Tai Chi Classics

Although there are innumerable variations
The principles that pervades them remain the same.
From familiarity with the correct touch
One gradually comprehends intrinsic strength
From the comprehension of intrinsic strength one can reach wisdom.
Without long practice one cannot suddenly understand Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Classic III
By Master Wang Tsungyue

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The Tai Chi Classics are a collection of writings from Tai Chi Masters over the past thousand years. The three most famous are listed below by Master Chang Sanfeng, Master Wang Tsungyue and Master Wu Yuxiang. It is from these texts that we discover the accepted Tai Chi theory and principles. These great masters passed on a gift to us by explaining the art of Tai Chi in the form of a series of striking metaphors. Tai Chi involves some very subtle skills and qualities which are extremely difficult to put into words or to understand intellectually with our logical, left-brain reasoning. The right hemisphere of the brain, however, absorbs concepts intuitively and therefore  some complex aspects of the art can be absorbed on a very deep level by just hearing a description that works for you. The classics are most helpful when they are read many times while continuing to practice Tai Chi regularly. At first they will seem to be very esoteric and baffling but gradually, as your skills increase, some of these sayings will begin to make more and more sense to you until eventually you will feel that they are so obvious that you could have written them yourself, because they simply describe what is within you. (Excerpt from REAL TAI CHI UK)
Translation & Commentary by Waysun Liao
Once you begin to move, the entire body must be light and limber. Each part of your body should be connected to every other part.
The internal energy should be extended, vibrated like the beat of a drum. The spirit should be condensed in toward the center of your body.
When performing Tai Chi, it should be perfect; I allow no defect. The form should be smooth with no unevenness, and continuous, allowing no interruptions.
The internal energy, chi, roots at the feet, then transfers through the legs and is controlled from the waist, moving eventually through the back to the arms and fingertips.
When transferring the chi from your feet to your waist, your body must operate as if all the parts were one; this allows you to move forward and backward freely with control of balance and position. Failure to do this causes loss of control of the entire body system. The only cure for such a problem is an examination of the stance.
Application of these principles promotes the flowing Tai Chi movement in any direction: forward, backward, right side, and left side.
In all of this, you must emphasize the use of the mind in controlling your movements, rather than the mere use of the external muscles. You should also follow the Tai Chi principle of opposites: when you move upward, the mind must be aware of down; when moving forward, the mind also thinks of moving back; when shifting to the left side, the mind should simultaneously notice the right sides, so that if the mind is going up, it is also going down.
Such principles relate to Tai Chi movement in the same way that uprooting an object, and thereby destroying its foundation, will make the object fall sooner.
Besides clearly separating the positive and negative from one another, you should also clearly locate the substantial and insubstantial. When the entire body is integrated with all parts connected together, it becomes a vast connection of positive and negative energy units. Each positive and negative unit of energy should be connected to every other unit and permit no interruption among them.
In Long Forms your body should move like the rhythmic flow of water on a river or like the rolling waves of the ocean.
In the Long Form, Ward Off, Rollback, Press, Push, Roll-Pull, Split, Elbow, and Pluck are called the forms of the Eight Diagram (Pakua), the movement encompassing the eight directions. In stance, moving forward, backward, to the right side, to the left side, and staying in the center are called the Five-Style Steps. Ward Off, Rollback, Press, and Push are called the four cardinal directions. Roll-Pull, Split, Elbow, and Pluck forms are called the four diagonals. Forward, backward, to the left side, to the right side, and center are called metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, respectively. When combined, these forms are called the thirteen original styles of Tai Chi.

In Tai Chi practice, the entire body should coordinate into one complete unit. Once you begin to move, the entire body should move, and not just the hand, leg, elbow, and so on. As a beginner you should observe this principle at all times. The universe moves and exercises its influence in a coordinated manner. For example, when the earth rotates the entire planet moves. Imagine what would happen if only part of the earth rotated while the rest of the planet remained stationary. As the system of balance and harmony was upset, drastic changes would occur throughout the universe. Tai Chi was created as a system of mental and physical discipline which human beings could understand and follow, and which is based on universal principles of balance and harmony. When you practice Tai Chi, the first basic principle that you follow is: “Once you begin to move, the entire body must move as one.” Merely moving an arm or a leg is not practicing in a Tai Chi manner. The body must be coordinated, relaxed, comfortable, peaceful, and mentally alert. In this way you will be able to maneuver the body in any direction, at will; when the mind wishes to move, the body will instantaneously follow its command. A mistake often made by students who are new to the art of Tai Chi is that of allowing the various parts of the body to move separately, in an uncoordinated manner. This is due to the fact that the parts of the body are not connected. When the hand moves, the rest of the body should respond in a totally coordinated manner. This will result in a well-controlled movement and help in the development of internal energy, which will eventually lead to the process of internal power projection.
Let us review here the important factors involved in the exercise of chi when practicing the Tai Chi Form. You should drive your internal energy outward from the center of the dan tien and extend it with sufficient pressure (not too much and not too little) so that the tension upon its surface is like that on the head of a drum. The chi will then vibrate like the beat of a drum when set in motion. The most important principle in the cultivation of chi is that you should extend your chi to the maximum margin of allowable pressure. Cultivating your chi will also stimulate the power of your spirit, which should be drawn inward toward your center point and condensed into the bone marrow. Stronger chi will help to elevate the power and the amount of the spirit. Do not let the spirit extend outward and get lost. Rather, let it be condensed inward and recycled.
