Martial aspects of yiquan and its fighting application

Internal “Intention” for Health and Self-Defense

By Fukui Yang as told to Bob Feldman

A Short History of Yiquan and My Family’s Relationship to this Martial Art
Yiquan is a relatively new Chinese martial art created by the great master Wang Xiangzhai. Master Wang was the last and favorite student of the Xingyiquan master Guo Yunshen. After Guo died, Wang, although he was very young, was already a formidable fighter. He spent more than ten years traveling throughout China meeting other masters and improving his skill. Even as a teenager, Master Wang was already an excellent martial artist who rarely lost a challenge. After spending time at the Shaolin Temple as well as with numerous other masters, Wang incorporated many Buddhist and Daoist principles directly into his practice.

Master Wang originally came from Shen County, Hebei Province, and later moved to Tianjin City which was at that time a crossroads for many Chinese martial artists. In Tianjin there had developed a unique open exchange of ideas and techniques within the martial arts community in the early years of this century, common in the rest of China. My maternal great uncles Zhai Yuwen and Zhai Yongwen became students of Master Wang as their father, my great-great uncle, Zhai Xujin, was friendly with him. Master Zhai and Master Wang were from the same county in Hebei and had much in common. Our family’s traditional martial arts, however, were predominantly Xingyiquan and Baguazhang, as taught by Master Zhang Zhaodong, who had also introduced Master Wang to my family. My great uncles, however, always had a healthy respect for Yiquan and its fighting capabilities, although it was not their predominant system.

Another student of my great grand Uncle, Zhao Daoxin, also began to study with Master Wang and became one of his most accomplished disciples. He later followed Wang to Shanghai where he trained the resistance during the war years but, because of his association with the Guomingdang Nationalist party, was subsequently imprisoned by the Communists, only to be released after the Cultural Revolution. Master Zhao was quite well known in his own right throughout China. He was both educated and had won the 1936 All-China Full Contact Championship in Nanjing. This competition attracted representative competitors for many martial art styles all over China. It was a famous “Leitai” competition and was subsequently banned because of the numerous deaths that occurred during these fights.

After being released from prison and his reunion with my great uncles, Master Zhao agreed to teach Yiquan to both my older brother and myself. He also taught us the system that he created, Xinghuizhang, or “Spirit Meeting Palm” in which he combined Yiquan mind training with the spiralic postures of Taijiquan and Baguazhang, and the explosive movements of Xingyiquan, the “mother system” of Yiquan.

As a child I met Master Wang Xiangzhai on numerous occasions, as he spent his final years in Tianjin. I was finally given a chance to study Yiquan with his closest students in my late teens and early twenties, after I finished my university education at the Tianjin Sports Institute, and studied Yiquan for over 8 years in Tianjin with Master Zhao and several other first generation students of Master Wang.

What is Yiquan?
Yiquan can be translated as “intention” or “will” boxing. It is, according to some, the distillation of the “essence” of “Xingyiquan” and other Neijia, or internal martial arts. The core of Yiquan is standing meditation, practiced in a variety of postures, with the goal of merging one’s intention, and internal energy, with the physical power required for martial arts. If in one’s practice one only concentrates on intention, or “Yi,” but not upon energy, or “Qi,” the effects of practicing postures are weak and empty. If there is only energy practice, but no intention, one cannot apply or utilize this energy efficiently for fighting or for healing. Therefore, in order to succeed, one must practice both intention and energy in order to use Yiquan effectively as a martial art.

Master Wang had developed his unique philosophy after studying martial arts and Chinese medicine and was of opinion that one cannot see or feel energy, only the effects of it. If one attempts to focus upon feeling or moving the energy, it is very easy to have mental delusions and misinterpret somatic feelings as being the energy itself. This is perhaps the case historically with many uneducated martial artists who were not capable of explaining their own internal feelings.
In his later years, Wang Xiangzhi made an extensive study of traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as of anatomy and physiology. After the Second World War and the Communist Revolution, he began to work in a traditional hospital, and turned his attention to healing. Master Wang felt that one can feel the effects of Qi or energy, such as an increased vitality, or developing the ability to perform “fali,” that is, the emission of explosive force during fighting, or use the energy for healing. With further refinement as one’s practice advances, the energy increases within the internal organs and within the meridians. The blood circulation is also heightened, which enables us to react faster to challenging physical situations. This internal energy circulating within the organs and the meridians is called “Shen” or “Heart Spirit.”

