? 
When applied it is like flowing water.
The substantial is concealed in the insubstantial. 
When the flow is swift it is difficult to resist. 
Coming to a high place, it swells and fills the place up;
meeting a hollow it dives downward. 
The waves rise and fall, 
finding a hole they will surely surge in.

The Song of Ts’ai

What is the meaning of Ts’ai energy? 
It is like the weight attached to the beam of a balance scale. 
Give free play to the opponent’s force 
no matter how heavy or light,
you will know how heavy or light it is after weighing it. 
To push or pull requires only four ounces, 
one thousand pounds can also be balanced. 
If you ask what the principle is, 
the answer is the function of the lever.

The Song of Lieh

What is the meaning of Lieh energy? 
It revolves like a spinning disc.
If something is thrown onto it, 
it will immediately be cast more than ten feet away. 
Have you not seen a whirlpool form in a swift flowing stream? 
The waves roll in spiraling currents. 
If a falling leaf drops into it, 
it will suddenly sink from sight.

The Song of Chou

What is the meaning of Chou energy? 
Its method relates to the Five Elements. 
Yin and Yang are divided above and below. 
Emptiness and substantiality must be clearly distinguished. 
Joined in unbroken continuity, 
the opponent cannot resist the posture.
Its explosive pounding is especially fearsome. 
When one has mastered the six kinds of energy, 
the applications become unlimited.

The Song of K’ao

What is the meaning of K’ao energy? 
Its method is divided into the shoulder and back technique. 
In Diagonal Flying Posture use shoulder, 
but within the shoulder technique 
there is also some use of the back. 
Once you have the opportunity and can take advantage of the posture,
the technique explodes like pounding a pestle. 
Carefully maintain your own center of gravity. 
Those who lose it will have no achievement.

Reference: Songs Of The Eight Postures scheele.org

The Bridge Power Training Deeper Strength

The Bridge

If you look carefully at the point where the pillars of a bridge bear the structure’s enormous weight, you will often find a small cylinder. This astonishing feature is known as a “bridge bearing.” The purpose of the bearing is to take the weight while giving the entire structure maximum flexibility.

Bridge bearings transfer loads and movements from the deck of the bridge down to the substructure and foundations. They make it possible for the structure to withstand the vibrations of traffic and the expansion and contraction caused by temperature variations. It is also thanks to these bearings that bridges are able to withstand severe winds, tremors and earthquakes.

The bearings are designed to redirect the forces that move over, through and around the structure. Engineers study the “downward forces” that pass through the center of the bearing, the “transverse forces” that move horizontally through the bridge or alongside it, the “uplift forces” that enter the structure from the earth and “rotational forces” that can twist in any direction.

Our feet have a natural bridge-like structure, arching between the ball and heel. They, too, have the capacity to absorb and redirect forces moving in all directions. Training to use the “red triangle” (pages 84–85) takes advantage of this natural structure and greatly increases your ability to react to and redirect forces all around you.

Power Training

To begin this stage of your training, stand in Wu Chi for five minutes with your weight spread evenly over your feet. Then, shift your weight slightly forwards. Let your heels come up just enough to slide a sheet of paper under them. Focus your weight: it should rest on the red triangle shown on page 84. Include this new development in your daily training, so that you are able to remain balanced and stable without any weight on your heels. Progress to the point where you can maintain all the Zhan Zhuang postures, including those on one leg, using only the “red triangles” of your feet.

As you stand in this advanced position, you will naturally engage your large calf muscles. The next stage of this practice is to focus your attention on those muscles, particularly the large gastrocnemius muscle in the bulge of your calf. Try to identify it so you are able to contract it for several seconds without engaging the muscle of your ankle, thigh or buttock and while keeping your body completely relaxed.

Once you have trained your nerves to contract and relax the muscles in both calves, include this in your daily training. Contract and relax the muscles in your left calf up to 30 times, then do the same for your right calf. Then try contracting and relaxing both calves together. Avoid tensing any other muscles: focus your training on the nerves that control the muscles of your calves.

This training develops your internal sensitivity, exercises your nerves and sharpens the ability of your central nervous system to control subtle movements within your body. There is a similar practice for your hands. When you stand in the Zhan Zhuang posture, Holding the Ball (page 13), tighten your left hand into a fist. Squeeze it tightly for about five seconds. Then release the fist and open your hand fully. Stretch your fingers as wide apart as possible. Hold for about five seconds. Then repeat up to 30 times. Do the same with your other hand. When you practice closing and opening each hand, pay particular attention to your upper arms, shoulders and chest: these should remain completely relaxed. If you notice muscles in your upper body tensing, direct your attention to them and relax them.

These two mind-training exercises can become part of your daily practice. Gradually increase the length of time you spend standing with your weight on the “red triangles” of your feet. The the untrained observer, your feet appear flat on the ground, but, as in this photograph of the young Professor Yu, you develop the pump that will transform your practice.

Deeper Strength

A deep connection with the heart is essential for your health and your martial arts power. You develop this connection through your Zhan Zhuang training and the advanced work on the “red triangle” of your foot (pages 84–89). To go further, you need to use the power of your imagination to draw more deeply on the energy of the earth. Clearly visualize the basic triangle from the tip of your head to the base of your feet. Imagine that your feet go straight down into the earth. As your practice deepens, you will feel a second, inverted triangle extending downwards and holding you to the earth.

You can use this deep strength in the martial arts to take the incoming force of an attack into your body and direct it down through your rear leg. If you are learning for the first time, hold a Zhan Zhuang posture to one side and ask a friend to lean on your arms. Keep them in place without tension, directing the pressure down through your back foot.

Through your Zhan Zhuang training, the energetic structure of your body becomes increasingly stronger. Keeping this clearly in mind is vital to the power of Da Cheng Chuan. It is the secret of relaxed strength of advanced practitioners, such as the two masters in this photograph: facing Master Lam is Master Guo Gui Zhi, three times national martial arts champion of China.

When the arms are held in the fundamental Zhan Zhuang position, Holding the Ball (page 13), three principal triangles are involved. Two are formed by the shoulder, elbow and wrist of each arm. The third runs from shoulder to shoulder and connects to the first thoracic vertebra of the spine. These three triangles, combining structural and energetic geometry, remain intact under all pressures, but move flexibly without tension.

Reference:
The Way of Power: Reaching Full Strength in Body and Mind
by Lam Kam Chuen
ISBN 9781856751988

p. 86 – 91

What is the use of suppleness?

Q: Tai Chi seeks to be supple but what is the use of suppleness?

A: Seeking suppleness enables you to separate your body into pieces. If an opponent pushes against your forearm, your elbow doesn’t move; if against your elbow it moves, but not your shoulder; if against your shoulder it moves, but not your body; if against your body it moves but not your waist; if against your waist it moves but not your leg. This process leaves you as stable as a mountain. When you discharge your opponent, then it is from the feet through the legs to the waist, body, shoulders, elbows, and hands – all connected as one unit, discharging energy like an arrow toward its target. If you cannot relax, your whole body becomes one piece and, even though it is strong, a stronger person will be able to push your one piece and cause you to be unstable. Thus the use of suppleness is crusial. With it you can be one unit attacking and fragmented parts defending – able to be relaxed and hard, agile stepping forward or back, and substantial and insubstantial as needed. Whit these abilities you will then have all of the Taichi function.

Reference: T’Ai Chi Ch’Uan Ta Wen, Questions and Answers on T’Ai Chi Boxing Chen Wei-Ming ( Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo & Robert W. Smith ) North Atlantic Books 1985
ISBN: 0938190776

Page: 27

Analysis of Yin-Yang Structure of the Internal Energy in Taijiquan

Zhu Datong from the promotion text to “Analysis of Yin-Yang Structure of the Internal Energy in Taijiquan DVD Series” (Red.)

Eighty-one Forms of the Natural Taijiquan (Internal Energy)

There are Eighty-one Forms in the Natural Taijiquan, including three chapters of Internal Energy, Practical Combat, and Health Care. Nine forms in nine sections, a total of eighty-one forms. It exercises the heart, spirit, mind, and energy, from the upper to the lower, the inner to the outer. It is art, an exercise in the art of relaxation and flexibility in the exchange of Yin and Yang. The characteristic of the Natural Taijiquan is following the principle and the track of natural ways. The first is light and agile, it focuses on the mind not the force. It moves in an arc during the exchange of Yin and Yang. It moves as the water, which is the softest in the world. Practicing this set of boxing is as natural and smooth as the floating clouds and flowing water. It is good for the health and it can drive away disease and prolong life.

Change the Thinking and Concept, Nine Relaxing, Ten Need and One Lightness

Before we take up Taiji we should have an understanding of its structure and quality. Taiji has its own roles and traits. It has some common features with other techniques of martial arts, but it has its own features like the changing of Yin and Yang, flexibility, the usage of consciousness instead of force, be cooperated with the up and down, coordination between the inner and the outer, changing between the emptiness and the solidness, and practicing of boxing passively. The fundamental skills of Taiji are important, the hands and the feet must cooperate with each other. The basic skills are from the bottom to the top, relaxing the toe, heel, knee, crotch, elbow, waist, shoulder, wrist, hand, and fingers. All in succession. This is Nine Relaxing. The Ten Need are: keeping the buttocks down, wrapping the crotch, shrinking the abdomen, dropping hips, extending the chest, making the back round, emptying armpits, and straightening the neck. One lightness: Pushing the head up in mind. The Conghui point as the Yang peak and the Baihui point as the Yin peak.

