OLD Yang Style FORM

OLD Yang Style FORM

Postby ELDER » Sun Jan 06, 2002 12:06 am

I read about an "Old Yang Style Form", supposed to be direct derived from Yang Lu Chan, having many explosive movements (FaJing) as in Chen Style.
Why this is not the official Yang Style form ? What happened to make it different from Yang Lu Chan from now ?
Regards
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Postby Audi » Sun Jan 27, 2002 5:29 pm

Hi Elder,

Since no one has responded to your post, I thought I would give it a shot. Although I have my own partisan views, I will make a feeble attempt to present a somewhat "objective" viewpoint. Since I do not know what perspective you bring to Taijiquan, I am really addressing points I wish somewhat had discussed with me earlier in my study.

As you probably know, Yang Style has been developing through at least six generations of Yang family members. Each generation has left its imprint on the training curriculum without intending to alter any of the important principles taught by Yang Luchan.

There are many references to early Yang family members doing form differently. In my opinion, this hints at a more relaxed attitude towards form choreography and its relationship to the overall style than many Taijiquan practitioners have today. Some sources even hint that the long form we do today is really a stringing together of postures that Yang Luchan and his students normally performed separately or only in smaller groupings.

By the way, some sources have also similarly described the development of the Chen Style forms as a grouping together of what were originally separate shorter routines.

I am aware of one group of Taijiquan practitioners that use the term "Old Yang Style" primarily to distinguish what they do from what was taught by Yang Chengfu. Some might also claim to be doing Yang Luchan’s “original form,” but I caution that few would accept such a claim because of the differences in the various oral traditions and the lack of written records. Yang Luchan taught primarily in the middle of the 1800’s, whereas Yang Chengfu taught primarily in the early 1900’s.

Yang Chengfu has a special place in the Yang family lineage for at least three reasons. As far as I am aware, he was the first to leave records of form details. Second, I think all current Yang family members actively teaching Taijiquan to the public are his descendants and so view the art of their early predecessors through his prism. Third, Yang Chengfu was responsible for greatly popularizing Taijiquan and raising it to the level of a national health-oriented art in China.

In popularizing Taijiquan, Yang Chengfu made several changes to the form. From what I have understood, he had several motivations. He was trying to make Taijiquan more suitable as a vehicle for improving the health of the public. He was also trying to systematize an art that was running the risk of being harmfully diluted or altered as it became increasingly popular. Lastly, he was trying to refine practice according to his own developing understanding of the art.

Among Yang Chengfu’s changes to the form (though not to the overall style per se) was the elimination of almost all explosive movements and changes in speed. I have not heard an explicit justification for these changes. My own belief is that all three motivations I describe above were involved. By the way, in a recent issue of Tai Chi Magazine, a respected Chen practitioner was also expressing the view that explosive movements were somewhat harmful to the health and that stressing them in form was not central to advancing in Chen Style. I cannot recall his name with certainty at the moment, but it may have been Feng Zhiqian.

One last comment is that I understand the Yang Family members to view themselves as representing a living and developing tradition adapting to a changing society. By “tradition,” I mean that they do not seem to approach Taijiquan independently of the perspective of the previous generations. By “living,” I mean that they do not seem to ignore the perspective of current practitioners. By “developing,” I mean that they do not seem to feel the “book” of Taijiquan has been definitely and completely written, but rather can still be refined. By “adapting to a changing society,” I mean that they do not seem to approach Taijiquan independently of the circumstances in which it is taught and practiced or independently of the purposes for which it is used. What Jerry has added to the site about the 49-Movement form is a good example of this last issue.

I hope this is helpful and invite anyone else to present additional or differing viewpoints.

Happy practice,
Audi
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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Jan 28, 2002 1:43 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Audi:
<B>
Yang Chengfu has a special place in the Yang family lineage for at least three reasons. As far as I am aware, he was the first to leave records of form details. Second, I think all current Yang family members actively teaching Taijiquan to the public are his descendants and so view the art of their early predecessors through his prism. Third, Yang Chengfu was responsible for greatly popularizing Taijiquan and raising it to the level of a national health-oriented art in China.