While it is beyond the scope of this article to present an in-depth discussion of the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine and qigong practice, it should be noted that many current Yiquan students outside of China are taught solely to utilize standing meditation to increase their internal energy. By practicing the standing postures alone, they are not practicing the complete system of Yiquan, and it is difficult to use this energy for fighting.

While practicing the standing postures is excellent for health, it is unfortunate that some Yiquan teachers are either unfamiliar with the complete system of Yiquan or purposely withhold its martial aspects. Such teachers give their students the impression that their standing meditation will, in and of itself, enhance their fighting ability. Usually these students must study other martial arts in order to substitute for their inability to use Yiquan for fighting. While this is especially true for the majority of Western practitioners of Yiquan, in China it is still very possible to find qualified teachers and study the complete system, particularly in Beijing, Tianjin, and in Hebei Province. Personally, I am not familiar with the extent that authentic Yiquan as a fighting system is taught in other parts of China, such as Shanghai or Hong Kong, although Master Wang had some good students who moved there.

The Essential “Mind Set” Needed for Yiquan Fighting
In order to fight, one must use both intention and qi to utilize the power of the standing meditation postures, to conduct the “li” (force) outward. By engaging in standing mediation and in learning how to externalize the internal force, Wang Xiangzhai felt that Yiquan would stimulate both the circulation and the bone marrow to harden the bones and toughen the connective tissues, similar to the “Marrow Washing” which is a part of many Daoist and Buddhist practices. Yiquan does not stress the use of external techniques and applications in order to harden the body as do other systems, but rather it relies predominantly on internal meditation, push hands and fighting to harden the body and test one’s internal strength.

In order to stimulate the bone marrow and specially harden the bones, one should imagine that during both fighting and “Fali” practice, that is, the process of directing force externally outward, that the body is primarily made of bone. When one imagines this, the connective tissue, namely the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia, will relax and not tighten. This is because tense muscles during a fight do not allow the force to be emitted efficiently. Therefore, standing meditation is utilized both to relax the mind and the soft tissues, as well as to create an environment for hardening the bone and centering our mental state.

Paradoxically, in Yiquan, one’s mental state must be both relaxed and focused simultaneously, Intention, or yi, cannot be only concentrated, as this too will lead to tightening of the soft tissues and inefficient force emission during fighting. Although to be both relaxed and focussed at the same time may seem to be paradoxical, in truth, it is not contradictory; both processes can occur simultaneously in a natural state of awareness. For example, one can be both relaxed and attentive when driving an automobile.

In addition, the postures will allow us to sink our energy and lower the center of gravity to the Dantien in order to develop a deeper root. This permits our emitted force to be conducted up from the ground through the legs, hips, waist, shoulders and upper extremities, as opposed to only from one part of the body. This greatly enhances the power and speed of “Fali.”
While the emitted force appears to be sudden and explosive to outsiders, internally one may first sense an internal drawing-in of the energy prior to its emission. This process is called “She Sen,” namely, the ability to gather energy and emit force. If one has a blockage or imbalance of the energy within the meridians or insufficient qi when one emits “Fali,” at best one’s force is minimal; at worst, this explosive stress, particularly if repeated over and over, can be stressful to the internal organs, and cause health problems later. The practice of repetitive Fali, without relaxation during standing meditation, is called “Qijieh.” Such improper repetitive Fali practice can also damage the bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints.
In addition, Wang Xiangzhai felt that the movement of internal energy was intimately connected to the circulation of blood. When a practitioner “feels” or “senses” the energy circulating, the practitioner may be feeling the results of increased blood circulation; it is certainly not the actual increased circulation of energy, as energy is invisible and not something we can specifically feel, although the energy may be causing it. Wang Xiangzhai advised that during standing meditation, try to “imagine” the energy moving according to whatever internal imaging one is practicing; however, if one does feel “something,” forget about it, don’t dwell on it, let it pass.

