transcript on Taijiquan

transcript on Taijiquan

Postby mls_72 » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:40 pm

transcription i did 20 years ago on a Tai Chi video from a guy Wilson Pitts who taught at VCU in Richmond Va., i typed it out yesterday when i came across it.

Taijiquan with Wilson Pitts

Taijiquan is the most popular healing art in the world. To achieve health and well being was part of the tradition of the Taoist sages of China. Taiji translates into “Grand Ultimate.” The ancients had called the North star ‘Taiji”, it is the ridgepole of which the constellations and stars rotate. This ancient Taoist term was given to this Grand Ultimate Martial Art.

From its inception, Taiji was designated to be in accord with principles in nature. Chinese say that the earth turns at a constant rate, moon, sun, and stars travel across the sky at a constant rate, day changes to night at a constant rate, the seasons flow uninterrupted, so we must learn to do the same with our practice. The best way to observe the self moving at a constant rate is watching our shadow. Taiji is also referred to as ‘Shadow boxing.’

The art of Taiji posture training teaches how to express the coiling, spiraling, binary, and pulsing energy of life with the body. Later it becomes refined and strengthened. The highest aspect of every area of Chinese thought were melded in Taiji, the highest spiritual teachings, philosophy, medicine, physics, art, and physical culture.

To truly investigate the art, we must understand the intentions of its founders. The root of the art leads to its founders and the information they worked with. Taiji as an ancient centering exercise based on principles of harmony. To harmonize with gravity, one must stand and move erect with knees bent. Taiji is practiced in slow motion, so harmony can be sought throughout the practice. Taiji is a progression of movement, where anyone in any condition can begin to practice. The slow graceful movements strengthen the legs and abdomen while relaxing shoulders and neck. Daily practice balances the body and slowly changes the way it moves. What designated Taiji from other forms of physical education is that there is full knowledge of Chinese medicine and qigong (breathing exercises). These arts were developed side-by-side sharing the same goal of balancing the energies of the body. Taiji postures and flowing movement is taught in the beginning as a foundation so the beginner can have deeper insights. The “qi” or internal is nourished and circulated inside rather than expended.

By centering in the present, one learns to experience life as it happens. This position of harmony gives you the pliability of water, the ability of adaption to constant changes in the environment as they are happening to you. This could be change in weather, thinking, or in martial combat. Taiji has many benefits including increased circulation, balance and stability, less stress, relaxing increases, legs stronger, and deepens breathing.

The I-Ching, or “Book of Changes”, the oldest Confucian classic’s basic premise is: “The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself.” The inability to change creates stress, so in order to change for health, you must be in tune with who you are, and not who you think you should be. Healthy people move toward what they need to stay healthy. Your health is dependant upon the degree of harmony between the way you choose to live in the world and the way the world directs you. The language of the body is not Chinese, English, or any other verbalization. Taiji teaches to communicate with the body through feeling. Once you enter this new body awareness you can realize many paths.
Our teaching method serves as a guide. The true lessons are in the process. Take them for what they are, and in the final analysis, you will be your own guide. Usage, whether healing, fighting, spirituality, competition, etc. will decide the meaning of the practice.

Traditionally Taiji was training along with Qigong and standing meditation in the Taoist monasteries of Mt. Wu Dang and Mt. Huashan. Taiji as a slow motion exercise and meditation system came from these monasteries. This body awareness system is sophisticated and practical. Taiji is recognized as the most important of the other arts developed alongside Taiji. Xingyiquan and Baguazhang are other arts recognized as Taoist yoga. The arts complement each other, Taoist yoga is not a religion, but a system of holistic health care developed alongside Chinese medicine.

Meditation is a mental discipline that allows the mind to concentrate on one thing at a time. The definition here in this case is “Mind fascination” where the mind is fascinated totally like a child in play, the mental focus contemplates, not on dogmas or gurus, but the “qi”, the internal energy in the “here and now” experience. This qi energy circulates in passage ways called meridians, circulates in the internal organs, creating harmony with the nervous and circulatory systems, which are also manipulated in acupuncture. Through breathing, visualization, and will, this energy can be balanced and strengthened. The body has an innate intelligence, but it doesn’t have an owner’s manual. It is learned through correct techniques. The body can maintain perfect health and create a body that can combat stressful situations of daily life.

