Thursday, 2 August 2018

Knowledgeable Teachers and True Friends...

Many practitioners do not put enough emphasis on the theoretical side of their practice. They are backed by such comments as Chen Xin’s “train ten thousand times and the principles become clear”. Without knowing the theoretical aspects to support the practice, however, it is not possible to progress beyond the superficial level.
Chen Xin also wrote, “if the principle is not clear stay with a knowledgeable teacher; if the path is not clear consult true friends”. The advice... is quite clear, that the main criteria for staying with a teacher is not his/her fame but the teacher’s knowledge, and his/her willingness and ability to impart the knowledge. Consulting true friends (observing and talking with serious practitioners) is a way of making sure you know the path you need to take to achieve success and that your practice stays on course, as very few people today stay with their teachers on a daily basis. Chen Xin continued, “When the principle is understood and the path is clear, add consistent practice and success will follow.”
The wider inference of “knowledgeable teachers and true friends” is that literature that are directly related to your discipline and system is your teacher and other supporting and complementary literature your true friends.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Yin and Yang Aspects of Taijiquan

In accordance with Yuan Dynasty physician Zhu Danxi’s theory on health “Yang is often in excess, Yin is often deficient”, Taijiquan advocates paying attention to training the Yin aspect as well as the Yang aspect, in order to avoid imbalance. Generally speaking, areas that are easier to activate are considered the Yang aspect of the body; those areas that are harder to access are the Yin aspect of the body.

From the point of view of the natural tendencies of the body, most movements involve the Yang side, and if nothing is done to correct the imbalance, the Yang side gradually diminishes the Yin side.

So in Taijiquan training an important factor is identifying the Yin side - be it in the body (e.g the back), arms (e.g. under areas) or legs (e.g. inside areas). Seek out the “weaker” areas and train them until they become strong. As the Yin side becomes fuller, you do not in fact need to take away from the Yang side, and balance will gradually ensue. If the Yin side is undiscovered or disregarded, the imbalance will invariably impede the full use of the body as a coordinated and unified whole.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

When one stops talking naturally...

Our predecessors spoke correctly when they said, “One naturally shuts one’s mouth following three years of study.”
When one stops talking naturally following three years of study, it means the beginning of putting aside oneself. The bigger the art reveals itself to be, the smaller oneself becomes.
At the beginning of study, a mountain one sees is just a mountain. At the point when one stops talking, a mountain is no longer just a mountain.
Many who study collect multiple forms. The more they collect the more they think they know. But the process of learning truly begins when one sees that the content of one form is more than one can deal with. As the art becomes big, the self becomes small.
Every component has a source, an expression and is capable of progression.
Let go, in order to big the art and forgo the self.

"Song" Through Mindfulness

The essential movement principle of Taijiquan is based on relaxation (song). In life people learn to use strength and tighten their muscles habitually. What is required in Taijiquan is, when you do an action, to execute the action to its optimum place, and then to make sure that it is not an isolated action but part of a whole moving system. At the same time further increase the idea of song through mindfulness. Song is unquantifiable and its quality is different with practice. It is important to continually improve the quality of song.
The arms, for example - as soon as the arms move the shoulders should relax and the elbows sink down. The arms also expand outwards. At a certain point of accomplishment, the arms become an integral whole with the spine, and actions of the shoulders and elbows become connected to the spine and controlled by the spine. After an extended time of practice, looseness of the arms is achieved.
The waist/crotch - as soon as a movement commences be mindful that the shoulders, elbows and hands are coordinated and work in concert. At a certain stage of practice movement of the spine becomes under the control of the waist-crotch. In time this facilities the training of waist/crotch power.
The knees and feet - the foot must be relaxed when lifting the knee, at the same time also controlling the span and extent of the shoulders, elbows and the waist/crotch. In time this facilitates the ability to express power from the heels. Mindfully examine, if you make a bow step by stepping forward- are your shoulders loose, your elbows down? Does the waist/crotch relax and move forward? Does the knee and the foot become weight bearing gradually? Is the knee in place? Does the position of the knee stop further movements above the waist/crotch.
Unlike other systems Taijiquan requires the lower body to control and influence the upper body, in order to develop integrated strength and the body as a unified entity.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Taijiquan's Circles

Taijiquan consists of countless circles. It is a violation of the principle of Taijiquan if the circle is not adhered to, even in lifting a hand or picking up a foot. Half the circle fulfils the role of defence, the other half that of attack. The circle becomes smaller as the gongfu becomes deeper. Often a circle is not visible to detect attack and defence.

Tuishou is also a Taiji circle. Within the circle there are peng, lu, ji, an (warding, diverting, squeezing, pressing), peng, lu taking half the circle and ji, an taking the other half. At the moment of contact with a partner, each hand takes on a circle, half of which sticks whilst the other follows. To be unclear on the roles of the two halves of a circle is to become double-weighted.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Zhan Zhuang

During Standing Pole exercise (Zhan Zhuang) the Bai Hui acupoint (at the top of the head) connects with the heavenly qi; the Yong Quan (at the bottom of the feet) joins with the ground qi; the Lao Gong at the centre of the hands opens up to the body's inherent natural qi.
It is said that during Zhan Zhuang the nerves in the knee joints receive strong stimulation that result in the activation of true qi that in time causes the body to warm up and the hands to have the feelings of expansion, numbness and tingling. Negative qi (postural deviation, physical illness, mental stress etc...) is expelled, usually through perspiration.
Achieve effective Zhan Zhuang through its root - from the feet. Known as the "second heart" or the “base of jing and qi”, a vast amount of the body's nerves are concentrated in the soles of the feet. It is credited for taking a major part of the body's physical demands. Zhan Zhuang is also an important method by which to open the Hui Yin acupoint (in the perineum) and dredging the meridians. It helps to quick start the body's energetic mechanism and promotes and enhances the circulatory functions of the Du and Ren Meridians and energy flow in the channels and collaterals.
The famous Chinese poet and pharmacologist Su Dongpo (1037-1101), evaluated qi cultivation method: "Its effect may not be felt initially, but accumulated over 100 days (over time), its benefits cannot be quantified. Compared to medicine its effect is a hundredfold."

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Progression in Taijiquan

The progression of Taijiquan practice can be seen in this way: in the first stage practice is like moving at the bottom of water; in the second stage it is like moving in water; and in the third stage it is like moving above water. This represents the progression of Taijiquan from substantial to insubstantial. In the beginning the practice is focused upon weightedness and substantiality. As skill increases movements become insubstantial- light and agile - until movements ...appear to glide in the wind.
Practising at the bottom of water the feet constantly seek the ground. When the body moves the water resistance is constantly felt. As one progresses and the body starts to move in the middle of the water, the feet do not need to seek the ground at the bottom and the resistance of the water become lesser; until the third stage when movements are above the water and resistance from the water is no longer felt. The body is extremely light and agile. The expression of Taijiquan is “vacuous, loose, whole, alive”. How does one achieve this? Taijiquan demands that in training movement principles, begin from denseness-heaviness towards lightness-agility. People achieve this in different degrees through their lifetime training.
The Taijiquan principle that says “feet planted like putting down roots” is a metaphor to pay attention to the stability under the feet. Ultimately for health and functionality the body needs to be free and nimble.