Why Would I Practice T’ai Chi Ch’uan?

What Am I Trying to Achieve with This Training?
What Fruit are We Trying to Harvest from This Tree?
What Will I Gain by Holding Myself to This Discipline?
Will T’ai Chi Ch’uan Make Me Move Better in My Daily Life?

Logette-Transparent-One---BluWaves CROP

It is important to understand that this art form is for everybody. Everyone gains some benefits, in some fine way from practicing T’ai-chi Ch’uan. Everyone needs a little something different in the way of rebalancing, but the practice of T’ai-chi does not need to focus on the variety of imbalance, it simply seeks to balance the individual whose body then repairs itself.  This is a slow, effortless dance into our higher selves.  What is essential to understand in order for your training to be effective and your time practicing be spent productively, is to know that in T’ai-chi we are not training for martial proficiency in specific maneuvers, we are using specificity in actualizing martial maneuvers to train ourselves to release our body’s natural abilities to interact and defend.  In a very civilized way we are attempting to return to our wilder more capable genetic roots and tap our primal defense circuits via the mechanism of a balanced, synchronized, integrative and meditative dance, that in every way connects us to the vibratory world in which we are inexorably immersed.
What I learned from Gerry Marr and Fong Ha is that the martial moves of T’ai Chi are not used in a conflictual interaction. Fong Ha demartialized the form by not over focusing on the martial maneuvers, because real martial ability came from how you moved, not what moves you did. As stated in the classics, in application you leave the form behind. I came away from my studies with those two gentlemen understanding that we are using T’ai Chi as a mechanism to access our natural abilities to move and defend. I came to understand further that this training was a method of consciously and calmly accessing the parasympathetic nervous system and its profound abilities to interact. The adrenalated flight or fight condition accessed from a calm and balanced state produces profound effects from our natural abilities.
In the video of Fong titled talk after Zhan Zhuang, he says, “Equilibriums are equal.” This sounds obvious, but he goes on to explain, that it is the only thing in which we are equal. He continues, “Let’s establish a definition (about balance). To be balanced oneself is to maximize your ability to balance. [Pointing at a student he says] He balances by himself, he doesn’t balance me. He balances himself. He is at the best of his ability, [Directing his comment to the Chinese student he is explaining all of this to, he says] you balance yourself at the best of your ability.  I balance at the best of my ability.  In this we are equal.” [He goes on to say that we all have the same relationship to the planet (to gravity,) “the only difference would be if someone was in pain [or had some other reason that they compromised or jeopardized their ability to maximize their own balance], but otherwise we all maximize our way to balance, so it’s equal. Weight is not equal. His weight (pointing at the student), (his) mass is not equal. (his) Strength is not equal. His alertness is not equal. Everything is not equal. So people have developed that, in everything, how to be better. (Now they believe) I’m stronger than he is. I’m more alert than he his, I’m more skilled than him, you (may) develop that, but you forget the most important thing, I would develop, how to be better at my natural ability. How to use it. Once you understand that, your world will change and you will understand T’ai Chi.
I’m willing to say that, including in China there are few people who understand this.”

A yielding art form is concerned with following an incoming force into emptiness, so the ‘timing of a strike’ is really only concerned with discharging the incoming strike of an opponent, followed by an accurately timed and impeccably applied expansion of core. Accurate timing is a natural aspect of a free flowing mind and body.  More violent and energetic maneuvers, are simply not a requirement for success in the act of uprooting an opponent. In fact, if you use force, you destroy you own equilibrium in direct proportion to that amount of force.