These Taoist arts are unique as they developed in an environment where knowledge from one generation was handed down to the next generation to be investigated further uninterrupted for thousands of years. The West is just beginning to find out this information to reduce stress and disease and maximize the body’s full potential.
Taiji is not an esoteric method not everyone can do. The techniques are straight forward and effective. With discipline, you will want to practice and learn more. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching is a base of Taiji philosophy- “Softness conquers hardness, gentleness over comes ridgity.” The series of movements in Taiji challenge your mental and physical capabilities, rather than muscular strength. It is like the early stages of learning to play an instrument. At first it is awkward and the student feels discouraged, then learning becomes easier, and then you learn to enjoy and become proficient, lastly one can find great expression though the art. In Taiji, the body is the instrument.

The generations of families devoted to the study of Taiji have given us classical forms to study the underlying principles in a holistic way. These classical forms are living and dynamic, and can be worked away from uniformity and imitation. The student is given knowledge of the unchanging principles, encouraged to practice in a way that promotes change. In learning, a student can practice slowly and increase the speed each time to create changing emphasis. As the body changes with practice, form will change. Eventually the student will make the postures their own. Some teachers will not take the student away from robotic imitation. This attitude is harmful for not recognizing individual physical differences and neglects the student’s reason for practice. Chinese say that the practice is a daily decrease rather than a daily increase. Taoist yoga of Taiji is always relaxing and releasing patterns of tension, thereby increasing Qi circulation. The meditation of chi is only accomplished in the present state; the incredible body of awareness is developed through posture training, the vocabulary for this is in the form of movements. It is internalized through practice, and is later able to be expressed by the student. The martial aspect allows one to examine the vocabulary of form. Slow exacting postures keep energy inside; this is valuable self knowledge for someone battling the stress of daily life as well as a martial artist in combat.

There is a saying that the father teaches the son 80%, from son to son 80%, finally after generations of this they are teaching 80% of nothing. This is like the empty robotic forms many people practice. Study underlying principles, and have the motions reflect this underlying principles takes a lot of time so that the motions do not become robotic. We must start at Taiji kindergarten and build a solid foundation to which we can pursue the higher levels of the art. When the basics are correct outside and the mind can remain relaxed and still, then the higher levels can be pursued. Without proper foundations, the spiritual aspects will be mere words. The eventual goal of form training is formlessness. When the body flows, the mind also flows, not stopping, not judging, but abides in the constant change of Tao, creating postures as they come. No two times of practice are ever the same. To reach this level is to practice Taiji in the present moment with clear focus.
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:58 am

Hi Matt,

Much thanks for taking the time to type this. It is very well written and quite inspiring, even if I don't quite agree with some of the statements. The only part that did not really resonate at all with me was the last paragraph, which takes quite a different viewpoint from mine.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby mls_72 » Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:21 pm

Actually the author wrote that 25+ years ago and didnt want me sharing it. i should of asked first.

Audi, i can see your point of view, since this is a website in regards to a lineage and the 80% quote and loss of knowledge can be construed to say it could be any other the families that studied Taijiquan (Chen, Yang, Wu, Woo, Sun, Li, Hao, Wudang etc.)

I think he creates some balance to that statement by warning the beginner that one needs to be firm 100% in the basics and fundamentals when starting from 'Taiji kindergarten" and working with the unchanging principles of the art for higher growth and move away from robotic movement, and making it their own based on their physical attributes.

I do believe in the last paragraph statement that "No two times of practice are ever the same". Over time my own form has changed- starting with Cheng man Ching (middle frame) in 1990, later to Fu Zhong Wen's (more rounder Large frame) and in early 2000, at massage school the staff had learned from CC Liu (Taiwan) and did the Yang Zhen Dou version. Later I took some seminars with Pat Rice and Yang Jun in Winchester Va. which to me showed different geometry and structure.

Now my form seems to a healthy and comfortable blend of all of them other than the low stance stuff I might experiment with in the frigid cold.
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:00 am

Hi Matt,

Audi, i can see your point of view, since this is a website in regards to a lineage and the 80% quote and loss of knowledge can be construed to say it could be any other the families that studied Taijiquan (Chen, Yang, Wu, Woo, Sun, Li, Hao, Wudang etc.)

