These articles were written by Master Wen Pei Chou and his colleague Scott Hunter during the 1990's. Read them for reference towards your own practice with Chen Style Tai Chi.
1. IT IS AN EXERCISE THAT GOES A LONG WAY
To me, Taichi practice is not only a martial art training for self-defense but also serve as a balance training that help me throughout from my teenage till now and even future. When I was young, the beautiful circles, powerful moves attracted me to go further. Now, as my early 40's, I find the principle of searching balance and elegance way of living benefit me more then any others. As my teacher says, your Taichi started as a sport, then art finally lead you into the world of harmony, which is 'Tao'.
2. IT IS MOVEMENT - CIRCULAR, BALANCED AND ELEGANT
The circular, spiral type of movements prevent joint impact. By sync. the big nine joint's moving pattern, one's body can fully exercised. After several years practice, the speed and intensity of circles can be increased with very little chance of get injure in anyway.
3. IT IS A POWERFUL MARTIAL ART IN AN INTERESTING PLAY
Taichi start in searching body re-patterning through slow motion. Then with push hand practice one experience how to cooperate and coordinate with others as well as himself. When one can sync himself with the opponent, the power of both become one. There will be no opponent, neither one's own.
4. IT IS DRIVING BY FAITH INSTEAD OF BY FEAR
Taichi training is begin and ended with faith. The faith of a world that everyone be able to stand by themselves. Everyone appreciate the cooperation from others as well as from themselves. It is not about defeating others, nor fear to be defeated. It is purifing ourselves, with better skill, more sensibile to the surrounding as well as within.
When I met my teacher Master Pan for the first time he taught me these basic principles. He told me that: 'You will always benefit from these basic principles.' Later on, I found him telling every student in their first day starting Chen style Taichi. Here it is, after 20 plus years I still benefit from this principles.
The three principles:
1/ Body aligned and vertical, top of the head floating, look far.
2/ Always breath naturally, exhale with the completion of each movement.
3/ Use as little muscle tension as possible but do not lose the correct configuration.
Pair of concepts:
1/ Rigid and soft is what your opponent feels. If you follow his movement, there is no gap or bump in the contact, thus he feel you are not there, you are soft. On the other hand, when you got the right timing and configuration, you no longer follow him. If he try to move against you, he feels you are so rigid. In your point of view you just play your circles, you are still yourself. Chan Si Chin, a twisting type of movement that stretches and losses ligaments around joints. When success, combine this cycle of changes with relative speed relation control with opponent, one can demonstrate several dimensions of rigid and soft quality.
2/ Fast and slow. Fast refers to the instantaneous response to your opponent's move, and refer to your speed in reconfiguring yourself. Slow does not refer to speed defined as distance moved per unit time, it is the density of intention applied in movement. Every movement is seen to be composed of succession of incremental frames. At each instant there is frame with Taichi configuration. Slow means patiently detail those instances that happened along the path of movement. It seems 'slow' because of the richness or fullness of the movement.
And a commitment:
The art of Taichi has no end to it's depth. It demands a great deal of commitment to go through a lifetime of practice to perfect it. We must understand the difficulty ahead so that we can prepare and improve ourselves though everyday life.
Push hand is a design that coexist with form practice. When doing it right, push hand exercise can help student to understand the physics applied in Taichi. The beneficial results such as:
1. The students learn how to perform correct postures by applying what they have learned from the form exercise.
2.The students experience the dynamics of his form. The form practice no longer just a dance or stretching, but the circles with meanings.
3. The student test his ability in free form push hand and experience the freedom when his body response to the various patent of circular movements.
4. The student will learn the power of Taichi from control and accuracy.
5. Enjoy the happiness of sharing.
On the other hand, if involve incorrectly as most of the people doing today, it will mostly end up some none beneficial results such as:
1. The instructor don't know the difference between teaching and showing. The students can only experience the frustration that he could not expect.
2. The instructor and student can not extinguish the teaching, learning relationship from challenging. They always turn to the later mode.
3. Even worse, is the trust or love between instructor and student being deteriorated by these unintended event.
To help us to avoid the bad part and take full advantage of the push hand benefit, I list the progress and purpose of this training for both instructors and students:
1. Static load Path sustain.
2. Dynamic load path dragging.
3. In random circles to examine Ying and Yang, Rigid and Soft.
4. Energy sensing and punctuation.
5. Accomplished level.
Follow these guide line, student can practice push hand with his teacher or classmate to check if he can apply what he had learned within this controlled combat situation. Then he will come back to correct what it is wrong or strengthen what it is right. From this point of view, push hand like an experiment procedure that can refined his Taichi skill.
