A question from a beginner

Postby Eulalio Silva » Thu Nov 14, 2002 5:31 pm

Hello Michael,

I thank you for your insight that is also "enlightening" most specially that you have brought up your ideas regarding what is and what is being with the "DAO" or TAO.

While not refuting about your to-the-point about the DAO in general, I think you have taken my correspondences with WUSHUER as what is the DAO. I would best recommend for you to read the flow of our discussions.

First and foremost, you are right. But the flow of our conversation is about "steering" away too much emphasis (or at least thats how I understood it) on forms and techniques and sequences of TCC and better complement it with the more YIN practices of meditations such as standing still or sitting still. This would make our TAI CHI "more perfect" since not only we have the "movements", we also have the "stillness" to complete the cirlce. A microcosm that reflects the Macrocosm of the DAO.

What you are bringing up is the "LARGER" definition of the DAO. True to the core, Chi Kung and Nei Kung are only many and small components that would make you be "more" integrated with the TAO in respect to the TAI CHI CHUAN. CHUAN as in the application aspect of the DAO. The boxing science aspect of the DAO.

Philosophically, there is nothing more true than what you have just brought up. In so, the Confucian aspect of "responsibility" and the Buddhist part of enlightment and humility are realized. Yes, we have responsibilities and we need to submit to the DAO.

However, if you don't mind being on a small discourse within the DAO. I would like to bring up from what you have written:

(...As I said, one can stand or sit forever and not gain anything of the "Dao". Condensing Chi into the bones or storing chi in the dantien has nothing to do with the Dao. Standing or sitting allows one to quiet the mind so that hopefully one can see a bit of the truth about who we have allowed ouselves to become. It will allow us to remain calm in (what could be) an arguement where you see that "nonvirtuous" behavior comes from ego, desire, fear, and self pity (all the same anyway). There is where the "true" learning comes. And if you are consistent, you learn more, If you slack off, you fall back into the old bad habits (like me). This is like taiji practice.

Teachers are there to give us a firm foundation. After that it is really up to us to improve and it is up to them to give us corrections, or in the realm of the teacher of the Dao, to "test" us....are we really "selfless" or do we just "talk a good game". )

First of all, the standing or sitting meditation, as you have claimed that we :
("...not gain anything of the "Dao"). I disagree with you because the meditation practices that deals with the sitting and standing is not the act of "sitting or standing" in itself but the mind aspect of being on a state of "YIN"...relaxed mode inorder to integrate ourselves with the flow of the TAO. We transcend ourselves from the ever worrying, perpetually in flux state of mind, into a more "Automatic pilot" mode so that we can be "in the zone", so to speak. Practicing this would help us "relax, relax and relax" (as you stress) so that we can be more centered within ourselves and not overextend or overdo things (too YANG). However, it is ironic since we used the term YIN meditation as a relative state from the too much YANG state of mind that is expansive. The goal is to integrate and the only way is to calm our aggressive mind to the level with the TAO.

In can be achieved physically, mentally, emotionally and intellectually. We gain by investing in loss. Submitting to the DAO or TAO. Sidhartta Buddha gained enlightment through sitting meditations...but it is not the act of sitting again but his mind and soul transcending into a more purified soul. He learned to submit and "deny" himself so that he can see better...he emptied his cup, so to speak, so that he can pour more wisdom on it.

Jesus Christ, meditates (or prays if you will) to submit himself to his father through "sitting" or any postures...(cant get into the technicalities of these..hahaha)

And so, to conclude, anything "under the sun" is with the TAO to begin with and all the complexities and polarities are also with the TAO. The Yin and Yang manifested in different ways and often contradictory ways....that is also part of the TAO. That is the classic model of Yin and Yang interacting to synergize as one. But the fragmented components are also part of the bigger gestalt.

We all reflect the microcosms and macrocosms of the TAO but to be under the dojo (will) of the TAO is of a different matter. That is why I commend you for your utmost humility while contributing in this discussion. You are a very part of our discussion.

So, I hope this would clarify further what WUSHUER is saying that neither is this "BAD" or "GOOD" just different.

Yes! all the flavors of the TAO represented and acknowledged! And so, sit, stand and move but don't forget to flow with the TAO. This action of letting go or submitting is the WU WEI, doing things without action...meaning, don't try to hard and just let it flow.

Much like what you said, SIMPLIFY!

Happy standing and sitting as well!
Eulalio Silva
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Nov 14, 2002 6:36 pm

Uh... like wow, man, oneness with the Tay-oh. Gee Master Eulalio, next time you are in the Seattle area be sure to contact us so we can set up a time and place for you to do a demo of levitation. We have some ferocious traffic jams here and many people would like to learn that. You must be a very advanced master. Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun are only good at forms, push hands, fighting, etc, they never mention Tao or Taoism to us.
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Postby Michael » Thu Nov 14, 2002 10:16 pm

Jerry,

Far out man. It is amazing how things become more than they are.

I will only object to the word "submitting". Maybe some "god" may WANT submission but not the "Dao". It has no "will" to submit to. I guess I didn't make myself clear enough, but that's OK.
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Nov 15, 2002 8:48 pm

In my training, I also have never been told of the Tao, though I now know that many of the things I learned orally from my Masters are direct quotes from Tao Te Ching. I only know what I have read about it and what I learned from interaction with Taoists.
I, personally, study the Tao. I have not ever had it taught as part of Taijiquan in any of the schools I have attended.
It is, in my opinion, the origin of Taijiquan theory, so I have made a point of studying it on my own.
I'm no expert on it, not even close. I have my take on the Tao and I enjoy it as a personal aspect of Taijiquan training. I use what I know of Taoist principals and theory and integrate it into what I have learned of Taijiquan.
I have never taught the Tao as part of training to my students, either.
As I was taught, so I taught. I would never have dreamed of adding to what my Masters taught me or changing their cirriculum in any way.