When one has sufficient energy, one can focus the intent of the posture and emit force. This aspect of Yiquan practice is called “She Li,” during which the internal energy is accumulated for maintaining health and for fighting. While practicing She Li, one’s mind should attain a state that is relaxed and calm, confident and open during the daily practice of meditation. However, during a fight one must also bring out a “crazy” tenacious intention in order to win. This is similar to what we observe in animal fights. The difference, however, is that animals do not have higher thinking processes as do we humans, and, as humans, we must also confront our habits, fears, prohibitions and predilections during a fight. This “crazy intention” is called “She Shen.”

She Shen is often translated as the use of sound, such as in the Japanese “Kiai.” This is perhaps true in part, but it is not totally correct. She Shen rather refers to the mindset of crazy intention during which sounds may be emitted like those of an animal. The sound should be natural and spontaneous, and should, in fact be emitted from the Dantien. Regular standing meditation helps us not be become tense, not allowing our emotions to take over, thereby greatly increasing our fighting efficiency.

Real fights are usually intense and short in duration. There is little or no time to think of what techniques to utilize. Wang Xiangzhai felt that techniques in and of themselves are not useful in fighting. Rather, fighting applications should be spontaneous and natural and should appear when needed. The “techniques” of Yiquan are therefore infinite variations of natural movements found within the postures. Wang Xiangzhai often said, “The best technique is no technique.” Different postures allow us to open different types of energy. Realistically, however, we need only practice several postures to fight efficiently and naturally, if one has good yi and qi. This is because we are all different in our strengths and weaknesses.

Master Fukui Yang began his practice of internal martial arts at the age of 6 and his practice of external martial arts at the age of 8, under the guidance of his grandfather and great uncles. Master Yang and his brother began their study of Yiquan and the related martial arts of Xinguizhang and Loshuenquan under the tutelage of Masters Zhao Daoxin, Chu Jenhe and Master Zhang Entong, all first generation students of Master Wang Xiangzhai. Master Yang is the Director of Heath Mind Martial Arts (Xinyi Wushu Guan), in New York City.

Reference:
KUNGFU QIGONG – July/August 2001 MARTIAL ASPECTS OF YIQUAN AND ITS FIGHTING APPLICATION xinyiwuguan.com

Links:
Fukui Yang on youtube.com

Tai Chi Principles

Professor Ji Jian-Cheng – Zhejiang University, China

If you want to master Tai Chi Chuan, you first need to understand ‘Wuji’ (emptiness, formlessness). And, to really comprehend the inner meaning of Tai Chi, you also have to be aware of its philosophy and principles, and practice according to them. Then, after a long period of disciplined training you will finally understand the essence of Tai Chi Chuan.

When learning Tai Chi Chuan, the first thing to do is to practice ‘Tai Chi Gong’. This focuses on the fundamentals of Tai Chi ‘Neigong’ (internal training). It is said that, “to practice Tai Chi we must first start from understanding ‘Wuji’ and with diligent practice will come the realisation of ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’”. So, before starting to practice the form, you should first do ‘Tai Chi Gongfa’ (Tai Chi basic principles). For example, practice ‘Tai Chi Zhuanggong’ (standing exercise), and you will gradually experience a feeling of silence and peace in your mind and you will feel as if your body is empty. When you hold your hands out you will feel as though you are holding a balloon; you will forget your legs, they will feel like they are not there. When practicing ‘Tai Chi Gong’ you should feel like you are not breathing, but are still in control of your breath. Allow your breath to be natural, long and deep, use your mind to direct the ‘Qi’ to various parts of your body.When you experience ‘Wuxing’ (formlessness/intangibility), you will slowly feel the energy circulating throughout your body. With long and continual practice you will find that your strength will be greater than before and your ‘Qi’ (‘inner breath and essence’) will increase with every day of practice. These points should help you to get a solid foundation in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

The Five Stages Of Tai Chi Practice:
The first stage is to learn the Tai Chi form and to master its postures and movements. It does not matter whether the posture is static or moving, you must always keep the following points in mind: Feel as if the crown of the head is being lifted from above; the chin should incline slightly toward the chest; the shoulders should be relaxed and the arms should fall naturally to your sides; the spine should be kept straight with the chest very slightly curving inwards; the hips must be relaxed and the buttocks turned under a little; the hips and shoulders should be in line and the spine vertical to the ground which should produce a natural comfortable feeling. When moving, whether it be back, forward, left, right or turning, all movements must come from the hips, but the hips should not sway from side to side otherwise the body will come out of alignment. Moving forward or backward, you must keep your centre of gravity low and also at a constant height so that the body does not move up and down, etc. At this stage and with gradual training, you should let your arms become ‘lighter’, your legs placed firmly but lightly.

