Self-Hypnosis

First say a small prayer to direct the effects towards your Soul. Take 3 deep breaths, then say mentally “Go to sleep ‘name'” (Use your own name). “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”. (Repeat 3 times). Count down to 7 to go deeper. Then silently “I’m going to make ‘name’ passive, the body obedient, and destroy the ego” (Repeat 3 times). Some ‘current particular suggestion’, e.g. affirmation or psychological mantra (Repeat 3 times). Then remain silent with Deep Mind awareness. Finish with the suggestion “In the next session when I say “Go to sleep ‘name'” I will sink quickly to a deep level. I am about to wake up feeling refreshed and relaxed in body, Mind and Soul. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Wake up ‘name'”.

( by courtesy of patrickkellytaiji.com )

5 Clouds

Based on the exercise from Master Ni Hua Ching:

1. Centre the Mind in the cloud of golden light in the solar plexus. Each out breath, intensify and expand the light taking the Mind deeper until the body and breath are lost in the light.
2. Allow the cloud to drift up to cover the lungs where it becomes white like the clouds. With each out breath, intensify and expand the light as the Mind goes deeper.
3. The cloud moves down to cover the lower abdomen and turns a deep blue like the ocean. With each out breath, intensify and expand the light as the Mind goes deeper.
4. The cloud moves to the region of the liver on the right side of the body and becomes a deep green like the forest. Intensify and expand the light as the Mind goes deeper.
5. Let the cloud float across to surround the heart and turns deep red like a ruby. With each out breath, intensify and expand the light as the Mind goes deeper.
After one or more cycles, return the cloud to the solar plexus and rest in the golden light.

( by courtesy of patrickkellytaiji.com )

Daily Energy Cultivation

8 Paths – by Master Chao Pi Chen: Basic body energy is based in the perineum between the legs, rising during refinement to the abdomen (Lower Dantien). This energy circulates in a network of 8 special channels. Follow the paths with the Mind visualising a stream of golden light, while listening to the resulting body sensations.
1. Inhale; lift energy up the spine from its base to the centre of the head.
2. Exhale; sink energy down the front of the body and return it to its base.
3. Inhale; up the lower-back, dividing at the belt then up to both shoulders.
4. Exhale; down the outer arms, along the middle fingers to the palms.
5. Inhale; lift energy up the inner arms to each side of the chest.
6. Exhale; down across the nipples, join at the waist and return to its base.
7. Inhale; lift energy up in the centre of the trunk to the solar plexus.
8. Exhale; drop it via the base, front of the legs and middle toes, to the soles.
9. Inhale; raise energy via rear of the legs and base to fill the abdomen.
10. Exhale; return the energy to its base, completing one round of 5 breaths.

Sharing the Light
The Personal Energy Field is centred in the area between the solar-plexus and the breastbone (Middle Dantien) rising, during the process of refinement, from the Lower Dantien.

Take 3 deep breaths. Each inhale lift the light from the abdomen to the solar plexus, and each exhale expand and intensify a cloud of golden light around the body. From the cloud of golden light centred on the solar plexus – intensified and harmonised by the 8 Paths – send the light to those you choose to help.

Inner Teacher
The Energy rises further during the process of refinement, from the solar plexus to the area of the pituitary gland in the centre of the head (Upper Dantien).

Inhale deeply lift the light from the solar plexus to the centre of the head, then exhale to expand and intensify a cloud of golden light around the head. With the intention of contacting your inner teacher (Guide), intensify the light taking the Mind deeper until the body and breath are lost in the light. Visualise a figure within the light and ask any question you may have, then rest quietly and listen for the response. Withdraw with thanks and return to the golden light centred in the head.

Breathe in deeply, then with a long out breath, return the light to its centre in the Middle Dantien.

Lost in the Light
Breathe deeply, each out breathe expand and intensify the cloud of golden light around the body, taking the Mind deeper until the Mind is lost in the light. Then forget the breathing, gradually allowing the Mind to drift deeper while maintaining awareness of the light. Then recapture the sensations of the body within the light: warmth and fullness at every point; the beating heart and resulting pulse that radiates out; the ringing inside the head that is always present when the Mind is silent. Rest in this strongly aware state: I am a field of light, warmth and awareness with a body inside it.

( by courtesy of patrickkellytaiji.com )

A Life of Infinity

A world of vastness and emptiness: the deep mountain.
There lives a life of infinity.
You live with no company.
You have no worldly communication.

You enjoy the set of movements.
This is your cultivation.
This is your achievement.
This is your merit.
The movement makes your form unite with your shadow
and your mind join your will.
The surroundings become quiet and join your movement.
With this moment your surpass your life and death.
You also melt years and centuries.
You dissolve all to nothing.

The twilight of morning and the light of the moon
have accompanied you
in smashing the withe cloud to pieces.
It is transformed into dew, flying to all places
to give moisture to many lives.
Your movement is inaudible, yet it has a gentle rythm.
Its like playing, singing and chanting: Holy, Holy, and Holy!
You continue the work of creation of all gods.
You span the bridge of eternity between
existence and non-existence,
ego and non-ego.
With no language and no posture,
but using the language above all languages
and the movement above all movements,
you link the past of no beginning
and the future of no ending.
You leave no trace or seam
on the perfect wielding of these two
into integral oneness.