When you consider Tai Chi as a discipline art and yourself as a martial artist, your attitude should be that of looking for perfection which means that you continue to improve your study and practice until there is no defect. The Tai Chi meditative movements must be very smooth and even, just as if you were trying to draw a perfect circle without the aid of an instrument. You begin with a rough draft and try to draw as evenly and smoothly as possible in every direction. Although a perfect circle may only be possible in theory, as you continue working toward this goal you will be acting in a manner that is close to the required smoothness and evenness.
Master Yang Chienhou (1839-1917), son of Master Yang Luchan, liked to remind his disciples of this principle many times during his daily Tai Chi instruction. After achieving some success in chi awareness practice, the Tai Chi student should learn how to lower his chi feeling down to the ground and then project it upward from his feet through his legs. Therefore, in Tai Chi practice, always keep your knees bent slightly to allow flexibility; never straighten your legs completely. This will allow the vibration of your internal energy to be transmitted from your feet through your knees to your waist. Note that the Tai Chi Classics use the term root, which emphasizes the importance of the feet. Both feet must always stay firmly attached to the ground, as strongly as the roots of a big tree. Also, the feeling of internal energy must penetrate deep into the ground, instead of merely being attached to the surface. After projecting the chi upward, your waist serves as a transmitter; it controls, guides, and distributes the direction and amount of internal energy. Keep your back and your entire torso in a vertical position, to allow the vibrations to travel freely upward through your back to your shoulders. Keep your shoulders completely relaxed to allow the transmission of chi down to your elbows and up to your fingertips. Always keep your elbows dropped and relaxed; your wrists are relaxed, but not limp.
Chi carries tremendous amounts of vibration, requiring a high degree of coordination of the entire body. Your torso and limbs, your hands and legs, must be coordinated both physically and mentally with every other part of the body. All the parts should relate to each other as one inseparable unit, especially when you transfer your chi from the root upward. Success in this will allow you to maneuver your entire body-forward, backward, upward, downward-at will. You will be able to control any situation. If the body is not coordinated, you will not be able to control your body system. According to the advice given in this Tai Chi treatise (added at a later date by an unknown Tai Chi master), “The only cure for such a problem is an examination of the stance.” Just as a weak foundation is unable to support a tall, strong building, a poor stance in Tai Chi form will lead to poor coordination of the entire body, and this will prevent the student from being able to maneuver his body as one integrated unit.
When you perform your Tai Chi movements in a totally coordinated manner, your body is light and limber, and each part of your body connects to every other part. Your Tai Chi form is very smooth and continuous, your chi vibrations are extended, and your spirit is condensed and centered. The chi transfers from your feet upward through your legs to your waist, and eventually through your back to your arms and fingertips. This allows you to develop your mind to guide your body, so that you can move in any direction at will: forward, backward, to the right or left, up or down.
Tai Chi emphasizes the development of the mind rather than the muscles, since the mind can be developed infinitely, beyond any limits of time and space. In Tai Chi practice you allow your mind to follow the Tai Chi principle of opposites: the principle of Y in and Yang. Physically, your body can move in only one direction at a time for example, a move to the right side. Yet in such a move there are other possibilities: moving to the left side, upward, downward, backward, forward. Thus, when you move in one direction, your mind should be simultaneously aware of the other possibilities. When you have achieved the practice of yielding and totally relaxing yourself, your body will be able to respond freely to the direction of the mind. Theoretically, this type of training will allow the physical body to move as rapidly as the body’s mental processes. Although in actuality limitations on physical movement may exist, the discipline will result in a body that is more limber and movements that are more controlled.
In the practice of Tai Chi movement, Uprooting Power follows the principle presented previously: the most efficient method of destroying an object’s foundation is to uproot it. Tai Chi masters have widely emphasized this principle in relation to Push Hands practice. By allowing the mind to focus downward, the opponent will resist in an upward direction and therefore allow you to uproot him easily and efficiently.
Since the Yin/Yang theory is the main principle of Tai Chi philosophy, when you perform Tai Chi movements the entire body must separate clearly into the positive and negative portions. For example, when your weight is placed more heavily on your right foot, the right side of your body will be substantial (positive, or Yang) and the left side insubstantial (negative, or Yin). When you are moving forward, the front side of your body will be Yang and the rear or back portion of your body will be Yin. Conversely, when you are moving backward, your back will be Yang and your front will be Yin.