Three Move, Three No Move and Calming the mind, will and spirits

Pay attention to the practice of Three Move and Three No Move: That is the movement of hands without the feet’s movement, vice versa, or the movement of both at the same time. Three No Move of the body: firstly, no movements; secondly, no active movements; thirdly, no rush. Also, there are Three No Move about hands: firstly, no movement; secondly, not letting go; thirdly, no resistance. The Three no Move about the hands and feet: firstly, movement of hands without feet; secondly, feet’s movement without the hands; thirdly, the movement of both. (You will be familiar with when to do movement of hands and feet, after you practice more.) In the practice and pushing hands, Three Move and Three No Move are very important. It is not important how the master teaches you, but decided by the Yin and Yang changes of Taijiquan. Taijiquan emphasizes building up the body, as well as silence of mind. Practicing Quan is to calm your mind. Don’t be fickle and eager for quick success and instant benefits.

Taiji Hand and Art of Roushou

Taiji Hand is made of fingers, palms, and wrist. Don’t use hand with power so it is empty. Through the years’ practice we understand not to put power on Taiji Hands so it will move freely. if there is any block, it will do harm to the health. Empty hands are good for the natural sinking of shoulders and elbows. The sinking of the shoulder is connected with that of the elbow. Relax with the 28 small joints, which have their own functions. Pushing hands is made by long term practice of relaxation of hands. It is the combination of exercising and application of Taiji Quan. Mr. Jin Yong has some understanding of Taiji and there are many rules of pushing, which can be set into four categories: firstly, control movement with quietude and taking advantage while in disadvantage; secondly, using the consciousness instead of power; thirdly, subduing the hardness by the softness; fourthly, countering a big power with small power.

Taiji Eight-direction Line

Eight-direction Line Diagram is formed by The Thirteen Postures, including eight directions: four normal directions of martial arts (east, west, south, north), and four corners directions (northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest), combined with five steps (advancing, retreating, look to the left, look to the right, central equilibrium). The circular Eight-direction Line Diagram is from a square, forming from the rim of a circle at the center extremely important. While practicing Taijiquan, as long as there is Eight-direction Line, there will be an accurate central point. Because of this, the directions and position will be unmistakable, preventing from a mistake that “small error can lead to a serious result.”

The Complement of Yin and Yang

The researchers who study the traditional Taijiquan know very well that the important characteristic of Taijiquan is that the status of yin and yang play a leading role in Taijiquan. Respond if there is change of Yin and Yang. Yin is inseparable from Yang, and vice versa. The complement of yin and yang is something like Taiji totem which the fish of yin and yang are independent of each other. Because yang refers to inhaling and opening, Yin refers to expanding, exhaling, and joining. They connect together from head to tail. It is just the complement of yin and yang. Black fish, yin, has a white eye, and white fish, yang, has a black eye. There is yang in the yin, and vice versa. This is indeed the meaning of the quan theory. It will not fail as long as you use this theory.

Eighty-one Forms of the Natural Taijiquan (Practical Combat)

There are Eighty-one Forms in the Natural Taijiquan, including three chapters of Internal Energy, Practical Combat, and Health Care. Nine forms in nine sections, a total of eighty-one forms. It exercises the heart, spirit, mind, and energy, from the upper to the lower, the inner to the outer. It is art, an exercise in the art of relaxation and flexibility in the exchange of Yin and Yang. The characteristic of the Natural Taijiquan is following the principle and the track of natural ways. The fist is light and agile, it focuses on the mind not the force. It moves in an arc during the exchange of Yin and Yang. It moves as the water, which is the softest in the world. Practicing this set of boxing is as natural and smooth as the floating clouds and flowing water. It is good for the health and it can drive away disease and prolong life.

Taiji Foot

From principles for Taijiquan written by the ancestors, it is said that the base is the foot. The foot is the base, so relax the foot, the toes. Relax from the foot, the knee, the crotch, the waist, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists, and the hand, from the foot to the top. The solid step is completely sold while the empty step is completely empty. Exchange the Yin and Yang when stepping. In the boxing, Yin and Yang exchange all on the foot. There is no need to move the hand, just change the Yin and Yang on the foot. Move from the foot, to the leg, and the waist without a break. The upper follows the lower, and the outer joins the inner. It is useless without the foot. Zhu Datong experienced the function of the foot during a practice, in Wu-style Taijiquan. The center is on one leg, the foot is the base, the base of change between Yin and Yang. Zhu Datong came up with a formula: the upper and the lower are in one line, Yin and Yang exchange on the feet.

Search YouTube to find other videos with Zhu Datong

Seigo Okamoto on Aiki in Aikijujutsu Daitoryu Roppokai

Seigo Okamoto (b. 10 February 1925). B. Yubari City, Hokkaido. First taught by Kodo Horikawa in 1963 in Kitami, Hokkaido. Received 7th dan from Horikawa in 1974. Okamoto was promoted to shihan by Horikawa in 1978. He separated from the Kodokai to found Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai after moving to Tokyo in 1977. Okamoto’s art is characterized by rapidly executed aiki techniques with a minimum of body movement on the part of the defender.

The Tree Principles:

  1. Conditioned reflex
  2. Circular motion
  3. Breath power method

“If you master aiki, you will be able to apply the techniques using very minimal force. A calm spirit and settled breathing are necessary. At the same time the body must be supple.”

Reference:
Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujutsu by Seigo Okamoto
ISBN 4795250677

p. 46

Links:
Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu neigong.net
Interview with Seigo Okamoto Shihan aikidojournal.com 1990

More Videos:
Seigo Okamoto on youtube.com

A Study of Taiji Push-Hands

By Xiang Kairen

People who practice Taijiquan all know that practicing the form is the “body” (ti), practicing push-hands is the “use” (yong). But are body and usage two different affairs? In order to answer this question, we must first clarify what is body: what is usage? Practicing the form, one never departs from the “13 Postures”; practicing the usage one also never departs from the “13 Postures.” Without the 13 Postures there is neither Taijiquan nor push-hands. The 13 Postures are peng (ward-off), lu (roll-back), ji (press), an (push), cai (pull-down), lie (split), jou (elbow), kao (shoulder stroke), jin (advance), tui (retreat), gu (look left), pan (look right) and ding (central equilibrium). This is a saying well known by all. But when the average individual practices Taijiquan or push-hands, does he pay attention to each of these thirteen postures? Naturally there are some who know that they must pay attention to this; but there are also many who imitate mindlessly.

I dare say that even among those who practice the thirteen postures assiduously, there are those who practice the form but cannot “get it” or who practice the usage but cannot grasp the usage. Because of this the “Song of the Thirteen Postures” says, “If you don’t diligently search for the meaning, you will only waste your effort and sigh (from disappointment).” Practicing the form is equivalent to understanding the essence of push-hands usage. Practicing the push-hands one utilizes applications attained from form practice. We can say that the entire body (or form) is functional and that the entire function (all applications) has a body. Accordingly, is there no difference between practicing form and push-hands? Yes, there is a distinction. Below, I will record what ancient Taijiquan theoreticians have written regarding push-hands. After presenting my interpretations, we shall draw some conclusions. And finally, I will present research gleaned through my personal experience in push-hands. The Taijiquan Classic says, “When the opponent is hard and I am soft, this is called zhou (yielding, moving away). When I follow harmoniously and the opponent gets backed up, this is called can (adhering).” “Hard” has the significance of an attack.

But this should not be a hardness that is forceful or stiff. Rather, a good example would be the attacking movements of ward-off or press as used in push-hands. “Soft” has the significance of protecting, guarding or conserving (shou). But this should not be a softness that is weak or limp. Rather, a good example would be the defensive movements of roll-back or push as used in push-hands. Although “hard” and “soft” are nouns which stand in opposition as attack and defense, one should completely rely on Yi (intention, mindfulness, inner meaning) and posture. One should never use stiff, forceful energy to attack.

If the opponent uses ward-off or press to attack and oppress me, I should use the defensive movements of roll-back and push to neutralize him. This kind of movement is called Zhou (moving away). “Following harmoniously” and “getting backed up” reveal the difference between maintaining or losing the stance. “Following harmoniously” means the ability to keep the center of gravity and thus maintain the posture. “Getting backed up” means losing the center of gravity and thus losing the posture. An example would be my using ward-off or press to attack, intending to cause my opponent to lose his stance. It is also said, “If the opponent moves quickly I must respond quickly; if the opponent moves slowly, then respond slowly.” This is a very pure way of speaking about defense.

