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.

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.