With the second stage of practice, it is important to place your strength in the roots of the feet. Whether moving forward or back, left or right, or turning, one must place the weight on the feet and then ‘deng jiao’ i.e. first press downwards then lift the foot up, as if compressing a spring, to move forward, back, left, right etc. Moreover, when pivoting on the heel the force of the movement must be opposite to the direction the heel is pivoting. This way the hips will follow the movement of the pivoting and the hips will lead the body in its movement. After a long period of practice, the whole body will gradually become relaxed, alive and nimble and the body’s energy will come from the feet and the counter-action of the pivoting movement. Once this second phase has been achieved, one can then place one’s force at the base of the feet. The principles of Tai Chi Chuan say, “the force (jing) comes from the base of the feet to direct the waist”. Note that the waist includes the lower spinal area and can also include the hips.

At the third stage of practice, ‘Fajing’ (expressing energy) is the main objective. According to the expression ‘Rou xing qi, gang luo dian’ when expressing the energy it is very soft until the last moment and then it becomes as hard as iron. When attempting to express one’s energy in each movement of the form, the two feet must ‘deng jiao’ – press into the ground for the energy to come through, as mentioned earlier, like pressing spring to release its energy. For example, when expressing energy in a forward direction, the crown of the head must be as if lifted from above, the waist must be relaxed and the spine ‘tail’ must be inclined slightly forward, whilst the lower spine must be inclined slightly back. The shoulders should be relaxed and the elbows should be facing downward. When you express energy (fajing) all parts of the body must act together and feel like an iron spring being compressed, then at the very last moment your energy can be released, with the body moving in an opposite / back from the direction that ones energy is being expressed. The whole body should feel as though it is being stretched out as if like (five) bows ready to be fired. One bow is at the legs, one at the waist, one at the shoulders, one at the elbows and one bow at the wrist and hands. At this time the eyes must look far outwards in a forward direction so as if to express the explosive energy very far outwards. “Using your mind to express the energy far outwards will in turn let your energy actually be expressed far outwards”. When practising the form, each movement must be performed in this way of using the mind to express the energy far outward.

At the fourth stage, after practicing ‘fajing’ (explosive energy) for a while, it is best to have an experienced teacher test whether your ‘fajing’ technique is correct. The teacher will ‘try’ the students ‘jing’ (energy) to see if the student is in fact using the whole body correctly to express this explosive energy. That is, to verify that the feet are acting like a spring when expressing ones energy, the waist is indeed twisting to transfer the energy, the shoulders are being ‘urged’ forward by the energy, the arms and elbows are being ‘sent’ forward and at the moment the energy reaches the wrist and hands is being expressed into the ‘hard’ energy. If this energy can or not in fact be transmitted through to the teacher’s body will indicate if the student has mastered ‘fajing’ technique and thus this fourth stage. To test this ‘fajing’ is to see if one has mastered Tai Chi Chuan so as to advance to the next levels. If the teacher can feel the students energy being transmitted into his own body, then it means the student has mastered ‘Taiji Neijing’ use and way of expressing the inner energy, then the students Taiji level will elevate to higher levels with each day of practice. But the mastery of ‘Neijing’ is a complex matter and the student must rely on an experienced teacher to correct any faults and to guide the student to the correct execution and understanding of ‘Neijing’.