You are perceptive in divining some of my reservations, but maybe not all. I do not believe that someone has to study Taijiquan from someone with one of the family names listed above; however, I also do not believe there would be a Taijiquan without them and their contributions, public and private. I also believe that for most people, it is not a good idea to try to create or study a type of Taijiquan that is somehow independent of the old families. At best this risks wasting a lot of time looking for things that have already been found or at worst risks "giving up the near for the far."

I think he creates some balance to that statement by warning the beginner that one needs to be firm 100% in the basics and fundamentals when starting from 'Taiji kindergarten" and working with the unchanging principles of the art for higher growth and move away from robotic movement, and making it their own based on their physical attributes.

I am certainly not in favor of "robotic" movement, but this is not one of the things I would think to warn new students against. I also do not think of the basics and fundamentals as "kindergarten," but rather more like high school and college. Someone who can do the basics and fundamentals well and consistently is not a beginner, but usually has a very high level of skill. I consider the Ten Essentials to be basic and fundamental, but they are also very deep and advanced material.

As for difference in physical attributes, I agree that this will force differences in how practitioners do the form and push hands, but I do not think this is a major issue and not terribly different from other activities. I have not found it to be a notable problem either as a student or as a teacher.

Now my form seems to a healthy and comfortable blend of all of them other than the low stance stuff I might experiment with in the frigid cold.

I think that how a person's individual form develops is subject to many different influences, and one size does not fit all. If you have found a comfortable and customized fit, I think that is wonderful. On the other hand, I could also give quite a fierce defense of the value in not trying to customize the form, which is the path I am currently on.

I do believe in the last paragraph statement that "No two times of practice are ever the same".

I also believe in this. For me, the form feels like something I must create from moment to moment. It does not feel like something I can merely repeat.

The eventual goal of form training is formlessness.

I also agree with this statement, but I think stating it too early and too forcefully tends to mislead. For us, I would say that the goal is not to cast aside the external and only work with formless things, but rather to understand and use the unity between external form and internal formlessness. The energy is formless, but it cannot originate from formlessness. "External and internal must be joined." One cannot be separated from the other. We work from hard to soft, but then also from soft to hard in order to combine the two. I would say that we should use the form to find formlessness and not attempt to divorce the two. You attain freedom when you can understand and use the unity of the two. That is what I understand Taiji to mean.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Wed Apr 06, 2011 2:04 am

Now my form seems to a healthy and comfortable blend of all of them other than the low stance stuff I might experiment with in the frigid cold.


I am curious about how you see the blend. Do you pick and choose between posture variations or form principles, or do you simply take one as a base and incorporate ideas you like from the others? Would you mind elaborating?
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby mls_72 » Wed Apr 06, 2011 1:49 pm

Audi wrote:
Now my form seems to a healthy and comfortable blend of all of them other than the low stance stuff I might experiment with in the frigid cold.


I am curious about how you see the blend. Do you pick and choose between posture variations or form principles, or do you simply take one as a base and incorporate ideas you like from the others? Would you mind elaborating?


Principles most definitely.

when performing the form: I'm listen internally.
asking myself:
does the body feel comfortable or stiff? (do the postures feel forced or natural?) where?

does the connection to the ground feel stable or wobbly? (will it take a lot of force to push me over or can a master push me with one finger?) how do i adjust this?

are to much muscles involved or is there a harmonization with gravity going through bone and structure?

do the postures feel forced or natural? (how does the qi circulation feel)

what is my breathing doing? (is it functioning natural with movement or am i forcing inhale/exhale with movement)

am I adhering to the basic principles? head/spine erect, no breaks in continuity, separating waist, etc.?

most importantly...what is my level of internal chattering? (yi- am i silent and "in the moment" or is to much on my mind)

Form: From the three variations that I went through in my historical timeline of study-> CMC style to -> FZW -> YZD -> YJ= I flow the postures based on my own physical attributes, I don't try to copy anyone else's Classical form, I just cruise through the "long form" in a way that is comfortable for me.
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby UniTaichi » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:44 am

[quote="mls_72"]transcription i did 20 years ago on a Tai Chi video from a guy Wilson Pitts who taught at VCU in Richmond Va., i typed it out yesterday when i came across it.