I am enjoying the role of student right now. I have just begun my journey into Yang Cheng-fu style Taijiquan. I've only been at it for about a year. I am the rankest amateur, just starting to really learn the form and getting into the theory that is specific to it.
So far, it's been fascinating stuff. In some aspects very different from what I am used to.
I would like to make clear that anything I say here is based on my training in DIFFERNT family styles. There are quite a few differences in theory and application between all the differnt styles.
Please do not take what I say as anything official about Yang Cheng-fu Style. These are my opinions, strictly.
I do have some small store of knowledge about general Taijiquan principals, and I love to discuss this kind of stuff with other knowlegable people. That's one of the reasons I'm here!
My main reason is to learn about the theory behind Yang Cheng-fu Taijiquan and how that is applied throughout the form.
These esoteric discussions are great for a diversion. I find I spend, perhaps, just a bit too much time on them. I SHOULD be practicing my form!

Sung, sung, sung.
(Am I the only one who sometimes hears that in my head to the tune of the "Zoom, zoom, zoom" song?)
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Postby Michael » Sat Nov 16, 2002 7:15 am

Wushuer,

I enjoy your posts, keep 'em coming. No teacher in my taiji experience ever taught anything about the Dao either. I was a poor student of the Dao long before having the opportunity to study taijiquan.

I will go out on a limb here but I expect that Yang Ban Hou (nor YLC) did not use taijiquan as a vehicle for spiritual enlightenment. My guess is that only a handfull since his day, have ever achieved the depth of his skill and understanding.

I do have to mention one other thing that Eulalio mentioned just for clarity. The "responsibility" I mentioned is in no way "confucian" or "confusion". As I said before, the two schools often use the same words or phrases but they may not always mean the same thing. In this case they certainly do not.

"Talking the Dao" is as empty a practice as there is. I broke my rule (twice now)....I am now off to do some mirror gazing, looking for the Golden Rabbit, turn my shen into........If the moon were out I d go drink some moonight! The followers of "Laotse" the Buddha, and Jesus sure have complicated a very simple message. Kick me if I get involved in this kind of dialog again. Give me some good old chin na!
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Postby Audi » Sun Nov 17, 2002 2:37 pm

Hi all,

Eulalio, I apologize for apparently giving you offense. Such was not my intent. Taijiquan should be a source of joy and challenge, rather than a cause for giving or receiving annoyance. I have an obsession with language and work in a multi-lingual environment. Time and again, I have been amazed by the subtleties of language and the importance of context in understanding meaning. Unfortunately, exploring this territory in a clumsy way can exacerbate the problem.

This thread has soared way beyond our particular interchange, but I feel I must reply to your post to me. Although I believe I largely share the viewpoint of most of the posters on this board, I will mostly let them speak for themselves.

The Internet is one of those environments where it is hard to give and interpret context and so I tend to write too much and reach for commonalities that may not exist, including linguistic ones. If it may help to add context to my particular example, let me say that the Portuguese-Spanish example I gave was first told to me in a conversation involving at least four people, at least three of whom were native speakers of Portuguese. However, our personal origins, our native linguistic competence, and the origins of our surnames each covered three or four continents (though a different geographic combination for each), including Asia. The point of the story at the time was that the very same things that appeared to unite us in some ways could unexpectedly divide us in others. If you felt I was stereotyping you, I must confess that I am uncertain what the stereotype would have been.

I find that my linguistic interests overlap my Taiji interests in many ways. One such way is that linguists (as opposed to grammarians) often find it impossible to define the boundaries of individual languages. There are many languages in both Europe and Asia where the speakers of one “dialect” cannot make themselves understood with speakers of some of the other “dialects” of the same “language” (e.g., Mandarin and Cantonese). At the other extreme, there are speakers of what are termed different “languages” who have no problem conversing with each other (e.g., Swedish and Norwegian).

By saying that we do not use Taiji terms in the same way, I am analogizing to a situation where one person is using Mandarin and the other is using Cantonese. The Mandarin speaker cannot claim precedence by saying he or she speaks better “Chinese” and seek to correct the other’s Cantonese. Although the grammar and vocabulary of the two versions of Chinese share an enormous amount in common, ignoring their distinctiveness would create confusion. The principles of the two are best analyzed and studied differently, rather than bothering about deciding which is better. Routinely mixing the two in speech does not really combine the “benefits” of both, anymore than speaking a sentence half in English and half in German would inherently be more expressive or pleasing to the ear than sticking to one or the other language. Even loading up a German sentence with English words does not convert it into English, since the grammar involved will be different.

I used the example of Spanish and Portuguese in my earlier post because there are extremely good linguistic (as opposed to social or political) arguments that these are actually two dialects of what is really a single language. Certainly, they are far closer to each other than Mandarin and Cantonese are to each other. Nevertheless, the grammar and thought patterns of Spanish and Portuguese are simply not the same. I have suffered minor embarrassments recently by neglecting phonetic aspects of this reality.

I began my study of Taijiquan believing that everything I was taught or had read on the subject was simply a different aspect of a single well-defined discipline. I thought there was a group of Taiji adepts who shared a pool of mysterious knowledge that it was my task to penetrate and acquire. Many people writing on Taijiquan take what appears to be an ecumenical approach that seems to imply this. After much effort, I now believe that Taijiquan is a label that people apply to a variety of practices. Some of these practices are mere variations on a theme. Others I believe to be different themes, some better, some worse, and some just different. Not appreciating this possibility cost me several years of progress trying to pursue what I did not realize were different visions.