Stage five is ‘Quixujing’, the training to distinguish solid and emptiness and quietness, the understanding of solid and empty in each movement and the changes involved, and to bring about a quietness and relaxing of the self whilst moving and practicing the form. From the above mentioned five stages of practice all need to rely on correct body movement and expression of power, but with stage five, one needs to use the mind to master the understanding of solid and empty and quietness of ones movements. One must use the mind to direct the form as expressed (in the above four stages). That is the foot as a spring, twisting of the waste, to urge forward the shoulders, to sending out the elbows and arms to express the energy once it has reached the wrists and hands. At the very last stage then, one will be using the mind to express the explosive energy and to direct the form. When performing the Taiji movements, one should have a feeling of resistance around the skin of the whole body like feeling the resistance of water when swimming or moving through water. When you can feel this resistance of air over the body while in motion, then you have improved to a level that, for example, can be used in application or in ‘pushing hands’ so that you will ‘know’ where the opponent’s energy/force is at the moment of contact.

II: Important Points For Mastering Tai Chi Chuan
When practicing Tai Chi Chuan, one must use the mind to direct the flow of ‘Qi’. Once the mind has directed the flow of ‘Qi’, then it is the ‘Qi’ that will direct the movement of the body. If one follows this way of practice, then this will invigorate the body’s ‘Jing’ (inner essence – not the same word as ‘explosive energy-Jing’), which will then create more ‘Qi’ in the body which will also stimulate one’s ‘Shen’(spirit). Again, as if feeding and growing off each other, this will increase the ‘Jing’ and therefore more ‘Qi’ and higher levels of ‘Shen’; and like a constant cycle from ‘Jing’ to ‘Qi’ to ‘Shen’ and back to ‘Jing’ again, will help to improve ones well-being and a healthier state of mind. Therefore it is very important to diligently practice and carefully notice in each posture the flow of ‘Qi’ and direction of movement. When you practice Tai Chi Chuan, you must have softness as well as firmness in the form but you cannot be too soft or too hard. Regardless of which posture one is performing, one must adhere to this principle of softness and firmness. If too soft, one will not have enough energy and the ‘Shen’ (spirit) will not be aroused. If too firm, then ones ‘Qi’ will not be able to circulate throughout the body and will become too brittle and will therefore be easily broken. One should not use one’s musclular strength or brute force as if too tense in practice because the flow of ‘Qi’ will be obstructed and the body will feel clumsy. If brute strength is used, then not only will the flow of ‘Qi’ be obstructed but also one will not be able to ‘feel’ the opponent’s energy and thus will not be able to neutralise it. When practising Tai Chi Chuan one should not practice with fury or rage. If so, one will be too brittle/firm and will be easily ‘broken’. Moreover, if one does practices with rage then the ‘Qi’ will be retained in the chest and will feel uncomfortable and this can have detrimental effects on the body and health. Therefore one must be patient with practice and should be relaxed, and after adhering to the principles of Tai Chi Chuan, after a period of diligent training, will reap the rewards. When practicing Tai Chi Chuan, ones shoulders and chest should not be too open, the body should not be too crouched over and the stomach should not be ‘sucked’ in so as the chest is protruding outwards. If one practices in such a way then it is possible that the ‘Qi’ will flow in a reverse way that it should and may not be able to return to the ‘Dantian’ and in turn the ‘Qi’ will rise upward and there will be a feeling of imbalance. With the practise of Tai Chi Chuan one should understand a little about Chinese medicine theory. Therefore when performing Taiji one can understand, for example, where the ’Dantian’ is and where one is directing the ‘Qi’ to and how to bring the ‘Qi’ back to the ‘Dantian’. It is important to note that the ‘Qi’ should always be allowed to return to the ‘Dantian’. Therefore in this way, there is a constant flow from the ‘Dantian’ to all parts of the body and then back to the ‘Dantian’.

When you practice the form, you should not always be thinking of how the movements are used to deal with an opponent (information on applications is given in Professor Ji’ article ‘Tai Chi Applications’ ). Instead, you should be using the ‘Yi’ (mind) and ‘Qi’ to direct the movement. If you are always thinking of how to strike an attacker then your Tai Chi Chuan will not advance to the higher levels of understanding. Therefore, you must be patient with practice and with diligent training and the building up of ‘Jing’, ‘Qi’ and ‘Shen’ eventually you will be able to express explosive energy. When you understand the above points, and with diligent practice, you will be able to improve your inner strength and increase longevity by the cultivation of ‘Jing’, ‘Qi’ and ‘Shen’. Then you will really understand Tai Chi Chuan.