Reference: Hua-Ching Ni Strength from movement Mastering Chi
ISBN: 0937064734

P. 104

Waves of Movement

Author: Patrik Kelly (by courtesy of patrickkellytaiji.com)

All fluids move in waves. Energy moves through fluids either as a transfer of mass with a stored momentum, or as a wave of elastic displacement that leaves the medium undisturbed once it has passed. Stored momentum gives a more external force and elastic displacement a more internal one. Different types of waves appear when we move. Forward and backward waves are generated from the hips moving horizontally slightly ahead of the rest of the body. Moving the body in horizontal curves produces waves in all horizontal directions. Twisting waves are produced by turning the hips slightly ahead of the rest of the body. Twisting waves wind along lines of elastic connection between the points of application of force and the ground. Vertical waves appear when the hips lift and sink before the upper-body. Adding this vertical dimension produces waves of compression and expansion up and down the body, which power the lifting and lowering of the arms. Smooth continuous waves that ripple and interact throughout the body in a complex and natural manner are a final result of the simultaneous interaction of these three types of waves.

Learning to produce and regulate these waves requires an intelligently designed series of steps leading from the simple to the complex. Any section of the body can be trained to move ahead of the rest of the body, creating a simple two-part wave. Later, several of these two-part waves can be assembled to create more complex wave patterns. Two part twisting waves are formed when the pelvis begins to rotate and the upper-body and arms follow. Two-part vertical waves are generated by sinking the lower half of the body before the upper half producing waves of compression and expansion centred in the pelvis. Somewhat controversial, but supported by experience and logic, is the advancing and retreating of the lower-body before the upper when two-part forward and back waves appear. Basic three part waves appear when the lower-body leads the upper-body which then leads the arm – where the arm is taken to extend from the fingertips to the lowest point of the shoulder-blade.

One, two, three or more part waves can also appear in any section of the body. A three part arm wave involving moving first the shoulder then the elbow and finally the wrist, is used to transmit waves of power from the upper-body to the hand. From this it is a simple step conceptually to produce a sequence of movement from the sole of the foot to the finger tips, with a slight delay at every joint as the muscles, tendons and ligaments stretch. The arms and legs can also twist in unison with the waist so that the force spirals as it travels. The sense of this twisting can be given when you visualise a hand moving over the surface of a ball. Then the palm and forearm rotate as they move, to maintain contact with the surface of the ball.

Reference: Quote from Daoist Principles in Practice by Patrik Kelly

The traditional Japanese method of knowledge transmission

Author: Yukio Takamura, edited by Nanette Okura (by courtesy of shinyokai.com)

“Shu-ha-ri” literally means embracing the kata, diverging from the kata and discarding the kata. The pursuit of training in a classical Japanese endeavor almost always follows this educational process. This unique approach to learning has existed for centuries in Japan and has been instrumental in the survival of many older Japanese knowledge traditions. These include such diverse pursuits as martial arts, flower arranging, puppetry, theater, poetry, painting, sculpture and weaving. As successful as Shu-ha-ri has been into the modern era, new approaches to teaching and learning are altering this traditional Japanese method of knowledge transmission. Whether traditional Japanese arts and endeavors are successfully passed to the next generation of practitioners is up to the sensei (teachers) of today and their wisdom in confronting the inherent strengths and pitfalls of Shu-ha-ri. In this essay I will focus on Shu-ha-ri and its unique application in the honorable martial discipline of Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu jujutsu.

Shoden/ The beginning level of training
Shu (Embracing the kata)
The kata or form is the educational core of all traditional Japanese knowledge schools. It is the most visible representation of a schools knowledge packaged into one seemingly simple set of movements or concepts. Because the kata is so accessible it is often mistaken to be the most important aspect of determining a students ability or progress. In fact, properly taught the kata does contain within it the ura or hidden level of information, but this information lies beneath the surface or omote of simple observation. Without first devoting oneself entirely to the mastery of the omote of the kata, the student is destined to remain forever a beginner, never able to progress towards the true depth of knowledge that rests hidden in the ura before him. To experience shu and embrace the kata, the student must first resign himself and his ego to a seemingly random series of repetitious exercises. Often these beginning or shoden level kata are by design intended to challenge the students concentration levels and devotion to learning. In some of the more rigorous traditions, kata are intended to create physical discomfort in addition to this exercise. Overcoming physical discomfort in this type of kata is just the first level of training the student to mentally focus exclusively on one task. As the student progresses thru the various kata, different aspects of stress and distraction are encountered. As these challenges grow more intense the student’s mind learns to process information and stress in a much more efficient manner. In time different neuro-muscular processes become intuitively ingrained in such a way that they are no longer consciously realized by the student. Once this level of kata is absorbed and executed satisfactorily, the student has reached the first level of his or her training. Other more advanced kata will be presented throughout training which present greater and more diverse challenges but the mental methodology for learning is now in place. The most basic reason for kata training has been achieved.


The pitfalls of teaching at the shoden level
At this level it is possible for kata to teach all by themselves. They are after all physical repetitions which challenge and instruct in an almost totally private experience. Although it might seem an exaggeration, anyone who knows the basic movements of a kata can take a student to this first level of training. It is even possible for some students to reach this level of training entirely by learning from a device like a book. However, this hands off approach to learning by the sensei places the student in a perilous situation, especially in the teaching of paired kata. The most common downfall here is a sensei’s lack of diligent attention to physical form and proper timing. Simply stated, many low level instructors teaching ability suffers due to their own mediocre instruction. Due to this they now instill poor habits into their students which must be unlearned at a later time. This is not only potentially dangerous but can be quite frustrating to the student. This teaching flaw has resulted in many excellent prospective students becoming disenfranchised with their training experience and discontinuing their pursuit. Diligent instruction even at the most basic level of kata training is absolutely mandatory. Basics are at the core of any pursuits proper execution and should never be undervalued.