If your hand is moving forward, with the palm facing you, the back of your hand will be Yang and the palm will be Yin. In relation to your arm, the entire hand would be considered Yang and the arm, as it followed the forward direction of your hand, would be Yin. In relation to your other hand and arm, the entire moving hand and arm would be Yang while the other hand and arm would be Yin. The same principle can be applied to the entire body. The body consists of a large number of positive and negative energy units. Each small unit of Yin and Yang must connect to every other unit in a coordinated manner, with no interruption among them, in order to maneuver the entire body in a balanced Yin/Yang manner. Connecting to each other also means coordinating with each other: neither the Yin nor the Yang can act independently, without regard for the other’s motion. In Long Forms your body should move like the rhythmic flow of water on a river or like the rolling waves of the ocean. When you study Tai Chi, each meditative movement is a complete unit within the Tai Chi system. As you combine your forms into a larger and longer system, you should regard all of the forms as having become one long form, just as, if you were to pour many cups of water into a large container, you would then have one container of water, instead of many separate, smaller units. When you perform the forms you should also allow your internal energy to drive your entire body to flow, so that it moves continuously, like water flowing in a river or like the rolling waves of the ocean.
The Tai Chi Form originated as the thirteen postures of meditation. These are the eight postures, or directions-the Ward Off, Rollback, Press, and Push forms comprising the four cardinal directions, and the Roll-Pull, Split, Elbow, and Lean Forward forms, comprising the four diagonal directions-in combination with the five different ways to maneuver the eight meditative postures: forward, backward, to the left side, to the right side, and staying still in the center. Through observation, the ancient Chinese defined the nature of human life according to five categories: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Metal represents hardness and penetration; as you move forward you act with the character of metal. Wood represents flexibility combined with strength; it is yielding and growing. When you move backward, your action has the character of wood. Fire and water act in opposite directions, but both are characterized by aggressiveness and pliability. They are yielding, piercing, uncertain, and powerful. When you move to the right or left side, you embody these attributes. Earth represents stability, immobility, motherhood, the center, the calmness of the origin. When you remain in the center, you adopt the nature of earth.


Translation & Commentary by Waysun Liao

Tai Chi is born out of infinity. It is the origin of the positive and the negative. When Tai Chi is in motion, the positive and the negative separate; when Tai Chi stops, the positive and negative integrate.
When practicing Tai Chi, doing too much is the same as doing too little. When the body is in motion, it should follow the curve to extend the movements.
If your opposite side is hard, change your own side to make it soft. This is called following. If your opponent is moving and you adhere to him while following in the same direction, it is called sticking. Then you are attached to your opponent: when he moves faster, you also move faster; when he moves slower, you move slower, thereby matching his movement.
Regardless of your opponent’s actions, the principle I of your response remains the same. Once this type of movement has become your own, you will understand internal power.
After coming to an understanding of the internal power of movement, you can approach the theory of natural awareness. Natural awareness is developed through practice over a long period of time; you cannot reach a sudden understanding of natural awareness without proper practice for an extended length of time
When you practice Tai Chi, you should relax the neck and suspend the head, as if from a height above you. Internal power should sink to the lower part of the abdomen. Your posture should keep to the center. Do not lean in any direction. Your movements should be constantly changing from the substantial to the insubstantial. If your left side feels heavy, you should make your left side light. If your right side feels heavy, you should make your right side disappear.
Make your opponent feel that when he looks upward, you are much taller, and when he looks downward, you are much lower. When he moves forward, he should feel that he cannot reach you, and when he retreats, he should feel that he has nowhere to escape to.
Your body’s sensitivity should be such that you are aware of the tiniest feather brushing against your skin. Even the mosquito finds no place to land on you without causing you to move. Then there will be no way for your opponent to detect or control you, but you will be aware of your opponent and control him.
If you achieve this level of sensitivity, there is no force that will defeat you. There are thousands of methods and techniques in the martial arts. Regardless of the techniques and postures employed, most depend on physical condition (strong destroys weak) and speed (fast defeats slow), so that the weak must fall to the strong and the slow must lose to the fast. This, however, is dependent on physical ability and does not relate to the discipline that we now discuss.
Look into the technique of using four ounces of energy to control the force of a thousand pounds. Such techniques as these do not depend on brute force to overcome.
Observe the ability of the old man who can I successfully defend himself against many opponents at once. This proves that speed does not determine victory.
When you practice Tai Chi, you should stand with I your posture balanced like a scale. When you move, your movements should revolve as effortlessly as the turning of a wheel.
Following the changing situation, you move as is necessary. If you are unable to respond in this way you will become double-weighted. Often martial artists who have practiced for years still cannot move properly and so cannot follow the flow of their opponent’s movement. This is essentially because they are hindered by their mistake of double-weightedness.
To avoid double-weightedness you should further understand that positive and negative must complement each other. Then you will understand the flow of internal power, and, having repeatedly practiced and refined your technique and explored your own awareness, you can use and control your internal power at will.
The Tai Chi principle is as simple as this: yield yourself and follow the external forces. Instead of doing this, most people ignore such obvious and simple principles and search for a more remote and impractical method. This is the so-called inches mistake, which, when allowed to develop, becomes the distance of thousands of miles. All disciples of Tai Chi should be aware of this and study diligently.