Reference:
Tai Chi Principles chinesemartialarts.eu

Koichi Tohei Unify Mind and Body

The Four Basic Principles to Unify Mind and Body

1 Keep One Point
2 Relax Completely
3 Keep Weight Underside
4 Extend Ki

Reference:
Ki in Daily Life by Koichi Tohei
ISBN 4889960716

p. 27 ff

Links:
Aikido Koichi Tohei sensei part 2 youtube.com

Koichi Tohei at 9th Dan (Part 1/5) youtube.com
Koichi Tohei at 9th Dan (Part 2/5) youtube.com
Koichi Tohei at 9th Dan (Part 3/5) youtube.com
Koichi Tohei at 9th Dan (Part 4/5) youtube.com
Koichi Tohei at 9th Dan (Part 5/5) youtube.com

Koichi Tohei wikipedia.org
Ki-Aikido wikipedia.org

The Quintessence of Wu (Yuxiang) Style Taijiquan

by Master Liu Jishun

Wu style Taijiquan has a set of strict requirements regarding its practice. From the external to the internal, each requirement is clearly stated.

The first stage is the practice of external forms starting from the basics. This stage can be further classified into two phases.

1. The movement of the posture, and
2. The torso methods (shenfa)

In Taijiquan, it is considered that knowing the movements of the form indicates the knowledge of the fists, while knowing and understanding the torso methods is Taiji. With these two combined, then it is called Taijiquan.

The second stage is the practice of internal structure, also called the internal energy (neijin), that is the practice of magnificent posture (qishi). The internal energy appears internally and not externally. It also indicates the opening and closing of the mind and qi. This second stage can be further classified into three phases:

1. Separation of the mind and qi; internally there is a feeling of separation between the muscles and the bones.
2. Distinguishing between the mind and qi, that is using the working movements of the separated muscles and bones, to sense the magnitude of the magnificent posture – big or small, long or short, thin or thick, etc. Where the mind reaches, the qi reaches and the energy (jin) reaches. Moving as if not moving; to have then it exist, not to have then it is non-existence; suddenly appears and disappears, this must be clearly distinguished in each and every movement, and finally,
3. the agility in separating the mind and qi, that is the whole body is united as a whole, where the body will automatically follow the mind.

Stage 1: External Posture (waixing)

Phase 1: Movements of the posture, from Commencing Form to the Closing Form there are 96 postures.
1. The hand posture, from the shoulder to the fingers.

Loosening the shoulders: the shoulders must be downwardly loosened. In every movement the shoulders must be naturally loosen. Avoid lifting the shoulders.

Dropping of elbows: the elbows must point downwards. When raising the hand, bend the elbows. When withdrawing the elbows, do not withdraw the elbows until they are behind the body.

Sitting of the wrist: the wrist must not be flat and bend inwardly. The Taijiquan form does not contain any hook-hand movements.

Straightening the palm: the palm must be upwardly straightened and hollow at the center of the palm. Avoid flattening the palm.

The fingers: the five fingers are comfortably stretched open. Avoid straightening the fingers, the fingertips are slightly pointed upwards. Both hands must not cross the middle border, each hand protects half the body.

2. The body posture, in accordance with the principles of starting, connecting, opening, and closing.

“Starting” – The shoulders align with the hips, that is, forming the body posture into the four major directions.

“Connecting” – Stepping forward corresponds with raising the hands. For example, the left leg and the left hand are in front, then the left hip and the left shoulder must be in front, corresponding with each other, the body is slightly sideways, that is forming the body posture into the four sideways (four corners).

“Opening” – similar to the “connecting” formula mentioned above.

“Closing” – The back leg moves to the front, the hand at the back moves to the front and close (i.e., bring the two hands together), the body turns from sideways to the front and the shoulders align with the hips, forming the body posture into four major directions.

3. The footwork, in accordance with the movements o starting, connecting, opening and closing and transform them into substantiality and insubstantiality.

“Starting” – Bend the knee and half-squatting down of the substantial leg, lift the heel and move the insubstantial leg beside the substantial leg.

“Connecting – Stepping forward of the insubstantial leg. Move the insubstantial leg forward forty five degrees, the heel lightly landing on the ground and the sole slightly raised, the knee is slightly bent.