The Old Form is a beautiful set of movements, it demonstrate circles in different direction as well as various speed. These following pages tends to cut the movement into simplified circles. So that they can help student to have a clear path to practice good Taichi.
The Cannon Fist is the application exercise in Chen style Taichi. It operates small circles in a fast, impulsive manner. Normally, students need to practice the old form for three years before they are prepared for the cannon fist. Without thorough training in relaxation, balance and accuracy that one can benifit from the rather slower movements within the old form, cannon fist practice will be inaccurately practiced. Often time it will become muscular and turn into externally expressed . It will be a big draw back for one's Taichi improvement. However, with the accurately practice, the cannon fist can help you explore ways to demonstrate the Nei Jing (internal energy) that you cultivated through years of old form training. The ability to apply Chen style Taichi in real world can be achieved.
The Small Form is...
by Paul Chou and Scott Hunter 1997
View Progress Chart (PDF)
First Stage Learn the Form
We begin by learning the movements that comprise the form. Initially we check our balance and the form at the end of the 64 named movements. As we become familiar with the form we pay attention to the pace and rhythm of the basic form. We become aware of the path of each joint in space and time and we sense our weight distribution and stability from moment to moment. In this stage we emphasize the awareness of the prescribed configuration of the skeletal frame and the shifting distribution of our weight. If we don't get carried away with the drama, we can check the line of thrust which extends from the rooted foot through the hand and out through the imagined opponent. We do this, initially, at the end of each of the named movements.
Stage Two Mastering Forward Kinematics
Mastering Forward Kinematics refers to movement in which the movement of each portion of the body is generated from, and is consistent with, the movement of the predecessor part. It is optimized movement that allows the body to perform a chosen action most easily and powerfully. The normal order of movement consistent with forward kinematics is:
Foot, Ankle, Shin, Knee, Thigh, Hips, Trunk, Shoulder, Upper Arm, Elbow, Forearm, Wrist, Hand, Fingers through the tips and out to far away
Example. If the action is to move the right hand to a particular point, the movement of the whole body is generated from the tan tien: aligning the hips and placing the feet and legs in the optimum position to support the movement of the upper body. In turn, this allows the upper body to remain erect and the shoulders, elbows and wrist to rotate within their optimal range of motion. Every joint has a portion of its total range of motion where the associated muscles can easily hold the joint in place and be most effective in rotating it. The movement of the hands is optimized when every part of the body moves within its optimum range completing the movement simultaneously. Thus, by this coordination, the power of the whole body is present in the movement of the hand.
In some traditions forward kinematics has been mastered by the guidance of the principles of T'ai chi and postural checkpoints.
The most important principle for this mastery is Relax the body. By draining tension from the whole body and using the minimum energy needed to create the form we approach the optimum configuration, the same configuration sought by mastering forward kinematics. The situation is akin to solving a problem in the physics of rigid body motion. We can use energy methods or we can write the equations of motion and solve them.
In Chen Style, mastering forward kinematics is made explicit. Cultivate a sense of the line of thrust from the rooted foot through the thrusting leg, the stable erect trunk, the comfortably curved arms through the point of contact and out to far away. Moment by moment, check the integrity of the skeletal frame. Is the frame optimized for this action right now? And Now?
This overall movement that is self directed and optimized is named Yang.
Stage Three Mastering Inverse Kinematics
This stage presupposes mastery of the form and of optimized self directed movement consistent with forward kinematics.
In this stage, the configuration is optimized in response to the pressure of an opponent, physical or imagined. Contact with the opponent is continuous and finely controlled. No matter how the opponent moves the contact remains even and unbroken. Yet the movement has at all times the qualities of integrity and optimized configuration consistent with forward kinematics. In this stage Pushing Hands practice becomes important. Pushing Hands directly tests mastery of inverse kinematics. We check our contact and our configuration from moment to moment as we move with our opponent: Is the pressure like ''four ounces of butter'' while moving in and ''As light as ashes brushing his clothes'' when our opponent comes toward us? Can we feel the line of thrust from the rooted foot up through the point of contact? Is every joint and element of the body in its range of optimum function?