As I have worked with other Taiji friends, I frankly have seen echoes of my experience in their practice, where I have seen them struggle to reconcile what I believe to be apples and oranges. A “seated” wrist cannot be both extended straight out and flexed backward. One cannot “relax” by both trying to eliminate all muscular activity and by using the muscles to “open” the joints. I cannot both concentrate my attention on moving “qi” around my body, while simultaneously not focusing on “qi” at all. Even if I do these things sequentially, rather than simultaneously, two opposing processes cannot both become automatic aspects of my movement.

I realize that it is important for many Taiji practitioners that their concept of Taijiquan form a coherent whole with such concepts as mapping “qi” meridians, Qi Gong, bone marrow washing, Bagua circling, Kundalini, chakras, prana, and energy auras. Please realize that for some people, these concepts are ancillary or even opposed to their Taijiquan. Some people do not accept the validity of some of these concepts at all and turn away from Taijiquan when it is implied that all types of Taijiquan accept them. You are free to consider this narrow.

You said:

<<And so, to be a serious student of Tai Chi, you should be able to look into every stone unturned but best to practice it diligently without using all your efforts into arguments on what is Tai Chi and what is not Tai Chi. Tai Chi should be experienced and talking about it would too much without much self research is dangerous.>>

I apparently expressed myself badly. My whole point was not to define what is or what is not “Tai Chi,” but rather to distinguish your point of view from mine and to clearly express my belief that trying to integrate the two would be problematic, just as arguing about the real meaning of “embarazada” is problematic without being aware of one’s language environment. Surely, you do not think we share the same viewpoint about our respective practice methods.

I also said that “the best is the enemy of the good,” by which I meant to express that arguing over whose is the best or the most authentic Taijiquan often obscures whose Taijiquan is beneficial, useful, or even fun. I would also argue that leaving “every stone unturned” may involve neglecting what may have already been found under earlier stones. If you derive the wonderful benefits you describe from your practice, you should certainly share your treasure with others who can and want to benefit, regardless of its label. In doing this, however, please accept that there are those who practice in ways they may not want to give up and that may not fit well with what you do.

I personally try to take an expansive view of what is and what is not Taijiquan in the general sense. A good portion of my Taiji experience has been in settings where my teachers have mixed in principles from other martial arts.

With one teacher I spent the better part of a year studying a Baguazhang broadsword form in the context of a Yang Style Taiji class. He included drunken-style elements in the form and had us do it not only with broadswords, but also with straight swords, fans, and without weapons. I cannot say that I put enough practice time in the form to gain much proficiency with it, let alone with all the variations; however, I learned interesting ways to explore the concepts of Taijiquan, despite the fact that none of this was “traditional” Yang Style. One thing, however, I definitely had reinforced for me was that people teach different principles using what may sound on the surface like a common vocabulary.

You reproach me for taking a narrow view of Taiji practice. I cannot look at myself objectively and so cannot agree or disagree with your opinion. However, I do think it is important to distinguish two things: (1) the question of what is and what is not “Taijiquan” and (2) the question of what are compatible practice methods, objectives, and traditions.

I have nothing enlightening to say about the first question. Does Taijiquan include: pure meditation, yoga relaxation exercises, Five Element Breathing, circling exercises with Filipino fighting sticks, and push hands with fans? I have done all these activities in the confines of Taiji classes (though not with much skill), but cannot really say whether they should all properly be considered Taijiquan. What standard am I to use? Chen Wangting’s manuals? The writings kept by the Yang Family? The sayings attributed to Zhang Sanfeng? The practices described in Tai Chi Magazine? Whatever my teacher takes it into his or her head to teach? For me, it is a matter more of semantics than of substance. What I do find important to focus on is what I learn by engaging in these activities and where they seem to take me.

If, however, instead of talking about “Taijiquan,” we talk about Chen Style Taijiquan, I think it becomes easier to define what should be included and what should not, otherwise the very term “Chen Style” begins to lose meaning. For example, in my opinion, if one does not prominently display silk reeling energy in one’s movements, one is not doing Chen Style. Similarly, if one’s art is built around using pressure-point strikes or iron-hand techniques, one is not doing Chen Style. For me, it does not matter whether these techniques are effective, whether they can be traced to Zhang Sanfeng or the Wudang Temple, or whether they mirror Sun Tsu.

Similarly, if someone advocates an approach to “Taijiquan” that does not prominently feature something similar to Yang Chengfu’s Ten Essentials and some version of a slow form, I question how compatible it is with what I have generally described on this discussion board. The mere fact an approach uses concepts like “qi,” “yi,” “internal energy,” or “relaxation,” is not enough for me, since I, for one, do not even take these terms to be uniquely descriptive of the so-called internal arts, let alone uniquely emblematic of Taijiquan or Yang Chengfu’s particular approach. Hans-Peter responded to one of your posts with what seemed to me a similar reaction, although perhaps from a different perspective.

You seem at pains to de-emphasize the role of form in learning basic Taiji principles, going so far as to suggest limiting one’s practices to the postures of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail (presumably as is done in Yang Chengfu’s form). Instead, you emphasize using standing practice as a means of learning how to “turn ‘qi’ into ‘jin’/’jing’.”

I believe I have read at least one of the books you have referred to, more than once, and so do not believe that you are just creating a theory out of thin air. Nevertheless, I must admit that I do not see what is wrong about distinguishing this approach from a method that teaches basic principles through practicing the form and de-emphasizing conscious control of “qi.” “Sinking the ‘qi’ to the ‘dantian’” is about as much as I understand is required of “qi” in the Yangs’ basic method.