I also believe development of any pure yielding style was extremely difficult in the highly egotistically stratified culture that was certainly present in Yung Nien then and is likely still what would be encountered martial arts circles in China today. The Ip Man movies (Donny Yen version at least) portray a world where you must fight to prove yourself and your art form. The demands of this aspect of the martial arts attitude in Chinese culture was a crucible that did not allow for lengthy development and consequent mastery of soft style skills unless you were living in a monastery. In my mind this necessity of proving worth, brought hard style maneuvers into soft styles as a means of expediency. Late in their lives, many masters, Yang Cheng-fu included, rescinded the hard kicks and punches they had early on added to the practice of their forms, and restored the softer approach.
In Yang Style the only real pull with muscular force is in ‘pull down’ where you literally tug on your opponent to seek them out or lure them out of softness in a technique called ‘weighting’. True Yang Style does not require a physical push that one might label as forceful. Through proper vertical practice Yang style adopts and trains us to be highly sensitive yielders, so we can meet the incoming wave of force with softness, and surf that incoming energy until it is emptied out and the attacker regains neutral balance, at which point we can expand our core toward their center and repel them. You can add whatever level of additional force you wish to give the opponent on their journey away from you and accelerate their demise, but force of any significant amount is patently unnecessary here unless your yielding and emptying technique is flawed. Master Han Xingyuan would pull people toward him slightly, as in an inch or slightly more, to force them to  catch their balance and then he would send them away. T’ai Chi techniques are designed to stand people up straight, then push them away with an expansion of your core as it is properly represented in your hands.
A pluck (cai), for instance, is the sensitive and perceptive snagging or capturing of a limb that ‘is being extended’ into your field of purview, and then the assisting of that limb in continuing on its intended journey, though slightly redirected by yourself to a more advantageous position. This is done via balanced and sensitive reading, following, intercepting and leading of your opponent into a position of ‘balance regained’ or neutral equilibrium, where they can be essentially effortlessly dispatched via an integral, synergistic motion that expands our core at the location of our hands. Please understand that if someone is pushing down on you with force, they are already in a situation of destroyed equilibrium and if they have induced you to hold them up, then you have chosen to destroy your own equilibrium. Yielding to such an incoming force restores or maintains your equilibrium and offers your opponent a chance to do the same with their’s, or they may not attempt to regain and instead just choose to fall down. If they fall, let them fall. If they catch their balance and restore equilibrium, they will immediately be vulnerable to the expansion of your core or chi field, which with truly minimal effort can send them careering across the room. Core expansion can be done slowly or quite quickly if required, with widely varying degrees of effect, but the effort required to repel the opponent remains in the effortless range in any example, because the push is equilibrium against equilibrium. Master Han was also not setting his opponent up for a secondary strike to the face or neck. He set them up, in order to sent them away, and did so more effortlessly than it appears on the video. It looks on Fong Ha’s videos as though he is using effort, as when he repels John who outweighs him by a 100 lbs, but Fong maintains the he is merely bringing effortlessness into the situation and that is exactly how it feels when he repels you.

My understanding is that strength as tension is a “bad thing”, because it is similar to de-cloaking your Bird of Prey and dropping shields or more accurately, synonymous with becoming visible to your opponent. If you are relaxed, energized and soft, your opponent cannot feel your structure, and the more tension you express, the more obvious your structure and weaknesses become. I have to agree with Lama that if your entire body responds properly to the approaching ingression, you will effortlessly absorb and deflect it. The further your technique deviates from being spot on with balance and timing, the more tension will be required to effect a deflection. Perfect timing equals total effortlessness.
In regards to Yang Cheng fu (and my regards to Yang Cheng fu) he became quite overweight as a result of his fame and prosperity, which I am sure only amplified some of his previously acquired martial skills like sinking and grounding, while it likely encumbered others like tuck and roll. (See a young image of him here:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/66/Yang_Cheng-fu.png/220px-Yang_Cheng-fu.png )
I am certain as well that he was more quick, grounded and agile than his large frame would belie. It is also worth noting that he put some hard style features into his Yang set early on in his independent career, only to remove them later on after further consideration replacing them once again with softer moves. Fa jing can be the end goal and result of a journey from total relaxation to 99% tension, with the hollow fist impacting and retracting in a flash leaving potentially lethal shockwaves propagating through the opponent’s body, but the old texts say, “do not use this art form full power or you will injure someone and disgrace the master who taught it to you.” If I stay loose, balanced and actively focused, I become aware of my deep connections to the matrix of life, so that when an ingression occurs, I act in the moment in concert with it, instead of responding with a re-action to a previously viewed event. From this space and with that timing it succeeds. In this way T’ai Chi is effortless defensiveness.

To me, strength as tension is a “bad thing”, because it is similar to de-cloaking your Bird of Prey and dropping shields or more accurately, synonymous with becoming visible to your opponent. If you are relaxed, energized and soft, your opponent cannot feel your structure, and the more tension you express, the more obvious your structure and weaknesses become. I have to agree with Lama that if your entire body responds properly to the approaching ingression, you will effortlessly absorb and deflect it. The further your technique deviates from being spot on with balance and timing, the more tension will be required to effect a deflection. Perfect timing equals total effortlessness.
In regards to Yang Cheng fu (and my regards to Yang Cheng fu) he became quite overweight as a result of his fame and prosperity, which I am sure only amplified some of his previously acquired martial skills like sinking and grounding, while it likely encumbered others like tuck and roll.