</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Xie Bing Can once told me: "Without Yang Chengfu there would be no Tai Chi today."
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Postby DavidJ » Mon Jan 28, 2002 9:45 pm

Hello Elder,

The "Old Yang Style" form is taught today by a handful of teachers. One may be found at http://www.imperialtaichi.com/

At
http://www.taichiworld.net/Articles/newarticles.html there are articles by Erle Montaigue about Yang Lu Chan and the Old Yang form.

Another source is http://www.tai-chi-chuan.demon.co.uk/ which also contains some articles about Old Yang Style.

I am told that there was a "Central Academy" in China, in the 1920's and afterward, which hired Tai Chi masters to teach teachers, Yang Chen Fu among them, and which sought to bring Tai Chi to the whole of China.

If I understand correctly, as Yang Chen Fu traveled aound China after that, his understanding of the priciples grew and his form changed, but also what he taught and how he taught changed.
He was very concerned about people trying to learn too quickly, and with the teaching being diluted. I have read that he recommended that a student master the slow, even pace before learning fa jin. I believe that this is why he only taught it to his advanced students.

There are teachers today like Tung Kai Ying (whose grandfather Tung Ying Chieh spent 17 years with Yang Chen Fu) who teach Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan and include both fa jin and fast forms.

Regards,

David J

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 01-28-2002).]

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 01-28-2002).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Jan 29, 2002 1:59 am

Take those links with quite a lot of salt! In one of them Erle Montaigue has an essay called "The demise of Tai Chi Chuan" in which he blames Yang Chengfu for the supposed 'demise' of Tai Chi. He also mocks Fu Zhongwen over a trivial point. It would appear that he has never had any 'hands on' experience with the Yangs or the Fu's...
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Jan 29, 2002 10:16 pm

Hi Jerry,

He certainly does have his own point of view, doesn't he?

That's OK. I was only referring to the accurate bits. :^)

DJ
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Postby ELDER » Sun Feb 10, 2002 4:28 pm

Thank you all for the responses.

I visited the sites mentioned and it shows that there is a controversy in Yang Style TC lineage regarding to Yang Jian Hou sons: Yang Chen Fu and his brother Yang Shao Hou !

But as David mentioned, Yang Chen Fu eventually included Fa jin to his advanced students. So the Yang TC form can be done with explosive Fa jing movements, in a more advanced level ?


[This message has been edited by ELDER (edited 02-10-2002).]

[This message has been edited by ELDER (edited 02-10-2002).]
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Postby Audi » Mon Feb 18, 2002 3:42 pm

Hi Elder,

Behind many discussions purporting to contrast Yang Chengfu's Taijiquan with Yang Shaohou's is the unfortunate assertion that Yang Chengfu's changes to the form somehow represent "watered down" Taijiquan. This assertion is usually coupled with an assertion about why the speaker's lineage of Taijiquan is therfore superior to Yang Chengfu's. This is merely one variation of the all too frequent "style wars" that take place.

By "style wars," I am referring to arguments that suggest one style is better than another because it is claimed to be closer to the "original," more evolved, more practical, easier to learn, more complete, more complex, more refined, more scientific, more traditional, more modern, more martial, more spiritual, subtler, clearer, or any combination of the above.

I would suggest that one person's "watering down" is another person's "refinement" and that "more" often does not mean "better." Although I agree with much that is said on the hyperlinked sites you refer to, there is also much that I would take issue to as it applies to the little I know of Yang Zhenduo's version of Yang Chengfu's form.

For instance, I find it hard to understand the basis for some of the comments about the lack of "pushes" in Yang Style Taijiquan given my elementary understanding of the Chinese terms for these and how they are freely used and combined in Yang Zhenduo's teaching and in the teaching of others. For instance, how does one explain the difference between "tui1 da3" ("pushing strike") and "an4" ("pressing/pushing (down)(energy)") and the difference in usage between the Standing Palm (li zhang) and the Square Palm (zheng zhang) explained on this site under the Palm Methods? If others' practice does not contain these distinctions, that is fine; but I do not think they should be denied to all styles. Does anyone have a different view?