When I think about the concept of “jin,” I have in mind a concept that a beginner should be able to manipulate within a matter of seconds or minutes of one-on-one instruction (depending upon circumstances), not something that takes up to two years to learn. What I am talking about is not all that different from learning scales on the piano or the guitar. The principles and mechanics of it are not particularly mysterious. It is the control, consistency, and depth of understanding that require years of arduous practice to begin to master. When you talk about taking months or years to learn how to generate “jin,” I think it is important for me to make clear that I am not using the word “jin” in this way.

I also have no problem at all with the value of standing as a practice. What Michael and Gene have described in their posts sounds little different from what I have done from time to time and why I have done it. I understand them to be using standing as an adjunct to the rest of their practice, a way of deepening certain skills and insights, not as a prerequisite for understanding or making use of the form. My only issues with standing are what role it should play in overall practice and what one should expect it to accomplish.

If I only have 30 minutes a day to dedicate to active Taiji practice, should I reserve this for form, standing, or something else? Should I do form and standing on alternate days? Should I do 25 minutes of form and 5 minutes of standing? If I have an entire hour, should I spend half doing form and half doing standing, or should I try to squeeze in extra repetitions of the form? How do you weigh the value of the “Third Rep” (i.e., doing the “long” form three times in a row) against the value of doing 5 minutes of standing?

During at least one seminar, I recall the Yangs giving a passing reference to the value of standing in gaining practical martial ability. But suppose I have little interest in such practical ability? My inclinations coincide with the idea Gene expressed. Studying things like the saber form does not seem to me the most practical way to defend myself against a carjacking. I also know that standing can increase lower body strength and rooting ability; however, weightlifting can give lower body strength, and posture testing can also teach rooting. I am not knocking standing as a practice, but question that it has to be central to everyone’s practice, as opposed to helpful to all and central only to some approaches.

You said in your post:

<<I am CHI-literate if you will, and I speak the same language as you do but it is your single-mindedness that keeps you within the strict discipline of Yang Tai Chi and not understand others. While I am speaking to you within the realm of Yang Tai Chi, you eloquently speak of Tai Chi as if you know the whole thing.>>

Again, I do not believe I have either accused you of being illiterate in “qi” or of speaking a different language than me. My point is that you use “qi” and other terms in ways very different from me. For example, I do not recall referring to “bone marrow” washing prior to this exchange or to transforming “qi” into anything else. I frankly do not recall talking much about using “qi” at all.

I heartily disclaim any authority in interpreting “Yang Tai Chi,” let alone “the whole thing.” The Yangs certainly do not need me to speak for them or interpret what their art is. My posts simply attempt to lay out my personal reaction to the their teaching, spiced with some experiences from other teachers who have taught me from other perspectives.

You also said:

<<To be blunt with you, you can master the literary part of Tai Chi and doesn’t know how to fight using Tai Chi as an applied art. It is funny how “westerners” (if you want to play this stereotypes you have started) deem Tai Chi as their own creation based mainly from classes and seminars attented from their hobby and have the nerve to be authoritative in this life long discipline.>>

I am certainly not a very impressive martial artist, let alone an “authority.” I would be highly embarrassed if someone would see me as such. I hope I have been very clear that much of my speculation and theorizing is based on “classes and seminars” I have attended, rather than on any status as a “master” or even anyone’s “disciple.” If this means for you that my opinions and speculations are valueless and “not the real deal,” please feel free to ignore my posts and look elsewhere.

It sounds as if you interpret my claim to difference as a claim to superiority. I apparently was not clear about this, because I do not. What I do assert is that behind common words, we model our Taijiquan on different standards that have major differences.

You also said:

<<In Asia, the testing ground is not forum such as this. You pit your skill and knowledge on reality based platform instead of discussing it intelligently. While I can discuss this with you scholarly, it won’t matter since the ultimate test of your skill must be verified on real life situation. Can you tell me what is Wu Wei if you are faced with a Kris wielding adversary? Can you tell me how you are going to do your SINGLE WHIP with thug who has ill wishes to take your head off? Bluntly, I don’t so.>>

Again, I make no great claim to skill in Taijiquan and have no trouble believing that a “Kris wielding adversary” could slice me to ribbons. I have no objection if you feel skill in such areas is necessary to discuss Taijiquan, but I hope you will allow me to have a different view.

Also, if your reference to “Wu Wei” is merely a criticism of me, that is fine. If, however, you are still talking philosophy, I have to say that my understanding is that following “Wu Wei” can even require one to surrender to death as just one more expression of the “nature of things.” Surely all Daoist sages were not martial art masters or even sought to be. Surely, most martial arts masters are not Daoists or even seek to be. Again, I claim to be neither.

By insisting that Taijiquan is virtually synonymous with Daoism, as opposed to influenced by Daoism, you separate yourself from sections of the Taiji community without being willing to acknowledge the separation. I do not object to the separation, only the lack of acknowledgement of it. For example, it is fine for you not to value Chen Style particularly; however, if major leaders of Chen Style say that their art is not particular Daoist, I, for one, would tread lightly in correcting them about their own art.

As this thread has developed, you had an exchange with Jerry over the concept of “Seeking stillness in movement” (dong zhong qiu jing). I would like to comment on it, since this for me is emblematic of my differences with your approach. Again, I do not say that your view is objectively wrong or wrong for you; however, by insisting that yours is the only true interpretation even for Yang Zhengduo’s community, I think you do unwitting damage. You end up subtly distorting Jerry’s position. Since I think Jerry’s position and mine end up fairly close on this point, let me explain why I see such damage in your assertions. Jerry may well disagree with my particulars and how I express myself.