Scholars should not mistakenly believe that one is thus losing control. Slowness or speed follows the attacker. You should understand that the attack depends on the opponent, the response depends on oneself. If I can follow the speed of the attacker, then I can respond naturally and easily, not losing the center. One could say that this is the ultimate in Taiji push-hands skill.

It is also said, “If pressured on the left, empty the left; if pressured on the right, empty the right.” Taijiquan is thus a way of exercising the central pivot (or moving like the axle of a wheel). Therefore the Explanation of Practice says, “The body is like a wheel; the waist is the axle.” Since the body is like a wheel, if there is pressure on the left, turn to the left. If there is pressure on the right, turn to the right.

This is natural law. But if you want skillful practice, the hands responding as the mind wishes–this is not a very easy matter. It is also said, “Looking up, he seems even higher. Looking down, he seems even deeper. Advancing, he is even further away. Retreating, he is even closer.” The meaning of the first three sentences is that one leads the opponent’s force so that it comes upon emptiness. That is to say, if he attacks upwards, I lead him even higher. If he attacks down, I lead him even lower. If he attacks straight in, I lead him further. In each case, I follow his incoming posture and direct him to an empty place. I neither struggle nor oppose. The fourth sentence explains the inability to retreat (from a Taiji boxer). If the opponent advances and I retreat, I crowd myself into a corner.

No matter whether one practices the form or push-hands, one should avoid straight advance or straight retreat. The Explanation of Practice says, “Advancing and retreating require turning the body and changing the steps.” The meaning is that one must not linearly advance or linearly retreat. For instance, in the advancing motion of “Brush Knee Twist Step”, you must look to the left and right. Or in the retreating motion of “Repulse Monkey”, you must similarly turn and step towards the left and right. All of the other advancing and retreating movements are like this. Because turning and changing allow you to use the retreat as an advance, it is not a true retreat.

A true retreat would mean defeat. Therefore the ancient boxing treatises say, “Advancing is advancing. Retreating is also advancing,” In the Newly Written Annals of Service it is said, “Every step advances forwards; then you are without peer under heaven.” There is also a saying, “A feather cannot be added, a fly cannot alight.” That is to say, push-hands must be practiced with completely refined and acute sensitivity. Then even if a feather or something as light as a fly falls on the body, it will be felt. But one does not allow the feather to stop or the fly to rest its feet. The feather cannot stop because it does not arrive at a flat or stable surface, For the same reason, the fly cannot stand balanced; it will not stop its fluttering wings and alight on the body. This is an extreme way of describing the light agility of Taiji push-hands. The meaning is absolutely do not allow the opponent to make use of your force (whether applying strength to you or “borrowing” strength from you). This is the most important and basic theory of push-hands. It is also said, “People do not know me. I alone know others.” This is the realm of ultimate accomplishment in push-hands. In order to apply push-hands techniques, it is important to train the sensitivity. In technical terms this is called ting jing, “listening to energy”. That is, use the two hands, especially the tips of the fingers, to feel the path and intention of the opponent’s movements. Then I will be able to anticipate the opponent no matter where he moves he will have no time to defend.

Chen Xin, a writer from Chen Village (Henan Province, Wenxian County), has an excellent way of speaking about push-hands in his Taijiquan treatises: “My spirit allows me to know what is coming. My wisdom allows me to hide the attack.” “Spirit” simply means using the nerves of the hands to feel the posture that the opponent is about to manifest. Then, according to my own wise strategy, I conceal an attack. In this way we arrive at the realm of “People do not know me. I alone know others.” There is another saying, “If you are single weighted, then you can be responsive. If you are double weighted, then you are stagnant.” In the practice of push-hands, it is most important to pay attention to these two sentences. You must at all times, in every moment, use your practical experience to really understand this. If you don’t know this theory, then you cannot say that you know Taijiquan; you have only had a superficial impression. And if you don’t spend several years in diligent practice of push-hands, you cannot speak of “applying technique according to circumstance”. The interpretation of these two sentences is actually just common-sense and very easy to comprehend. Above, we have said, “The body is like a wheel. The waist is like the axle.” Consider a wheel resting on the ground. Where can there be two heavy places? If there are two, then it cannot move, Therefore the Taijiquan Treatise says, “Do not allow any breaks or deficiencies; do not allow hollows or projections.” The reason is that if there are breaks or deficiencies, hollows or projections, then you cannot be circular. And if you are not circular, then you will be double weighted.

Some people explain double weighted as both feet touching the ground at the same time or both hands striking at the same time. Thus, one hand and one foot means single weighted. This explanation is the worst kind of misunderstanding. We should understand that single weighted or double-weighted is not a matter of outer appearance but of the inside. Taijiquan is only the exercise of a central pivot. When you have found where this pivot is located, then your feeling will become spherical and every place will be single weighted, If you do not find the center of gravity, then your feeling will become stagnant and every place will be double-weighted. And it is not only the feet and hands–even one finger will be double weighted,

Chen Xin’s Boxing Treatise says it best, “When your practice is most refined, even the smallest place is circular” Every sphere has its center. Within the sphere that issues from this central pivot, there are no breaks, deficiencies, hollows or projections. So where can there be double weighting? There is a saying, “Adhering is moving away. Moving away is adhering.” The term “Taiji” actually means the center of a circle, where the outer portion is called yang and the inner portion yin [that is, outside the circle and inside the circle]. Yang is applied by adhering and attacking. Yin is applied by moving away and defending. Furthermore, adhering is preparation for moving away. and moving away is preparation for adhering. Thus, we can continue, “Yin does not depart from yang; yang does not depart from yin.” It can also be said, “Yin and yang balance each other; this is known as “comprehending energy” (dong jing). What is called “yin and yang, adhering, moving away, hard and soft, following” and so on are all words referring to attacking and defensive movements. Within the attack, there is defense, and within defense, there is an attack. For this reason, we speak of “mutual balance”. Recognizing this principle is equivalent to “comprehending energy”.

If we practice our kung-fu with comprehending energy” as the base, then the more we practice, the more refined we become. A further saying is, “Originally, this is giving up yourself and following others. But many people mistakenly avoid the near and seek the far.” In Taiji push-hands we respond according to circumstance. There should not be the slightest bit of preconceived strategy. This is precisely what is called “giving up yourself and following others.” One could also say that only if we reach the stage of “lively circularity, light agility” can we utilize adhering and moving away–without obstruction or difficulty.

However, there are some practitioners who take “giving up yourself and following others” as meaning that one should study the opponent’s method of attack and accordingly prepare a response. Now, this is “avoiding the near and seeking the far”.

The examples given above are all based on the theories of push-hands presented in Wang Zongyue’s Taijiquan Classic. These are the highest, deepest and most accurate principles. Without careful study of the above, it is not possible to have any push-hands accomplishment. In the Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures , it is said, “In order to issue power, you must sink and relax and be concentrated in one direction.” In order to understand “issuing power” you must practice “issuing power” and the other kinds of jing [methods of applying energy] while pushing hands. Then you will find out how to “sink” and how to “relax”. Furthermore, you must be able to sink and relax in order to have internal strength. Your strength should not be awkward or muddled. The phrase “be concentrated in one direction” looks very simple, but actually, this embraces the concepts of time, place and direction. If one of these is not in harmony, then the inner feeling of sinking and relaxing will not be crisp. Because of this, while pushing-hands, you must on the one hand be prepared to receive the opponent’s power, without either moving away or neutralizing. On the other hand, the mind should be concentrated and ready to issue power according to the Taiji principles. As you become familiar with this practice, you will be able to discharge the opponent as soon as he touches you. Your power will be centered and stable.

The Song of Push-Hands says, “In ward-off, roll-back, press, and push you must find the real technique. If upper and lower are coordinated, the opponent will not be able to advance.” In the movements of ward-off, roll-back, press and push, you can find the straight within the curved (or circular). These four movements embrace nine others: pull-down, split, elbow, shoulder stroke, advance, retreat, look left, gaze right, and central equilibrium. Thus when the text says to be conscientious in the practice of ward-off, roll-back, press and push, this is equivalent to saying that one should be conscientious in applying all thirteen postures.

The first sentence in the Song of the Thirteen Postures says, “‘The thirteen postures should not be regarded lightly.” The meaning is that you should find the real technique in each and every posture. If movements can be controlled by the waist, then upper and lower will naturally coordinate. And if these can coordinate then you will be able to neutralize the opponent’s attack. Thus, the text-says, “The opponent will find it difficult to advance.” The second sentence in the Song of the Thirteen Postures–“The source of life is in the waist.” has the same significance.

It is said, “Lure the opponent’s advance into emptiness; harmonize with him, then issue power. Adhere, join, stick to and follow the opponent, without letting go or resisting,” [that is, follow the opponent on both the vertical and horizontal planes]

Follow the opponent’s incoming posture and lead him into emptiness. As I lead him in, I issue my own attack. The word “lead” actually has two meanings. The first is to accord with the opponent’s posture and draw him further in order to take advantage [of his momentum]. The second is to feign weakness, causing him to rush in brashly. We read in Chen Xin’s Boxing Treatise, “Entice the opponent with an ’empty basket’; then just make one turn.” Enticing with an empty basket is the same as “Lure the opponent’s advance into emptiness.” ” Turning” means striking the opponent.