Chuden / The intermediate level of training
Shu, at the chuden level
At the chuden level kata study includes a new element. This element is the application or bunkai. The deeper reason for the kata and its construction is now presented to the student. The scenario in which the kata exists is also studied and evaluated. This study and evaluation is however strictly limited to the pure execution of the kata without variation. Only thru this strict study can the kata accurately demonstrate its relevance to the student at a level he can comprehend. During this process the sensei helps the student begin to grasp the existence of the ura, those aspects that lie hidden beneath the surface of the physical form. For some students this realization is a revelation while to others it has been obvious for some time. Either way, the sensei must now accurately present basic concepts on a more abstract level than before. This paves the way for the second aspect of Shu-ha-ri.


Ha (diverging from the kata)
In the traditional Japanese concept of Shu-ha-ri, ha is the first hint of creative expression allowed the student. It is when the henka waza or variation is first experienced. It has been called the “divergent form existing within the form” or the “orthodox variation that co-exists within the confines of the strictly defined greater kata” . This is when the student is encouraged to consider any response to a failure within the pure kata. Extremely attentive instruction is required by the sensei at this juncture because too much deviation will lead to sloppiness or bastardization of technique, while too much restraint can cripple any underlying intuitive talent. Encouraging intuitive creative talent is the purpose here but this creative experience must be diligently tempered by the confines of the greater kata. The kata must remain recognizable as the kata. If the kata diverges too far from the norm, it is no longer related to the original kata and becomes an altogether different expression of technique. It is imperative that such a deviation be avoided at this level of learning.


Ha, at the chuden level
Once the student discovers the boundaries of his training within the greater kata he will find the possibilities of learning almost endless. Progress comes now in leaps of ability not experienced in the past. Most excellent students first demonstrate their real potential during this stage of their study. The concepts and forms of the ryu integrate in a manner that intellectually stimulates the students mind. He now more fully appreciates the kata and recognizes the technical wisdom that exists within it. Consequently, many sensei find this time the most rewarding in a students progress. The fruits of a sensei”s labor demonstrates itself powerfully during this period.

The pitfalls of teaching at the chuden level
Strict adherence to the core concepts of the particular tradition must be adhered to at this time. To deviate from the core concepts that define the ryu will allow the student to proceed in a direction not intended by the Ryuso (founder). The boundaries of the kata must be adhered to for the ryu to maintain its identity and focus. Stepping beyond the confines of the kata at this point can be disastrous and a student”s ultimate potential compromised. Sensei often fall into the trap of becoming too unstructured in their teaching at this level of training. They misread the students progress and take him too far beyond his level of comprehension. The students mind and technique must be constantly challenged during this intermediate stage of learning but occasionally an overzealous student will attempt to move too far too fast. This tendency must be avoided or it will compromise further progress and learning.

Joden / The advanced level of training
Ri ( discarding the kata)
Some practitioners of modern martial traditions dismiss kata and Shu-ha-ri as being too confining or old fashioned. In truth, this position is flawed because the purpose of kata is misinterpreted by them. Like so many arm chair experts, they have not been properly trained beyond the shoden level in kata and are commenting on a subject they simply are unqualified and therefore unable to comprehend. Like most observers outside the experience of deep study they see the kata as the art itself instead of a sophisticated teaching tool that is only a surface reflection of an arts core concepts. The kata, in their flawed interpretation “is” the art. This is like the flaw of assuming a dictionary to be a complete representation of language. Unfortunately numerous older martial traditions in Japan unintentionally reinforce this misinterpretation by overemphasizing the kata. Often with these schools significant core elements and knowledge have been lost to antiquity so that all that remains is the omote or outer shell of the kata. With nothing left but the kata to embrace, these schools often reinterpret their mokuroku (technical syllabus), making the kata the primary driving force of the ryu. When this happens the ryu inevitably degenerates into a simplistic dance where the ura and applications of the kata becomes of secondary focus. These traditions are effectively dead. They are like skeletons attempting to represent a total person.

Ri, What is it?
“Ri” is difficult to explain as it is not so much taught as it is arrived at. It is a state of execution that simply occurs after shu and ha have been internalized. It is the absorption of the kata to such an advanced level that the outer shell of the kata ceases to exist. Only the underlying truth of the kata remains. It is form without being conscious of form. It is intuitive expression of technique that is as efficient as the prearranged form but utterly spontaneous. Technique unbridled by the restriction of conscious thought processes result in an application of waza that is truly a moving meditation. For one who has achieved ri, observation becomes its own expression of reality. The mind is now free to operate on a distinctly higher level than previously possible. To the casual observer it appears that the exponent has become almost psychic, able to recognize an occurrence or threat before it actually exists. In truth the observer is just fooled by his own minds mental inertia. With ri, the lag time between observation and cognitive response is reduced to almost imperceptible levels. It is “ki”. It is “mushin”. It is “ju”. It is all these things in combination. It is the manifestation of the highest level of martial ability. It is what we refer to in the Takamura ryuha as “wa”.
The level of technical execution associated with ri is realistically beyond the ability of many practitioners. Most people are simply incapable of reaching this, the most advanced level of expression of a ryu’s potential. Frequently however, practitioners who never reach this level of technical execution make excellent sensei, able to take a student to the edge of mastery even though they themselves are incapable of making the jump to the intuitive execution that is ri. Some observers try to dismiss this recognition of limitation as elitist. I find this thinking odd. I would like to remind these observers that not all human beings are innately capable of mastery in all pursuits. As individuals we are endowed with certain talents and deficiencies. It is these individual talents and deficiencies that make us humans the diverse and unique species we are. To try to deny this truth is to deny what makes up our individuality. With this in mind it is imperative to remember that the humble individual realizes that mastery in one pursuit does not guaranty even average talent in another. Likewise, technical expertise does not necessarily guaranty teaching expertise.