On another thread, I explained my understanding of the concept of “Taiji” as a philosophical principle. I went to great pains to explain that in my view it involves exploring the dynamic tension between “yin” and “yang.” I did so because of many within the greater Taiji community who approach all Taijiquan through the prism of “balancing” yin and yang. (I.e., “If you do a little of this, you need to do a little of that.”) In my view, this is an approach more characteristic of traditional Chinese medicine and Five Element theory. (I.e., make sure you balance salty with sweet, sour, bitter, etc.) In my view, Chinese culture has tended to try to integrate philosophies (Buddhism with Daoism, Communism with Capitalism, Five Element Theory and Yin-Yang Theory), rather that seeking to have one “disprove” another. Nevertheless, my understanding is that all these were originally seen as competing theories.

“Balance” can be a destructive concept for the idea of “Taiji” because it implies that 50-50 has some privileged position over 99-1. In Yin and Yang theory, Yin and Yang can be just as harmoniously positioned at 99-1 as at 50-50. On the other hand, Yin and Yang can be in catastrophic alignment at 50-50. Rather than “balance,” I think that the “Taiji” embedded in the art practiced by those like the Yangs revolves more around something like “appropriateness to the particular configuration of Yin and Yang presented at any given moment. ” I.e., if a situation call for a 99-1 response, make sure you are not 50-50. If it calls for a 70-30 response, make sure you are not 30-70. If it calls for a 51-49 response, try not to be 49-51.

Central to the ability to use this approach are two things: (1) having the ability to assess what the relative state of Yin and Yang is at any given moment and (2) being able to change oneself to adapt appropriately to that state. Nothing in this requires one to dwell within some area of 50-50 balance. In fact, to do so would mean catastrophically neglecting the ability to be 99-1 or 1-99.

Eulalio, when you insist that movement and stillness are separate things, when you insist that form is movement and that standing is stillness, and when you insist that Taijiquan only exists when someone balances form practice with standing practice, you leave no room for my art. If anyone applies these concepts to my art, they destroy it through confusion with something else.

“Seeking stillness within movement” in the art I practice absolutely requires doing both at the same time. It is not a sequential process. Doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that is not the same thing. Moreover, although I value standing as a practice wherein I can “seek movement within stillness,” this is not one of Yang Chengfu’s Ten Essentials. The “Taiji” he discusses is about movement. The “Wuji” he discusses is about stillness. “Taiji” comes about when movement begins to occur in “Wuji” and Yin and Yang become distinct. When movement stops and Yin and Yang become indistinct, we have Wuji. Yang Chengfu called his art “Taijiquan,” not “Wujiquan.” He made “Within movement, seek stillness” one of his main principles, not the reverse.

If balanced practice is a requirement of the traditional methods, I frankly fail to see this principle much in action. The modern forms created by the Chinese government are all balanced and symmetrical; however, I know of none of the traditional forms that are. As far as I am aware, the Yangs, and most of the traditional teachers I know anything about, do not even do complementary left- and right-handed versions of their form. They do not practice left-handed weapons forms. When the left hand is used to wield the saber, the techniques are quite distinct from those of the right hand. I do not claim that such “balanced” practices are forbidden. I claim only that they would be easy principles to incorporate, but instead receive little or no attention.

Let me close by saying that you have very sophisticated and firm ideas about what Taijiquan is. I have no objection to this. I hope you appreciate, however, that your ways may not fit the ways others practice. If I study haikus (17-syllable poems) as the quintessential expression of poetry, can I improve them by adding just a few more syllables to make them more “complete” and “comprehensive”? Am I narrow-minded because I refuse to accept the superior beauty of a 20-syllable haiku or a 200-line “sonnet”? By choosing to treasure haikus, am I necessarily denying a role for epic poetry or limericks? I insist that the art I study is based on “Taiji,” not on “balance” or “Wuji.” It is based on seeking stillness in movement, not on balancing movement with stillness. I am willing to leave you room for your art, please do not insist that mine be the same as yours.


Take care,
Audi
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Nov 17, 2002 7:31 pm

Thanks Audi for a very good post. I am very much in agreement with you. Likewise, let me add that my posts here are my own opinions; I do not claim to speak for the Yangs or Yang style taijiquan.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 11-17-2002).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Nov 17, 2002 11:11 pm

Greetings,

I would also like to thank Audi for a well-considered post. Like Jerry, I agree with his remarks overall. I haven’t been able to take part in some of the recent discussions, but I’d like to make a few random comments about some of the topics that have come up.

On the subject of zhan zhuang, or standing posture training, I do happen to think that there is value in doing this, but I don’t think that it is 1) a fundamental prerequisite to taijiquan or nei jia arts in general, or 2) a replacement for moving form training. My first Yang style taijiquan teacher, Gate Chan, advocated standing practice. We learned the Yang form essentially as a series of standing postures in conjunction with learning the moving sequence. That is, we were required to hold each newly learned posture for long periods of time while Master Chan walked among the students and meticulously corrected our posture. In this way we gained an appreciation for standing, sinking, and loosening.

There is some evidence that this was a very traditional way to learn the form, rooted in very early practices. Here’s an interesting quote from Chen Weiming’s book, --_T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen_: “I heard Taichi once was practiced as single postures, but I don’t know when it was connected in a series. I think probably Wang Tsung-yueh, who wrote ‘T’ai-chi Ch’uan Lun’ and listed the postures sequentially by name, may have originated this. He deserves praise for this, for if he had not done so Taichi probably would have disappeared.’ (Lo and Smith, trans., p. 15)

Gate Chan particularly encouraged us to stand for extended periods in the “lift hands upward” or “hands strum pipa” postures, and also separately taught us a “post standing” posture that he never gave any particular name, but I later learned is standard Yiquan practice that he learned from studying Wang Xiangzhai’s writings. Master Fong Ha, who studied with both Yang Shouzhong and Dong Yingjie, once told me that it was in fact my teacher, Gate Chan, who introduced him to Wang Xiangzhai’s writings back in the seventies.