The older generation says, “People who practice push-hands live according to the principle of ‘neither let go nor resist’.” Not letting go means not quitting the opponent’s hand. Not resisting means not opposing him. This concept includes adhering and joining on a vertical plane, as well as horizontal sticking and following. Adhering motions belong to the category of “not letting go”. Following and joining motions belong to the category of “not resisting”. That is to say, when the opponent advances, I follow and join his motion. And if he retreats I adhere to him.

Although the Song of Pushing-Hands presents extremely simple and basic theories, if you have not had direct contact with a teacher or heard his oral transmission, then your understanding is like “theorizing with a map” [with no knowledge of the actual territory]. Even ten thousand words would be of no avail. Therefore the Song of the Thirteen Postures has, “To enter the gate and be guided on the path requires verbal instruction. If you practice your kung-fu without cease, then you can cultivate correct methods on your own.” What does the text mean when it speaks of “cultivating correct methods on your own”? Just follow the principles presented above and you can cultivate on your own. Without these principles, effort is wasted. In the Boxing Classic written by Li Changlo of Ping Jing, it is said, “Studying but not practicing is to cheapen the teacher’s transmission. But to practice without principles is to become sick from one’s art.” It is obvious that to practice push-hands one must attach great importance to this rule.

What I have written above are the most popular and familiar theories known by those who love to practice Taijiquan, with the addition of some simple explanations. Since my knowledge does have its limits, some of my explanations might not be as precise as I should like. However, I am willing to make this guarantee to all my colleagues: there is not one word that has not been personally transmitted by a famous master. I have only added what I have gained through thirty years of practical study. Now I will summarize my experiences and present a simple survey. This can serve as a reference for all who enjoy push-hands.

Why do those of us who practice Taijiquan have to practice push-hands? This is a very easy question to answer. It is because the practical usage and value of the hundred or more movements in Taijiquan can all be comprehended from push-hands. But we should recognize that push-hands is not the same as fighting, nor is it equivalent to the paired boxing sets found in other styles of martial arts. One should absolutely refrain from grappling as well as pushing and striking techniques from other systems.

Push-hands methods can be divided into four categories: 1. single-hand, fixed step, 2. double- hand, fixed step, 3. moving step (nine palaces step), 4. Da Lu (pulling) [or more literally, “large rollback”. TWC]. The single-hand, fixed step pushing method is now rarely practiced. But speaking truthfully, single-hand pushing is a necessity for beginners. Although the method is simple–two people both using a single hand, one adhering the other moving away– it is of great help in beginning to “listen to energy” and increasing the strength of the waist and legs.

Nowadays two-hand, fixed-step push-hands is popular. The theories about push-hands presented above all pertain to this style. This method of pushing is the basic practice for increasing one’s skill. To realize the practical usage of Taijiquan you must lay a strong foundation in this kind of push-hands. As a beginner “entering the gate” of study, you must search for a way of unifying upper and lower. You must make sure that advancing, retreating and all turning movements are rounded and lively, movements must not be performed quickly. As you advance, you study ward-off, roll-back, press and push. “When you adhere, I move away. When I adhere, you move away.” In all of this, you should not move too quickly. If there is too much speed, then your adhering and moving away are not grounded, and it will be easy to overlook the real meaning of each move. Furthermore, as you search for and listen to the opponent’s energy, your responses will not match the circumstances.

The four points listed below are the most important principles for developing the “knack” of push-hands: 1. Slowness: Whether adhering or moving away, you must be searching for, listening to the opponent’s energy at each step of the way (whether the opponent moves an inch or a foot). You must not disregard any part of your interaction. 2. Circularity: It is most important to prevent your hands from forming right angles (whether in your own posture, or in relation to the opponent). You must in all places maintain the circular form. 3. Stability: In fixed-step push-hands, you are allowed to alternate which leg is in front, but you are not allowed to step away. This is because the purpose of push-hands is to make the legs and waist a strong foundation. If the opponent oppresses you, you must be able to use leg power (literally, “sitting the legs” or “dropping into the legs”) and the turning of the waist to neutralize his posture. As you become accustomed to this, the waist and legs will naturally have kung-fu. 4. Closeness: Whenever you search for and listen to the opponent’s energy (applying leg and waist kung-fu), you must stay close in for your movements to be effective.

Now we come to moving-step push-hands: Advancing two steps, retreating two steps–neither partner changes direction. I advance a step with ward-off and then advance a step with press. My partner takes a step back with roll-back and then another retreating step with push. The process is repeated over and over. The advancing and retreating must be light and nimble. However, you will only be able to apply the power of your legs and waist if you are certain not to change direction.

Finally, we have Da Lu, “big roll-back”: Advance four steps, retreat four steps. Each person advances and retreats towards the four corners. I advance a step with ward-off, another step with elbow, a further step with press and a final, close step with shoulder-stroke. My partner rolls-back with three retreating steps. Then he turns his body, stepping behind me. This last step embraces the movements of pull-down, split and push. Because there are three retreating steps utilizing roll-back, the exercise is called “big roll-back”.

No matter what push-hands method you practice, it is most important not to neglect the principles and not to use force in attack and defense. Furthermore, you should have absolutely no thought of win or loss. Above, I have brought together what various authors have had to say about push-hands. Although each school has its unique teaching, there is no sense of ambiguity. You may have the impression that in order to have a correct understanding, we practitioners and students of push-hands need deep insight and penetrating research. Actually, this is not the case!

We only need to decide upon one exposition of theory and then devote our effort to really understanding it. When we have thoroughly understood one section, then all the rest will be understood at the same time. If you are persevering, you may suddenly come to a comprehension of this principle. For instance, if you have a house with several doors through which you can enter or leave, anyone who wants to enter the house only has to go through one door. Although only one door is needed, if you don’t reach this door, you will never have a way to enter the house. We should also understand that among these doors there is no distinction with regard to high or low, good or bad. From the east, we enter the eastern door. From the west, we enter the western door. Each person enters the one he is closest to. Studying theory is just the same. We just have to decide upon which theory is closest, which one is easiest to grasp and then devote our effort and research there. There is only one essential–it is like a hunting dog chasing its prey. As soon as the dog decides upon his object, he does not quit until he has it.

MY EXPERIENCES IN THE STUDY OF PUSH-HANDS
In 1923 I began the study of Taijiquan from Chen Weiming in Shanghai. Master Chen and his own teacher, Yang Chengfu were just the same. They loved to use ward-off and press to advance and attack. However, they didn’t issue power. They just forced me into a posture where I was stuck and completely without strength. I was neither able to move out of the way nor neutralize. This stage was the hardest to bear as a beginning student of push-hands.

Later Master Wang Ruen arrived in Shanghai. I studied Wu Style form with him. When I tried to use the ward-off and press techniques that I had learned from Master Chen, Master Wang was able to nullify my attacks very easily. The result of my study was a realization that my sensitivity was very dull. Master Wang could use his postures to attack as he wished, keeping extremely light and spirited. He would wait until my strength was exhausted. Having already lost my center of gravity, I could neither move out of the way nor neutralize.

I asked Master Wang, “How would Wu Jianquan attack while pushing hands?” He said, “When Master Wu would push-hands he very rarely attacked. However if you tried to oppress him, then he would always force you into a position of being without strength and unable to defend. Because of this most people say that Yang emphasizes discharging power; Wu emphasizes neutralizing. But actually, discharging is neutralizing. If you cannot neutralize, then you are unable to discharge, However, the personalities of these two individuals are different, and their methods differ accordingly.”

In 1929 I studied push-hands from Xu Yusheng in Beijing. He had learned his Taijiquan from Song Siming. This was the lineage of Song Yuanchiao. Master Xu paid special attention to opening and closing techniques and matched movements with his breath. He analyzed each of the movements according to the Thirteen Postures, and paid special attention to “central equilibrium” as the mother of the Thirteen Postures. All postures issue from “central equilibrium.” He also paid attention to five words mentioned in the boxing manuals: ” perseverance, diligence, daring, energy and appropriateness”. He said that “appropriateness” was the most important. The meaning is to find an appropriate usage for each movement. Thus Master Xu had the best ability to make use of each kind of movement in the form during his push-hands. Unfortunately, at that time he was director of both the Beijing Martial Arts Hall and the Beijing School of Physical Education. He was too busy with work and was unable to spend much time with me discussing technique. He introduced me to master Liu Ennuan, who taught me push-hands.

Master Liu had also learned his Taijiquan from Song Siming. However, his pushing method was different from that of all the masters mentioned above. He would be suddenly light, suddenly heavy, suddenly distant, suddenly near. In each case, I was unable to follow or adhere. Sometimes he would suddenly lift up, and even my heels would be lifted off the ground. Suddenly releasing, I would fall ahead into the void. After three months, I gradually became accustomed to this and was no longer seduced by his technique. In the past, I had studied external boxing; sometimes I would get aggravated by Master Liu’s attack and use external boxing methods to strike. He would immediately stop pushing and say, “Push-hands is a method of training; it is not fighting. Your mind must not be struggling with the thoughts of winning or losing. If we were comparing our abilities in competition, then our postures would not be the same. There would be no principle of standing without moving or waiting for your partner to attack.