Pitfalls of teaching at and beyond the joden level
Once a student has reached the level of realizing ri on a regular basis he has essentially achieved all the technical ability a sensei can strictly teach him. The process of instruction and teaching must now evolve. The relationship between teacher and student must be allowed by the sensei to evolve as well. At this point the student is charged by the traditions of his ryu and the vows of his keppan to maintain control of his ego and recognize that without the sensei and the ryu he would never have achieved his ultimate potential as a student. He must acknowledge that he owes all that he has learned to his sensei’s devotion to teaching and his sensei’s sensei. His behavior must reflect that he is forever in debt to the ryu and that he is compelled to be humbled in his teachers presence. Likewise the sensei must now allow autonomy and self expression by the student in a way never previously permitted. More a leader and pointer of the way, the sensei should proudly stand beside his student with a glad heart. He is likewise humbly compelled and called by his responsibility to the ryu to continue to live up to the principles and standards he impressed upon his student. His task of teaching is over. He is now a grandfather instead of a father.
Unfortunately it is at this time, the time of a sensei’s highest calling to the ryu that many fail. Instead of demonstrating confidence in themselves and pride in their students accomplishments they fall prey to vanity and insecurities of the spirit. The failing of a sensei now is usually associated with a perceived end of respect from the student, an end of respect that doesn’t actually exist. Frequently this problem manifests itself when the sensei attempts to reintroduce a strict student-teacher relationship that prevents the student from realizing his mature position of authority within the ryu. At this time some sensei perceive deviation from their own path as a students rejection of their teachings. In truth some of a sensei’s teachings must be denied for a student to reach the highest levels of self expression within the ryu. Some sensei are also unwilling to recognize that a deviation from their own teaching at this level is actually a manifestation of the students individuality and mature confidence. This confidence it must be remembered was imparted by the sensei’s own teachings as part of the bargain between student and teacher. The sensei must remember his duty and charge as simply a member within the ryu. He must humble his heart and reacquaint himself with his own past as a student. This he must do to remain an effective leader of “the way”.

Conclusion
White, becomes black, becomes white again.

It is the calling of every member of the kai to acknowledge his charge and regularly peer into the kamidana’s mirror, the mirror that reflects undistorted truth. And to humbly ask the kami to assist him in viewing his own heart and motivations with a critical eye, to scrutinize that small voice that is the harbinger of vanity and rationalization. Only thru the expression of truth can the process of Shu-ha-ri successfully embrace student and teacher in the charge of passing the knowledge and wisdom of our kai’s ancestors forward responsibly.

Y. Takamura , 1986

I have arrived

I have arrived
I am home
in the here
in the now
I am solid
I am free
in the ultimate
I dwell

Reference: The Long Road Turns to Joy – A Guide To Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
ISBN: 093807783X

Page 1

Clear Light of Illumination Exploded

Approaching the gates of the monastery, Hakuin found Ken the Zen
preaching to a group of disciples.
“Words…” Ken orated, “they are but an illusory veil obfuscating
the absolute reality of –”
“Ken!” Hakuin interrupted. “Your fly is down!”
Whereupon the Clear Light of Illumination exploded upon Ken, and he
vaporized.
On the way to town, Hakuin was greeted by an itinerant monk imbued
with the spirit of the morning.
“Ah,” the monk sighed, a beatific smile wrinkling across his cheeks,
“Thou art That…”
“Ah,” Hakuin replied, pointing excitedly, “And Thou art Fat!”
Whereupon the Clear Light of Illumination exploded upon the monk,
and he vaporized.
Next, the Governor sought the advice of Hakuin, crying: “As our
enemies bear down upon us, how shall I, with such heartless and callow
soldiers as I am heir to, hope to withstand the impending onslaught?”
“US?” snapped Hakuin.
Whereupon the Clear Light of Illumination exploded upon the
Governor, and he vaporized.
Then, a redneck went up to Hakuin and vaporized the old Master with
his shotgun. “Ha! Beat ya’ to the punchline, ya’ scrawny li’l geek!”

If you want to take you must first give

將欲歙之,必固張之。
將欲弱之,必固強之。
將欲廢之,必固興之。
將欲取之,必固與之。
是謂微明。
柔弱勝剛強。
魚不可脫於淵,
國之利器
不可以示人。

That which shrinks
Must first expand.
That which fails
Must first be strong.
That which is cast down
Must first be raised.
Before receiving
There must be giving.
This is called perception of the nature of things.
Soft and weak overcome hard and strong.

Fish cannot leave deep waters,
And a country’s weapons should not be displayed.

Referece: Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching XXXVI (Trans. Feng & English)

Yang’s Ten Important Points

by Yang Cheng-fu (1883 – 1936)
as researched by Lee N. Scheele

1.) Head upright to let the shen [spirit of vitality] rise to the top of the head. Don’t use li [external strength], or the neck will be stiff and the ch’i [vital life energy] and blood cannot flow through. It is necessary to have a natural and lively feeling. If the spirit cannot reach the headtop, it cannot raise.