We can also ask: Given my configuration and my opponents configuration at this instant, where does the practice of the form teach me to go? This last question leads back to the continuing practice of the form. This practice takes on another quality at this stage. The continuous presence of an imagined band of opponents supplies a constant source of pressure. Harmonizing with these pressures while maintaining integrity of form is named YIN.
Stage Four Mastering Speed and Force
Not only do we not know where the next challenge will come from we do not know its size or speed. Having mastered inverse kinematics at our ideal practice speed, we now play at this mastery at all speeds and with all different weight and style of opponents. This is the time of travel for study. We approach other teachers and students of martial arts and learn with them where we flow and where we get stuck. What we can handle and where we jump out of harmony into old habits and reactive patterns. If our attitude is humble and friendly, we will encounter much more harmony in our study at this stage.
There is another aspect in mastering speed and force. At earlier stages in our practice we have become increasingly clear and efficient at the form and have learned to move and turn quickly. But we have used the large circles of the form to learn the spiral and circular style of movement. Now we can condense these circles and find that our movements take on an explosive power. A partial explanation is that in condensing the circle we reduce our rotational inertia but the rotational momentum is unchanged and thus the speed of the movement increases greatly.
Stage Five Mastery of Time and Space
In this stage we emphasize the field that the body plays in. The awareness that has given us control over the flow of chi in our system is expanded to our surroundings. When the awareness is not fixated on the body we enter that which is timeless. The rules for how bodies interact in time and space have a different quality. There is freedom.
Stage Six Ordinary Practice
We continue to practice. The circle of our movement condenses to a radius too small to see. But every movement is made with integrity. To an opponent watching the yin and yang of our movement there is no fluctuation. Are we rooted and flowing out? or are we following and yielding? At any moment we are either. We are both. The Yin and the Yang of our movement is completely interpenetrated and nourish each other. Such harmony invites agression to pause. This harmony invites any rough nature to quiet itself and to enjoy itself in good company.
It Is All Right Here
We progress from the mechanical to the energetic and thence to the spritual. From large clear movements to subtle. From the experience of separation and conflict to harmony. Yet the goal, the end, is present here and now, right from the beginning of our practice. We feel it when we experience joy and peace in our practice even as we learn the initial movements. How could it be otherwise? We are only discovering our nature which is one with all of nature,. It is unchanged by our ignorance and welcomes our discovery.
Interpreted by Paul Chou, Scott Hunter
It is stillness, potential with all life.
In play, form arises animated by this CHI.
Flowing between all seeming polarities.
Day and night, winter and summer.
Enjoying this flow, you enter deeply into the rhythm of nature
Floating as flower petals on the wind,
Then firm as an iron block.
Facing challenge, your speed is as a plunging falcon.
The attack is as a roaring tiger
Your move as water running rapids.
When collected, it is silent, as mountain filling the sky.
Yet, the connection is gentle.
Passing from extreme to extreme
Your spirit rest in stillness.
by Paul Chou 10/1997, revised 7/7/98
What is Yin and Yang?
The concept is first introduced in the book of ''The Oracle'', also known as ''The book of Change''. In this book, it use two symbols: ''---'' (a straight line) Yang and ''- -'' (a broken line) Yin. These symbols are used to describe the status of all objects being observed. They can be applied in describing the extension of slow and fast, big and small, and rigid and soft etc.
The object itself is neutral. Only when we want to describe or compare them, we apply Yin and Yang. For example:
1. The relative position of Sun and Earth is one scene. Day (Yang) and Night (Yin) is used to describe the phenomenon of brightness you observed from a specific location on earth.
2. Your lung is one object. Inhale (expand or Yang) and Exhale (Yin) is used to tell the status of the volume of the lung. Yet, from the direction of air moving. Exhale, out from our body is Yang, while Inhale, the air suck into our body is Yin.
3. Your arm is an object. When you stretching it, it is Yang. When you bent your elbow, we call it Yin.
4. ''I'' is one thing. Your ''I'' travel from your Tan Tien going out to finger tips, we call it Yang. While ''I'' come back from finger tips to Tan Tien we call it Yin.
It also depend on your point of view. Such as:
1. This leg is straight, it is Yang, that one is bend it is Yin. This is to the shape of legs.
2. Your bending leg support your weight, so it call Yang. The other is free from weight, we say it is Yin. It is to legs' function as holding weight.
3. Your straight leg generate post to your opponent. It is active, it is Yang. The other leg only support your weight, as a hinge, it is Yin. It is to the function of dealing with your opponent.
