Friday, October 16, 2009

"Taiji is not the form?"

This Blog has generated some very classy comments from some very nice people, take a look at our comments below the Blog itself. A recent visit to a popular Tai Chi Blog Wujimon found me responding to someone's
assertions from The Role of Physical Conditioning in Taiji. that Taijiquan needed much in the way of "physical conditioning".This means the addition of such things as Zhan Zhuang, Weight Lifting, Running,
Situps, Training with Rubber Bands, etc. Of course when one says as Master Hwa says here:

"The practice of internal movement in Tai Chi form essentially is the practice
of fa jin in a slow and methodical way, without the issuance of power. When you
can play the form instinctively without thinking, then you can do fa jin
instinctively.If you try to do fa jin without some form of internal discipline
(neigong), then you will push with your arm strength and acquire a bad habit for
the use of the arm..."

This then becoming a hindrance as it makes the learning of
internal discipline more difficult. The matter of not wanting more "external"
strength as a part of that equation, stands to reason."

Then one can expect to be stereotyped as a "long form" lover and through
REDUCTIVE reasoning somehow against all other types of physical activity. What
a crimp this is going to put in my watching of College Football on Saturdays.

Then I wrote: "Unless, there is some caveat which mandates (wink, wink) Tai Chi
is really only "internal" in the mental realm, eg. "He does his Tai Chi with an
inward looking demeanor", then "internal" means the "physical" internal

Further: "It is not possible to do an internal movement and an external one at
the same time, an external can precede or follow an internal but they cannot
coexist in the same space and time. Also, when one's internal discipline
permeates the body, it becomes next to impossible to even raise one's arm to
scratch an itch without engaging the musculature of the core. Rhetorically
speaking, what does one do with "arm strength" if it cannot be used in the same
space and time as "internal"? For example, if I push against a wall using my
arms, I will push myself away. However, (internally) using the core to engage
the abdomen and back muscles as I push and relaxing the arms, I feel a
tremendous surge going into the wall. There is nothing that super arm strength
can add to the internal aspect, in fact it works against it if I strain at the
arms. Of course if one does not subscribe to a physical internal discipline,
then the point is moot."

I then received a reply that (yes, I spell this correctly but I understand the author's intent)
"Tiaji is not the form... if one chooses to develop the connection and internal movement
correctly... both physical conditioning and health can be by-products... the
deeper issues is understanding... what correct movement is... anyone who has
gotten a good adjustment form a highly skilled teacher can tell you that it can
be a pretty good workout... even something as simple as standing practice can be
a pretty good workout... just my thoughts."

Ended of course on the note that this is just their "thoughts" ("opinion"?), so
by virtue of saying that qualification it somehow relieves them of the burden of
defending it. So, rather than attack their "opinion", I agreed with them:

"It is indeed "not the form" for a vast number of students in Taiji. This is why
Young Wabu (disciple of Wu Chien Chuan) was unhappy with the fecklessness of so
many Taiji students.

Or, why Sonia Young (Yang Wabiu's daughter) asked Eddie Wu (gatekeeper of Wu
Jianquan Style) why she saw the lack of attention paid to the form at the Hong
Kong Wu Style Studio." Oddly enough he agreed with her.

One might also "not disagree" by saying: Or, why Young Wabu told my teacher Hwa
Chiping (Master Stephen Hwa), that Wu Chien Chuan insisted Young learn Square Form first. Or why Young insisted Hwa learn square form first. Or, why Young Wabu said Wu Chien Chuan had him repeat form movements hundreds of
times before he taught him new ones.

The writer is indeed correct "it is not the form" in much of the Tai Chi
universe...doing the Form has become "old school", as if to say: "man that "long
form 108" was the stuff they did in the 1800's, why there were so many people
that did manual labor then, they did not have to do pilates and bowflex to keep
in shape"

I like, excuse me love all the form training that I do, I like doing all 108
Round, Square, Left, Right, Compact, etc. one might say that's why it is called
Classical Tai Chi, surely the people who love all the extra physical
conditioning have room in their universe for us...I do for them. SEC ("rules")
teams can wipe the floor with those Big Ten teams.

Below I've inserted a video of Master Stephen Hwa demonstrating
internal discipline in the Tai Chi Form. Consider the fact as well
that the compact size of one's step in this style mandates that the
internal energy truly originate from the core of the body. I realize
there are many, many Tai Chi practitioners who practice larger
frame and step sizes. There are principles of movement that
they will use for their form practices. My retort still stands however,
and as evangelical as this may sound, form practice
is indispensable to the acquisition of internal power.


Shang Lee said...

For a minute, it sounds like you're talking about religion here... how the "less religious" make room for the more religious... ;) good post.

wujimon said...

Greetings. For reference and contexts, the comments quoted in the post are from: The Role of Physical Conditioning in Taiji.

I would agree that "taiji is not the form" as I believe Rick of Wujifa is referring to the underlying principles of movement and connection.

However, I would take this one step further (based on my own opinions) and state the taiji form is a method for the manifestations of the principles. The form gives us a route to test our connection and principles in movement. The form is a method for applying the princples. The same holds true for things like push hands, weapons play, etc.

Like you, I am quite fond of form training and I like to do forms. As noted above, the form allows us to try and apply the principles. Sure, I can have internal connection when standing or but do I have internal connection when stepping? If I can maintain connection when stepping, can I maintain connection when moving my arms in white crane spread wings?

Additionally, the form is a tradition. Like that of verbal stories being passed down from one generation to another ;)

Rick said...

LOL... Yea my spelling isn't the best... Tiaji isn't the form kinda a hoot hey. Deep thoughts and imagination can only take one so far. The proof is in what one can do correctly. That typo might get some SEO traffic for you... I hope they will understand... Nice blog... Thanks

Classical Tai Chi of Buffalo said...

Thank you all and I do enjoy reading Wujimon, just getting acquainted with Wujifa and I've seen Shang Lee's comments only most recently as well.

We do not differ in the ultimate goal of having internal discipline when stepping. I walk the 2 mile ring of a local park using the internal discipline of walking (see As much as possible, I integrate it into my daily activities.

However, it is integral to learning how to get the internal energy of the body core to the lower extremities. The energy of the core has to take that route through the pelvis.

There are many principles at stake in the playing of the form. There is one ultimate principle however that is indispensable to the use of all the others...internal discipline.

I do appreciate you all taking the time to comment. We all do have much in common in our desire to improve our Taiji. Thank you for pointing out your intent and thanks for your patience with my learning "pains" in the process of learning to write Blogs...your input is much appreciated.

Jim R.