(See a young image of him here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/66/Yang_Cheng-fu.png/220px-Yang_Cheng-fu.png )
I am certain as well, that he was more quick, grounded and agile than his large frame would belie. It is also worth noting that he put some hard style features into his Yang set early on in his independent career, only to remove them later on after further consideration replacing them once again with softer moves. Fa jing can be the end goal and result of a journey from total relaxation to 99% tension, with the hollow fist impacting and retracting in a flash leaving potentially lethal shockwaves propagating through the opponent’s body, but the old texts say, “do not use this art form full power or you will injure someone and disgrace the master who taught it to you.” If I stay loose, balanced and actively focused, I become aware of my deep connections to the matrix of life, so that when an ingression occurs, I act in the moment in concert with it, instead of responding with a re-action to a previously viewed event. From this space and with that timing it succeeds. In this way T’ai Chi is effortless defensiveness.
It has been my belief that what Yang Lu-chan learned in the Chen Village was Wang Tsung-yueh’s form, transmitted to the Chen Village by Jiang Fa and passed on to Yang probably by Chen Chang Xin. This form was evidently not the Pao Chui ‘canon fist’ of the Chen form, but as indicated in the text below was actually originally known as ‘Mien Quan’ or ‘cotton fist’ or ‘Hua Quan’ or ‘neutralizing fist’ due to its soft approach. So when Ong Tong He wrote his poem naming T’ai-chi it was more likely because he had just witnessed supreme yielding emanating from the ultimately skilled chest of Yang Lu-chan, defeat truly capable martial artists using soft hands.

Here is an excerpt from a web page relating the story.
Yang returned to Yung Nien where he taught martial arts for a living. So great was his skill that he was never defeated. His art was so soft and yielding that people called it `mien quan’ (cotton boxing) or `hua quan’ (neutralising boxing). In all his matches, he never hurt anyone. He also travelled widely, testing his skills and making friends with fellow boxers . . .
When Yang Lu Chan first taught the art in Yung Nien, his art was referred to as ‘Mien Quan’ or (Cotton Fist) or ‘Hua Quan’ (Neutralising Fist), it was not yet called Taijiquan. Whilst teaching at the Imperial Court, Yang met many challenges, some friendly some not. But he invariably won and in so convincingly using his soft techniques that he gained a great reputation.
Many who frequented the imperial households would come to view his matches. At one such gatherings at which Yang had won against several reputable opponents. The scholar Ong Tong He was present and was so impressed by the way Yang moved and executed his techniques and felt that his movements and techniques expressed the physical manifestation of the principles of Taiji (the philosophy) wrote for him a matching verse:

“Hands Holding Taiji shake the whole world,
a chest containing ultimate skill
defeats a gathering of heros.”
Referencehttp://www.shaolinlomita.com/taichi.htm
And another web page referencing the current status of Yang Style:

Yang Taijiquan Today

It is from Yang Taijiquan that the majority of styles of Taijiquan have developed. Yang
Taijiquan continues to be the major style of Taijiquan practiced in the world. Sadly,
however, many have come to regard it as diluted, sanitized for the New Age and devoid of its original, resilient, martial applications.  I do not think this is so, if the modern expressions of the form are done vertically and effortlessly.
Wang Zhen Nan, a great Internal Boxing expert, once lamented that Internal Boxing was
dying out because it did not look strong and some of its practitioners were infusing external
techniques into it to make it appear more credible. Fortunately, Taijiquan has had great
masters to show that is credible both as a martial art and as a health art.Reference: http://arteinterne.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/peter_lim.pdf

There is likely more misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of the true benefits in to be found in the proper actualization of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, than in any other form of physical discipline, but there is also probably more benefit in understanding its deep principles, than any other art form. As with all things, it is up to us to find it for ourselves. We must each, turn over the stones in own paths, to discover the truths we need to fully understand the intentions behind these transformative technologies, so that we may shape our discipline of them in ways that optimize their effect on our Earthly vehicles and the beings that reside in them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Prepare for anything. Expect nothing. Accept everything.