As to your welcome and very legitimate question about fajin (or fajing), here is the little I know. From what I have read, those who practice Yang Chengfu's form do not attempt to alter it as their abilities progress by inserting more movements with fajin or emphasizing more "martial" details. Fajin and application practice is explored separately from practice of the form. My understanding is that the even pace of the form is actually an important aspect of it.

My own view is that fajin is not so much an "advanced" practice, but rather one that can easily obscure and overwhelm more fundamental practices. Doing Taijiquan at full speed versus at a slow pace is a similar issue. Just because one can do something does not mean one should do something, especially as a staple of daily practice.

If one intends serious exploration of the martial side of Taijiquan, it is important to learn fajin and full-speed movement. However, doing these things does not have to mean changing one's form practice. Some Taiji lineages handle this by practicing separate "fast forms." Others simply drill applications. Two-person practice is another area where there is much variation.

I hope this is helpful and to your point. In attempting to provide a fuller answer, I may be attibuting questions or views to you that you do not have. However, since no conversations on a board like this are really only two-way communications, I thought it better not to provide a narrow answer that might leave too much hanging in the air.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby ELDER » Sun Feb 24, 2002 11:42 pm

Audi,

Thank you for the response, good points !

Sometimes, in our classes, we train the form in a very fast beat which we call "Yang form", with the same movements, but executed faster and "marking" each one with more power and louder breathing. We had opportunity to feel some sort of fa-jing with this train, as far as I understand what is fa-jing.

Sometimes we practice the form in a very , very slow beat, it also lead us to fell some kind of fa-jing, because the movements happens by themselves, apparently without muscular work. Does it makes sense for you ?

Regards
Elder
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Postby Audi » Sun Mar 03, 2002 12:59 am

Greetings Elder,

I do not think I can comment directly on your teacher’s practices without knowing what he or she has in mind by them and how they fit into your overall curriculum. I think, however, that I may be familiar with what you refer to as “marking” the end of postures.

“Marking” is something I have never heard directly addressed by my teachers, but from what I have seen and what I have observed, I think there can be good aspects to it or bad aspects, depending on why and how it is done. One good reason to do it, I think, would be to feel the “jin” or “jing” (power) moving through the tendons, which is easer to feel in the last few inches of a posture sequence, when extension is at its maximum. Your description of your slow practice sounds like this. Another good reason for “marking” would be to reinforce what the end point of a posture feels like, in order subtly to test one’s structure and integration of joint movement. Both of these could also be described as “settling in” to the fixed point (ding shi) of each posture sequence that gives meaning to the transitions. The fact that you associate power with either of these types of feelings sounds like you are far ahead of people who can’t figure out what soft slow movements in Taijiquan could have in common with the power generated in other martial arts.

A third reason I can think of “marking” is to clearly separate posture sequences for teaching or learning purposes. I noticed Yang Jun doing something that looked like this at a saber seminar, when he was trying to stress the importance of shifting some weight forward in the Empty Stances (xu shi bu). Seeing this was the first time I was clearly able to see how the weight shift gave power to the hands and separated insubstantial (xu) from substantial (shi) more than by keeping 100% of my weight in my back leg. As a result of this, I completely changed the feeling I mentally reach for in Step up to Seven Stars (and in the other empty hand postures). For a while, I also “marked” the end of these postures to feel how the weight shift shaped the movement of power (jin) through my body.

Bad reasons to “mark” the end of postures might include using local joint movement to give more power to the “business” end of a move, similar to how power is generated in hard styles. Another bad reason would be to give a little “umph” of speed to a movement so that one can generate more force (“li”). A third reason would be to end a posture with local joint movement to show how power is whipping through the body. While I believe momentum and “whipping” power is a legitimate and necessary part of some Taijiquan movements (e.g., Flying Diagonal, Turn the Body and Chop with Fist (Zhuan Shen Pie Shen Chui), and the plucking (cai) version of Cloud Hands), I do not believe the body should ever limply whip, but should do so more the way a springy branch or bow whips out, than the way a wet towel whips.