Let me just mention that I personally do not know a great deal about Yiquan or its founder, Wang Xiangzhai, but I’ve read superficially in some of his Chinese writings. It’s important to know that while he specifically praised his contemporaries, Yang Shaohou and Yang Chengfu, considering them as friends, he was very much an iconoclast, and critical of traditional martial arts in general, including what he perceived to be an overemphasis on forms, and even the customary constraints of teacher-student formalities. I just mention this in order to make clear that his approach was rather singular, and by no means is generally accepted as representing in some way the “essence” of internal arts. No doubt there is great value in his take on things, but we should make an effort to understand his perspective in the overall context of his iconoclasm.

Several mentions have been made in recent posts about “kongjin,” so-called “empty force.” In my opinion, a great deal of nonsense has been published about this, and many unsupportable claims have been made. However, mention has also been made of Jan Diepersloot’s book, _Warriors of Stillness_. Jan is a friend of mine, and although I have pushed hands with him, and have participated in some workshops with him, I wouldn’t feel qualified to try to speak for him. I will, however, refer to some of his own statements regarding “kongjin” in his books. He writes repeatedly that kongjin is best understood as a “perceptual game,” in which both the “sender” and the “receiver” play crucial roles. Within this exercise or game, when someone is bounced out, it is not because of an “irresistible force.” Diepersloot states: “The person moves only because he has agreed to do so under the rules of the game. What is developed in this training is that very special type of awareness and sensitivity, the so-called sixth sense of field awareness which embraces but goes beyond its visual or auditory components.” (Warriors of Stillness, p. 214)

He states further:

“When this game is observed by people who don’t know what is going on, the tendency will be to focus on the sender and say, ‘Gee this guy is so powerful he can move people and make them do things from a distance.’ But in fact, everybody can be a sender while not everybody can be a receiver. So in this kind of practice, it is actually the receiving/perceiving skill that is being cultivated and practiced.” (Ibid.)

What is unfortunate, in my opinion, is that some so-called masters have developed abilities to manipulate their students in this “game,” but have intentionally and irresponsibly promoted the notion that there is some invisible “force” involved. I think it may be obvious that in these cases the students and observers have also—wittingly or unwittingly—“agreed” to a farce.

Yang Zhenji was once asked about legends that his great grandfather, Yang Luchan and his uncle, Yang Shaohou were able to issue against opponents without touching them. He answered that he has never heard of this spoken of within the Yang family, and noted that it is scientifically impossible. He asked rhetorically, “No matter how remarkable someone’s skills or jin may be, how would it be possible for them to issue and throw out another person without contact?” (Yang Zhenji, _Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan_, p. 238) He further cites the line in the ‘Song of Push Hands,’ “Adhere, connect, stick, follow, without letting go or resisting,” saying, “Adhere, connect, stick, follow in fact has one meaning: do not depart from. Once one departs from the other, you’ll then be unable to listen to the other’s jin, [but] if joined together, the two partners become one body, and by means of seeing with their eyes and listening with their arms will be able to ascertain the directionality of the opponent’s movements; only then can they follow and yield to the other’s movements.” (Ibid.)

The above remarks are merely impressions from my own experience and study, and I don’t claim to them to be otherwise.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
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Postby Michael » Mon Nov 18, 2002 8:03 pm

Audi,

You state things very well here..

Louis,

Thank you also.
Michael
 
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Nov 21, 2002 10:30 pm

Very good posts and to the point.
I find I agree with most of the last few posters....
However....
One SMALL item caught my eye...
If you would care to experince "extended chi" or "fa-jing extension" (I've heard this called both at different schools), you can easily do so.
It is not a way to "issue against" an opponent from a distance, I have no idea where that idea came from unless it got tied into rumors of the masters knocking down opponents from across a room. It is a way to practice "extending" your chi into your opponent when you TOUCH them.
To practice this though, you must practice on empty air against an insubstantial object.
To practice this against an opponent, you would have to find someone who enjoys internal bleeding and likes to have his bones broken, or have his sinew split, to stand there while you repeatedly and clumsily tried to learn to damage thier internal organs and break thier bones.
Any volunteers...?

It's simple to do, hard to explain, I will do my best.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DISCLAIMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't know if YCF style has any kind of corrolary practices, what I am about to say is MY personal experience only. If YCF style does not have this skill or does not teach or practice it, then DON'T do it.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DISCLAIMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In other Taiji schools I have attended we often practiced our punches at different heights as a way to open our backs and our arms and hone our martial skills.
To practice the "extended chi" version of this, you must reach a level where you can punch with a loose fist (explained to me as "taiji fist", the one you make in "step forward, parry and punch" will work well) at the same exact point in space every time.
Once you have mastered this, you put a candle on a stand about two to three inches past the point where your loose fist ends it's extension in the punch.
Then punch at the flame and put it out, using your "chi" (fa-jing?) WITHOUT touching it.
When you have practiced this to the point where you put that flame out every time, you are doing the punch correctly, and you have just experienced "extended chi".
I couldn't even make that flame flicker, much less go out, for a LONG time. But once you do, you will never forget how good that feels. Then you keep practicing for a few more months and you'll do it again. After a while, you start to do it consistently and your technique is honed the more you practice.
If you hit an opponent using this technique you can cause internal injury to your opponent, and if done correctly will not leave an external bruise, or so I've been told.
I've NEVER actually hit anyone while trying this, but this is what my teachers all told me and some of them HAVE hit people using this technique.
It is not miraculous, it is not "unscientific" and it is a lot of good fun while you practice it. Also frustrating, because it takes a long time to get any kind of response from those stubborn flames.