To understand Chi
Chi is what that drive every trend of changes in our universe. We can say, the movement, the expanding of our galaxy is driving by this Chi. We can also say that the crazy stock market is driven by this Chi. The Chi from bigger environment will affect the circulation of the smaller environment. It is also true in reversal.
To the Chi of the larger environment, we can not change it, yet, we can follow it and redirect it at the right time and right place.
This is the ancient Chinese philosophy: to be a human being, we should complement the imperfection of the heaven and earth (mother nature). Yet, by following it, redirecting it to a more harmonic result, we can make the world better.
Here, our body is a small universe, your body, your circulation, everything is moving by a Chi we call ''Yun Chi''. A Chi that is born with you. When we are young, this Chi is very strong. And in good coordination. However, through the years the outside environment factors like: pressure, drugs and alcohol make this Chi aging. Eventually, one start to feel weak, not comfortable and finally to his illness. This is because our ignorance to the internal message. As we don't know how it work, therefore, we can't harmonize it.
How to apply Yin and Yang in order to cultivate Chi
By understanding Yin and Yang, you have a starting point to compare and realize the trend of your Chi's fluctuation. Then, in your daily TaiChi practice you will learn how to follow it. (The change and interaction between Yin and Yang). By following it, you cultivate your Chi everyday, like the farmer growing their crops. You will no longer do things to harm it. This is what you should remember in your Taichi practice and in your push hand. After years, it becomes so clear that the flow of your Chi is there, then you will adjust it whenever you feel it goes wrong, or to pounding the power from it when situation required. The Chi will be in well balance all the time, externally or internally. You are a well balance person.
by Paul Chou 11/6/1997 revised 8/23/1998
If we look at the relative position of our joints, it can be configured into a specific kind of body structure that performs a quality call ''Peng jing''. This specific type of body configuration is called ''tensegrity'', use bone as compression member and ligament as tension cable.
''Picture show structure'' 5 bows,
1. the shoulder, elbow, hand bows x 2
2. The hip joint, knee and foot bows x 2
3. The nape, loin and posterior bows.
To combine this 5 into one.
With this tensegrity type of body structure one will free comfortable under a constant pressure. Since the most of the force is directed into ground. However, when it is subject to pressure: The tension increased in the ligament will activate the muscle group to perform a global adjustment to neutralize the added pressure.
When in movement it will make body move circularly with proper ligament tension.
Peng Jing can also be discussed from the opponent's point of view. From that point of view what has been described is the result in a specific time and space instead of the cause and essence of Peng Jing. I am going to describe:
1. The essence of Peng Jing
2. How to built it and how long it takes to built up Peng Jing.
When one practice Taichi, he start from a very soft and gentle practice. He should put his attention on imitating his teacher¡¦s movement. He will relax every joint in his body, so the ligaments can be stretched in different patterns.
When one tents to change the moving direction of his forearm, he step down to his foot while positioning his legs to the right angle. Then the impulse from both legs will create a torque that drives his waist and create torsos rotation. This rotation causes his shoulders' movement and drag his upper arm through elbows to forearms, hands and fingers.
Those propagated influence is transferred through ligaments surround each joints along the path. Whenever one needs to change direction in his path of motion, he has to follow this joint path. So the generation of movement is always from ground up, centered in his waist. The movements are thus smooth, unified and integrated.
This exercise can make ligaments grow stronger, more flexible and sensitive. As a result of correct practice for years, the pattern of movements can be built.
What a student should avoid is using partial joint's adjustment instead of the global moves, as mentioned above, to perform the circles. Otherwise the movements will not be centered from one's waist. It could not generate a smooth result and the ligaments would not be fully exercised within the practice.
One would be able to react to the pressure correctly without special attention when success. This is because the muscular nerve system is patterned deep into subconscious level. And the response can be described as follow:
1. His ligaments will hold every joints in position by giving up very little displacement from ligament's natural flexibility. It will not collapse.
2. His spin and waist being notified by this tinny variation and reflex accordingly.
3. Simultaneously, circles generate from waist, transfer to fingers tip and perform the circles throughout one's body and neutralize the incoming attack.
4. The integrated body structure is well maintained at any instance, so the Fa-Jing can base on this Peng Jing to express great power.