2.) Sink the chest and pluck up the back. The chest is depressed naturally inward so that the ch’i can sink to the tan-t’ien [field of elixir]. Don’t expand the chest: the ch’i gets stuck there and the body becomes top-heavy. The heel will be too light and can be uprooted. Pluck up the back and the ch’i sticks to the back; depress the chest and you can pluck up the back. Then you can discharge force through the spine. You will be a peerless boxer.

3.) Sung [Relax] the waist. The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable. Substantial and insubstantial change, and this is based on the turning of the waist. It is said “the source of the postures lies in the waist. If you cannot get power, seek the defect in the legs and waist.”

4.) Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial. This is the first principle in T’ai Chi Ch’uan. If the weight of the whole body is resting on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial, and vice versa. When you can separate substantial and insubstantial, you can turn lightly without using strength. If you cannot separate, the step is heavy and slow. The stance is not firm and can be easily thrown of balance.

5.) Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. The shoulders will be completely relaxed and open. If you cannot relax and sink, the two shoulders will be raised up and tense. The ch’i will follow them up and the whole body cannot get power. “Sink the elbows” means the elbows go down and relax. If the elbows raise, the shoulders are not able to sink and you cannot discharge people far. The discharge will then be close to the broken force of the external schools.

6.) Use the mind instead of force. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “all of this means use I [mind-intent] and not li.” In practicing T’ai Chi Ch’uan the whole body relaxes. Don’t let one ounce of force remain in the blood vessels, bones, and ligaments to tie yourself up. Then you can be agile and able to change. You will be able to turn freely and easily. Doubting this, how can you increase your power?

The body has meridians like the ground has ditches and trenches. If not obstructed the water can flow. If the meridian is not closed, the ch’i goes through. If the whole body has hard force and it fills up the meridians, the ch’i and the blood stop and the turning is not smooth and agile. Just pull one hair and the whole body is off-balance. If you use I, and not li, then the I goes to a place in the body and the ch’i follows it. The ch’i and the blood circulate. If you do this every day and never stop, after a long time you will have nei chin [real internal strength]. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “when you are extremely soft, you become extremely hard and strong.” Someone who has extremely good T’ai Chi Ch’uan kung fu has arms like iron wrapped with cotton and the weight is very heavy. As for the external schools, when they use li, they reveal li. When they don’t use li, they are too light and floating. There chin is external and locked together. The li of the external schools is easily led and moved, and not too be esteemed.

7.) Coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say “the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers.” Everything acts simultaneously. When the hand, waist and foot move together, the eyes follow. If one part doesn’t follow, the whole body is disordered.

8.) Harmonize the internal and external. In the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan the main thing is the spirit. Therefore it is said “the spirit is the commander and the body is subordinate.” If you can raise the spirit, then the movements will naturally be agile. The postures are not beyond insubstantial and substantial, opening and closing. That which is called open means not only the hands and feet are open, but the mind is also open. That which is called closed means not only the hands and feet are closed, but the mind is also closed. When you can make the inside and outside become one, then it becomes complete.

9.) Move with continuity. As to the external schools, their chin is the Latter Heaven brute chin. Therefore it is finite. There are connections and breaks. During the breaks the old force is exhausted and the new force has not yet been born. At these moments it is very easy for others to take advantage. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses I and not li. From beginning to end it is continuous and not broken. It is circular and again resumes. It revolves and has no limits. The original Classics say it is “like a great river rolling on unceasingly.” and that the circulation of the chin is “drawing silk from a cocoon ” They all talk about being connected together.

10.) Move with tranquility [Seek stillness in movement]. The external schools assume jumping about is good and they use all their energy. That is why after practice everyone pants. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses stillness to control movement. Although one moves, there is also stillness. Therefore in practicing the form, slower is better. If it is slow, the inhalation and exhalation are long and deep and the ch’i sinks to the tan-t’ien. Naturally there is no injurious practice such as engorgement of the blood vessels. The learner should be careful to comprehend it. Then you will get the real meaning.

Reference: http://www.scheele.org/

Develop a Good Attitude to Learning Taijiquan

by Wee Kee-Jin

Master Huang Sheng-Shyan once suggested that a student should be prepared to look over the mountain for a good teacher, and a teacher should be willing to travel the oceans for a good student”. Both efforts reflect a good attitude.

Empty Your Cup
The first requirement to learning something new is to let go of what you already know. Only when your cup is empty is there space to add something further. Fully absorb the purpose and function behind the new lessons, before relating them back to the classics. If it fits with your understanding of the principles then incorporate it into your ongoing practise, otherwise let it go. It might be contrary to your present direction, or it might only have some relevance later, on your Taiji journey.

Practise
Students seldom give a teacher the chance to teach, by not practising what was previously taught you don’t have the foundation to be taught the next things. Just attending classes or workshops does not mean that you will become good at Taiji, results come from practise.

Accept the Keys
When someone teaches you they are imparting a method of training, or offering you a key to the door. To open the door and enter the room, you need to practise to develop a foundation of what was taught. During the next stage of training the teacher’s guidance can present you with another key. However if the you haven’t walked through the first door, this new key will be of no use.

Enjoy your Training
Initially it is necessary to establish a regular daily training routine to develop self discipline. However you must soon find enjoyment in your practise and therefore develop the want to train, otherwise you will build up mental resistance that will prevent the subtler depths of Taiji being apparent.