When I heard these words, I was very ashamed. I had a deep sense that, while pushing hands, I should harbor no thought of winning or losing. Not abiding by the rules and trying to steal a hit is what martial artists call “breaking tradition.” In social intercourse, my actions would be called “lack of courtesy”. Essentially I was being immoral.

In 1934 I was in Changsha pushing hands with a classmate. Wang Ruen was watching from the side. Suddenly he said, “How is it that there is no opening or closing in your push-hands?” I quickly stopped and asked, “When you taught me push-hands you never spoke of opening and closing. Teach us, where should we look for this opening and closing?” He said, “Don’t the Boxing Treatises say that if you can open and close, then you can breathe, and if you can breathe then you will be spirited and lively? You should have discovered this principle yourself.” I said, “A long time ago I suspected that I didn’t really comprehend those two words. What is the meaning of “if you can open and close, then you can breathe”? Being unable to breathe, isn’t that the same as being dead?”

Master Wang laughingly replied, “I am afraid you really don’t understand! Everybody breathes. This is the breath of the natural person, but it is not the breath of an artist. If an artist cannot synchronize his breathing, then he feels like he cannot breathe at all. This is extremely important. When you read books praising demonstrations by martial artists, there are always two expressions used, ‘The face does not change color and ‘The breath is not panting.’ Just now as you were practicing push-hands, you were panting. This is because you were not paying attention to the breath.” I said, “Xu Yusheng once told me that there must be opening and closing coordinated with the breath. At that time I disregarded his teaching. Nor did I pursue him to ask how to find that coordination. Furthermore, I was not aware that push-hands also has opening and closing which must be similarly coordinated with the breath.”

Master Wang continued, “When you first began to study, I couldn’t speak of this kind of movement, because it is too complicated. It is not easy to feel and comprehend. But at this stage in your training, you must devote your effort to synchronizing opening and closing with the breath.” He then proceeded to point out some examples from the form. For instance, ward-off and press are “opening”. Roll-back and push are “closing”.

From that time on, I began to search for opening and closing movements whenever I practiced the form. After several days I thought I had gotten it. I practiced “Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail” while Master Wang observed. Master Wang said with a laugh, “No need to continue. Your opening is not opening; your closing is not closing.” At that time, he had a folding fan in his hand. As he waved the fan, flicking it open and closed, he asked, “How is this opening and closing produced?” I said, “It is produced by the motion of your hand.” He shook his head and pointed to the button that held the ribs of the fan together, saying, “Only if you have this thing is it possible to open and close.” Then he pointed to the door of the house, saying, “It is just like this door–which must have a hinge in order to open and close. You haven’t yet discovered this pivot, so naturally your opening is not opening, your closing is not closing.” I asked, “Where is the pivot?” He replied, “This is something you yourself must find. If I tell you, it would be of no use.”

Because of this “pivot” I immersed myself in study and practice for more than a month. I thoroughly familiarized myself with the theories concerning Taijiquan. The result was a sudden insight–I realized that the pivot is in the waist. Thereupon I began again to search for “opening” and “closing”. In order to bring the form more in harmony with my realization, I changed many of the linkage points between the postures. Later I felt that within each movement there are several openings and closings, all of which must coordinate with the breathing. I spent more and more time refining the movements.

At this time, since Master Wang was teaching at Hunan University, it was not easy to meet. After half a year I chanced upon him and excitedly began to demonstrate for him. He smiled and nodded his head, saying, “Although you are not at the heart of it, you are not far! You only know that the control is in the waist, but you have overlooked the word ‘between’ in the saying, ‘The meaning and source of life is between the kidneys [here, kidneys means waist],’ and you have skipped over the word ‘middle’ in the saying, ‘You must at all times keep the mind in the middle of the waist.’ You must understand that these two words show the location of the ‘life meridian’ of Taijiquan. From these two sayings we can also see from whence comes the name ‘Taijiquan’. If you are unable to find this, then you will not find ‘central equilibrium’ among the Thirteen Postures. Moreover, how will you understand the principle of ‘When you move, everything moves. When you are still, everything is still.’? It is true that this theory is quite abstruse and not easy to grasp. And it is even more difficult to actually experience in the body. If one speaks of this to beginners, it is not only of no benefit, but, to the contrary, it would cause them to be skeptical and disparaging. Therefore the ancients did not lightly or easily pass on their knowledge. It is not that they were scared of people knowing, but that they were scared of people not knowing.” When I heard this profound instruction, I was so grateful that I felt like crying.

The theories and experiences which I have shared above are, I feel, the most precious cultural heritage to be gleaned from our people’s physical education and exercises. I felt that I should present this openly to the public. There are many people practicing Taijiquan and not a few books on the subject. However, there are still very few who have written specifically and systematically on the theory of push-hands. So I have written this essay as a reference and study guide for all who love Taijiquan

* * * * *

Xiang Kairen was a writer of martial arts novels and also had an opportunity to study with many of the noted teachers of his day, especially with the Wu and Yang families.

Reference: http://www.nardis.com/~twchan/ph.html

Making Three Dantians Linear

taoist1.jpgThis type of qigong has been passed on by a Taoist priest by the name of Wang Zhenyi. While practising this type of qigong you should concentrate your attention on making the upper, middle and lower dantians linear. When you have made your three dantians linear, you will attain a very special and comfortable feeling and will almost forget everything. Your small and large circulations will automatically be open to qi. This type of qigong can help you recover quickly from fatigue. No mater how tired you are, you can completely recover after practising this qigong for fifteen minutes. You can do this type of qigong while standing, sitting, lying down, or when practising taijiquan or riding a bicycle. This qigong does not require any preparation or special procedure before stopping.

Procedure:
1. Soon after concentrating your mind in your upper dantian, shift your attention to the lower dantian (huiyin acupoint).

2. After getting the feeling of qi in the lower dantian, shift your mind to the middle dantian and arrange it in line with the upper and lower dantians in order to make the three dantians linear. Then imagine the three dantians as three spheres. You should carefully put the sphere of the middle dantian between the two spheres of upper and lower dantians. The middle sphere will slide out if you do it carelessly.

3. When the three dantians have been made linear, you will get a very special feeling and comfortable feeling. You should hold this feeling as long as possible. It can help you return to the “original state”, to cure diseases and promote your health. You should maintain this feeling and eliminate any distractions.

Reference:
Relax and calming qigong by Wang Peisheng & Chen Guanhua
ISBN 9622381812

p.20

Wang Hao Da’s Message

Correct central equilibrium {Zhong Ding} is the basis for everything else in Taijiquan. One must focus with their complete intention {Yi} to differentiate, that which is external and separate from one’s center. The center is the key; it must remain straight and hidden, concentrated, deep inside the body constantly changing, spiraling into the earth for the most part. One must gather all the Qi {energy} to your center. It is this structure that is the basis for internal power {Nei Jing} or Zhong Ding Jing, and essential for good health and longevity. The Dantien {lower abdomen} is alive! Not only does the Dantien push down inside the open hips but also it turns, spirals, bounces, and shoots; inside the structure is always full, always condensed. When you play the Taiji form you are performing the interaction of your Zhong Ding and Dantien. This hidden internal play moves the outside, not necessarily the entire body like a single lump of wood, rather by gathering everything to your center, your outside body follows the direction of this internal command. It is because your inside works so intensively that you receive the health benefit of Taiji. If one only works externally and has strong skin and muscles but weak organs, vessels, and bones, then the outside may thrive while internally you are dying.

Spiritual concentration is crucial. Your Yi must be strong, focused, pure, intent, gathering, confident, and sensitive. It is the Yi/Qi that work together to develop Nei Jing, not ones outer display of strength, {Li} that epitomizes all that is Taiji. The Yi is used at first to search internally for correct alignment of the Zhong Ding, the Dantien and its range of motion, to differentiate between open and closed, empty and full, extension, rooting, and connections. As one develops this inner sensitivity the next goal is to practice control over these basic principles in the correct way, so that the body remains straight, connected, rooted, full, and spirals throughout the Taiji form. Yi is accountable for the gathering of the Qi, and works in harmony with it, in order for these principles to be applied. Yi is responsible for relaxing the external body, the muscle; for storing the Qi one develops in practice, for making smaller circles and spirals, for condensing movement to small frame, and eventually to no visible movement in order to develop Nei Jing.

Rooting three feet into the earth has a double meaning. First one must make their Yi/Qi thick and sink heavy into the earth at least three feet down. Secondly one’s Zhong Ding, like the tailbone, is a third leg and its foot must be buried into the earth.