It is believed that this classical Tai Chi treatise was written by Master Wong Chungyua, who was the master of Chen Chang-hsing, the originator of the Yang system. Approximately four hundred years ago, Master Wong described Tai Chi using the Yin/Yang theory. He believed that the Yin/Yang principle originated from not-being, and that everything in our universe follows this principle. Neither Yin, the negative, nor Yang, the positive, can exist independently. When these equal but opposite energies separate, the Tai Chi is in motion. When they unite, the Tai Chi is in stillness. According to modern knowledge, everything is fundamentally constructed from atoms. To manifest in material existence these atoms must combine negative and positive powers in order to balance opposing energies. This forms a stability so that matter can exist. Such principles were discovered and emphasized at the dawn of Chinese civilization, as Tai Chi philosophy. Books such as the I Ching (Book of Changes) sought to describe and explain the nature of the universe, including human life, as the interchange of the essence of balanced but opposite powers. When studying Tai Chi, it is important to understand the dynamic relationship of the Yin and Yang energies.
The Yin/Yang theory also emphasizes the principle of harmony balance. Too much Yin or too much Yang will destroy the harmonious balance of energies. Whether performing the meditative movements or practicing two-person Push Hands, doing too much is as bad as doing too little. In the practice of Tai Chi, it is important to follow the principle of moderation. In some forms it is required that your posture be lowered or your arms be stretched to some degree. Practicing these forms correctly is a way of developing harmony in your entire body system: if you stretch your arm too much or not enough, or lower your body too far or not far enough, you will lose the meaning of being in harmony, whether with yourself or your opponent. Similarly, any unnecessary movement, or failure to move at a critical time, is considered too much or too little.
Since the most harmonious and natural line between two points is a graceful and evenly rounded curve, your entire body should follow such curves. This is a guideline for how to extend your movements. Your body movements should be not too fast, not too slow, not too rigid, not too limp. This is the Tai Chi principle of not too much and not too little.
Master Wong emphasized the principles of following, sticking, and attaching. In two-person practice, these different but related internal powers are developed through sensitivity discipline. Following Power. In two-person practice, when you sense that your opponent is putting pressure on you, adjust and change your own side to make it soft, and yield to him. Your response is in the Tai Chi manner: not too much, not too little. When your pressure has adequately adjusted to your opponent’s level, this kind of sensitivity and controlling ability is called Following Power. Sticking Power. When you constantly increase your sensitivity and ability to follow your opponent and are able to adhere to his pressure in whatever direction he moves, you will then develop the mental ability of controlling your body and its movement to act in accord with your opponent. This ability, known as Sticking Power, acts and feels like magnetic power. Sticking Power is required for Free Hand practice in martial arts, in order to be able to contact and control the opponent during the initial actions. Attaching Power. After having developed Following Power and Sticking Power, you can learn to further respond to and match your opponent’s moves, whether fast or slow. This ability is known as Attaching Power.
In addition to developing and cultivating awareness of the internal energy, chi, it will be helpful to understand internal power, jing. Initially, you should develop Sticking Power; then develop Following as well as Attaching Power. After achieving this, regardless of your opponent’s actions, you will follow him and match him in perfect harmony; you may control your opponent at will. The principle of your response to your opponent remains that of Yin/Yang balance and harmony.
The Tai Chi system is based on the natural law of harmony and balance. Through the development of internal power you can obtain a full understanding of its character and properties, which will serve as a bridge to the stage of natural awareness. According to Master Wong, the important point is that the natural awareness stage requires a long period of practice in Tai Chi. After proper practice for an extended length of time, even though you may not be able to feel the gradual progression in your conscious mind, the accumulation of internal power will suddenly turn into a higher level of achievement, known as natural awareness. As an analogy, when heating water to its boiling point, it does not boil up gradually, but slowly accumulates heat and then suddenly begins to boil after reaching the proper temperature. Proper practice means practicing under the supervision of a qualified master; practicing for an extended length of time means continuously practicing without interruption. As in the analogy of heating water to a boiling point, one’s development requires constant, uninterrupted “heat.”
Tai Chi practice involves the development of chi, which serves as the energy to propel the internal power. Therefore, in any process of projecting your power, it is very important to keep your head suspended upward and your neck relaxed. Your neck will then serve as a cushion, filtering the vibrations to your head. In addition, this technique will allow the spiritual power to develop more rapidly. Chi originates from the lower abdominal area (dan tien). Without proper discipline and cultivation it declines before you reach adulthood. Either through the use of imagination or through the aid of inhalation exercises, bring feeling down to the lower part of your abdomen. This will help increase the development and awareness of your chi. The Tai Chi meditative movements will allow your chi to flow and vibrate freely. You should keep your posture in the center, and in vertical alignment. Leaning in any direction will cause blockage of your chi. According to the Yin/Yang theory, Yin constantly changes to Yang, and Yang constantly changes to Yin. Your Tai Chi meditative movements should follow the same principle: substantial changes to insubstantial, and vice versa. When one part feels heavy, make it feel light or make it disappear.
In two-person practice (Rolling Hands, Free Hands, Moving Steps, etc.), besides applying Sticking Power, Following Power, and Attaching Power, you should also observe the Yin/Yang theory. Mentally follow your opponent’s moves and react in the opposite direction or in the opposite manner from what he expects. When he looks upward, you are responding as if you are much taller than he expects; when he looks downward, you are acting as if you are much lower than he anticipates. Similarly, when he approaches, make him feel that he cannot reach you, that you are further away than he expects. When he retreats, make him feel that he has nowhere to escape to, because you are faster and longer than he anticipates. To achieve this ability one should practice a great deal of Hands Attaching, Moving Forward and Backward Steps, Attaching Steps, and the Five-Style Steps.