“Opening” – Push forward with the substantial leg, maintain the knee in a slightly bent position (i.e., d o not straighten the insubstantial leg), shift the center of gravity forward and form a bow stance with the insubstantial leg. The landing o the whole insubstantial leg on the ground to form a bow stance must follow the forward shifting of the center of gravity. Imagine the knee is directed upwards.

“Closing” – Moving the back leg and place it beside the front leg. Lift the heel first with the toes touching the ground. When changing direction, pivot whit the heel of the insubstantial leg, the center of gravity still remains in the substantial leg.

3. The spirit of the eyes.

When “starting” and “closing,” the eyes look forward. When “connecting” and “closing,” look to the left when stepping out with the left leg, likewise look to the right when stepping out with the right leg. The eyes must look straight ahead.

4. The head

Keep the head upright. Avoid tilting the head. The neck must be naturally relaxed. Tucking the chin slightly inwards.

5. The waist

The waist must be straightened. Avoid collapsing or sinking the waist, and avoid leaning backwards.

6. The hips

The hips must be straightened. Avoid sloping/slanting the hips. When distinguishing between substantiality and insubstantiality, use the substantial hip to lift the insubstantial hip.

7. The knees

Avoid downward pressing of the knees. Imagine the knee is always directed upwards when squatting down, pushing forward or forming a horse stance.

Phase 2: The essentials of the torso methods

Holding in the chest, stretching the back, keeping the head upright (suspending the head top), suspending the crotch, loosening the shoulders, dropping of elbows, wrapping the crotch, and protecting the upper abdomen.

Keeping the body upright, distinguishing between substantiality and insubstantiality, sinking the qi down to the dantian, attentive spirit and martial spirit.

The eight torso methods and the five essential requirements are mainly concerned with the correctness of the internal adjustments. However for the beginner, the emphasis shall be on the external forms, and slowly grasp and understand the various aspects of Taijiquan step by step.

The eight torso methods and the five essential requirements cannot be put into practice all at once. The thirteen principles should be put into practice only ONE at a time. For example, when practicing Taijiquan, start with the principle of suspending the crotch, followed by keeping the head upright. This is to fulfill the requirement of coordination between the upper and lower parts of the body. Also this requirement is closely related with keeping the body upright and distinguishing between substantiality and insubstantiality.

At the next stage, the emphasis should be on holding in the chest and stretching the back. The key is to practice well the torso method of holding in the chest is the ability to loosen the shoulders. The next stage of practice is followed by dropping of elbows, protecting the upper abdomen and wrapping of crotch. If the eight torso methods are well practiced, then the ability to sink the qi down to the dantian can be expressed. All the symmetrical requirements of above and below, front and rear, left and right, substantiality and insubstantiality, takes time to practice. After persistent practice, all the principles will be balanced, coordinated, and integrated. And when these principles are fully implemented in each and every movement, what is expressed is Taiji.

In order to coordinate the upper and lower limbs with the trunk of the body, one should give emphasis on their interrelationships. Also, to master the skills of Taijiquan, one must pass through the so-called “storing” stage. “Storing” means to store up or save up, without causing the external forms and the torso methods to become desultory and uncoordinated. The key is the integration of the five bows. In Wu style Taijiquan, the upper and lower limbs and the trunk of the body are considered as the five bows:

Two bows of the lower limbs with the legs and hips as the tips of the bow, the knees as the handle of the bow.
Two bows of the upper limbs with the shoulders as the tips of the bow, the elbows as the handle of the bow.
The bow at the trunk with the lowest vertebra and the lumbar vertebra (where the shoulders meet the spine as the tips of the bow, the waist as the handle of the bow.
The word “storing” means the interrelation between the handles of the five bows. In other words, always concentrate on keeping the elbows down, imagine the knees are always directed upwards, and combine them with the torso methods of loosening the shoulders, protecting the upper abdomen, etc. store the four handles of the above and below at the waist in order to form the body as a fully stretched bow. This fully stretched bow then uses the waist as the handle of the bow, the knees and the elbows as the tips of the bow. Thus the upper and lower limbs, and the trunk of the body must operate as a unit in order to complete the whole process of “storing” up of energy.
If the energy (jin) can be stored, it can also be released. This requirement must be fully understood in the first stage of practice. hence practitioners must concentrate on this.

