Thursday, February 10, 2005

Essays by my Teacher

Note: I'm trying to archive all that my Teacher has said or wrote up till now, so please forgive the lack of original opinions posted here momentarily.

FOUNDATION OF TAIJIJUAN

A. Six Characteristic of Taijijuan

Correct Form
Total Internal Force
Clear Martial Application
Flexible strength
Elegant Style
Consistency to Taiji Theory
B. The Process of Taiji Training

Instructor breaks up the form; and Students copy or learn carefully
Instructor keeps correcting students' form; and Students train diligently
The Taiji form should be the core of your daily training; and push hands, single movements and power training drills are supplementary
Problems:

Instructor breaks up form ... students take short cuts or develop own technique and lost the Taiji theory.
After correcting the forms, students go back to own way of mistakes. Why? Train diligently? Train once in a while .... if any.
Daily training? sigh ... can't wake up inthe morning. In the evening ... too tired ...

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The foundation work of Taijiquan is in the Taiji form itself. In other words, only through practicing the Taiji form can you gain the full benefits of Taijiquan, be it for health, for self-defense or for art-appreciation. The more you practice the form, the better foundation you will have.

Chen Pin-san, a great master of the 16th generation of the Chen family, once said, "Practice ten thousand reps, and you will come to understand Taijiquan." Grand master Chen Fa-ke practiced 30 reps a day throughout most of his life. Wu style Taijiquan founder Wu jian-quan asked his students to try to do ten thousands reps in three years. Master Chen Zhao-kui (son of Chen Fa-ke) said, "The practice of the form is the most important foundation work because the form is the end result of the accumulative fighting experience. Most martial arts in their early stage are only single postures. These postures grow in numbers, and they become a set of martial art form. Practicing the form will enable you to defend yourself in a fight." He also said, "The form is the foundation of push-hands; push-hands is a device for testing the correctness of the form; and push-hands is a bridge between the form and free fighting. Doing push-hands without practicing the form can gain some skill in self-defense, but without the foundation work you cannot keep on improving, and raise your skill to a higher level."

Why did the grand masters in the past put so much emphasis on practicing the form? Because it is only through practicing the form can you get the benefit of good health, self-defense, and enjoyment of a great martial art. If you practice Taijiquan for health, you still have to practice the form to activate the circulation of your internal energy. From the viewpoint of martial art, although push-hands is an indispensable part of Taiji training, yet in the Taiji form there are a lot of postures which are very useful in free fighting. Kicking, striking with elbows, etc. are not allowed in push-hands competition. In free fighting, some techniques are forbidden as well. Yet all of these are contained in the Taiji form. You can learn and develop the fighting skill from practicing the form. For (martial) art appreciation, you will have to practice the form, without which people cannot appreciate the gracefulness, beauty, etc. of Taijiquan. In short, we can say without the form there is no Taijiquan.

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Like learning calligraphy or painting, when learning Taijiquan, there is a period when you have to copy your teacher's movements. Your movements will have to be correct. This period is crucial to your future development. The instruction of your teacher is also important as the saying goes, "Like teacher, like students." Therefore, whether you are teaching or learning, you must not take it (this period) lightly. The correct Taiji form should meet the following requirements.

1. Keep the body upright. You should also bear these points in mind: when you bend your knees, they should not go past your toes. Your crotch should be round and loose. Relax (draw in) your chest and sink your waist. Suspend your head-top, and loosen your shoulders and drop your elbows. Your energy should sink as well. This requirement is the most important of all.

2. Pay attention to the starting, middle and finishing points of each move so that you can do them correctly.

3. Make sure you are clear of "chan si jing": whether it is "shun chan" (turn your palms out) or "ni chan" (turn your palms in).

4. Pay attention to your steps and stances, including the "shun chan" and "ni chan" of your legs.

5. As for the opening and closing of your chest and waist, you should know how much to turn and which direct to turn.

6. When shifting weight, make sure your crotch move in a concave curve (like the bottom of a wok), and know where your weight is. You should also be clear how you move your hips in accordance with the weight shift.

7. Know where you should look.

8. Breathe properly with the movement.

If you keep the above points in mind and practice in accordance with these rules, you should be able to improve quickly. Otherwise you will be struggling all the way.

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