Rooting is a very important concept in Taiji. Your root must always be deeper than your opponent. In order to dig them out you must be below them. The Dantien and Zhong Ding must be structurally sound and without correct root this is impossible. However you must not be rigid! You must be light and agile, changeable, quiet yet quick. You must learn to balance your power downwards and upwards; the bottom is heavy, the top is light; connected. In order to root you must have a good understanding of the hips. The hips are very complex, the inside hip {Kua} must be free to open and close, spiral into the earth. The outside hip must be strong and flexible to grip the earth, and the sacrum and tailbone must be straight and changeable. The bowl of the pelvis, like a wok or cauldron must be round and accommodate the Dantien. When you develop an understanding of how these things work in harmony your rooting will become more profound.

Learning to connect is fundamental, yet I have been surprised how western students have missed out on this basic principle. Gripping the earth, whole body structure power {Gatsa Jing} cannot be neglected. Just because one concentrates to the center, develops correct Zhong Ding, the outside body is not tofu. Extension is the basis of connection, yet many people wave their arms around in an unconnected and disharmonious method. As a minimum requirement the three external harmonies should be observed, the arms and legs emerge from the spine and work as such. Yes I say work the internal exclusively, deep internal soft movement like water, full like an air bag, but not at the expense of basic connection – extension.

Silk reeling power {Chan Si Jing} is a significant component of the Wu style. Every movement must be a spiral. One spirals into the earth and one spirals away from the Zhong Ding for discharge of energy, simultaneously. Learning Chan Si is implicit in the form, and form practice should be serious, without tension, without the energy coming up. When I play Taiji my whole body spirals, my feet spiral into and on the earth, my Zhong Ding spirals, my Dantien spirals, my Yi/Qi spirals. My structure outside hides my snake inside. Spiraling stretches the vessels; cleanses the organs, strengthens the bones, and invigorates the entire body. It has been one of the components that restored my health. Now I am like a baby, soft yet tenacious, heavy yet changeable, flexible yet powerful; each day I become younger more rejuvenated and my spirit is thus affected as well. What could be more valuable than good health and happiness?

Taiji form and push hands {Tui Shou} have been my method of rejuvenation and progression. One uses Taiji form practice in order to understand the self, Push Hands to understand the Nei Jing. Each day I practice Wu form, Master Ma’s Longevity Qigong, and Tui Shou. In my form practice I am mindful of many principles. I have included 8 basic ones for you to contemplate. In my Qigong practice Yi/Qi and pure internal work is my guide. I Push Hands in the park every day. Win or lose is of no significance. I lose every time if I use Li. I win if I am quiet, if my Nei Jing is pure, my Zhong Ding Jing correct. Over the years I pushed hands with many people. The one quality I respect most in an opponent is their ability to listen. One can only progress if they have the power to listen {Ting Jing}. If their character is so flawed that they must win at all costs, if they must resort to such base instincts and low level techniques and force, I have no misgivings about returning to them what they aim at me.

The harder they attack, the further they fly.

Reference:
See the whole article Wang Hao Da by courtesy of patrickkellytaiji.com

Links:
Wang Hao Da – Finding the Push Hands Connection patrickkellytaiji.com
Master Wang Hao Da Wu Taichi Fast Form youtube.com

The Secret Method of Release

The Four Characters: Support, Lead, Relax, and Release
Support the opponent’s power and borrow his force. This involves agility. Lead the opponents power to the front of your body, then begin to store your force. This involves concentration. I relax my force without bending. This involves stillness. I release my force from the waist and feet. This involves completeness.

The important Points in Form, Application, and Power Training
The ancients have said, “If you can entice the opponent to enter and then cause him to fall into emptiness, you may use four ounces to deflect a thousand ponds. If you cannot entice the opponent to enter and then cause him to fall into emptiness, you will not be able to use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds.” This statement is very deep and has broad applicability; it is beyond the scope of beginners. I will continue with an explanation so that those who have made the decision to study may make progress as they practice. If you want to know your self and know others, you must first give up yourself and follow the opponent. If you want to give up your self and follow the opponent, you must first obtain the opportunity and superior position. If you want to obtain the opportunity and superior position, you must first move the entire body as a coordinated unit. If you want to move your body as a coordinated unit, the whole body must be without misalignment, your spirit and qi must be stimulated. If you want to stimulate your spirit and qi, you must first raise your spirit. If you want to raise your spirit, you must not let your spirit be dispersed externally. If you want to prevent your spirit from being dispersed externally, you must concentrate your spirit and qi in your bones. If you want to concentrate your spirit and qi in your bones, the front of your hips must have power, the shoulders must be relaxed, and the qi sunk downward. The force (jing) must come from the heels, transform in the legs, be stored in the chest, and moved in the shoulders. The leader is the waist. Above, the arms coordinate in attack. Below, the legs follow. The force is changed internally. Withdrawing is closing. Releasing is opening. When still, all is still. Stillness is closing. In the midst of closing is the desire to open. When in motion, everything moves. Movement is opening. Moving through the forms is the gung fu of understanding the self.

Before moving, first check to see if the whole body is conforming to the above described principles. If any part of the body is not in alignment with any of the principles, immediately make corrections. This why the forms must be done slowly and not quickly. Striking Hands (pushing hands) is the gung fu of understanding others, of knowing others in movement and stillness. All this still involves questioning the self. If positioned correctly, as soon as the opponent strikes I do not have to disturb his actions in the slightest but take advantage of his movement and enter. I am assured of borrowing his force. The opponent throws himself. If you are not in a position of power, you still not have remedied the problem of “double-weighting.”1) The answer is found in yin/yang and opening/closing. This is what is meant by “Know yourself and know others, and in a hundred battles you will taste victory a hundred times.”

1) “Double-wieghting” refers to using force directly against the force of the opponent, there by creating two centers or “weights.”

A Study of Taijiquan
by Sun Lutang, Translated by Tim Cartmell
ISBN 1556434626

p. 219-20

Thirteen Important Points in Taijiquan

Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows; contain the chest and pull up the back; the qi sinks to dantian; an intangible energy lifts up the crown of the head; loosen the waist and kua; distinguish empty and full; upper and lower follow one another; use mind intent, not strength; inner and outer are united; intention and qi interact; seek stillness in movement; movement and stillness are united; and proceed evenly from posture to posture. These thirteen points must be attended to in each and every movement. One cannot neglect the concept of these thirteen points within any of the postures. I hope that students will be cautiously attentative, and test and verify these in their practise.

Yang Chengfu (1883-1936) The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan translated by Louis Swaim
ISBN 1556435452

p. 12-13

The Treatise on T’ai Chi Ch’uan

Attributed to Wang Tsung-yueh [Wang Zongyue] (18th Century)
as researched by Lee N. Scheele

T’ai Chi [Supreme Ultimate] comes from Wu Chi [Formless Void]
and is the mother of yin and yang.
In motion T’ai Chi separates;
in stillness yin and yang fuse and return to Wu Chi.

It is not excessive or deficient;
it follows a bending, adheres to an extension.

When the opponent is hard and I am soft,
it is called tsou [yielding].

When I follow the opponent and he becomes backed up,
it is called nian [sticking].

If the opponent’s movement is quick,
then quickly respond;
if his movement is slow,
then follow slowly.

Although there are innumerable variations,
the principles that pervades them remain the same.

From familiarity with the correct touch,
one gradually comprehends chin [intrinsic strength];
from the comprehension of chin one can reach wisdom.

Without long practice
one cannot suddenly understand T’ai Chi.

Effortlessly the chin reaches the headtop.

Let the ch’i [vital life energy] sink to the tan-t’ien [field of elixir].

Don’t lean in any direction;
suddenly appear,
suddenly disappear.

Empty the left wherever a pressure appears,
and similarly the right.

If the opponent raises up, I seem taller;
if he sinks down, then I seem lower;
advancing, he finds the distance seems incredibly long;
retreating, the distance seems exasperatingly short.

A feather cannot be placed,
and a fly cannot alight
on any part of the body.

The opponent does not know me;
I alone know him.

To become a peerless boxer results from this.

There are many boxing arts.

Although they use different forms,
for the most part they don’t go beyond
the strong dominating the weak,
and the slow resigning to the swift.

The strong defeating the weak
and the slow hands ceding to the swift hands
are all the results of natural abilities
and not of well-trained techniques.

From the sentence “A force of four ounces deflects a thousand pounds”
we know that the technique is not accomplished with strength.

The spectacle of an old person defeating a group of young people,
how can it be due to swiftness?

Stand like a perfectly balanced scale and
move like a turning wheel.

Sinking to one side allows movement to flow;
being double-weighted is sluggish.

Anyone who has spent years of practice and still cannot neutralize,
and is always controlled by his opponent,
has not apprehended the fault of double-weightedness.

To avoid this fault one must distinguish yin from yang.

To adhere means to yield.
To yield means to adhere.

Within yin there is yang.
Within yang there is yin.

Yin and yang mutually aid and change each other.

Understanding this you can say you understand chin.
After you understand chin,
the more you practice,
the more skill.

Silently treasure knowledge and turn it over in the mind.
Gradually you can do as you like.

Fundamentally, it is giving up yourself to follow others.
Most people mistakenly give up the near to seek the far.
It is said, “Missing it by a little will lead many miles astray.”