Once the “storing” word is fully understood and practiced, then the movements will have the expression of coordinating between the upper and lower limbs. At this level, one can then practice the four character words as starting in the “withdraw-release secret formula” – “holding up,” “luring,” “loosening”, and “releasing.”

To “store” well requires a good execution of “luring.” The “luring” process must attract a big piece, that is, lure the opponent’s to the front, and store the energy.

If the energy can be stored, it can also be released. One must release the energy in a straight line. When releasing the energy, practice the “straight-energy release” first, followed by the practice of “horizontal energy release,” the so-called “one straight-two horizontal.”

Stage 2: Internal Posture (neixing)

Stage two involves the practice of internal posture, known as “internal energy.”

Internal posture indicates the internal movement. First it requires the cultivation of qi in order to have the energy change internally. This also illustrates the adjustment needed between the mind and qi, which is the key towards the magnificent postures of Taijiquan.

The first phase is the separation of the mind and the qi, namely the “opening” character.

Sink the qi downwards, and raise the spirit upwards. The qi follows the movements of the muscles and sink downwards while the spirit follows the skeletal system and rises upwards. When practicing Taijiquan, the feeling of separation between the muscles and the bones must be felt.

Sinking the qi downwards is closing, and so is inhaling.

Raising the spirit upwards is opening, and so is exhaling.

Within opening there is closing, within closing there is opening, within inhalation there is exhalation; within inhalation there is exhalation; these are all interdependent. This is in accordance with the practice guidelines of “The mind and qi server as the primary role, while the muscles and bones (i.e., body) is secondary,” which is the true essence of Taijiquan practice.

The second phase is distinguishing between the mind and qi, namely the “clear” character. The magnitude of the magnificent posture – big or small, long or short, thick or thin, etc. can be adjusted at will, and accomplish the skill of “action is born of non action” and “suddenly appears and disappears.”

At this level, the “threading” character must be added. That is all of the body’s joints are linked together, with the feeling of “directing the qi like treading a pearl with nine bends without hindrance.” And in push hands one can express the effect of “where the mind reaches, the qi reaches and the energy (jin) reaches.”

The third and final phase is the agility in separating of the mind and qi, namely the “agility” character. At this level, one can fully express the skill of “arousing the spirit of postures,” and the “flowing of qi within the body without hindrance,” with the body united as a whole.

According to the ultimate skill of Taijiquan, the expression of whole body as Taiji is always present regardless of whether practicing the form, pushing hands, rising, walking, sinking, sleeping, etc.

The above is just a brief introduction to Wu style Taijiquan and its guidelines for practice.

Reference: http://www.nardis.com/%7Etwchan/wustyle.html

Wang Xiangzhai – General Principles for Dachengquan

Directions in verse for Great Achievements Shadow Boxing

Integrated with spirit and mind,
This boxing is named Dacheng.
With plain truth easy to understand,
It is both interesting and enlightening.
It has no method yet every method,
for in boxing all methods are of no avail.
With profound knowledge it helps to mould your temperament,
Cultivating you in faithfulness, sense of justice, benevolence and bravery.

Propelled by natural strength,
you are as strong as a dragon.
Inhaling and exhaling naturally and quietly,
You perceive the mechanism of all movements.
Be neither too familiar nor too distant towards others,
Show them courtesy, modesty and respect.
Avail yourself of the force of the Universe,
And bring your instinctive ability into full play.
Stand at the centre holding the key,
Act according to circumstances without a trace.
Eyes seeing nothing and ears hearing only your breathing sound,
You train your mind and regulate your nerve system.
In motion you are like the angry tiger,
In quietness you are like the hibernating dragon.
Your expression is as awesome as the leopard,
Your strength is as powerful as that of a rhino.
Preserving the heavenly wisdom and maintaining the state of meditation,
You are ready to act in response to all possible situations.

Reference:
Dachengquan
by Wang Xuanjie
Hai Feng Publishing Co. May 1988
ISBN: 9622381111

Pages: 13-14