When practicing the Tai Chi Meditative Movement, try to develop an ultimate sensitivity toward and awareness of your mind and the natural conditions surrounding you. To achieve this you should understand the theory of Yin/Yang harmony and balance, as well as the philosophy of yielding and neutralizing. Constant practice in this direction will cause you to achieve a high level of sensitivity to external stimuli. This achievement is described in the Tai Chi Classics as the ability to detect even the tiniest feather or the smallest mosquito touching your skin. In addition to developing Sticking Power, Following Power, and Attaching Power, you will then be able to understand and fully control your opponent. And there will be no way for your opponent to detect and control you. For a beginner, the best way to develop this ability is through either meditation practice or Push Hands practice with a higher level student or an instructor.
Accomplishment in the level of sensitivity just discussed will help you to develop the internal power that will guide your body to respond properly to your opponent. This energy will yield to force and control the attack. There will be no way for the opponent to defeat you. However, since this accomplishment requires long periods of practice and the theory behind it is a paradox to our commonsense logic, this type of training has tended to be ignored, and a more physical type of conditioning has been emphasized. But training that depends solely on physical ability has nothing to do with the discipline and development of the mind.
“Four ounces of strength to defeat one thousand pounds” is a traditional way of describing efficiency and superiority in martial art systems. Obviously, such an efficient use of energy requires highly sophisticated techniques, so that the four ounces are repeatedly increased and accumulated, as described in chapter
Besides the ability to properly utilize internal power, proper timing also serves as an important factor in overcoming the opponent. This is illustrated here with the example of an old man who is able to defend himself successfully against many opponents at one time, proving that speed does not determine victory. Proper movements at a slow speed make more sense than faster movements improperly executed. In Tai Chi terminology, speed refers to pacing, to moving slow or fast or not at all. It involves anticipation and awareness. So-called faster speed is only measured relative to the change of pace.
In Tai Chi practice, the entire body must be coordinated as one complete unit. Your body will then be able to follow your mind, moving in any direction you wish. In addition, to ensure that your movement is totally harmonious and balanced, you must keep your standing posture as balanced as a scale. This will allow you to instantly detect any change of balance, either in yourself or in your opponent. Your movement should also follow a graceful curved line, to allow your chi to flow freely. Let your movement revolve as smoothly as the turning of a wheel. In other words, your movement should circulate ceaselessly and evenly, without interruption or imbalance.
When practicing Tai Chi, doing too much is as bad as doing too little. This principle also applies to making an adequate response to your opponent. When the situation changes, you should follow the change adequately. You only move when it is necessary; then you can be in harmony with the changing situation and in control of it. For example, when your opponent moves rapidly, the situation may call for you to respond slowly. It is unnecessary for you to respond quickly, even though your opponent’s initial action was at a fast speed. Or, when a changing situation does not require any movement from you, it is necessary for you to remain still. Failure to respond to the opponent properly will result in awkward mobility, known as double-weightedness. This means you are constantly distributing your weight evenly on both feet, due to your hesitation to respond properly. If you practice Tai Chi for years and still encounter difficulty in allowing your movements to flow freely with those of your opponent, you should observe the above principle. Single-handed Push Hands practice and the forward and backward movements of the Five-Style Steps practice with a senior student will help you to correct these problems.
Master Wong regards the principle of Tai Chi to be a simple one: yield yourself to the forces of the universe. This may appear to be a paradox, because we are born to grow and expand. Certain degrees of ego and aggressiveness propel and motivate our lives. It definitely is difficult to comprehend the idea of yielding ourselves to the universe. A simple analogy will help to illustrate this basic principle. If a sealed bottle of water is thrown into a lake, the water in the bottle does not change. But if you pour the water from the bottle directly into the lake, it becomes the water of the lake, instead of the water of the bottle. In your life, if you yield yourself and follow the universal natural power, you soon will be part of the entire universe. The same principle applies to Tai Chi martial art practice: after you yield to your opponent you will soon become more powerful than him, because your opponent’s force will be under your control, and you will be able to utilize his force as if it belonged to you.
A beginner of Tai Chi should practice the meditative movements and, under the supervision of a qualified instructor, study a great deal of two-person practice methods and techniques, constantly correcting and adjusting even minor mistakes. Otherwise, after a long period of development, the practice will lead to total error.

Translation & Commentary by Waysun Liao
Use your mind to exercise your internal energy. Let I the internal energy sink and be attached to your body. Eventually, the internal energy can be condensed into the bone marrow.
Drive the internal energy to move your entire body; make certain that the internal energy circulates smoothly and completely. Eventually, the internal energy can follow the direction of your will.
If essence and spirit can be raised, then there is no I need for concern with being slow and awkward; this is called extending and suspending the crown point.
If mind and internal energy can be freely exchanged, then there is much satisfaction in performing smoothly and dynamically; this is called exchanging negative and positive.
When transferring internal power, it should be sunk, attached, relaxed, and completed. The power should also be concentrated in one direction.
