by Wee Kee-Jin
The Taiji Form regardless of what style, was created as a means to train moving in a synchronized and harmonious Taiji way. During Pushing-hands we extend the practise of synchronized movement to include when being effected by an external force. When we can synchronize all the physical (external) and mental (internal) movements in our daily life, we will no longer be restricted or imprisoned by the Taiji Form, because then the Form will have become formless.
The classics state that; when one part of the body changes every part of the body changes along with it; when one part of the body moves every part of the body moves; the destination might be different but the time of arrival is the same – all parts of the body arriving together.
The key to achieve this principle is synchronization both of the sequence and timing. Being the continuous fine tuning of muscles co-ordinated simultaneously throughout the body.
The physical synchronizing and aligning always begins at the base by releasing the ankles, knees and hips then the shoulders, elbows and wrists. Both upward and downward actions start at the feet, get magnified in the legs and ripple through the body into the arms before being expressed to the finger-tips.
All turning originates from within. There is a line you should imagine running from the crown of the head (niwan) to the tailbone (weilui) that serves as the central axis of the body. From directly above you would see turning as being initiated at the axis about a small circle then expands to the medium circle of the body, then reaching the big circle of the arms.
Although there is a sequence, the movements must be in relation to each other. Any missed timings would effect the whole synchronization.
When stepping forward or backward you need to continue the synchronizing into the substantial foot to create the movement of the insubstantial foot. While the insubstantial foot is stepping, the centre is changing, so the substantial foot adjusts continuously.
Therefore both in the Taiji Form and Pushing-hands all parts of the body synchronize to create a movement and to respond to an incoming force.
To internally synchronize, there first must be physical relaxation and mental calmness. Then the melting sensation of relaxation can flow through the body and legs, into the ground. This is what is called ‘sinking’ and produces ‘grounding’. This downward feeling can then be released and rebound up from the ground through the feet, legs, body and arms, to the fingertips, but only if the body has continued to relax. This generates the force (Jing) and cultivates the ability to deliver it (Fa-jing). Although there is a sequence from the feet to the finger-tips, the timing required is in close relation to each other. After a while the stages overlap until eventually simultaneous, that means at the moment of 1% of relaxation, there is 1% sinking, 1% grounding and 1% rebounding force, which will then continue to 2%, 3% onwards.
In Taiji the ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ originates from the ‘centre’, which is where the ‘tantien’ and the central axis meet. Not only does the opening expand from the centre, but the closing also contracts from there; – both are from the inside outwards.
Once the opening and closing are clear, their timing recombines until simultaneous. Then “when there is opening there is closing, and in closing there is opening”. So that at a moment of closure you also experience being open.
The opening and closing needs to be synchronized with the relaxation, sinking, grounding, and issuing of the relaxed force.
Finally when the external and the internal are in harmony, and the timing and sequence are in relation to each other, total synchronization is achieved. Then when one part of the body changes every part of the body will change along with it, and when one part of the body moves every part of the body will move, and when one part of the body arrives every part will arrive.
Qiqong and Taiji
A commonly asked question when someone is studying Taiji, is whether they should practise Qigong as well. Any exercise that develops the use of your mind to circulate the flow of energy (Qi or Chi) in the body is Qigong. Therefore Taiji is Qigong, however Qigong is not Taiji.
Yin and Yang
The terms of Yin and Yang are frequently used in Taiji, and are often made to sound mystical. Unlike words such as table and chair which refer to specific objects, Yin and Yang are concepts describing opposites that have a relationship to each other; up and down; front and back; internal and external; positive and negative; male and female; dark and light; etc. They are as complementary as they are contrasting. Their existence and combination are actually scientific, not mystical.
The essence of Taiji is simplicity; black and white. It is not necessary to colour it with esoteric descriptions.