Become your own Teacher
The Taiji journey begins with a teacher being required to build the foundation, or as the classics put it “to come through the door, you need oral transmission”. But once the foundation is solid, and a clear direction is set you can still progress even without your teacher. Then when a certain level is reached, a new dimension of understanding will open up, and begin a process of exploration and discovery that can be continued for the rest of your life.

Always remain a Student
As a teacher it does not mean that you have stopped practising. “Teacher” is only a form of address, we are all just students, always learning and practising.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

Building a Connection

by Wee Kee-Jin

Taijiquan is not simply relaxing, sinking and being grounded. It is about developing; the right structure; the right sequence of movements to connect the structure; the right timing of the movements; and the mind awareness (Yi) to travel through the movements.
A structure without the sequence of movements is like an electrical cable without the copper wire inside the plastic tube. Without the mind awareness (Yi) even the correct structure with the right sequence and timing of the movements, is like the wire not having a current passing through it.

Connecting the Base and Arms
Often the movements of the base (feet, legs & hips) and the arms are co-ordinated but unconnected, and therefore incorrectly act independent of each other. The connection between the base and arms is in the body’s torso and needs to be cultivated using the mind awareness (Yi) to create a melting sensation through the body as it leads the force from the feet to the finger-tips.

When initially practised it is difficult to recognise anything happening but after a few years of training it is possible to feel even very small muscles in the body change as the mind directs. Eventually the base movements will actually produce the movement in the body which in turn will produce the movement in the arms, both during sinking and issuing.

It is easier to first cultivate the body connecting the base and arms in static foot positions and repetitive movements such as in Master Huang’s relaxing exercises before involving the stepping and changing postures of the Form. Later work it with the addition of an external force in the controlled environment of fixed pushing-hand routines, before attempting it in the free pushing, where the external force direction and speed is not restricted.

Once the whole body is continuously connected, and the timing becomes almost natural, neutralising would involve allowing an incoming force to pass through you into the ground where it would be combined with the energy of the earth and rebounded in greater magnitude back to the source of the incoming force. This “interception” does not require you to initiate any issuing as your body will have become a medium for the forces to pass through unimpeded.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

Master Huang’s 20 Important Points

Translated by Wee Kee-Jin

For the Taijiquan Form and Qi cultivation Master Huang Sheng-Shyan referred to 20 points:

1 Every muscle in the body has to be relaxed and loosened.

2 The body has to maintain an upright position without leaning or tilting.

3 Empty the chest, relax the shoulders and drop the elbows.

4 Tuck in the back and keep a light consciousness on the crown of the head.

5 Contract the anus, but ensure the buttocks are relaxed and hanging.

6 Bring the Spirit (mind awareness) within to cultivate the Qi. Avoid unnecessary movements in the three parts of the body: head, arms and torso.

7 Maintain an awareness of the three centres (centre of palms, tantien and bubbling well).

8 Use the mind, not brute force, to stay in your centre.

9 Calm the mind, relax the body and maintain an awareness of the body.

10 Initiate all the turning from the hips and waist.

11 When stepping forward or backward, the substantial and insubstantial feet must be clearly differentiated and firmly grounded.

12 The legs initiate the forward and backward movement.

13 In calmness there is movement and in movement there is sinking.

14 Upper and lower body must synchronise harmoniously, without dispersed movements.

15 Relax the neck, sink the shoulders and drop the elbows.

16 Three things that should never be locked straight in the form; the body; the arms; the legs.

17 Maintain continuity without any breaks, internal and external in harmony.

18 The hands move like reeling silk from a cocoon and the feet move like a cat in motion.

19 Have faith, modesty and perseverance and success will prevail.

20 Fully understand the Taiji Form and the applications will be natural.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

Practising the Classics

by Wee Kee-Jin

In Taijiquan, we must know the direction we want to head in, then focus on the process not the result. Practising the right process will take you to where you want to go. Even knowing and preaching the Taijiquan ‘classics’ will not amount to anything, if you don’t practise it.

Structure
The ‘classics’ state that; the body has to be upright as if the head is suspended from above; the hips have to be relaxed and seated into their sockets; the chest should be hollowed; shoulders relaxed and elbows dropped. These requirements combined create the taiji ‘structure’.

However if all the attention in placed on the structure without having an awareness of the processes and details in the movements, the structure will be empty and without substance.

Substance
To develop substance we must learn the sequence of how the body moves in the taiji way. Any raising or lowering always having always originated from the feet, before passing through the ankles, knees, hips (kua) body torso, to the shoulders, elbows, wrists, palms and then fingers. All turning is motivated by the hips turning the waist, body trunk, arms then hands. Both the ‘opening’ and ‘closing’, stem from the ‘centre’. Expanding outwards from the ‘centre’ produces the ‘opening’ and contracting inwards from the ‘centre’ produces the ‘closing’. Similar to how an umbrella is opened and closed. A balloon inflates from air being blown into the centre expanding it outward, and deflates when the air is allowed to escape from the centre.

Most taiji practitioners sequence their leg movements (feet, ankles, knees then hips), and arms (shoulders, elbows, wrists, palms then fingers), but neglect the changes through the body trunk. The legs and arms may be co-ordinated, but are unconnected and therefore moving independently. The ‘classics’ state that when one part of the body moves every part of the body moves, when one part changes – every part changes along with it, and when one part arrives – every part arrives together. Therefore every movement originating in the legs must ripple through the body to produce the movement in the arms.