I am curious about your reference to “Yang Form,” by this do you mean that your slow-paced long form is not a Yang Style Form?

As for doing faster versions of slow forms, I cannot say much with any confidence, because I have little experience doing this. I will go ahead and comment because something may be better than nothing and because I recall much frustration as I have studied Taiji that people have often failed to discuss matters in a straightforward way other than with enigmatic quotes or paraphrases from the classics. Why else participate on a board like this?

I would think that doing form faster than normal would be beneficial now and again, as a way of challenging and deepening understanding. However, I think this only happens if one has good control and understanding of the form at a slow speed. Unfortunately, I think such control and understanding describes only a minority of Taiji practitioners, including some who have practiced for years (I would include myself in this category). I think it would also be important to practice under the supervision of someone with good personal knowledge of and confidence in the feel of the form, as opposed to good knowledge of someone else’s instruction.

I can also see several potential drawbacks of doing fast versions of slow forms. All the postures have several subsections whose expression can be blurred at a sustained fast pace. I think this is fine in hard styles, where there is little real interaction with the opponent’s use and quality of energy, but I think this is bad for Taiji, where the quality of movement of each subsection of a posture sequence is theoretically contingent on the quality of response of the opponent.

For instance, according to my understanding, the length of Roll Back will be determined by the strength and length of my opponent’s push and/or the strength and length of his/her resistance to my pressure on his/her arm. Rather than always shifting my weight as far as possible to the rear, I will be on the lookout for an opportunity to put my opponent in a difficult situation, or “seize” (na) his/her energy. If I am successful, I will immediately use short explosive energy to try to break the arm or perhaps use longer energy to push my opponent out or force him or her to the ground. If my opponent successfully changes or dissolves (hua) my power (jin) by sinking his/her elbow and turning to face me, I will immediately change the power relationship to Press/Squeeze, regardless of how far my weight has shifted to the back. Again, trying to practice this at high speed brings unnecessary emphasis to gross positions that, in my view, is more applicable to hard styles.

One caution I would give to someone exploring fajin in the form is that many postures have “nicer” versions and “nastier” versions. I find some of the greatest depths in Taijiquan in the “nicer” versions, or in the fact that there is a choice. Another aspect of this is that many posture sequences can be viewed as progressive responses to threat escalations, where one’s response will depend on how committed your opponent is to aggression and what the level of aggression is. I believe Louis once mentioned Needle at Sea Bottom and Fan through the Back in this context.

The sequence I like to analyze for progressive responses is the Beginning Posture (Qi Shi) paired with Ward Off Left. In Karate, my response to having someone grab my wrists from in front could include attempts to twist my wrists free or to directly injure my opponent (e.g., with a stamping kick to the instep). Either way, I believe the opponent would perceive the way the techniques are performed as an escalation, and I would run the risk of turning an unpleasant encounter into a nasty one and would have revealed more of my physical abilities than I would have liked.

In Yang Cheng Fu’s form, I believe the beginning sequence of moves can be used in a way that the opponent will perceive that I am only giving back the level of aggression I have received and thus will discourage escalation. If the opponent persists, he or she will be responsible for the escalation and perceive this. Early on in the sequence, I am merely trying to make my opponent release my wrists, while temporarily preventing further attack. I then try to force the opponent to back up and give me space, again while exerting enough control over the situation to prevent a sudden escalation. I then try to spin the opponent off balance. I conclude by threatening to hyperextend joints and/or send the opponent flying onto his or her back if my wrists are not released. Of course, the opponent can respond to all my techniques, but then true combat (or at least, a true shoving match) is joined, and I can rely on the rest of the repertoire of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail.

Another thing I can say about “marking” is that I think it is really distinct from “fajin.” “Fajin” involves “emitting,” “issuing,” or “launching” (all possible translations of “fa”) power (“jin”) onto, into, or through the opponent. To my mind, “marking” involves increasing the perception of how “jin” passes through one’s own body, which is slightly different, but of course also important. Again, “marking” is something one can also do with non-Taiji local strength.