Taijiquan with Wilson Pitts
SNIP//
Traditionally Taiji was training along with Qigong and standing meditation in the Taoist monasteries of Mt. Wu Dang and Mt. Huashan. Taiji as a slow motion exercise and meditation system came from these monasteries. This body awareness system is sophisticated and practical. Taiji is recognized as the most important of the other arts developed alongside Taiji. Xingyiquan and Baguazhang are other arts recognized as Taoist yoga. //
SNIP//

The above by Wilson reinforced my belief and experience that qigong and meditation play a very essential role in achieving high level Taichi. If I am to give my opinion on what is the 20% missing in present day Taichi, it were be the qigong and meditation training.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:29 am

Hi UniTaichi,

I think there are many that share the beliefs you quoted, but there are also many who attribute Tai Chi more to the various historic family lineages than to monasteries.

If I am to give my opinion on what is the 20% missing in present day Taichi, it were be the qigong and meditation training.

I think there are many that also believe this, even within our Association; however, I think I have a different feeling. To me it seems more that there are not many people that put forth the necessary effort, and those that do do not always put it into the correct training. The masters I respect the most have reportedly put in tremendous amounts of practice time over several decades using proven systems of training. For me, the formula for excellence is: time + effort + correct method(s).

I think that Yin training can be useful for everybody and is important for some people at certain levels; however, most people probably need to focus simply on understanding and mastering the so-called basics. For most Yang stylists, there is a truly enormous amount of wisdom in Yang Chengfu's Ten Essentials; and yet many people cannot recite them, let alone explain or demonstrate them clearly. I think most people "give up the near for the far" without realizing what treasure they might have close by if they dug hard enough or had the right guidance.

If you disagree with my views, would you mind elaborating on what you personally may have gained through qigong and meditation that has been important to your Tai Chi? That might help me understand why you choose to stress them over other aspects.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: transcript on Taijiquan

Postby UniTaichi » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:59 am

Audi wrote:Hi UniTaichi,

I think there are many that share the beliefs you quoted, but there are also many who attribute Tai Chi more to the various historic family lineages than to monasteries.

If I am to give my opinion on what is the 20% missing in present day Taichi, it were be the qigong and meditation training.


For me, the formula for excellence is: time + effort + correct method(s).

If you disagree with my views, would you mind elaborating on what you personally may have gained through qigong and meditation that has been important to your Tai Chi? That might help me understand why you choose to stress them over other aspects.

Take care,
Audi


Hi Audi,

I am not stressing qigong and meditation over the other aspects. The formula that I have in mind is :
time + effort + correct methods + right teacher + qigong/meditation = 100% Taichi.

Which is what I put as the '' 20% missing in todays' taichi '' . Taichi is part of the Tao system and my own personal gain through qigong is really amazing. Let just said that I was able to learn intuitively and almost instantaneously, eg. ''6 harmonies '' , ''bow/arrow'' and ''dantian'' fajin, relaxing or ''song'' of the ''nine bend pearls'' and palm/hands(30 joints total including the palm ''laogong ''), heart-to-heart transmission on close proximity with a high level master, etc.

All these intuitive learning and manifestation, I attriibute it to my qigong/meditation training over the past 11 yrs. I started off with Kunlun Taoist Health qigong, then Shaolin Medical qigong and the last 4 years, Emei Spiritual & Enlightenment qigong (plus various type of energy works, both Eastern and Western). It seems all these prepares me for my journey into Taichi 9 months ago.

I emphasize the inclusion of a more in-depth practice of its'(qigong) aspect. Not ''stressing over others'' . I have read other forums on Internal Martial arts sure as Xingyi and Bagua and even throught their maxim is to train Jing, Qi, Shen , it is often overlooked as well due to various reasons like ''too obscure'' ''esoteric''. I have also got the same amazing result when I learn Bagua as well. Therefore my intention is to share what I have experienced and hopefully can bring your taichi to a higher level. In other words, there are many way to climb the mountain. Mine is one of many.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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