This releasing of the body trunk is produced by mind awareness visualising a melting sensation as it travels through the body muscles. Only then will the movements of the legs be connected to the arms and the whole body change as one.

Synchronization
Once the sequence of movement is established and connected, the sequence should be timed to synchronize the whole body. If we divide the body into three groups of parts; base (from the feet, ankles, knees to the hips); body trunk (abdomen, chest, spine and shoulder blades); and arms (shoulders, elbows, wrists to the hands and fingers), the changes must be timed to be in relation with each other. So if the base has released 10%, the body trunk should have released by 10% and the arms also 10%. 10% in the base but only 5% in the body trunk and 20% in the arms means that there is a disconnection between the base and body trunk, and you are holding yourself up, and the arms are collapsing into the body.

Continuous Sinking
Throughout the Taiji ‘form’ from the beginning to the end, the whole body is continuously changing and synchronizing, and the mind is initiating wave after wave of sinking. Master Huang maintained that sinking is the main theme of the ‘form’, and Taiji is all about changes. Sinking throughout the ‘form’, not only ensures that we are stable and grounded, it produces a continuous supply of ‘relaxed force’ (jing). To cultivate sinking we initially work it in three stages as follows;
1) When moving the insubstantial foot (e.g. stepping), we send the mind awareness through the body visualising a melting sensation, into the ground under the substantial foot.
2) During the transition (e.g. adjusting the substantial foot and turning the body) we send another wave of awareness and melting visualisation from the crown of the head, through the body into the ground beneath both feet.
3) When issuing the ‘relaxed force’ (fa-jing) from the feet, through the legs, body arms, palms to the finger tips, we visualise the melting sensation as the awareness passes through the body.
Eventually these stages must be combined into one continuous sink.

The Form
The ‘form’ is the foundation of Taiji. Whatever process happens in the ‘form’ will translate into the fixed ‘pushing-hands’ and ‘free-pushing’. We should therefore work on the same things in each. If we were to practise one way in the form, another way during fixed ‘pushing-hands’ and something different for ‘free-pushing’, it is like leaning the English words, using a German sentence structure (or grammar) and writing an essay in the Chinese direction (top to bottom left to right).

Pushing Hands
‘Pushing-hands’ is not just being able to neutralise an incoming force, or being able to stick to your opponent and follow his or her changes. When we are neutralising and the opponent is still grounded he or she can still come in from another direction. When we are advancing although we may be sticking, he or she can still change if they are connected to their base. Both in neutralising and sticking we must take them out of alignment so that they become immediately disconnected. Without a base they will have to rely on you to keep their balance so that effectively you become their centre. Being able to disconnect a partner from their base and use a ‘relaxed-force’ to uproot and throw them is a good level, but the ultimate is not to have to use any of your own force, rather absorbing the force of your partner and returning it to them. A public company operates and grows using the funds from shareholders not their own money.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

Important Points for Progress in Taijiquan

by Wee Kee-Jin

Master Huang was a renowned practitioner, but it was as a teacher that he most stood out. He developed exercises and a systemised training method that recognised the stages of a student’s development.

Physical Mechanisms
When learning Taijiquan we all start with poor posture and awkward actions. So we need to work with big loose movements to free up locked joints and accumulated tensions, with particular attention on uprightness and an awareness of the feet to cultivate greater stability. Initially the body moves as one block, but as the joints and muscles loosen we start to turn from the hips, to lead the waist, to lead the body, to lead the arms. The raising of the arms, instead of lifting, gets motivated from a force below and expressed by the relaxation of the body’s trunk, shoulders and elbows. Then every movement in the upper body becomes a product of the changes from below.

From the beginning the importance of the structure must be emphasised. This is the accuracy and alignment both in posture and later during the transitions, and provides the pathways for the energies to pass through. Like the hose, where either kinking or squeezing can stop the water flowing, in the body locked joints and muscular tension will restrict the energy’s path.

Focusing on the Qi or Yi before the structure is established is of little use, like generating electricity without having the wires to transmit it. Meditation and Qigong also works on the Yi and Qi but without the Pushing hands they do not provide the method to deliver a relaxed force.

Accuracy is not just the details of the positions (the where), or the sequence (the when), but more importantly the process of how you move. Inaccuracies may be made obvious to you in Pushing-hands, but it is in the Form that you train them. If you can’t maintain your alignment when there is no external force affecting you, then it must be impossible if there is.

Alignment refers to a state of central equilibrium, that is being upright and centred both horizontally and vertically. When moving, both left and right need to change evenly, so both knees, hips and shoulders should drop at the same rate, not one side faster than the other.

If students only work on being loose, relaxed and sensitive then their Form will not be grounded (floating Form) and during Pushing-hands they not have a relaxed-force to issue. Even their sticking will only be at a surface level. Therefore you need to include sinking in the Form.

Song is an external and internal process – physically relaxing, and mentally sinking. The relaxation is a physical mechanism involving the releasing of the joints from the feet up. To connect with the ground you must relax the feet and ankles, give at the knees by dropping the hips into their sockets. This will create the space for the body to fall into. The shoulders can then drop closely followed by the lowering of the elbows and wrists. The base, upper body and arm relaxation should happen almost simultaneously to avoid holding-up the sinking.

