Tai Chi Chuan is a proven ancient system that when practised precisely and regularly will develop the mind, body and spirituality of the practitioner.
I am a Grandmaster with 60 years of experience teaching people from all walks of life all around the world. My knowledge was passed down to me through the generations by my father and his
ancestors. I was told that our lineage goes back to the Tang Dynasty to Li Dao Tsu, an itinerant taoist who practised a 37 movement form called Long Fist. Although sounding martial, it was dedicated
to the study of the human anatomy, physiology and neurology in relation to man and motion.
The training that I received was very thorough in that I was never taught anything new until I had mastered the previous lesson, mastering one move is more important than learning many and not understanding how motion and non action can develop a healthy and well balanced body.
By Grandmaster Tsu
Tai Chi Chuan is one of the many different physical manifestations of the Way of the Tao. Practitioners of the art of Tai Chi Chuan who receive training
under inexperienced or incompetent masters will inadvertently proceed to initiate novices who are oblivious to the intricacies of the art.
Tai Chi is not just about postures and martial moves, it is about a way of life that embodies and enriches the health of the mind, body and spirit. When the internal and the external combine to form a whole, a greater power evolves and the state of non-action and soong is achieved.
Only a thorough discourse by an adept Master will reveal the truth of the Tao of Tai Chi. It is truly profound and requires an integral knowledge of Physics, Mechanics, Human Anatomy, Newton’s Laws of Motion and most importantly of all, the understanding of the Human Mind and its power that is only attained through Meditation.
Tai Chi Chuan is similar to Yoga in certain respects in that most of the postural patterns or asanas that are adopted in Yoga are designed to loosen the joints and make them supple and in Tai Chi this is achieved by motion in a form that comprises all the postures in a continuous flow. In the higher stages of Yoga, pranayama or rhythmic breathing is practiced and in Tai Chi it is also adopted while performing the form. The control of the mind in Yoga or Dharana and Dhyana or concentration and meditation is achieved in Tai Chi through the various mind breathing exercises that focus on the tan tien and other energy centres of the body.
Where Yoga and Tai Chi start to differentiate is that the motions of the body in Tai Chi that are created involuntarily by external forces acting upon it are then capable of generating an opposing force to that received. Thus Tai Chi Chuan has not only the health benefits but also the capacity as a martial art.
The study of Tai Chi Chuan or loosely translated grand ultimate fist is not about as its name suggest a study of martial moves or postures that transform into martial manoeuvres, it is rather about understanding the mechanics of the motions and learning to perform them with involuntary movements. In the Tao, it is written that what is not done cannot be undone. This refers to movements that are involuntary that are initiated by the incoming force and are redirected by a subtle motion.
There are many points to note when learning Tai Chi Chuan and these are mentioned in the Classics.
First and foremost, the most important of all is learning the stance that will not only help you relax but also give you a firm standing on the ground or root. It is relaxing the knees that concentrate the weight of the body in the balls of the feet and thus give you a feeling of lightness throughout the body. This stance will also enable you to appear to be hanging from the ceiling by a firm thread. In the correct stance one develops the ability to perform the various postures with grace and fluidity of movement. The only way to learn Tai Chi Chuan is to first learn about yourself and the motions that your body is capable of achieving by simple joint manipulations and movements that require hardly any effort to perform.
Finally it is the breathing in rhythm to the moves that generates the smooth transition from posture to posture and mere postures become the form and excellence in the performance of The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan.
A further reading of the Classics can be found at the website of Lee Scheele’s Tai Chi Classics at http://scheele.org/lee
The learning of a form or pattern of movements which translates into techniques for use in self defence is not the purpose of the form in Tai Chi as it is in other arts. Although the postures within the form may be used for self defence, each posture may be used in a myriad of ways with no 'correct' application in a specific instance. In essence, mastery of the form occurs when the Tai Chi practitioner can move in perfect synchronization allowing them to apply Tai Chi effortlessly and without the use of physical force. The internal and external have become one. When the body is in motion but you are perfectly still Tai Chi has become formless. It is gaining the sensation which is important not the specific movement being performed at the time.