When performing, you should be centered, balanced, stable, and comfortable. You should also
control the eight directions.
Circulating your internal energy is just like guiding a thread through the nine-channeled pearl. Then nothing can block the circulation.
Exercising your internal power is just like refining metal into the purest steel. Then nothing cannot be destroyed.
In performing the forms, you should be like the eagle which glides serenely on the wind, but which can swoop instantly to pluck a rabbit from the ground.
Your mind should be centered, like the placid cat peaceful but able to respond instantly to the scurrying mouse.
When in stillness you should be as the mountain. When in motion you should move like the water of the river.
When condensing the internal power, it should be like the pulling of a bow; when projecting the internal power, it should be like the shooting of an arrow.
In Tai Chi movement, follow the curve to be aware of the straight line. In internal exercise, reserve the energy for transferring the power.
Transfer of power comes from the spine. Change of position follows the movement of your body.
Therefore, in Tai Chi “drawing in” leads to “projecting out”; “interruption” leads to “connection.”
When you move in and out, your entire body acts like an accordion, folding and unfolding.
When you move forward and backward, your stance changes in a varied, dynamic manner.
In Tai Chi, being very soft and pliable leads to being extremely hard and strong. Command of proper breathing techniques leads to command of free and flexible movement.
Cultivate internal energy in a direct way only, and you will do yourself no harm. Store internal power in an indirect way only, and you will build great reserves.
In transferring power, your mind acts like a banner, internal energy acts like a flag, and your waist acts like a pennant. In perfecting your forms, begin with large and extended movements, which, with time, will become compact and concentrated.
Also it is said: If there is no motion, you will remain still. If there is even a slight change, you have
already moved accordingly.
Internal power should remain in a state of equilibrium between relaxed and not-yet-relaxed, extended and not-yet-extended. Even if internal power is interrupted, the mind should remain in continuous action.
Also it is said: First you should exercise your mind, then discipline your body. Relax your abdomen
and let internal energy condense into your bone marrow. Make your spirit peaceful and your body calm. Pay attention to your mind at all times.
Bear in mind that once you move, everything should be in motion; when you are still, everything should be in stillness.
When practicing Push Hands, as you move forward and backward the internal energy should attach to your back and condense into your spinal column.
Your spirit should be controlled internally; externally you should appear calm and comfortable.
When changing position, you should move like a cat. Exercising the internal power is like the delicate reeling of silk.
Your entire body should be controlled by the mind and spirit. Do not attempt to control your body solely by the breathing, because this will make your movements slow and plodding. Controlling the body by breathing yields no internal power; it is only by avoiding such error that you can develop the purest and strongest internal power.
Internal power should be likened to the spinning of a wheel. The waist turns like the axle of a wheel in motion.
In the beginning, the ability to concentrate on form practice is very important. The development of concentration will help to control your mind. Then you can use your mind to increase the awareness of your internal energy, chi. After long periods of practice of internal energy awareness, you will be able to command your mind to guide your internal energy to any part of your body at will. Moreover, you will be able to direct the internal energy to sink and be attached to your entire body. The ability to use your mind to exercise your internal energy is the gate into the internal work known as neigong. In advanced stages one can condense the internal energy into the bone marrow throughout the body and generate the chi into the high-frequency vibrations known as the internal power, jing. This process requires proper meditation and discipline.
The art of Tai Chi originated from a philosophy based on the Yin/Yang theory. Since this philosophy emphasizes the balance and harmony of the natural universe, and since human beings are part of this universe, the discipline of being mentally and physically in harmony was originally at the center of the art. Around 1300 AD the Tai Chi theory was described in the Tai Chi Classics I as a way of discipline and meditation for human life. At that time, success in developing internal energy through Taoist meditation formed the basis for the Tai Chi Meditative Movement. This movement consisted of the thirteen original meditative postures. Over hundreds of years of development and through many varying approaches to the study process, students came to reverse the proper procedure. In search of an “easier” approach, students began to copy the movements without practicing meditation or internal energy development. Therefore, around 1850 AD, Master Wu Yuhsiang wrote a treatise advising students that to practice Tai Chi properly, one must drive the internal energy to move the entire body, instead of just copying the Tai Chi Movement and trying to develop the internal energy afterward. He also advised that one should make certain that the internal energy circulates through the body smoothly and completely, so that it will guide the body to perform the Tai Chi Meditative Movement gracefully and effortlessly. After developing internal energy, the practitioner can guide the movement in any direction at will.
In addition to internal energy development, an important factor affecting the practice and progress of one’s Tai Chi study is the discipline of the essence and spirit. According to Master Wu, your essence and spirit must be raised so that your Tai Chi movements will be able to flow freely, without being slow and awkward. This refers to using imaging power to direct these two energies, an awareness of which should develop through practice. In other words, extend and suspend the crown point, and relax the neck. These physical movements of the external body will assist in raising the essence and spirit. Extending and suspending the crown point is the proper way to train and to raise your essence and spirit. In Tai Chi practice, you must always bear this in mind.