Internal Mechanisms
All internal mechanisms in Taiji must be cultivated using the Mind (Yi), which consists of two parts – intention and awareness.
When you intend to move you first think of it, then the body acts, in a way that you need to be aware of, otherwise you will not understand the process or the changes. So in every movement you must have the intention first, closely followed by your awareness.

Thinking is only planning. It is the awareness that you use to cultivate the relaxation, the sinking and the rebounding forces – visualise them, and move your awareness to experience them. Initially they may not physically occur in a way that is obvious, but after prolonged practice they will happen as you have visualised.
The Yi directs the Qi, so wherever the awareness is, the energy will be there. Focusing on the Qi itself can actually block, or stagnate it. The flow of the Qi is a product of your directed awareness

Sinking is the continuous flow of sensation from the crown down. To first train we release (as described above) then visualise a cup of warm water being poured at the crown of the head, draining down the body and the legs with a melting feeling, through the feet and into the ground.

In the first stage of training with sinking in the Form, the student learns to sink into posture by getting into position then allowing the sensation to complete, before issuing and moving into the next posture.

After a year or so of sinking into every posture, sinking during transition is introduced. Here the process starts at the moment the insubstantial foot begins to move, whereby the student sinks into the substantial foot and continues uninterrupted by the adjustment of the foot, the turning of the hips, the transfer of weight, and even during the releasing of the force (issuing).

The result of relaxing and sinking is a noticeable increase of pressure in the feet. This is termed grounding, or taking root. It is important to remember that the calmness produces the relaxation, the relaxation produces the sinking, the sinking produces the grounding, the grounding produces the rebounding force. Therefore Jing is a product of Song, and continuous sinking will supply a continuous force.

Pushing-Hands
Tui Shou, is just an extension of the Form. The only difference is an external force motivates your movements. You should move in the same way, with the same awareness as you do in the Form and whatever you are working on in the Form you need to include your Pushing-hands.

Yielding is not to retreat from the force. Nor is to take root to stand against it. To move a moment ahead of a force, is pulling away or disconnecting. To move a moment after, is to resist. It is the fly alighting that sets you in motion, not because the fly lands that you move away. It is the incoming force that creates the movement in you. When you push into a sponge, it isn’t trying to move away from you, it just absorbs your force. When you force is exhausted, the sponge follows you back. This is sticking.

In Taiji Sticking is following someone else’s centre, being connected from your own root through and into another persons, so that two can move as one. It requires listening, sinking, opening, closing and harmonious movements. The process of emptying an incoming force into the ground, and sticking to the base of your partner, requires the same mechanisms as used to sink in the Form.

Therefore if someone has not trained the sinking, they could be able to yield and extend a force to weaken it, but an amount of it will still be on them. What’s more they will only be able to stick to the surface of the opponent and not contact into their root.
Neutralising is redirecting an incoming force and later the ability to empty it completely from the body into then ground. With good alignment the first direction learnt for neutralising is horizontal, pivoting about the spinal axis. When opening, closing and sinking can be incorporated, the neutralising also becomes vertical and internal, enabling the incoming forces to be intercepted, and rebound back into your partner.

Closing and opening refers to the space between your hands, arms and body. Letting go from the centre is closing; opening is expanding from the centre. The movement of the outside is a product of the changes inside. Closing needs space to take place, which is what the sinking provides.

Speed and timing must be in relation to one another. If your turn a watch, although the winder turns a gear, and that turns another wheel and so on until the hands move, they all seem to turn together. No wheel turns any faster than the one driving it, they all move at exactly the same speed and at the same time.
Although you turn from your hips, the linking together results in your body parts arriving at different destinations simultaneously.
In Pushing-hands, even with good listening skills and sensitivity, inaccuracies or poor synchronisation will either leave a gap for someone else to come in, or you’ll get stuck by locking yourself up.

Synchronising the changes throughout the Form is an important step in developing your Taiji. This is the natural timing that results when relaxation motivates your movement, sinking and issuing originates from the root below and closing and opening is from the centre within.

When letting the air out of a balloon, all sides contract together and at the same rate. This emptying is even and is called balance which should be within every closing and opening, that is – throughout the whole Form and Pushing-hands. If you are in balance then like a set of scales, the slightest pressure sets you in motion, providing the structure is in place.

Before issuing there is always a point of breaking the root of your partner, which can begin the moment you stick. When developing the ability to issue, the student needs to wait for the sinking to be complete before allowing the force to – bounce back from the root, magnifying it in the legs, directing it with the hips, and passing it through the body and arms to the fingertips (or any other point of contact).

Initially the release of force is triggered by a small push of the substantial foot into the ground. But later this becomes unnecessary as 1% relaxation becomes 1% of sinking, which is 1% of grounding which equals 1% of force. Just as in a spring, where as soon you push against it, a force returns towards you. Remembering that the efficiency of a spring is dependant upon its structure – if too rigid there won’t be any compression, too soft and it will collapse, poor alignment and it will buckle.

The quality of a push is much more important than the quantity of how far that you throw someone. With a good clean push, both of their feet will leave the ground, rather than them just staggering backwards. The power comes from the energies not physical strength so the experience of being issued upon should be light and comfortable not brutal or forceful. If everything is in place from structure through to timing you may be made to fly, but even that is not the point.

Taiji is a process not a result. Exercises, Forms and Pushing-hands are methods for exploring the Principles within all movements. To improve we only need to refine our movements and deepen our understanding of the Principles. However this is an ongoing, continuous process. Ultimately the Form becomes formless, and every action or non-action is in harmony – that is Taijiquan.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/