The correct way of practice plus concentration on putting away the unnecessary or unbalanced stress. Expand one's arm and leg circles so that the ligaments' movement can be exaggerate. We can shorten the time frame by remove the time spend on searching and incorrect patterning. However, after understand and apply the concept in practice, several years is till required to settle the pattern and strengthen the ligaments before one can be successful in Taichi.
by Paul Chou
Peng is a tensigrity, as Master Pan put, like an umbrella. Tensigrity is a structure make by sticks, act as compression members, and cables that act as tension members. So if you hold an opened umbrella at your hand still, then any push against the surface of it will be transfer to your holding hands.
The frame of the umbrella that transfer force to your hands is Peng. While your hands that hold the umbrella still is the root. Using this umbrella, hands example, we symbolize the function of root and Peng. The capability of space occupying in a fighting is the key point for a success fighter.
However, how strong you can make the backbone of an umbrella? How strong you can built your root that holding it? Different MA develops different model and training method to improve those two issues.
1/ One branch in MA develop their speed and body kinetic while using their body mass as the foundation of power issuing. And the key is to break the opponent.s strong holding.
2/ while the other branch focus to the fully utilizing of their natural resources. By developing their structural integrity (Peng) to strength holding capacity and align their movement with intention so that the integrity is maintained through out the whole session. They use earth as their mass base and issue themselves with this mass stand behind them.
To the second approach there are both external and internal MA. They apply the theory to certain degree, and they choose the best fit for their interesting scenario. That is saying, they have both developed Peng and rooting to different degree. The only difference is how they use their root and Peng to gain advantage in fighting.
Taichi has its unique way of manipulate its Peng and utilize it.s root. That differentiates itself from all the other art. Remember the classic lyrics:
1/ follow the other then you will have yourself, though you have yourself you still choose to follow.
2/ attract him in, lost his focus and lead him to lose his balance.
3/ use his own energy to fight him.
4/ Only you can perform the 1st, you can demonstrate the 2nd. Only after the 1st and 2nd being achieved you can use his energy to fight against him.
So, with a slight touch in each contact point, by following the opponent.s movement, his pressure can not affect you. Your joint are free to rotate, your muscle are free to reconfigure your body in fast movement. There are two must conditions for the above implementation, the Peng and Rooting. So in 1st note: .you can have yourself,. means you can maintain your own Peng and Rooting.
This constantly existent of this Peng and rooting draws the desire and intention of the opponent. Like playing Chess, you trap him into a difficult position. His strong axis is now targeting nothing, while his weak axis have your waiting. At this moment, use your Peng and rooting, slightly contact his weak point, (Gape of Peng), still use silk reeling, step in and occupy the position. Your joints are fully twist so the rigidity is extreme. Your mass velocity is operating to the extreme speed and drill into that point (because you don.t need to fight against his resistance, No. 1 note). His whole nature power will activate by his reflex system. Against your momentum and fully rigid structure frame, his energy bounce back with your entire kinetic input. The No. 3 note can be achieved.
This is the Taichi practitioner's way of manipulate their Peng and Root. Is it an art? Does it have a limit in improving yourself? Do you need to be extremely strong and big to use it?
by Paul Chou 10/7/2002
A compressed spring tends to recover its original stat. Work need to be done to compress a spring. While under reciprocal load and unload situation, spring will perform a dynamic pattern like pendulum. In pendulum type of motion, kinetic energy transfers to potential energy and back continuously. 'The will to maintain and utilize this type of energy system appears everywhere and so important Taichi. The trained intention that maintain practitioner's body in such neutral position to provide the pendulum's K factor is Chung Chi. ' What is the theory? In the article 'Peng jing and application ', I've described the structure that support weight and mess inertial which occurs in acceleration and deceleration while in movements. The assumption is the practitioner could arrange his/her body in a way that pressure transfers through bones, to the ground. The ligaments take tension to hold possible bending stress happened around joints. What I didn't mention and a very important part for advance practitioner is the next step. After the bending stress disappeared, these ligaments not only present tensional member function but also act like springs. They tend to return to their original length. When synchronized properly, these springs react in-group, bounce back and forth to form a major energy source for Taichi movement. We can name the compress state of spring as Yin and pulling stat as Yang or vice versa. It doesn't matter how we define it symbolically, but matter very much how we synchronize its behavior in practice.
How to synchronize these springs in our Taichi exercise?
To revive springs action in our exercise you need to: 1.Clarify Peng system. Without the Peng system, your mess moves in random and makes effort of synchronizing the spring groups impossible. 2.Dividing our body in three parts:
- Upper body: including chest cage, arms and head. It centered in Da-Tzue, linked to both elbows and finishes at fingers.