After having advised the student to use the mind to direct the internal energy, Master Wu now advises that one’s internal energy must be able to convert to a higher form of power and be complementary to the mind. This means that Tai Chi meditative movements follow the flow of one’s internal energy, and the flow of internal energy is commanded by one’s mind. As a result, the meditative movements support and modify the mind in a type of feedback process. In other words, when you can exchange the mind and internal energy freely, your Tai Chi movements will be much smoother and more dynamic.
According to the Yin/Yang theory, Y in (negative) and Yang (positive) attract each other. If we consider the input factor of mind as positive, then the output factor of internal energy will be negative. With the internal energy acting as input-a positive (Yang) factor-the resulting meditative movement will be negative (Yin). Lastly, considering the meditative movement as acting as input (Yang), this then modifies the condition of your mind (Yin). This is called the exchange of negative and positive, the Yin/Yang theory.
The process of converting your internal energy into internal power through the meditation technique known as condensing breathing will generate high-frequency, electrical-type pulsing vibrations. You should then organize and control your mind and body to enter the condition of being sunk-firmly based and rooted to the ground. Let the internal power vibrate, attach to your entire body, and connect to your opponent. The structure of your body must be completely relaxed and coordinated. The transfer of power must be completely projected, concentrated in one direction only, in order to allow the vibration of your power to accelerate and exceed the speed of light.
The mind serves as a medium to penetrate the limit of time. Your mind guides the direction of your power. When the mind concentrates in one direction, the acceleration of the vibration, propelled by the mind over the shortest distance, will result in increased effectiveness.
When performing the Tai Chi Meditative Movement, regard yourself as always standing at the center of the universe. Each portion and posture of the body must be balanced and coordinated. The flow of your internal energy drives the entire body to move freely; however, it must be under control so that it will be stable and comfortable. You should also bear in mind that there are eight directions which need to be controlled as you perform the movements. As mentioned in the discussion of Master Chang Sanfeng’s treatise, you should follow the Tai Chi principle of opposites. At the same time that you focus the mind in one specific direction, you must also be aware of and consider all directions.
After success in internal energy awareness practice you will learn to circulate internal energy throughout your body. Besides relaxing your entire body as you try to guide your internal energy, you should also bear in mind that you need patience, delicate effort, and concentration, as if guiding a tiny thread through a “nine-channeled pearl,” the tiny wooden ball used by young Chinese girls to test and improve their manual dexterity. The “pearl” contains nine small openings leading to crisscrossing channels in the interior of the ball. Any rushed movement or excess pressure in pushing the thread will bend it and prevent it from going through smoothly. Likewise, with relaxation and the right kind of concentration, your internal energy will circulate freely throughout the body, without any blockage.
The process of converting internal energy (chi) into internal power (jing) requires the meditative exercise of condensing breathing. Then you must learn how to increase and strengthen your internal power through two-person practice. The growth of your internal power is a gradual process, requiring long periods of exercise, just as the process of refining metal into the purest steel requires constant heat and proper treatment. As a beginner you may have ten percent internal power mixed with ninety percent physical force. Through the constant refining and developing of your internal power, the proportion of physical force will decrease as the amount of internal power available continues to increase. According to Master Wu, when there is pure internal power, pure mind-energy formation, “nothing cannot be destroyed.”
When performing the Tai Chi Meditative Movement, you should allow your internal energy to flow freely so that your forms will be gracefully executed, like the movements of the eagle that glides serenely on the wind. On the other hand, the essence and spirit must be raised, and you must be always ready to “swoop.” You should be peaceful yet alert, like the eagle that is able to swoop instantaneously to pluck a rabbit from the ground. It requires years of practicing the Tai Chi Meditative Movement in order to achieve this ability.
In order to develop a peaceful and serene state of mind while remaining alert and ready to respond instantly to any change in the environment, the mind should be centered. To achieve this, allow your internal energy to vibrate and extend like the beat of a drum. The spirit must be condensed in toward the center of your body.
In Tai Chi practice you should develop feelings different from those that are normally experienced in daily life. When in stillness, you should feel as if you are a mountain: stable, peaceful, formidable, being yourself. When you are in motion, you should move and feel like the waters of a river: roaring ceaselessly, yielding to any condition, capable of being both peaceful and powerful.
In the process of converting internal energy into internal power, you must practice condensing breathing techniques in such a way that you feel you are slowly pulling a bow into a fully open position. Projecting the internal power will then be as easy as relaxing your fingertips and letting the arrow go. Any additional effort indicates that a high percentage of physical force is being used.
When performing Tai Chi movements, you should allow your chi to drive your body to gracefully follow a curved line; but bear in mind at the same time that the straight line exists. In internal exercise, especially in condensing breathing, you should constantly practice converting internal energy into internal power. Then accumulate a large amount of Jing by storing it.
The transfer of power roots at the foot, travels through the leg, and is controlled by the waist. The waist serves the same function as the transmission in an automobile: it distributes the amount and direction of your power. After long periods of practice and success in Tai Chi stance and rooting techniques, the transfer of power will be directly from the waist, following the spine up to the shoulder, and eventually reaching the fingertips.
Control of the process of transferring power is therefore located in and mainly depends on your spinal column. In two-person practice, your stance and steps follow your body movement. In other words, you move your entire body as you change your stance. Changing just your stance or your steps without moving your body will result in loss of control, improper posture, and loss of balance.