Hopefully someone with more experience, courage, and/or knowledge will chime in on this thread, but here are some personal thoughts about how I think Taijiquan and an art like Karate expresses power. Taijiquan fajin is explosive, uses joint power in an integrated way, needs no time to build up, generally must follow a “seizing” (“na”) technique, stays smooth and springy, is not constrained by any particular set of gross movements, relies for its effectiveness on cooperation between spirit, mind focus, and bodily integration, involves simultaneous action of joints from the point of contact with the opponent all the way to the floor, focuses mostly on how the movement is initiated, may end a little vaguely, and is like a bow springing open to launch an arrow or a paper bag that is suddenly inflated. Karate power accelerates, uses joint power in an additive way, needs time to build up, is expressed through particular techniques, relies for its effectiveness on the precision of the techniques, changes from relaxed to rigid, focuses on the end of the movement, may begin somewhat vaguely, and is like an arm swinging a mallet to break a rock or javelin piercing into the ground.

Do you do any weapons forms? I have found that the greater speed, the weight of the weapon, and the challenge of moving power to the tip or edge of the weapon have given me a much better feel for “fajin” than I otherwise would have had.

Let me end this post by saying that I would be wary of those who, despite their words, view Yang Style Taijiquan essentially as a slower, smoother, more graceful, and softer form of Karate, Tae Kwon Do, etc. I believe this to be very mistaken. It is like saying that ping pong is essentially the same as playing tennis on a table with a shorter racket. In my opinion, people who have this view of Yang Style do not understand what the “Taiji” principle means and cannot figure out where the power comes from. To supplement their views, they often give extreme emphasis to sensitivity, knowledge of pressure points, relaxed speed, or esoteric qi manipulation. All of these may have value for health or self-defense, but I do not think they describe Yang Cheng Fu’s art and make principles like “fajin” into something else.

I hope this is helpful. Any comments are welcome.

Happy and fruitful practice,
Audi
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Postby ELDER » Sun Mar 03, 2002 4:14 am

Hi Audi,

I practice TC Yang Style and had never an opportunity to see an exibition of the "Old Yang Style". I had only read that it contains some explosive movements. I even don't know if it is faster or slower than the "Traditional TC Yang Form", but I understood that it is an Internal MA like any other TC style and not an external MA as Karate or Taekendo.

I had a chance to view demonstrations of the Chen Style TC Form and also a "TaiChi competition" form, and both exibitions showed some explosive movements that deeply affected me, because I felt the internal "power" hidden in the explosive movements.

The so called "Yang form", by our class mates, is a faster form execution with the exactly same movements of the normal slow TC form (it's around 3 to 4 times faster). It is only executed by students which have perfect knowlegde of the slow form, because you do not have time to think, can't miss any small piece of each movement and must have a perfect balance (yin /yang feet) in order to generate "jin" and "mark" each movement together with breathing.
I really like to do it !
You are right, the word "mark" must be taken with caution, because in TC you never "end" a movement like in Karate with a KIA. In TC you use the "never ending energy" with one movement begining together with ending the predecessor.
The term "mark" is to express and bring power to each movement, demonstrating that someone is being hit at that point, but without descontinuing the form execution.

The very slow form, on the other hand, is a kind of exercise (we don't have a "name" for it) to feel and enhance the "chi" driving our body (it is 2 or 3 times slower than normal form execution). It is amazing, feeling the movements happening by itself, without your conscious control.

Even when I am doing the normal TC form I keep some sensations of both fast and slow exercises, acting as an stimulus to go deeply in a TC trance.

Regards
Elder
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Mar 05, 2002 2:22 am

Hello Audi and Elder,

I would like to make a few distinctions here. One is distinguishing between moving quickly and issuing power: fast Tai Chi Chuan can be done both with and without fajin. For example, this apples to Tung Ying Chieh's fast set, or simply doing the slow set quickly. Also, and apparently I am in a minority with this opinion, issuing may be done at any speed, even slowly. Most, I am told, consider fajin only to be explosive; I just consider it to be strong.