- Middle body: the so call middle Dan Tein. This area is very soft and full of internal organs, under diaphragm that related to breath. This area is used to store and release internal energy. As the link between upper and lower body, it also is the major spring for automatic stat.
- Lower body: guided by lower Dan Tein. Through hips to arch like legs structure. It operates through 3 systems:
- Bones and joints system.
- Muscles system.
- Digestive system: This portion is the base of everything in Taichi. It governs the orientation of steps. It also governs the rotation and weight distribution.
Why relate this to Chung Chi?
Chi can be translated as something persistent, like the word 'will '. Guided by one's motivation. The examples of those persistent are:
- Do Taichi everyday.
- Work hard and look for perfection.
- Have a good business idea and decide to work it out.
- An idea that we need to create a better world.
A lesson with Paul Chou, recorded by Scott Hunter
The basic theory on energy storage and release is found in Chung Chi - Springs.
Before exploring the phenomenon of energy storage and release (springs) in Chen Tai Chi, It is appropriate to have a beginning handle on body alignment. Energy storage and release requires good alignment and if your attention is needed to achieve the alignment, there is less attention available for the springs. This good alignment is described in the basics and in the classes on the old form.
The following discussion only comes alive when there is personal experience. The exercises described below are offered to facilitate our experience. Doing the exercises is truly part of the conversation.
1. Chi and Muscle Tension
The first principle is that chi fills the body in balance to the tension and opposite the tensed area.
Exercise: Gently push the side of your head with the same side hand. Feel the tension on that side. Also feel the chi filling the opposite side of the neck and head.
Similarly press your forehead. Feel the tension on the front of the neck and simultaneously feel the buoyant energy filling the back of the neck and head.
Feel how the chi adjusts immediately, increasing as you press harder and adjusting to diminished pressure.
2. Leg Spring
A particularly important instance of this is the development of the leg spring or bow. Literally and actually it is the physical foundation for the power generated in the movements.
Exercise: (Horse stance) Stand feet parallel, shoulder width or a little wider apart. It is important to have toes pointing straight ahead. Even if you normally walk like a duck (as I tend to), rotate your feet and so that the toes are as close to straight forward as you can without strain and that the knees are aligned and over the toes.
Bend the knees and lower the center of gravity while maintaining the open space between the legs. Play with feeling the knees pressing outward.
Shift the weight from side to side and feel the stability and elastic springiness in the legs.
Feel the chi on the inside of the legs coming up through the torso. What is it's quality or character? It may feel like a column of energy. Feel the feet on the floor.
Feel the contact distributed between the heel and the full width of the ball of the foot.
You may also wish to explore this open stable posture using the first circular exercise with a slight sense of the knee pressing out during the transitions. . Check alignment of toes and knees
Paul said that this stable open position of the legs is fundamental to proper posture and should be discovered in every position throughout the form. He also indicated that it would help the continued knee soreness I have experienced when doing a lot of tai chi.
Certainly there is an immediate change in the quality of movement when paying attention in this way while doing the old form. The legs and knees feel more comfortable and solid. The shadowy sense of the legs collapsing inward is gone. Lateral movement is available immediately.
3. Leg Spring -Energy Storage and Release
In point 2 above, we see how activating the leg spring increases the stiffness and stability of the configuration. This is true for slow or static movement. The full effect of the activating the leg spring is felt when the speed of the movement matches the 'bounce ' of the leg spring.
Exercise: Take the horse stance as above in point 2. For this exercise let the torso and arms be held closely, like one block. Increase the amplitude and speed of the weight shifting from side to side.
Feel the bounce back produced by the stiff spring at the outside of the leg. The chi at the insides of the legs and the body column feels alive and quick.
Try moving forward or back as you move from side to side.
Feel the activation and release of the energy in the leg spring.
4. Torso Alive, not Rigid.
The torso can also act as a spring, storing and releasing energy both in bending and also in twisting.
Exercise: Repeat the above exercise and place awareness in the torso. Feel it alive and able to bend with its own weight as the leg spring loads up and release as the leg spring releases and the weight shifts to the other side.
Take a wide stance, feel Peng energy in the arms and upper body. Play with the stiffness of the torso. See how the upper body lags when the torso is soft and the sense of rotational springiness with increasing stiffness.