Are you just moving the air with the plane of your fist and that is what extinguishes the flame?
Of course.
What is chi............?
Exactly.
The way it was explained to me, once you've figured out how to put out that candle, you've figured out how to make a Taiji punch the correct way.

This is learning how to focus your internal chi and then learning to "extend" the reach of that chi into your opponent.
When you connect with your opponent now, your force, or chi or fa-jing (depending on your school of thought) is transferred past the end of your fist and that force "extends" into your opponents body, causing much havoc with his internal organs, bones and musculature.

I've heard the rumors of "issuing at a distance" by the old masters. I don't believe that means they dropped opponents from a mile away just by looking at them funny either. Any more than I believe that Yang Luchan "levitated" to avoid getting his sandals wet in mud puddles (what does the Yang family say to THAT rumor?).
However, I DO believe, and can demonstrate, that it is possible to "extend" chi into my opponent by touching them, or through the air at distance by putting out a flame, or moving a hanging piece of paper, or using palm shots to move a feather around on top of a smooth surface.
In my earlier post I made light of this. "So many candles, so little time. Impress your friends. Make the girls go "oooh" at parties." Or something to that effect. But I do so because my "awe" at this practice is no longer present due to long practice and familiarity with the technique.
I HAVE put out many candles this way (an aside, if you get to the point where you can do it with one finger only, you're WAY up there in skill level. Nope, I can't do it yet). I have impressed my friends (fellow students actually). I have made girls go "ooh" at parties (who can resist?). But I still find it a fascinating and useful part of MY personal taijiquan training.
Would I recommend this to Yang Chengfu students? Not on your life.
I don't TEACH YCF style, I am merely the rankest beginner, just learning my forms. What I am describing is a real skill I learned, and taught, at OTHER schools of taijiquan and it may have no bearing whatsoever on YCF style.
As I said, I have NO idea if YCF styles have this skill or teach it. I just know I have seen it, have learned it, can (to a degree) do it and can teach others to do so.
So I know it exists.
I've never dreamed it could be used to put down an opponent from across a room with just a glance or anything ridiculous like that. I have allways been told that you practice on candles at a distance, you TOUCH (hit, strike) your opponent.
It would take a god-like creature indeed to move a large enough mass of air with his fist to harm someone across a room! I have personally been in winds up to 60 mph, I have been a bit buffeted, but never harmed. I certainly can't make THAT kind of wind (except maybe with my long winded posts here!).
Oh, and you keep moving the candles farther away as you gain more skill. When you can put them out consistently at 6 inches, you move them to seven, and so on. You'll learn your "range" by trial and error.
It's not "mystical". It's not "magical". It's not "unscientific" and it's not a myth. It's a taijiquan martial practice I've learned ELSEWHERE in another style.
I've said it before, I'll say it again...
I'm a practicioner of ANOTHER style of taijiquan. I am however the merest, lowest beginner at YCF style, who has not even learned the entire 103 posture form much less been to a seminar or spoken with any of the Yang family. I have learned a 13 posture form (I was skeptical at first, but now I love that form) and have just completed a section 1 course. That's the extent of my YCF knowledge. I profess NO skill at YCF style or techniques or theories.
I am here to learn. Part of that process, in my experience, is to pass along any information I've learned and can correlate here. If it's not part of YCF style, then it's not and no problems. Consider it an, hopefully, interesting insight into another style of taijiquan from a first hand observer of both.
However, "extension", as such, is not a rumor. It is not "unscientific". It probably LOOKS magical to someone who doesn't understand it, but it's plain old, every day, run of the mill, boring old physics applied in a martial fashion by the good folks who agreed to teach me.

Now...
Lambast away at me one and all. But before you do, at least TRY my little experiment to see what I mean.
All it will cost you is the price of one candle and some time to set up.
Oh, and your skill in Taijiquan.
Let me know how it works.
I'm going to set up my candelabra tonight myself! I haven't practiced this in quite a while.
Wushuer
 
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Postby artyeo » Thu Oct 20, 2005 4:00 am

[

Now...
Lambast away at me one and all. But before you do, at least TRY my little experiment to see what I mean.
All it will cost you is the price of one candle and some time to set up.
Oh, and your skill in Taijiquan.
Let me know how it works.
I'm going to set up my candelabra tonight myself! I haven't practiced this in quite a while.[/B][/QUOTE]

the candle I have done that 30 years ago. at that time I was learning karate do. watch taichi from out side the hall but unable to join. I practice by myself. Its chi + speed we are talking about. I am able to break 3 pics of tiles 100mm x 100mm x 5mm each by stabing it with my fingers. you move all your chi to your finger then strike with speed.
artyeo
 
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Postby viva » Fri Dec 09, 2005 9:49 pm

It struck me when you mentioned that there was talk of Yang Lu Chan levitating over mud puddles because I have had that experience. At a time in my young life when I was training intensely. I was running somewhere and came upon a mudpuddle unexpectedly. Before I could think about it I had taken one or two steps across the surface of it without entering the water. I was so amazed. It wasn't floating as one imagines with the word "levitating", but maybe that was the phenomenon people observed with Yang Lu Chan, and it came across as "levitating" in translation. I felt it was some kind of mental power over physical laws. I checked my shoes for signs of wetness because I couldn't believe it happened, but the sides showed no sign of water.

viva
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Wushuer:
<B>Very good posts and to the point.
I find I agree with most of the last few posters....
However....
One SMALL item caught my eye...
If you would care to experince "extended chi" or "fa-jing extension" (I've heard this called both at different schools), you can easily do so.
It is not a way to "issue against" an opponent from a distance, I have no idea where that idea came from unless it got tied into rumors of the masters knocking down opponents from across a room. It is a way to practice "extending" your chi into your opponent when you TOUCH them.
To practice this though, you must practice on empty air against an insubstantial object.
To practice this against an opponent, you would have to find someone who enjoys internal bleeding and likes to have his bones broken, or have his sinew split, to stand there while you repeatedly and clumsily tried to learn to damage thier internal organs and break thier bones.
Any volunteers...?

