T'ai Chi Classics
I have included the Classics in this Website. They are our most important connection to the past. Over the time T'ai Chi has been in existence, various Masters over the centuries have written down what they have felt were the most important points, or the essence of T'ai Chi. These points may seem simple and straight forward at first glance, but they offer a deep insight into T'ai Chi.
My advice to students is to constantly refer to the Classics, as you progress through your T'ai Chi, regardless of what level of standard you've achieved, don’t only re-read them, but investigate intensely their deeper meaning.
On having re-read the Classics, you will always find something new or something you didn't see before. And as your training progresses, I guarantee, you will experience new insights with which to solicit a clearer understanding of your T'ai Chi.
As Lao Tzu said: "A novice sees a saying at a novice's level and a Master sees it at a Master's level." So for this reason, always refer back to the Classics.
A T'ai Chi Master by the name of Wang Kiu-Yu once said: "In the practice of T'ai Chi it matters little from what school or what Master one learns, the number of movements in a version, a few movements more, a few movements less, and the type of form or circle, high form or low form, big circle or small circle, these are all up to the individual. As long as one does not deviate from the basic principles set forth in the Classics, one can reap the same benefits from the exercise and become a successful practitioner of T'ai Chi."
Another popular Master by the name of Cheng Man-Ching who died as recently as the mid seventies said it best; "The Classics are our best link to our T'ai Chi past. They are the basis of the art. By their nature they are discursive and redundant, but at the same time, profound. In the present era, when T'ai Chi has proliferated into so many schools, the Classics can be used as a model. If any system violates the Classics, then the systems are wrong."
When you watch T'ai Chi practitioners playing their forms, study their form. If the form adheres to the Classics then the form is right. Then determine how well the practitioner is applying these principles in their T'ai Chi.
And from there you should be able to make a fair judgment on their T'ai Chi form and the practitioner. The Classics are of immeasurable value to any serious students of T'ai Chi and should be constantly referred to throughout their training of T'ai Chi. One last piece of advice:
Don't fall into the common trap of measuring knowledge by how much you know, rather than how well you know it.
Chang-San Feng's Treatise On T'ai Chi
In each movement the whole body must be light and nimble. More important still, all movements must be continuous.
The intrinsic energy or Chi should circulate actively. The spirit should be retained internally.
Let no part of the movement indicate imperfection, neither over expanding or caving in, nor should there be any dis-continuity.
In all movements the inner strength is rooted in the feet, developed in the thighs, directed by the waist, and expressed through the hands. From the feet to the thigh, to the waist, and to the hands there must be complete co-ordination so that whether you are in advance or in retreat you will be in a favourable position. If you find yourself in an unfavourable position, your body will appear scattered and confused, and the fault can be traced to the waist and thighs.
In all movements, such as upwards, downwards, forwards and backwards the same significance of the waist and thighs holds true.
However, ultimately everything depends on one's will or mind, and not on the external appearance of the movements.
In any movement when there is up, there must be down, when there is front there must be rear, and when there is left there must right. If one wishes to execute an upward movement, it must be preceded by a downward one. This is like the idea of uprooting an object, the first thing you do is to push it down. Since the root of the object is lifted, it follows that it is ready to be toppled.
The two complementary factors, emptiness and solidness, must be distinctly differentiated. In every inch of movement, these two factors are involved.
Every joint of the entire body must be strung together so that the body acts as an integrated unit without the least interruption. Each movement proceeds inch by inch, without gaps or breaks in the continuity.
Wang Chung-Yueh's Treatise On T'ai Chi
Wu Yu-Seong (1812-1880) was given this manual by his brother, who discovered it in a salt shop. This manual become the foundation of his teachings in the Wu style.
T'ai Chi has evolved from Wu Chi (the void terminus). It is the source
of activity and inactivity and the mother of Yin and Yang.
(According to early Chinese Beliefs, in the beginning there was a great void, emptiness’ without boundary (similar to the current Western physics belief of the pre-big bang theory before time and matter). Then came the principles of Yang, activity, and Yin, inactivity. Between these two opposites the universe can be judged. These in combination formed the opposites of T'ai Chi.
In movement the Yin and Yang act independently in quietude, the two fuse into one. There should be no exceeding or falling short. You stick to your opponent's curve or withdrawal with an extension while yielding to his extension with a bending.
When an opponent's hard force is met with a soft retreat, it is termed evasion, to stick to a retreating opponent's motion it is known as adherence or adhesion.
Answer fast action with fast action, and slow movement with slow movement. Although there are a myriad of variations, the basic principle remains the same.
From the stage of familiarity with the techniques comes the stage of gradual understanding of the inner strength, and from the stage of understanding of the inner strength comes the state of spiritual illumination. However, without going through the prolonged and serious practice, it is impossible to reach ultimate enlightenment.
Keep the neck erect and direct the crown of your head upward as if your head were suspended from above. Keep your spirits raised and you will lose all clumsiness and obtuseness in your movements. Allow your intrinsic energy to sink to the tan-tien, which is a spot about three inches below the navel.
Avoid leaning or inclining your body in any direction. Manifest or conceal your movements so completely that your opponent finds it impossible to detect your intention.
Answer a solid intrusion on the left by emptying the left. Likewise, answer an aggressive force on the right by yielding to the right. The more your opponent pushes upward or downward against you, the more he feels there is no limit to the emptiness he encounters. The more he advances against you, the more he feels the dead end desperately close.
Your body should be so light and nimble that a feather could not land on it without being felt, and a fly could not alight on it without setting it in motion.
Your opponent is not able to detect your moves, but you are able to anticipate his. A hero finds himself without match because he is a Master of these principles.
In the field of pugilism there are many schools. Irrespective of the differences among these schools, they all share a belief that the strong overcomes the weak and the fast overtakes the slow. However, this situation is due to natural abilities that require no study. T'ai Chi is different.