According to the Yin/Yang theory, the coming of Yang means the coming of Yin. If there is Yang, there is Yin, and vice versa. In practicing the Tai Chi Movement, therefore, drawing-in motions will automatically lead to projecting-out motions. Interruption of your movement means you are ready to make another connection. When you reach this level of Tai Chi movement, you will be able to command the art at will. Because Tai Chi is based on the Yin/Yang theory of contradiction and balance, when you move forward this means that you are going to move backward. When you move backward, it indicates that you are going to move forward. Each move contains the implication of the opposite direction. When you are moving forward and backward you should relate both movements to each other and act with an accordion-like motion, folding and unfolding. Tai Chi philosophy also emphasizes change: Yin must change to Yang and Yang must change to Yin. When you move forward or backward, your stance must change in a dynamic manner.
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu asks, “Can you dedicate your internal energy, chi, and be as pliable and yielding as a baby?” The only condition for allowing your internal energy to develop, grow, and become strong is that you must relax yourself and yield to the universe. When you become soft and pliable, your internal energy will gradually begin to develop and accumulate. Eventually you will have the ability to become extremely hard and strong, when it is necessary to do so. To make metal into the hardest steel, you must heat the metal, make it as soft and pliable as liquid, and then refine it into the hardest steel. Freedom and flexibility of movement depend on the flow of internal energy. Internal energy development comes from the proper breathing techniques. A beginner in Tai Chi should therefore examine and develop these techniques.
As a Tai Chi person, you should cultivate your internal energy in daily life. Use any available leisure time to practice your breathing techniques, which will increase your awareness of your internal energy. According to Master Wu, you will never overdo this practice nor cause yourself any harm. After converting internal energy into internal power, you should also learn how to store this power indirectly. In other words, do not convert internal energy into internal power at the very moment you need it. Instead, save your internal power and reserve it, so that there will be a large amount of power available when needed.
In ancient China, army maneuvers were guided by the signals of various-sized flags. The largest banners directed the entire group, the medium-sized flags controlled the various divisions, and the small pennants were used to guide the individual sections. Consequently, the pennant should obey the direction of the flag, which in turn receives orders from the banner. In the way, transferring power starts from the feet, rises through the legs to the waist, continues up through the back to the shoulders, then through the elbows to the fingers. This all is guided by the mind and controlled at the waist.
The Tai Chi Meditative Movement includes the high-stance form, the middle-stance form, and the low-stance form, with degrees of extension that can be classified as large, medium, or compact. These can be combined in nine different ways. It is recommended by Master Wu that a beginner start with the large high-stance form, eventually letting the form become more compact and concentrated. Since precise form is required in the beginning, the larger and more extended form will serve better for instruction and correction purposes. After gaining command of the art, you can then discover the same principles in a circular and concentrated form. If instead you begin with compact, concentrated movements, it might not be possible to later perform a large and extended movement correctly.
In two-person practice, relate yourself to your opponent in a Yin/Yang manner. If your opponent offers no motion, you should follow and remain still. If your opponent changes even slightly, you should already be responding accordingly. Tai Chi emphasizes the essence of change rather than time, and the essence of relations rather than space. The concept of timing described here refers to pacing, anticipating, and moving ahead of your opponent. It indicates the overlapping of the sequence of changes.
Tai Chi principles stress the meaning of exchange between Yin and Yang. When you exercise your internal power you should remain in a state of being relaxed, but not completely relaxed; extended, but not completely extended. Even if the internal power is discontinued, there should be continuation of flow. In two-person practice these principles are very important. You will discover that persons tend to either conflict with each other or not to communicate. This happens because neither of them realizes the true meaning of being relaxed, but not yet relaxed; extended, but not yet extended. Nor do they understand that the mind should keep the internal power continuously in action.
Each part of your body should be connected to every other part. Here it is pointed out that when you perform the Tai Chi Meditative Movement, all parts of your body should be in motion. If you stop any part of your body, the entire body must be stopped.
In Push Hands practice or in martial art application, you must control your spirit and keep it inward. Regardless of how rapidly the situation changes, you should remain calm and easy. This involves mental discipline and indicates that to be a martial artist you should reach the ultimate level of being able to control yourself, in order to cope with any kind of serious situation. Even if a difficult situation builds into a seemingly uncontrollable situation, you should still control yourself in a peaceful and easy manner. Meanwhile, control your spirit internally, allowing no disturbance from any external stimuli.
In two-person practice, regardless of which direction you change to, your step must follow the position of your body. In the process of changing steps, you must act and feel like a walking cat-firm and careful. When controlling or applying your internal power in Push Hands practice, bear in mind that you should maneuver the internal power as if you were reeling silk thread from a cocoon. Reeling too fast will break the silk; too slow or in the wrong direction may tangle it. Apply the adequate amount of effort, and apply internal power in the proper direction, with the proper speed.
The final analogy indicates that you should keep your internal power in well-balanced and constant motion, like the spinning of a wheel. Your waist controls the amount and distribution of your internal energy, as if it were the axle of a wheel.