Another distinction has to do with speed. One man's slow set is another's fast set. I take, on average, between 35 to 45 minutes to do the long form. Doing the form in 20 minutes is fast for me, while this is average speed for someone else. I like 20 minute sets, 10 minute sets, 5 minute sets, and shorter.
I also enjoy 64 minute sets and 90 minute sets and longer.

There are two important things for me, in doing different speeds. One is retaining the integrity of the form. Don't move so slowly that you lose the flow, and don't move so quickly that you lose the structure.

But don't forget that where you lose the flow and the structure are the very places where you can improve your form.

The other important thing is, the slower you can go, the faster you can go. I agree with Audi that doing it fast must be accompanied by an understanding of doing it slowly.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Michael » Wed Mar 13, 2002 11:34 pm

I have been gone a long time.

I agree with David. I personally like sets that last between thirty and forty minutes or longer. My body reacts really well to that speed, at times the twenty minute set is appropriate...it all depends.....

In regards to fast sets....I tend to do portions (2 or 3 movements, rarely four) fast and repeat them over and over. My goal is to be able to move quickly with ALL the principles present. That is a distinct challenge.

On occasion I will do larger portions or the whole set but am often disapointed with the results. This has little to do with leaving details out or blurring certain aspects but rather in finding my butt sticking out or tension somewhere it shouldn't be. But with the shorter pieces I can begin slow and gradually speed it up until there is nothing (hopefully) lacking at what one may call "combat" speed. It is up to the individual if the inclusion of fa jing is present, but if all the principles are present, often fa jing is there if you are training it or not. My personal reason for training this way as I stated earlier is to be certain that there is nothing lacking at any speed.

I see nothing wrong with doing complete sets at a fast pace but I think breaking it up into appropriate pieces one can gain some real benefits.

Also concerning fa jing. I asked Yang Jun a question about training extension and energy. He told me to train it sparingly (not his word), He implied to train with caution.
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Postby ELDER » Thu Mar 14, 2002 2:42 pm

Michael,
The advice you received from Yang Jun is very real, I had an accident this week while training the application form with sparing. I missed attention for just a second while pushing and my partner was thrown far away with an involuntary fajing .
My advice is never miss attention while training with sparing, even if you are not using Fajing because it could happen involuntary.
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Postby Audi » Mon Mar 25, 2002 5:23 am

Hi all,

David, you make a good clarification about what "fast" can mean. If we are talking here about doing a "slow" set at the speed of Chen Style or the Yang Saber Form, I have to withdraw my comments about feasibility, although I still have reservations about advisibilty. I would also wonder whether an even tempo would still make sense. David, are the Tung sets performed with an even tempo? Are they normally performed with intermittent fajin movements, as in Chen Style?

Also, can you elaborate on "slow" fajin? How slow is slow? Is it something you feel can be spread out over all of a movement or done only at the "end"? How is it distinguished between performance of the movements without fajin?

I am not sure where I stand on this issue, but would say that I feel that doing movements explosively seems to require certain elements that seem only optional in other modes.

I find that when I play around with explosive punches (again, this is not something I do often or claim much expertise in), I have to concentrate my "spirit" in ways that otherwise seem "optional." Without this component, it seems difficult to mobilize the entire body at the same time.

Also, I confess to neglecting certain feelings in my dan tian area during regular practice that I feel must be present during explosive movement. Put another way, a jiggly gut (I am blessed with more than my fair share) is no problem during regular form, but is quite painful during explosive movement. Settling the qi in the dan tian no longer feels like a philosophical abstraction.

Michael, your approach is what I am most comfortable with and what I have been taught. I am a little surprised, however, that you mention a 45-minute pace as being most comfortable for you.

Elder, your example of the risks of fajin is a good one. I would also add, however, that there is danger to oneself. In an article in Tai Chi Magazine, Feng Zhiqian (spelling?) mentioned the possibility of injury from excessive foot stamping in Chen Style.

Similarly, the one injury I carry from youthful experimentation with Karate, including the usual light sparring, is an inability to straighten an elbow because of hyperextension in punching drills. If one adds the Taiji complication of messing around with internal organs and energy flow, the risk to health becomes even more serious.

Take care,
Audi
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