A careful analysis of the case in which, a trigger force of a mere four taels manages to move an object weighing one thousand catties reveals the truth that it is not always sheer strength that wins. When an old man was able to defeat a group of youthful attackers, it was demonstrated that speed alone did not assure victory.
Stand as a poised scale and move like a wheel.
Avoid leaning your body to one side or there is a tendency to fall to that side. Avoid distributing your weight on both feet or you can easily become a victim of double weightedness, and your movements will be impeded.
Often it has been the case that, even after years of practise, one can still be easily subdued by an opponent. This is because one has not been made to fully realize the fault implied in being double weighted.
To remedy this defect, one must seek to know the principles of Yin and Yang. Under the Yin and Yang theory, to adhere is to evade and to evade is to adhere, just as the Yin cannot separate from its complementary part-the Yang, and the Yang cannot separate from its complementary part-the Yin. It is only in the state in which the Yin and Yang complement each other harmoniously that there is an understanding of the inner strength.
After one understands inner strength, more practice will bring more proficiency. If one furthers one's study by silent meditation, and through analysis, a level will be attained where one can execute all of the movements using only the will.
The basic technique in T'ai Chi is to learn to sacrifice yourself in order to follow your opponent. That is not to initiate action against your opponent but to allow yourself to respond to whatever action your opponent takes. However, students often neglect this truth. How true is the old saying: "Deviation at the beginning of just a hair breadth leads to a divergence of a thousand miles at the end." In the study of this art, therefore, students should be sincere, thoughtful and yielding.
An Explanation Of The Thirteen Postures By Wang Chung-Yueh
Move your intrinsic energy with your mind so that it may sink and be gathered into your bones.
Permeate your body with your intrinsic energy in such a way that it may flow smoothly, and be able to follow the direction of your mind.
If one's spirit can be lifted, there will be no sluggishness in your movements. This is the meaning of holding up the head straight as if it is suspended from above.
The will and the intrinsic energy must change with alacrity to insure roundness and swiftness in movement. This is termed the interplay of emptiness and solidness.
To deliver strength one must remain calm and relaxed and allow the centre of gravity to sink downward. One must be able to focus this energy in a single direction.
To be able to handle on coming blows from all sides one must be still, remain centrally poised, well balanced and expanded.
To circulate the intrinsic energy through the body one must act as if one were passing a thread through a pearl having nine zig zag paths, a slow and even course that leaves no corner untouched.
To develop strength one must act as if one were refining steel a hundred times so that nothing would be too hard for it to penetrate.
Poise your body like a hawk ready to pounce on a rabbit.
Alert your spirit like a cat ready to overtake a mouse.
In quietude be still as a mountain.
In movement go like the current of a river.
Store strength as if releasing an arrow.
Seek straightness from the curve.
Store strength before releasing it.
Strength is delivered from the back.
Steps are changed in accordance with the change of postures.
To contract is to expand. Movement must be in absolute continuity. Back and forth must have folds and variations, advance and retreat must have turns and changes.
Only when one can be extremely pliable and soft can one be extremely firm and hard.
Only when one truly knows how to inhale and exhale can one move nimbly and smoothly.
Intrinsic energy must be continuously nourished. It can cause no harm.
Inner strength must be conserved in a curved way. Then there will be excess to spare.
The mind is the commander, the intrinsic energy the flag, and the waist the banner.
One should first seek to stretch and expand, and then seek to tighten and collect, and eventually one will reach a stage in which movements are so perfectly knitted together, that one's defences appear impenetrable.
It is said that if your opponent does not move, you do not move. If he makes the slightest move, you move first.
The inner strength may seem slack, but it is not. It may seem stretched but it is not. At times it may seem to have ceased, but at no time does it stop, for in all movements the will is active.
It is also said that the mind comes first and the body later. Keep your stomach relaxed and soft and let the intrinsic energy permeate into your bones. Keep your spirit calm and easy and your body quiet. Under no circumstances let these facts slip from your mind.
Bear in mind that when one part of the body moves, all other parts of the body move. When one part of the body comes to a stand still, all other parts of the body come to a stand still.
In all movements back and forth, one must allow the intrinsic energy to adhere to the back and be gathered into the spine.
Internally one must strengthen the spirit. Externally one must exhibit one's genuine calmness.
Walk like a cat. Handle your inner strength as if you were reeling silk threads from a cocoon.
The aim of the whole body is to conserve spirit and not intrinsic energy. If one aims at conserving intrinsic energy the movements will be impeded. Whenever intrinsic energy becomes stagnant, there can be no creation of true strength, only sheer hardness. Intrinsic energy is the rim of the wheel, the waist is the hub of the wheel.
The Ten Essential Points Of Yang Cheng Fu
Yang Chao (1883-1936) stabilized the Yang style after he became the head of the Yang style. Yang Cheng Fu was the grandson of the founder of the Yang School, Yang Lu Shen.
- Suspend your head from above and keep it straight.
- Depress your chest and raise your upper back.
- Loosen your waist
- Distinguish between solidness and emptiness.
- Drop your shoulders and sink your elbows.
- Apply your will and not your force.
- Co-ordinate your upper and lower body movements.
- Unify your internal and external movements
- There must be absolute continuity in the movement.
- Seek serenity in activity.
Six Essential Points Of Wu Chien-Chuan
Wu Chien-Chuan (1870-1942) was the head of the well known Wu School of T'ai Chi
- The suspension of the head and the lifting of the inner strength.
- The depressing of the chest and lifting the back..
- Loosening the waist and drooping of the buttocks.
- Slumping the shoulders and sinking the elbows.
- Directing the movements by the will.
- The unification of the form and spirit.