Although the principle involved is relatively simple and based upon the laws of physics, mechanics and human anatomy; achieving this synchronization is extremely difficult. I will reflect on the internal structure in a moment but first I will comment on the external. It is often written that the waist leads movements and causes all the postures to flow in unison so that they become one continuous posture. The skeletal structure of the human body is held together by connective tissues and ligaments that connect one bone to another and movement in one bone will necessarily produce movement in another due to the connection. Thus a movement of the waist will necessarily produce movement in the arms and legs. Combine this with the shifting of weight from substantial to insubstantial and the movement of the waist and transfer of weight becomes the mechanism for motion without voluntary movement. At this point, the practice of the Tai Chi form becomes the equivalent of an extended Qi Gong exercise. The synchronization of mind breathing - I will deal with this subject later - with the correct structure and posture will produce relaxation, internal force and the application of the total body weight onto an opponent. Such power is greater than any force that may be manifested through the use of physical strength.
The physical mechanisms through which the proper practice of the Tai Chi Chuan forms may occur are the correct alignment of the body in each posture and the continuous motion in which all the postures of the form become one continuous posture.
A complete description of the correct positioning in each posture would most certainly take longer than the space permitted here. However, there are a few points to note about the alignment of the body. The body should be erect as if suspended from the ceiling by a piece of string and the weight of the body should pass directly from the top of the head down through the skeletal structure into the ground at the point just directly behind the ball of the foot also known as the yong quan point. The spine should remain in a natural S shaped curve with the small of the back slightly tight. The knees should be relaxed with one foot being substantial and the other insubstantial. The waist turning directs all movement and moves the arms and legs whilst the falling of weight from the substantial to the insubstantial and the returning of such weight causes the movement which the waist directs. The correct posture creates the channels in which the Qi can flow like water through a hose pipe. Lacking the correct structure is like having a kink in the pipe, the Qi like the water cannot flow.
The internal mechanism in correct practice of the Tai Chi forms is mind breathing or the use of the directed awareness of the mind to produce the flow of Qi in the body. This is achieved by breathing to points in the body the most important of which is the Dan Tien or the well in which the chi is stored. The mind continues the breath through the lungs and directs it to the dan tien by directed awareness.
The combination of the internal and the external when properly combined produces Soong or relaxation of mind and body thereby allowing the state of meditation to occur and producing a calm and stress free environ for the spirit to exist in. This is the Tao of Tai Chi Chuan.
There are many points to note when practicing pushing hands. T'ui shou (pushing hands) is simply an exercise in sensing that includes the various principles involved in the execution of moves within the form. When practicing pushing hands you do not use the force of your arms to push your opponent. It is your bodyweight which is applied to your opponent that provides all that is needed to uproot them. The same use of the bodyweight occurs when yielding. Rather than moving before in anticipation of an incoming force or after the force has begun to act on you, an incoming force simply creates the movement in you instantaneously. Thus, if your body acts as one unit the weight of your whole body is applied to redirect the incoming force effortlessly.
Redirecting force into emptiness in this way is very effective. However, should you wish to, it is also possible to neutralize a force by redirecting it into the ground. If you have achieved mastery of the Tai Chi form and as a consequence have become extremely relaxed it is possible to transmit the force through your skeletal structure and into the floor without it acting upon yourself. However, the force must be transmitted not acted against. The classic example of this is the Tai Chi exponent who uses their back leg as a prop and pushes back against an incoming force. By using force against a force they are subject to the limitations of their own strength. This is incorrect. Tai Chi when applied correctly is effortless.
Skill in pushing hands exercises is achieved by the unified motion of your body. The Waist moves the arms and legs as the body moves into position through the shifting of weight from the substantial to the insubstantial. The result is your body in motion as a single unified unit whilst you are in stillness. When your body has the correct structure the slightest pressure will set it in motion. It is then adherence, sometimes referred to as sticking, to your opponent which becomes crucial. If you can match the speed and velocity of your opponents movement exactly with your body unified into a single unit you may apply your body weight to powerful effect. The precise timing of a push should be as your opponent is double weighted, ie. their weight is equally distributed between both legs.
If you have mastered the art of pushing hands then neither you or your opponent should feel any force in the push. Your opponent should feel light as they are thrown backward and slightly upward, with both of their feet leaving the ground, but without any idea why. It is important to note that this process is effortless.
As you should realize by now, it is only with the synchronization of the internal and the external and the unified movement of the whole body that mastery of Tai Chi may be attained. Only motion attained through stillness may be called Tai Chi. Tai Chi begins at the point when coordination of your movements becomes obsolete.
The Tai Chi classics are treatises written by Masters in the past that describe the principles and practice of Tai Chi. In order to become adept at Tai Chi and to attain mastery you have to adhere strictly to the principles set out in the classics.