It's simple to do, hard to explain, I will do my best.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DISCLAIMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't know if YCF style has any kind of corrolary practices, what I am about to say is MY personal experience only. If YCF style does not have this skill or does not teach or practice it, then DON'T do it.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!DISCLAIMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In other Taiji schools I have attended we often practiced our punches at different heights as a way to open our backs and our arms and hone our martial skills.
To practice the "extended chi" version of this, you must reach a level where you can punch with a loose fist (explained to me as "taiji fist", the one you make in "step forward, parry and punch" will work well) at the same exact point in space every time.
Once you have mastered this, you put a candle on a stand about two to three inches past the point where your loose fist ends it's extension in the punch.
Then punch at the flame and put it out, using your "chi" (fa-jing?) WITHOUT touching it.
When you have practiced this to the point where you put that flame out every time, you are doing the punch correctly, and you have just experienced "extended chi".
I couldn't even make that flame flicker, much less go out, for a LONG time. But once you do, you will never forget how good that feels. Then you keep practicing for a few more months and you'll do it again. After a while, you start to do it consistently and your technique is honed the more you practice.
If you hit an opponent using this technique you can cause internal injury to your opponent, and if done correctly will not leave an external bruise, or so I've been told.
I've NEVER actually hit anyone while trying this, but this is what my teachers all told me and some of them HAVE hit people using this technique.
It is not miraculous, it is not "unscientific" and it is a lot of good fun while you practice it. Also frustrating, because it takes a long time to get any kind of response from those stubborn flames.

Are you just moving the air with the plane of your fist and that is what extinguishes the flame?
Of course.
What is chi............?
Exactly.
The way it was explained to me, once you've figured out how to put out that candle, you've figured out how to make a Taiji punch the correct way.

This is learning how to focus your internal chi and then learning to "extend" the reach of that chi into your opponent.
When you connect with your opponent now, your force, or chi or fa-jing (depending on your school of thought) is transferred past the end of your fist and that force "extends" into your opponents body, causing much havoc with his internal organs, bones and musculature.

I've heard the rumors of "issuing at a distance" by the old masters. I don't believe that means they dropped opponents from a mile away just by looking at them funny either. Any more than I believe that Yang Luchan "levitated" to avoid getting his sandals wet in mud puddles (what does the Yang family say to THAT rumor?).
However, I DO believe, and can demonstrate, that it is possible to "extend" chi into my opponent by touching them, or through the air at distance by putting out a flame, or moving a hanging piece of paper, or using palm shots to move a feather around on top of a smooth surface.
In my earlier post I made light of this. "So many candles, so little time. Impress your friends. Make the girls go "oooh" at parties." Or something to that effect. But I do so because my "awe" at this practice is no longer present due to long practice and familiarity with the technique.
I HAVE put out many candles this way (an aside, if you get to the point where you can do it with one finger only, you're WAY up there in skill level. Nope, I can't do it yet). I have impressed my friends (fellow students actually). I have made girls go "ooh" at parties (who can resist?). But I still find it a fascinating and useful part of MY personal taijiquan training.
Would I recommend this to Yang Chengfu students? Not on your life.
I don't TEACH YCF style, I am merely the rankest beginner, just learning my forms. What I am describing is a real skill I learned, and taught, at OTHER schools of taijiquan and it may have no bearing whatsoever on YCF style.
As I said, I have NO idea if YCF styles have this skill or teach it. I just know I have seen it, have learned it, can (to a degree) do it and can teach others to do so.
So I know it exists.
I've never dreamed it could be used to put down an opponent from across a room with just a glance or anything ridiculous like that. I have allways been told that you practice on candles at a distance, you TOUCH (hit, strike) your opponent.
It would take a god-like creature indeed to move a large enough mass of air with his fist to harm someone across a room! I have personally been in winds up to 60 mph, I have been a bit buffeted, but never harmed. I certainly can't make THAT kind of wind (except maybe with my long winded posts here!).
Oh, and you keep moving the candles farther away as you gain more skill. When you can put them out consistently at 6 inches, you move them to seven, and so on. You'll learn your "range" by trial and error.
It's not "mystical". It's not "magical". It's not "unscientific" and it's not a myth. It's a taijiquan martial practice I've learned ELSEWHERE in another style.
I've said it before, I'll say it again...
I'm a practicioner of ANOTHER style of taijiquan. I am however the merest, lowest beginner at YCF style, who has not even learned the entire 103 posture form much less been to a seminar or spoken with any of the Yang family. I have learned a 13 posture form (I was skeptical at first, but now I love that form) and have just completed a section 1 course. That's the extent of my YCF knowledge. I profess NO skill at YCF style or techniques or theories.
I am here to learn. Part of that process, in my experience, is to pass along any information I've learned and can correlate here. If it's not part of YCF style, then it's not and no problems. Consider it an, hopefully, interesting insight into another style of taijiquan from a first hand observer of both.
However, "extension", as such, is not a rumor. It is not "unscientific". It probably LOOKS magical to someone who doesn't understand it, but it's plain old, every day, run of the mill, boring old physics applied in a martial fashion by the good folks who agreed to teach me.

Now...
Lambast away at me one and all. But before you do, at least TRY my little experiment to see what I mean.
All it will cost you is the price of one candle and some time to set up.
Oh, and your skill in Taijiquan.
Let me know how it works.
I'm going to set up my candelabra tonight myself! I haven't practiced this in quite a while.</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
viva
 
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