The practitioner must carefully study.

This is the Treatise

Reference:
T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics www.scheele.org

Spirit – Shen Concentrated

Having the above four, then you can return to concentrated spirit: if the spirit is concentrated, then it is (continuous and) uninterrupted, and the practice of chi (breath) returns to the shen (spirit). The manifestation of chi moves with agility. (When) the spirit is concentrated, opening and closing occur appropriately, and the differentiation of substantial and inubsubstantial is clear. If the left is insubstantial, the right is substantial, and vice-versa. Insubstantial does not mean completely without strength. The manifestation of the chi must be agile. Substantial does not mean completely limited. The spirit must be completely concentrated. It is important to be completely in the mind (heart) and waist, and not outside.

Not being outside or separated, force is borrowed from the opponent, and the chi is relased from the spine. How is the chi released from the spine? It sinks downward from the two shoulders, gathers to the spine, and pours to the waist. This is chi’i from the up to down is called “closed”. From the waist the chi mobilizes to the spine, spreads to the two arms and flows to the fingers. This is chi from down to up and is called “opened”. Closed is gathering, and opened is discharging. When you opening and closing, then you know yin and yang. Reaching this level your skill will progress with the days and can do as you wish.

Red.: from Li Yi Yu’s Five Character Secret (Calm, Agility, Breath – to gather the chi, The internal force – the complete chin, Spirit – Shen concentrated).

Reference: T’Ai Chi Ch’Uan Ta Wen, Questions and Answers on T’Ai Chi Boxing Chen Wei-Ming ( Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo & Robert W. Smith ) North Atlantic Books 1985
ISBN: 0938190776

Page: 55

Cat Walk Benefits

by Mei Ying Sheng Translated by Ted W. Knecht

Late Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu described in his book, “The Practice of Taijiquan”, that “the two legs be differentiated into yin and yang, and should raise and lower as if walking like a cat”. In the book entitled, “Essentials of Free Sparring”, Master Wu Yu Xiang wrote that “one should step like a walking cat and move like pulling (drawing) silk”. Students of later generations called the advancing steps and footwork found in Taijiquan as the “Taiji Cat Walk”, “Taiji Tiger Step”, or plainly as the “Taiji Step”. The Taiji Cat Walk appears a total of 58 times and is the most basic stepping method in the Yang style 108 posture routine.

The Taiji Classics state that “if the hands advance three percent, then the legs advance seven percent”. This demonstrates the importance of stance work and stepping in Taijiquan. There is also a saying which says that if one can perform a proper “Taiji Cat Walk”, it does not necessarily mean one’s Taijiquan is good, but in order to be very good at Taijiquan, one must have a proper “Taiji Cat Walk”. The legs move slowly and evenly under the control of the waist and spine while performing the “Taiji Cat Walk”. Close to half of the largest muscles groups found within the body are below the waist and abdomen. The “Taiji Cat Walk” will allow all the muscles, ligaments, joints, etc. to obtain maximum range of exercise with the least amount of resistance. The action which occurs in the legs is similar to the motion of twisting (draining) a wet towel. All of the fibers within the towel (legs) will receive varying degrees of twisting and pressure. This action which will naturally harmonize the body in varying degrees can produce the following physiological health benefits:

1) Benefits on the Cardiovascular System: In one’s lifetime, the legs and feet are under the pressure of the body’s weight for approximately two thirds of the time. The feet are the furthest extension of the body from the heart. Consequently, the blood which is pumped from the heart to the feet and recirculated back to the heart will have an increase in difficulty in it’s ability to circulate. This may lead to various ailments in the legs and feet. The “Taiji Cat Walk” will allow the repeated twisting and wrapping of the muscles to produce a very prominent overall pressuring action on the walls of the blood vessels in the lower extremities. The blood vessels will have more strength to contract and expand and will enhance the circulation of blood back to the heart. The heart will in turn have a greater supply of blood to nourish the body. The “massaging” effect of Taijiquan on the muscle walls of the blood vessels can prevent the deposition of cholesterol on the walls of the blood vessels. This will, therefore, increase the elasticity and strength of the blood vessel walls. Among all exercise therapies which aid in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, the “Taiji Cat Walk” is at the forefront. A few years ago the author conducted a study on the effects of practicing Yang style Taijiquan (with emphasis on the “Taiji Cat Walk”) on 220 middle-aged and elderly people. The result of the study concluded a positive decrease in blood pressure for those suffering from high blood pressure. The degree of exercise in Taijiquan is determined by the distance between the feet while in a bow stance. A wide and low stance will result in the greatest degree of exercise; while a stance which is high and narrow will result in a lower degree of exercise. After one has partaked in a round of Taijiquan using a low and wide stance, one will greatly perspire, the internal energy (Qi) will be harmonized, and the heart rate will be slightly raised as compared to normal activities. The heart rate may raise up to 100 beats per minute (athletes possibly lower). Some people may consider this quality of movement to be minimal; however, this phenomena is quite different from ordinary sporting exercise. The movements of Taijiquan are under a so-called “Qi State” which is very difficult to describe in words. The author with over 40 years of practical experience in Chinese and Western medicine has found that people who have practiced Taijiquan for many years have a lower pulse rate than those who do not participate in Taijiquan. No matter under what type of activity, either active or passive, the pulse rate is slower and more even in Taijiquan practitioners. According to scientific research of doctors in China and abroad, a pulse rate which is slow and even will allow the rest period of the heart’s muscles to increase and will also allow a greater release of blood from the heart’s chambers. A beneficial effect of this will decrease sediment built up in the blood and will also decrease the hardening of the blood vessels. Furthermore, high blood pressure will be lowered which is one the main reason for heart disease and death. Based on recent medical research, findings have shown that heart rate is inversely related to longevity in animal studies. Mice have a heart rate of approximately 900 beats per minute and live for approximately two years; on the other hand, the heart rate of elephants is approximately 30 beats per minute and they can live from 40 to 50 years. The length of life in humans which is also correlated to this inverse relationship has been know for quite some time in Chinese medical theory. Taijiquan, in general, has the perfect quality of motion to allow the heart rate and the movements of Taijiquan to be directly proportionate.

2) Benefits on the Meridians and Acu-points of the Body: The normal function of internal organs, skin, muscles, tendons, and bones rely upon the complete openness of the meridian network. Among the twelve ordinary meridians in the body, there are three yin and three yang feet meridians which ascend or descend at the toes. Moreover, there are 41 acu-points below the ankle joint of both feet which have a very direct relationship to one’s health. These 41 points are connected along channels to the top of the head and to various tissues and organs in the torso and arms. The physiological ability and pathology of the tissue and organs receive stimulation from the feet. This is related to a saying which states that “when one meridian is in disharmony, the body will not be in perfect health”. In regards to the study of meridians in traditional Chinese medicine, “Foot Reflexology” has become very popular and of interest in Europe, America, and Japan. They have been able to utilize state-of-the-art equipment to pin point 36 reflex points on the bottom of the feet. Various methods of stimulation are used on these reflex points to achieve the goal of curing illnesses and improving health. At a factory in Japan, a 75 meter long rock road has been designed in which small, sharp pebbles protrude out of the ground. The employees will walk this “road of health” twice before beginning work. This is conducted to stimulate the bottom of the feet to reach the goal of optimal health. The “Taiji Cat Walk” promotes a reflex action on the feet against the ground to massage the bottom of the feet and to stimulate the meridians and acu-points. This method is much different than ordinary walking and jogging; and it is more natural and complete than “foot reflexology” and the “road of health” methods described above. The following is a description of the reflex response of the “Taiji Cat Walk” which uses a left bow stance stepping into a right bow stance: Because the “Taiji Cat Walk” is conducted with the legs half squatted down, the body must maintain a balanced and level posture throughout the motion. When the right heel slowly and evenly leaves the ground to advance forward, the reflex action of the right foot against the ground results from lifting motion starting in the heel, then the ball, and finally in the toes. This reflex response is from weak to strong. When the toes leave the ground, the reflex response towards the toes is from strong to weak. When the right foot lowers back to the ground first on the heel, then the ball, and finally the toes, the reflex response is again from weak to strong. During the process of the right foot advancing to the front to form a right bow stance, the weight maintained on the left leg has a reflex action on the heel, ball, and toes which is from strong to weak and then from weak to strong. The reflex response on the feet against the ground evolves into a slow, gentle, and even massage from the heel down to the toes and is very beneficial to the stimulation of the 41 acu-points on the feet. The reflex response can also lead to the opening of the meridians and to the regulation of the blood and internal energy. The “Taiji Cat Walk” will cause a relatively strong person to break out into a sweat within two or three minutes of continuous practice. The quality of movement in the “Taiji Cat Walk” and it’s massaging action on the feet is, in general, an “exercise” which surpasses other forms of exercise conducted in the same amount of time.