Feel the lack of aliveness when the torso is fixed in alignment with the hips. Return to the sense of aliveness in the torso and vary the stiffness and see how there is a level of stiffness that seems to magnify the movement of the hip rotation. A level that transmits or propagates the hip movement to the upper body with increased energy.
See how the size of the circle formed by the arms and upper body changes, how the torso spring works.
5. Integrating into the Form
These awareness exercises allow us to make discoveries about the body. Incorporating these discoveries into our tai chi practice deepens our practice and allows us to integrate these discoveries into all our movement, and into our life.
Exercise: Do the form as if the upper body is not yours. As if the upper body, while filled with Peng energy, has no separate activity or movement but simply transmits and amplifies the movement of the lower body. See Also Article Peng Jing.
6. Testing by the Teacher
It is a great gift when the teacher can transmit his understanding of these principles by touch. Gentle pressure on the hip or arm, shoulder, hand or knee can clarify the activation and release of the spring, the presence of unnoticed rigidity or lack of tone and the effectiveness or lack of it in the integrated movement. Even periodic personal contact through seminars, workshops or retreats can help greatly in this regard. It can also help to have a friend provide the pressure. You can show them what you need and they can copy or imitate your action.
What is Chung Chi? It is a combination of two words, ''Chung'' and ''Chi''. Let's me explain it separately as follow:
Chung, is a big word in Chinese. If you would write China in Chinese, it is ''Chung Guo'' or The Nation of Chung. The highest Tao in Chinese Culture in Chinese call ''Chung Tao''. So, what is Chung? It means: in the middle. In Taichi this means: in the middle of the bones. It also means just right, not too much nor too less.
Chi, is a term for general energy. In Martial Art, it can be divided into two terms ''Shia Chi'' and ''Li Chi''.
''Shia Chi'', the energy from fresh. It is from one's desire, from one's will, disregard the balancece between one and his surrounding. It can be powerful and destructive. Yet, it will fail by encountering something stronger and more powerful. ''Shia Chi'' has it's physical limit.
''Li Chi'' is the energy from pure theoretical being. The energy that exclude our own desire. The energy purely from the way that nature operate. Such as:
1. ''Moving object remind move, still remind still.''
2. ''Momentum, as mass multiply by velocity.'' The difficulties of change of an object's trend.
3. ''The phenomenon of pendulum.''
4. And so much more......
These theories of physics describe why and how the nature operate. It also indicate a way on how to effectively balance one object with it's surrounding. By understand these principles and manipulate it, one can apply ''Li Chi'' (The physics principles and other sciences) instead of ''Shia Chi'' (One's Desire). The delicacy and the depth of ''Li Chi'' is unlimited. In Practice
''Chung Chi'' is a series of position for center of rotation which travels through the axis of every bone. Mentally they start from kidney, 60% of concentration follow through the spin goes up then divide into two, 30% through right shoulder to right fingers' tip, the other 30% to left. They are 40% go downward to both toes. It seems like they go to four different routs, However, their traveling operate simultaneously.
If we observe them at any point of our arms or legs or torso, movements are circling around those axis's virtually in the middle of the bone . The bones are hold steadily and rotate without friction around joints as these axis operate by ''Chung Chi'' (You can say a manner of operating). It is how ''Chung Chi '' maintaining one's integrity under opponent's pressure. Conclusions
''Chung Chi'' is to apply ''Li Chi'' and helped by ''Shia Chi'' in a way not more nor less or ''Just Right'' in Taichi practice. When concentrate in practicing Chung Chi in one's Taichi training, his progress is unlimited. And once he can govern ''Chung Chi'' he will feel the freedom within. What he will feel is that he need not fight against anything instead of cooperating and coordinating with them.
by Paul Chou 12/29/2002
Lately, we had a good discussion on ''how to perform hand and finger in TaiChi exercise''. Here is my point of view, there are stages in the progress in TaiChi learning. The training methods on palm and fingers are different in those stages:
1. As a beginner, restrained by lack the ability to comprehend the total movement, the first thing we can learn is to imitate fingers and hands movement. By observing the circles and beauty of hand movement that our teacher''s performed.
2. At this stage, the old teaching remind us that we should keep our palms and wrist as fix as possible. Even use a card board to restrict movement of the wrists and fingers. Only when applying this restriction, one can learn how to observe movement of elbows and their circular path shown by his instructor. In this stage, while driving energy from elbows, the common mistake is the often broken integrity on the shoulders. One should focus on shoulders'' integrity at this point. By doing so, he can reveal the torso rotation.
