Friday, 1 February 2019

Taijiquan's Three Centres

Practitioners should be clear about the basic concepts, functions and effects of the “three centres” of the body, i.e., the centre line of the body, the centre of gravity, and the central axis.

The centre line of the body acts as a symmetry line that distinguishes between the left and right side of the body, from the forehead (Upper Dan Tian), the nose, centre of the chest (Dan Zhong ), to the perineum. During practice, the hands are like two doors, each in charge of one of the body and cannot cross the middle line. As soon as the wrist crosses the midline, the forearm loses its fulcrum and the hand loses its strength. This line may not be very important to the casual practitioners but it has a great significance in fighting skill. The often-said “guarding the centre” refers to this defensive middle line.

The centre of gravity is maintained through the alignment of the Bai Hui (at the top of the head) and the Yong Quan (at the bottom of the feet). The alignment is more obvious viewed from the side, from the Bai Hui, the ear, shoulder, down the leg into the Yong Quan. Maintain the centre of gravity for good posture and stability. Misalignment is usually through the inability to loosen and activate the kua, thus pushing the knees forwards and outwards.

The central axis is the line linking Bai Hui to Hui Yin, and is the vertical axis of the body. The upper body turns left or right with the help of kua rotation through the vertical axis, driving the movement of both hands.

The vertical axis must be kept straight, made possible by adhering to the fundamental requirements that most practitioners are familiar with: relax the neck and keep the head up; loosen the shoulders and sink the elbows; contain the chest and settle the back; loosen the kua and round the crotch.

There are often confusions between the central axis and the centre of gravity. If the central axis takes the function of the centre of gravity the body will become a stick rather than a spring. The spine is also not to be mistaken as the central axis.


Friday, 14 December 2018

Taijiquan's Fajin

Fajin (the sudden release of power) has become a common feature in Taijiquan, particularly after the wide spread of Chen Style Taijiquan in recent years. It has become fashionable and many practitioners have set great store by the "shaking elastic power" of Taijiquan.

However the condition of fajin is the release of cultivated strength (jin) and therefore a prerequisite is the presence of this strength. Jin is built up and accumulated over a long time and fajin is not a method from which to acquire it.

All fajin actions are preceded by a necessary storing stage. A highly skilled person has a short storing stage that is sometimes not detectable. A lesser skilled person needs to work more on storing and less on releasing.

Beginners especially need to implicitly cultivate and store energy rather than releasing and spending it. Many Taijiquan learners who are physically not robust, whose dantian is empty, whose structures are not correct and who are unable to regulate their breathing, are often in a hurry to fajin. Skill should be practised step by step. Do not be in a hurry and do not deceive yourself.

Taijiquan's "Three Reps"

What is considered good training in everyday practice?

In order to make good progress, besides daily training of basic exercises and "standing", it is standard to do at least three repetitions of the form. Each time, besides training the fundamental essentials, there must be different emphasis:

The first rep is to adjust and regulate the breath. Practise synchronising movements and breathing, so that the body's qi and blood can run smoothly.

The emphasis of the second rep is relaxation and sinking, opening and closing. The body should manifest the qualities of looseness and heaviness and explicitly express all opening and closing movements, so that the joints, muscles and bones of the whole body can become alive.

The key emphasis of the third rep is the application of jin. In every movement identify the source, the path and the final destination, and how to apply them, so that the skill becomes real.

On Patient Learning...

The process of learning Taijiquan gongfu takes far longer than the practice of external gongfu.

Taijiquan gongfu relies on patient learning over a period of time.

Moments of enlightenment may suddenly occur and flashes of brilliance manifest spontaneously, so that the casual observers believe that they occur by accident. In fact, skills are accumulated over a long period and are built from the basics.

Chinese idioms such as "go fishing for three days and dry the net for two" and "have one day's sun and ten days cold" - meaning to work by fits and starts - are frowned upon during the acquisition of skill.

It is well acknowledged that for Taijiquan skill "three years attain small success; ten years attain big success". People who practice Taijiquan not only need to work twice as hard but also be able to "get" it. If they do not understand what Taijiquan is, their "ultimate achievement is superficial".

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Everything is in the Quan...

Taijiquan is considered a manifestation of a person.

 There is no such thing as a good or bad quan but how the quan is brought about by an individual, and that is effectively determined by the person’s mindset. When the deeper realm of practice is reached, Taijiquan is a discipline that is hard to describe in so many words.

 The discipline has many rules but paradoxically has no absolutes.

 Practice should be an organic and cohesive process. Its potential functionality and effectiveness is cultivated through sorting, allocating, and integrating the individual parts logically and skilfully.

 When all the ordering is done, the correct structure is established, the route becomes clear, the central axle is unimpeded, the primary and secondary factors are apparent, the movements are logical, and skill naturally follows.

Practice means gradual reduction. Dissect, dismantle, discard, and then put it back together again. Have an ever inquiring mind and the urge to know more. 

Enlightenment is accumulative. Everything is in the quan. Because you cannot see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Don't negate it because you’ve not realised it. The key to success is yourself!

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.