3) Benefits to the Muscles, Bones, and Tendons Below the Waist and Abdomen: The “Taiji Cat Walk” is performed while the two legs are half squatted down and the weight of the body is continuously changing back and forth from one leg to the other. Because the movement is like a “cloud floating and water flowing” and the weight of the body is maintained on one leg during slow and even movement, all of the muscles, bones, joints, and tendons below the waist will become stronger and more agile. People who practice Taijiquan for a long time will see an increase in muscle size and strength. In Chinese medicine the saying, “the legs are the mirror of one’s health”, means the health of the legs are of prime importance to one’s overall health. Because the “Taiji Cat Walk” can harmonize and combine the blood and internal energy of the lower body together, this can aid in the prevention and/or healing of lumbar hyperplasia, heel spurs, deformed knees and various other degenerate aliments which commonly occur in old age. Some women over the age of 40, for unknown reasons, get edema (swelling) of the legs. Because of the water retention in the legs, this will chronically lead to unfavorable effects on the stimulation of the meridians and acu-points of the feet. The “Taiji Cat Walk” is one of the most ideal ways to alleviate this problem. The abdomen must correspondingly conduct circular motions in order to turn and relax the waist. This will allow the lateral, vertical, inner oblique, and outer oblique muscles to be interchangeably stretched and contracted; thereby, allowing the flexibility of the muscle layers to be increased and strengthened. Besides having a massing effect on the internal organs in the torso, it can reduce excess fatty deposits on the abdomen wall and also heal ailments such as a “collapsed stomach”. Consequently, the “Taiji Cat Walk” is a very effective prescription for one’s overall well being.

Dr. Mei Ying Sheng has been researching Yang style Taijiquan and practicing both Western and traditional Chinese medicine for the past 40 years. He was a physician and surgeon for many high ranking Buddhist monks and lay people in Tibet for 20 years. Through the healing benefits of Taijiquan, Dr. Mei was able to help cure a high ranking government official from Si Chuan Province of a cancerous stomach tumor. Doctors could not operate due to the size of the tumor. Consequently, the man came to Dr. Mei Ying Sheng for traditional Chinese medical treatment. Dr. Mei assessed the condition of the patient and by isolating and then teaching various movements found within Taijiquan, as a supplement to the form, the tumor gradually reduced in size and finally disappeared. To this day, the man goes into the Emei Mountains every morning and performs Taijiquan. Since retiring from a professional medical career, Dr. Mei and his family have recently moved to the city of Shen Zhen located in Guang Dong Province, China where he teaches Yang style Taijiquan, straight sword, broadsword, push hands, and qi gong with his youngest daughter. Dr. Mei is also utilizing his abilities in medicine and Taijiquan to help patients in a more quicker recovery from drug addiction at various drug rehabilitation center in southern China.

Single Whip of Yang Style Taijiquan

by Dr. Mei Ying Sheng, Si Chuan Province, China Translated by Ted W. Knecht, Shen Zhen, China

The Single Whip posture of Yang style Taijiquan has a historical record of three generations. Among the large frame postures as standardized by the late Yang Cheng Fu, Single Whip is one of the most precious postures characterizing the basics of Yang style Taijiquan. Because of Single Whip importance within the Yang style, it appears numerous times within the traditional 108 posture routine.

The 37 postures of Yang style Taijiquan, including the Single Whip posture, have their own applicable fighting techniques and artistic structure. To illustrated this point, an example of Single Whip’s martial application is as follows: Should an opponent use a palm or fist to attach toward my face, a hook hand can be used to counter by dissolving the strike to the right side. At the same time, I would advance a step forward allowing the internal energy (jin), generated by the stance, to issue from the right heel through the right leg, up the spine into the left arm and finally out the palm in a relaxed, flexible whipping motion to strike the opponent. This exemplifies the physiological phenomena in which the root is in the heel, the power is issued through the legs, generated in the waist, and shaped in the hands. From the view point of the overall mechanics of the posture, one can see how the origin of the name, Single Whip, was created.

The Single Whip posture as illustrated in figure 22 has been copied from Master Fu Zhong Wen book entitled Yang style Taijiquan which was originally extracted from the drawings of Yang Cheng Fu in the book, Comprehensive Volume of Taijiquan Uses. As shown in the drawing, the toes of the left foot point to the east with the lower part of the leg vertical to the ground (knee above the heel). The right leg is naturally straight. The toes of the right foot point to the south with the foot turned in ten degrees (both feet form an 80 degree angle). The upper body faces due south. The feet are planted flat on the ground to allow the internal energy to spiral into the ground. The hips are relaxed and the groin is rounded to form a left side bow stance. Using this correct tance as a basis of the Single Whip posture, the left wrist is dropped at shoulder height with an erect palm. The right wrist is curved upward slightly higher than the shoulders with the hand forming a hook. Both elbows are sunk downward with the joints relaxed and open. The arms are outspread to the left and right. Looking from the front view, the hands are equal distance from the center line of the body.

Because of the balanced nature of the entire posture, structurally, it is very stable and firm; and artistically, it is very beautiful and appealing to the eyes. If force was applied to the left palm of the Single Whip posture of Yang Cheng Fu, the route in which the force travels is from the left arm and shoulder down the spine into the right leg and into the heel of the right foot. If one were to look from above, the force would travel through the body in a straight line. A Chinese proverb states that a thousand pounds can not break a straight piece of wood. This suggests the stability and strength of the Single Whip posture.

The following discussion will examine the “Single Whip” posture performed by Yang Cheng Fu as compared to the various stationary postures of more recently developed Taijiquan routines (refer to the following drawings as examples of these recently developed Yang style Single Whip postures). There are three apparent differences between the “Single Whip” of the more recently developed routines and that of Yang Cheng Fu:

1) The toes of the right foot are turned in too much of an angle causing tension in the muscles of the groin and hip areas. This will subsequently cause the muscles, joints, and tendons of the lower body to loose it’s relaxed and natural state.

2) The directions of the left arm and left leg as compared to the right arm and right leg are quite different; and the upper and lower relationship of the arms and legs are not uniform. The stationary Single Whip posture must conform to the six harmony relationship in which the hands and feet, elbows and knees, and shoulders and hips must be vertically in line with each other; if this relationship does not exist, there will be a lose in the balance of the left and right sides of the body.

In Yang Cheng Fu’s Single Whip posture there is also an alignment with the left fingers, the toes of the left foot, and the nose to form a triangle pattern. This conforms to the basic requirements of the methods of the hands, eyes, body, and legs. Throughout the history of Yang style, those who have studied Yang style Taijiquan have followed these basic essentials.

3) Due to the turn to the left in the upper body, the line between the left palm and the right foot is off-set. Consequently, if pressure is applied to the left palm, the energy will be directed to the left rear, not to the right heel. As one can see, any power issued from the right heel would never reach the left palm. Under the situation in which the components of a straight line are of equal length and when the distance between the ends of a bent line are shorter than when straight, then the Taiji requirement of “extending long and attacking far” (fang chang ji yuan) is not satisfied.

The following discusses more minute details of the Single Whip posture. If the thumb of the left palm is bent inwards, the face and/or point of the palm can not be used as the striking surface. The thumb interferes with the surface. By allowing this, the edge of the palm is the only area that can be used for striking. This does not conform to the requirements of sinking the wrist and relaxing the fingers. If the left wrist is higher than the left shoulder there will be insufficient force for striking. The wrist must be in direct alignment and at the same height as the shoulder in order to deliever sufficent force in this technique.

Every posture in Taijiquan is intimately composed of four tightly related components which consist of a start, a rise, a turn, and a close. Each component is mutually related to each other and appears in every movement within Taijiquan. Consequently, in order for a posture to close, it must also have a beginning, a rising and a turning motion. The closing component is the stationary posture and is also the goal of each movement. The closing component of a posture is the end result of properly performing the beginning, rising, and turning component of a movement.

The stationary posture of a routine is the end point/result of a technique and the starting point for the next technique. Therefore, if the starting point has a fault, the beginning, rising, and turning components of the next movement will go a stray.

If one looks in detail at the recently developed Yang style Taijiquan routines and the various video tapes produced in China and abroad, one can see that there are very few that resemble the stationary/ending postures of Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu.

Yang Lu Chan learned Taijiquan from Chen Chang Xing. Afterwards, the Yang style was passed down through the generations to Yang Jian Hou and Yang Cheng Fu. Through these generations of study, the masters changed some of the founding principles of Taijiquan while at the same time also maintaining many of the theories and principles to further the development of the art. Taijiquan gradually advanced to high levels after many years of research and practice. Through this evolved a brilliant radiance of energy from the county of Yong Nian in Hebei Province.

The practitioners of this generation have varying differences in the way the Yang style is performed. This occurs due to many reasons such as differences in teachers, one’s physical condition, differences in the level of education and various other attributes; therefore, it does not really matter if the postures are slightly higher or lower, faster or slower, more or less; what really matters is to preserve the tradition teachings of the founding fathers of Taijiquan which would include the theories and methods of training. These should be strictly followed without deviation.

The author does not necessarily suggest that the older a style is, the better it is; but one must continue to maintain strict attention to the philosophy and tradition of the style in order to continue to improve the art for future generations.