3. The easiest mistake at this stage is relaxing and twisting waist (the area from Dan Tien to chest). This defect breaks the integrity to gain flexibility and fluency on upper body movement. However, it prevent one in further search on the relation of Dan Tien and the hip joints.
4. Now, the instructor should ask his student to fix the relation (not the muscle nor the organs nor the Chi) between shoulder joints and the hip joints. Under this constrain, the student will learn how to adjust legs' configuration from feet to hip, to operate torso rotation.
Although the above stages seem totally unrelated to your palms and fingers. They are the stages of training one has to pass, unfortunately.
Student stays in this stage for a while to develop deep sense in operating Dan Tien energy as a center source of entire body. Assuming he has develop this capacity. When intention arise, his Jing goes down to feet, grasp the ground. His Dan Tien operate against this reaction from ground up. Drive up along waist to chest to shoulders.... With the integrity he had built through time, his intention goes into elbows which are driven by shoulders. The forearms rotate around elbows as pivot point and root. Finally, express up through wrists, palms and blossom at fingers. Fingers show different shapes according to each intention.
If he has already built his energy from ground up, the finger expression should be a nature result. However, It is not just a word ''relax'', or ''go with nature'' can cover. As confused as they have already caused. It is a developed, integrated, synchronized and full of intention within, in every instances.
If he has not gone through all the hard work! He needs to be very disciplined as described above and start to follow the correct training path. It will be very hard for him to get there by only paying attention on the beautiful hand expression.
It has been a while since years ago I borrowed the concept from structure dynamic 'load path' to explain how Peng energy transfers pressure from contact point to earth. I believe most of our practitioners are able to master it in their form as well as push hand.
The situation is: you have governed the 'Yang', 'solid' energy. As I once did, your steps are solid, balanced and express energy through out with great sense of control.
Now, what's the next step? From this rooted load path, you drive your movement from feet up, express power through your finger, fist. At this stage, your movements, energy fluctuate in a very intensive way that flow through the form without effort. At this stage, opponent feels the spiral like power difficult to follow not to mention to counter.
Ok, your opponents are not very happy about it. They comment: that's not Taichi! The good Taichi is using opponent's energy; it should demonstrate elegancy rather than power.
They are partially correct. The achievement you have is a necessary intermediate step, not the stage great master demonstrated in their generation, not the one the story tells.
Let.s look at where you are now? You are at a stage that master Pan would say: .very good!.. He used to say: .Why yield? The silk reeling already redirect.. .Why listen, the opponent has already lost balance, you.ve already stepped through..
However, master Pan.s saying is to encourage us. Master Pan himself didn.t stop here. He move on to that stage with pure elegancy with all his energy embedded. He used to let me grasp his hand and move around while I feel not a single trace of resistance, though he is in perfectly connecting and ready to use my energy at any instance.
Therefore, if your opponent tells you: .That.s not Taichi., don.t be angry nor frustrated. You are on the right track, just not there yet.
There are several good points discussed in our chentaichi yahoo group which are derived from topic 'about daily practice (opponent)'. The discussion can be extracted as:
1/ the intention of opponent is necessary.
2/ emphasize the importance of internal aspect of learning.
3/ emphasize the importance of external structure.
4/ mention and question about intention and chi flow.
5/ cultivate internal through relaxed practice.
These statements are all correct if were discussed in the scope as follow:
1/ the intention guides chi. yet
2/ the correct intention can be acquired by hands on teaching. However, the concept of from whom who knows is by degree of knowing. We all recognize that everyone is just approaching in perfecting our Taichi.
3/ not giving correct structure, there are no load path exist,
4/ nor the ability to neutralize under pressure.
4/ as the fluctuation type of dynamic under correct structure is the way to cultivate chi in Taichi,
5/ intention of opponent simulation is suggested in practice through a series of point to verify the proper use of intention.
6/ as the proper intention, the intention points are transferred and linked to earth through aligned bone structure, with fluent and frictionless position adjustment through instance to the other.
7/ the path of those points can be traced into the space spirals,
8/ the space spiral traces are named .the silk reeling (trace). and illustrated in Chen Xing's 'Book of Taichi'.
I like to conclude the discussion as:
1/ insert the opponent simulation in practice as we start,
2/ since we've got the trace, just enjoy the space traces of points in our practice.
How to paint our silk reeling trace?